New York legacy art dealer Gavin Brown announced last week that he will be joining forces with Barbara Gladstone Gallery. The partnership will form a mega gallery similar in size to Pace, David Zwirner, and Hauser & Wirth. The news sent shock waves through the New York art world.
“The past 26 years were an extraordinary ride and to have worked with the people I met along the way was the privilege of a lifetime,” Brown said in an announcement. “I feel very fortunate to be able to start this new chapter with Barbara and Max.” (Max Falkenstein is a partner at the gallery.)
The art world reacted to the news of this mega-merger with a mix of nostalgia and loss, with some seeing it as yet another sign that only the mega-galleries can survive the notoriously brutal art market.
Can't really put into words how much I appreciate the run of Gavin Brown's Enterprise.
Also Passerby/The Hole DJs/Santo's Party House
What a great time to be young in NYC
— Andrew Kuo (@earlboykins) July 20, 2020
Also on Twitter, New York Times art critic Jason Farago described Gavin Brown Enterprise as “a gallery that has defined New York these last 20 years”. He said that “Gavin Brown’s arrival at Gladstone is a better outcome than I’d feared. But this is a hammer blow. The post-COVID art world, curtain up.”
Brown founded the gallery in 1994. At the time, he represented Elizabeth Peyton and other then-unknown soon-to-be superstars like Chris Ofili, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Peter Doig and others. Since then, he’s gone to discover, show and represent several artists like Arthur Jafa, Urs Fischer, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Martin Creed, Joan Jonas, Alex Katz, Rachel Rose, Laura Owens and others.
The gallery currently operates from a former brewery in Harlem and a deconsecrated church in Rome. Brown will close the New York space but continue to run the gallery in Italy.
“I have long admired Gavin for his originality and individual presence, and these are extremely valuable qualities to me, which should be encouraged in all of us,” said Gladstone. “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Gavin and this remarkable group of artists.”
What this merger might mean for the bigger picture remains unclear. Kenny Schachter was quoted saying “This is the harbinger of unprecedented gallery consolidations and closures far outpacing the retrenchment after the 2008 financial collapse.”