White Cube Enters the Great Race for Artist Estates, Announcing Its Representation of the Al Held Foundation

To date, the British gallery has exclusively worked with living artists.

Al Held in 1970. Photo: Andre Emmerich; copyright Andre Emmerich estate; courtesy of the Al Held Foundation and White Cube.

White Cube is branching out. Venturing into the artist estates market for the first time, the British gallery announced its global representation of the late American painter Al Held, starting in January 2019.

The new chapter for the gallery, which has to date only worked with living artists, will be spearheaded by John Good, a former Christie’s executive. Good joined the gallery’s New York office as director of artist estates in late 2017 from Gagosian where he handled the estate of David Smith and was instrumental in securing the estate of Alberto Giacometti.

“Al Held was recognized in the 1950s as a formidable talent in the downtown New York art scene,” Good said in a statement. “Looking at his abstract paintings today, you can see that he was way ahead of his time, and as such, his work speaks to a number of contemporary practitioners of abstraction.”

Daniel Belasco, executive director of the Al Held Foundation, added that the foundation “is delighted to become the first artist foundation to join White Cube,” describing Held as “a leading proponent of expanding the language of modernist abstraction.”

A practitioner of hard-edge painting, Held dedicated his career to the relationship between shape and color. With his early experiments with pigmented impasto in the 1950s, his letter-based “Alphabet Paintings” in the 1960s, and his sharply countered black-and-white works of the 1970s, Held built a reputation as a bold and pioneering painter who did not shy away from experimentation.

White Cube’s representation of Held’s estate comes amid growing competition among galleries to capitalize on valuable works left behind by deceased artists. In many cases, these lucrative contracts come with established markets and existing collector interest, and the competition for estates has become the art market’s latest battleground.

In recent months, galleries have captured dozens of high-profile artist estates. For example, David Zwirner captured the estates of Joan Mitchell and Diane Arbus (the Arbus estate is co-represented by Fraenkel gallery), while Hauser & Wirth announced the representation of the estate of Günther Förg.

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