The pandemic is becoming a question of existence

Actor David Duchovny in the Pedro Almodovar photo show

Before the Marlborough Gallery closes in New York.

(Foto: action press)

New York At the end of June, the starting shot was finally given for the reopening of the gallery scene in New York. But not all dealers are in a hurry to invite visitors back to their premises. Barbara Gladstone, which operates three locations in the city, continues to rely on virtual presence for the time being. Also Luxembourg & Dayan would like to wait for the developments in the city first. Gagosians four New York branches will also remain closed until further notice. “Gagosian is looking forward to reopening exhibitions as soon as it is safe to do so,” they say. According to a spokeswoman, it could well be in the fall.

The big galleries can afford to stay closed. They rely on their digital sales channels, in which they invested heavily early on. David Zwirner estimated in mid-May that the viewing rooms could generate 20 percent of its business volume for the first time this year.

The pandemic is becoming a question of existence, especially for smaller galleries. Many of them hurried to reopen their gates. Some studies, carried out shortly after the lockdown in mid-March, shed light on the potentially disastrous consequences for the industry.

A survey by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA, collected between April 15 and May 4) among 168 US galleries forecast a loss of earnings of 73 percent for the second quarter. And that after a loss of 31 percent had to be absorbed in the first quarter of 2020 due to Corona. Of more than 1,035 full-time employees before March 13, 85 percent were able to keep their jobs, but of 521 freelancers, 74 percent quickly found themselves on the street.

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“This devastating loss of earnings will undoubtedly affect these small businesses and the wider industry over the next 12 to 18 months, if not longer. It is still uncertain how long these losses will last, ”commented trader Andrew Schoelkopf, currently ADAA President.

The figures agree with an international study carried out at Maastricht University in mid-April and published by Art Newspaper. It is estimated that almost 34 percent of galleries worldwide do not expect to survive the crisis. This is especially true for small companies with fewer than nine employees. The also warns of a wave of closings Bank of America in the current Art Market Update. The sales of the galleries she surveyed even fell by 80 percent.

Bank of America

Bank of America also warns of a wave of closures in the current Art Market Update. The sales of the galleries she surveyed even fell by 80 percent.

(Photo: AP Photo: Steven Senne)

New York gallery owner Lesley Heller was one of the first to surrender at the end of April. She has been in business since 1994. Gallery closings are nothing new, however. They existed before Corona. Margaret Liu Clinton gave up in January. She recently ran a gallery in Brooklyn with Leo Koenig. “We are in a perfect storm with a rapidly changing ecosystem,” she told the news service Artnet News. And she is convinced that the current model needs to be reconsidered.

The pandemic can only marginally affect the New York branch of Marlborough be held responsible. It was ordered by the managers of the Lloyd Family Trusts family property, just as shareholder Pierre Levai, 83-year-old nephew of founder Frank Lloyd, was recovering from his corona infection.

First gallery with an international network

Founded in 1946 by two Austrian immigrants in London and also present in New York since 1963, Marlborough was the first mega-gallery with an international network. “It is the world’s largest and most successful commercial company dealing in modern art,” wrote the New York Times in 1973.

Last year Max Levai replaced his father Pierre as President of the New York branch and immediately put a contemporary program in the foreground. “It’s a deplorable ending because things were going well and there were so many plans for the future. My priority is to protect our artists and their work, ”says the 32-year-old, who has no shares in the trust.

Levai has just opened its Alone Gallery project in one of the Hamptons’ exclusive seaside resorts. Many collectors seek refuge from the pandemic here, and it is not just the booming real estate market. Now a number of top New York dealers such as Pace, Skarstedt, van de Weghe and Hauser & Wirth are renting rooms here. And also Sotheby’s sells art and luxury items in a pop-up shop.

More: Art Basel: How gallery owners compensate for the failure of the fair

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