Spring Chickens – All Roosters, No Hens?


“You have to remember, you know, Gagosian is almost 20 years older than I am. I’m a spring chicken,” spoketh David Zwirner.

This appeared back in March in a profile of the dealer in The New York Times’s T Magazine.  From my perspective, the timing couldn’t have been more convenient.

Two days prior to that article running, a friend asked my opinion of the “clash of the titans” scenario implicit in Jeff Koons’s simultaneous May shows at Zwirner and Gagosian. My take was that Zwirner was not trying to best Gagosian; he was trying to get a leg up on his peers by having an entrée into Gagosian’s inventory in advance of the latter’s eventual demise.  Indeed, this is a time-honored tradition of sorts; Larry Gagosian explained in Interview magazine last year that his relationship with Leo Castelli towards the end of that empire helped him to solidify relationships with former-Castelli-and-now-Gagosian artists that include Ed Ruscha and Richard Serra. My theory proved apt when Zwirner answered the same question in the Times in such a pithy and evocative way.

Sorry to say it, but no one lives forever.  And in the history of this profession, we’ve yet to see an example of power and relevance being sustained beyond the founder’s lifetime.

Over the past year, we’ve seen his fellow spring chickens jumping up and out of the coop with tenacity.  To wit:  Ivan Wirth (of Hauser & Wirth’s) brand new 60,000 sq ft home in Chelsea, while announcing another expansion in Los Angeles under the direction of Paul Schimmel; the opening of a New York gallery by Emanuel Perrotin, who is the first in a host of international dealers scheduled to be opening in the next year or two, including Los Angeles’ Blum and Poe, London’s Lisson Gallery and Simon Lee Gallery; and several other rumors percolating through the pipeline.

It seems like everyone is gearing up for the earthly departure of the Great Generation of dealers.  But hold on a second… among the great things about that great generation is that it notably contained formidable women.  And not just B players.  It is impossible to create a list composed of Larry Gagosian and Pace’s Arne Glimcher without including Marian Goodman, Paula Cooper and Barbara Gladstone.  And yet, despite a solid showing by Dominique Levy of a new space in New York last month…there’s yet to be a woman firmly toss her hat in the ring.  Come to think of it, of all of the mega-gallery spaces that I’ve been to anywhere in the world – those measuring over 35,000 sq ft –not one bears the name of a sole-proprietor who is female.

What’s the deal?  Any reasons why this is, and what it could mean for the equanimity of our industry?  Or are there any front-runners that I am overlooking?  Would love to hear your opinions.  I have a few of my own but will wait to chime in.

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