Gagosian: A Mistaken Identity

Who is this man?

This is Gagosian, the infamous Larry Gagosian of Gagosian galleries around the world…and how I’ve disdained him in the past with reverse snobbery. ‘Oh ho ho, Mr. Gagosian, must be easy to be a behemoth when you have everything. From one successful gallery to another, hop skipping and jumping across the art world, making stars of artists as you go. The gall with which he opened another gallery in Rome despite the downfall of the art market. Hah! Not for me, not after you tricked me with your multiple Manhattan galleries so that I missed the Cy Twombly exhibition in 2007. For me, let there be street art and collectives in dingy Brooklyn warehouses and such. Let creativity run rampant in bohemian poverty!’

And yet, Larry is apparently really Lawrence Gilbert. An Armenian-American born in Los Angeles in 1945, and his past is not what I thought. He hates press, and a recent article for Intelligent Life describes the difficulty of getting those who know him to talk about him. An entrepreneurial and clever businessman, Gagosian has made his fortune through good judgement, salesmanship, and showmanship. Gagosian got his start in the ‘art world’ by selling posters near UCLA’s campus. According to Wikipedia,

“In the early 1980s he developed his business rapidly by exploiting the possibilities of reselling works of art by blue-chip modern and contemporary artists, earning the nickname “Go-Go” in the process. Working in concert with collectors including Douglas Cramer, Eli Broad and Keith Barish he developed a reputation for knowing how to push prices upwards as well as for staging museum quality exhibitions.”

After establishing a New York gallery in the mid-1980s Gagosian began to work with a stable of super collectors and expand his gallery empire. Now he has three locations in New York City (on Madison Avenue, West 24th St. and 21st St.), two locations in London (on Britannia and Davies Streets), one location in Los Angeles (in Beverly Hills) and his latest in Rome.He represents the best and biggest names. When art and business come together, there you find Gagosian.

Art for arts sake, on the other hand? Doesn’t have a place in his world. So with additional respect for the man, I’ll keep my reservations and ideal of unfettered garret life.

ADDITION: For added spice on Larry, see this article describing a recent letter to staff telling them, in these tough economic times, to sell art or get out.

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