Do the artists really need a gallery? An interesting article from TAN

The Art Newspaper online, with an article published on April 9, 2014, considered the example of the Portoguese artist Joana Vasconcelos who, after the closure of Haunch of Venison, remained without a representative gallery but her career has been on an upward trajectory.

“When Haunch of Venison closed in March 2013, the Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos was left without a gallery in London or New York—the two cities where Haunch, which was bought by Christie’s in 2007, had spaces. Since her gallery closed, Vasconcelos’s career has been on an upward trajectory: she has represented Portugal at the Venice Biennale, unveiled public sculptures in Porto and Lisbon, and produced several new works for a retrospective at the Manchester Art Gallery. Vasconcelos is not alone. Rising stars such as the British-Japanese artist Simon Fujiwara have successfully negotiated the intricacies of the art world without major gallery representation while others at the peak of their careers, such as Anish Kapoor, regularly bypass their galleries to sell direct to clients from their studios. So do successful artists need galleries?”

“Vasconcelos, who employs a team of 45 at her studio in Lisbon, says she would like to join a large gallery but is in “no rush” to do so.[…] Vasconcelos already has all the necessary connections in the art world,” says the London-based curator Olivier Varenne. Her work is in major collections such as the one assembled by the French luxury goods magnate François Pinault, she has had prominent solo exhibitions including a 2012 show at Versailles, she is able to raise funds for the production of new works through her studio, and she communicates directly with collectors via a regular newsletter. “Why would she pay 50% commission to a gallery when she has her own network? She doesn’t need a major gallery,” says Varenne, who works for the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, and says he bypasses galleries whenever he can to work directly with artists.”

Upholding the galleries:

“Artists need galleries to sustain their work on the secondary market and buy their work at auction,” says the London-based collector David Roberts, who adds that buyers are reassured if an artist is represented by a well-known gallery. “A lot of collectors ask artists: ‘who are you with?’. If a big gallery doesn’t want to sign them up, they ask ‘why?’. […] And young artists who can prosper without a gallery are the exception rather than the rule, says the London dealer Joe La Placa, who runs All Visual Arts, a hybrid gallery and arts commissioning organisation with funding from a hedge fund billionaire. “When you’re developing, you definitely need a gallery. Artists are usually cash poor at the beginning of their careers; they can’t deal with production costs, shipping, insurance, promotion—people underestimate what galleries do. But I think once you’re a blue-chip artist, although you need close associations with galleries to show your new work, you can operate independently.”

Read the full article

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