Carpenters Workshop Gallery Faces Ethics Concerns, Sexual Misconduct Allegations

The allegations surfaced in a report by the digital newsletter Air Mail.

Vincent Dubourg, Buffet. Courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

Carpenters Workshop Gallery, a celebrated design gallery founded by Loïc Le Gaillard and Julien Lombrail, is facing concerns over its business ethics and allegations of allowing sexual harassment to take place, as reported by the digital newsletter Air Mail.

“We are of course saddened by the content of the article in Air Mail on 8th of June,” the gallery said in an email to Artnet. “We do not accept the allegations, which are largely linked to a commercial dispute on which we are not able to comment due to ongoing legal proceedings. We are enormously proud of the business, the community of artists and valued team members that we have established and developed over the last two decades. We are committed to continuing to grow and support each other in the years ahead.”

The gallery, founded in 2006, boasts clients from Brad Pitt to John Legend, and has become what the Art Newspaper called the first design “mega-gallery,” who show works by the likes of late greats Zaha Hadid, Karl Lagerfeld, and Charlotte Perriand, and contemporary artists including the Haas Brothers, Rick Owens, and Drift.

Carpenters employs 120 people globally at its galleries in Paris, London, New York, and Los Angeles, and last year unveiled a $37.5 million club and gallery space called Ladbroke Hall in a Beaux Arts building in the British capital.

A view of Ladbroke Hall. Courtesy of Ladbroke Hall.

A view of Ladbroke Hall. Courtesy of Ladbroke Hall.

The report relies on “more than a dozen” anonymous interviews with former employees and artists. The first allegation relies on two such sources who state there was a mandate at the company to keep prices high through illegal shill bidding on the work of its designers at Phillips auctions.

The newsletter did disclose that there is “no evidence” that three high-dollar sales at Phillips auctions highlighted in the story were affected by the alleged shill bidding. Phillips did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The gallery was also accused by “several” artists of engaging in substandard business practices, including subtracting the cost of photographing the work from the artists’ commissions and damaging work it held. It also allegedly failed to reimburse artists for production and shipping expenses.

The anonymous artists suggested that the gallery makes invoices difficult to track so they can’t trace how much their works sell for and if they’re receiving proper commissions. The newsletter also cited a British lawsuit against the gallery by an unnamed artist who alleges that Carpenters breached its contractual obligations with him and withheld accounting information.

One artist, Hannes Koch of Random International, did go on record with the newsletter to take the opposing view, stating he was always promptly paid and had no issues with the gallery. Koch, responding to an email request for more information, called the Air Mail report an “unsettling read” and said that he was speaking with other artists, his studio, and the gallery for more information, and aims to further respond after Art Basel in Switzerland, where much of the art world finds itself this week.

installation view of Chiaroscuro at icd brookfield place

Installation view of Chiaroscuro at ICD Brookfield Place, Dubai. Courtesy ICD Brookfield Place Arts and Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Photo by Ismail Noor

In the Air Mail story, writer Elena Clavarino alleges that “morale inside the company seemed to worsen” when Le Gaillard and Lombrail opened a massive production facility, Roissy, near a small town outside of Paris.

The anonymous artists were allegedly disappointed by the quality of fabricated items and questioned the gallery for allegedly evading transparency about the amount of stock of the goods produced. A former worker, also anonymous, allegedly confirmed multiple editions of pieces were sold as unique works and another said workers were also underpaid.

Near the end of its report, Air Mail resurfaced a tragic death that happened at the Roissy factory in August 2015. A 59-year-old bricklayer named Zbigniew Sokol collapsed on the job. His colleagues ordered him to rest and later found him dead.

The Air Mail report also hinted that Carpenters might have been violating French labor laws because the construction workers like Sokol were rumored to be living at the site. After Sokol’s death, the company booked off-site accommodations for workers.

Loïc Le Gaillard. Courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

Loïc Le Gaillard. Courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

As for the sexual misconduct allegations, the report intimates that those concerned violating office power dynamics, ordering workers to clean up used condoms from rented homes during travel for art and design fairs, and a failure to address when workers were allegedly sexually harassed by the gallery’s clients.

Among the more serious claims are that Le Gaillard squeezed a woman’s backside during a greeting, that he has allegedly slept with at least eight employees, and that he kept a cabinet filled with sex toys in his office. The newsletter did acknowledge one woman who said she had only been treated professionally by the cofounder, but that she’d heard unverified rumors of affairs with young interns.

And some workers claimed that the only reason another woman was promoted at the company was because she had slept with Le Gaillard. That individual could not be reached for comment. The workers who made the claim were not named.

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