In one of the strongest signs yet that the art market will not look the same after the pandemic – and in an obvious effort to counter the growing dominance of mega-galleries – four leading dealers have made the unorthodox decision to consolidate under one roof.
Dominique Levy Brett Gorvy, Amalia Dayan and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn In January, LGDR will be a consortium that will represent artists, organize exhibitions, advise collectors and mediate auction sales.
As they join forces, the quartet bet that they will be more effective together than separately at a time the gallery industry sees. 20% drop in sales (an estimated $29.3 billion) and many small and medium sized galleries are closing due to high operating costs.
Having closed their current businesses and merged into a single entity, the partners aim to offer artists and collectors a new one-stop shopping model that will benefit from having four experienced dealers with different specialties. The consortium can support competing art consultants, auction houses and art fairs.
Further subverting the traditional art market model, LGDR plans not to participate in expensive American art fairs such as Art Basel Miami or Frieze New York, and only attends those in Asia, where the fairs remain an important gateway for a wider array of young collectors.
“We looked at ourselves in the mirror and tried to understand who we are and what the best way to address our customers is,” Gorvy, 57, said in a joint video interview with his partners. “What is the appropriate business model? We don’t have to do everything, but we can do anything.”
Given the importance and high profile of the four performers, the news will make waves and raise questions about what such an unusual merger signifies for a rapidly changing art world: An even more difficult climate for galleries who are already struggling? Less brick-and-mortar space as dealers act together? Less competition and more cooperation?
“During the pandemic, the four of us were discussing the art world and what Covid was stopping and accelerating,” he said. Levy, 54. “We realized we had a desire to share and collaborate.”
Partners may also want to compete for business with giants, Gagosian, Zwirner, Pace, and Hauser & Wirth, which increasingly seem like corporate monopolies – expanding their buildings, adding locations and devouring hot artists.
LGDR, impressive Upper East Side Rohatyn’s gallery, Hall 94, opened in March. The neo-Renaissance mansion on East 89th Street, the former home of the National Academy of Design, was recently restored and renovated by architect Rafael Viñoly.
Levy and Gorvy will abandon the current Madison Avenue gallery, Lévy Gorvy. Hang on, 49, recently left his gallery for a long timeClosing its New York space and Luxembourg + Co. Luxembourg & Dayan is staging special projects throughout the city (the London gallery remains open).
Rohatyn, 54, was already seeking public approval to add 8,500 square feet to his new gallery for the offices, library and private viewing rooms that would allow the 1915 building to house the new team.
The four of them have been friends and informally working together for over 20 years. Last year, Dayan and Rohatyn started a side art consulting business together, which will now be part of LGDR.
“The idea of collaboration felt very relevant,” Dayan said. “We were all locked in different places talking to each other.”
In February, the three women found themselves vacationing in Aspen, Colo, and started talking about pooling their talents and resources while going for a walk. Then they called Gorvy, the former head of Christie’s. To join Lévy in 2016. A series of speeches followed.
Dayan came up with a Venn diagram that shows how his various applications overlap and complement each other.
While the company will encourage cross-pollination, each partner will have an area of focus with key strengths – Rohatyn’s is contemporary art; Lévy’s Europe; and Gorvy’s Asia. Dayan will run the Middle East and have a management role (other partners joke about his military-like leadership skills: his grandfather was the famous Israeli general and statesman Moshe Dayan).
The partnership also aims to be more agile than most major dealers – moving away from exclusive representation of artists; presenting exhibitions of various artists at the mundane pace of pop-up galleries; making the first sale of both the artwork and the resold work; to exhibit contemporary and historical works together.
“An incredible piece of a great Giacometti aunt hum‘ said Rohatyn. ‘That’s the probability of letting go.’
The consortium will represent both living artists and properties as well as consultant collectors on auction trading.
“We’re a hybrid,” Lévy said. “We are not galleries, we are not consultants.”
While their merger will provide economies of scale, the partners said finance is not the driving force, but are motivated by a shared belief in exhibitions, research and curation.
While galleries traditionally split sales revenue with artists, “every deal is different,” Lévy said, adding that the space is no longer “in a 50-50 landscape.”
Just as auction houses enter the realm of galleries through the exclusive sale of artworks to collectors, galleries are now trying to get a piece of the auction action. Last year Gorvy and Lévy partnered Rebecca Wei, former president of Christie’s Asia.
Gorvy said LGDR’s knowledge of private sales is able to advise auction houses on price setting.
At a time when the art world is recognizing the importance of equality and inclusion, there will undoubtedly be those who question the relevance of a firm run by four white middle-aged members of the arts establishment. But the partners said they are firmly committed to diversity in their roster and artists.
“I made it a job to look at the margins,” Rohatyn said. “This is my passion and my program.”
The partners said that they are four strong personalities with big egos and accept that some conflict is inevitable. But each said they would try to listen to each other and overcome their differences. “The four musketeers are stronger by definition,” Lévy said. “This decision comes from a strong place – the desire to do something new.”