Harry Blain and Graham Southern, the Dealers Behind Blain|Southern, Are Splitting Up Amid Turbulence at the Gallery

The news comes only a week after Jake and Dinos Chapman announced they would cease working with the gallery.

Graham Southern and Harry Blain. Photo by Nick Harvey/WireImage.

The art dealers Graham Southern and Harry Blain, longtime fixtures on the London art scene, are going their separate ways. Southern will be retiring and Harry Blain will continue on after a “restructuring of the business,” the gallery has confirmed.

“The gallery remains fully committed to its artists, program, and London, Berlin, and New York locations,” a spokesperson told Artnet News.

Still, there had been signs of trouble. Last week, the artist siblings Jake and Dinos Chapman announced—in an unorthodox fashion, via Twitter—that they would no longer be working with the gallery, which they joined in 2017. No official reason for the breakup was given, though it seemed abrupt: the brothers were due to open a show at Blain|Southern’s Berlin location in less than a month. (A spokesperson for the gallery says that the timing of the two splits is coincidental.)

The partners’ split also comes on the heels of the news that the gallery would be vacating its Chelsea location formerly occupied by Cheim & Read this summer, just one year after it opened in May. (The gallery says it plans to relocate downtown after learning of neighboring Marlborough Gallery’s plans to purchase the building it currently occupies.)

Then there is also the detail that Craig Burnett, the gallery’s director of exhibitions, recently left.

Could financial trouble be afoot, following the gallery’s ambitious expansion to Manhattan amid a market that’s belt-tightening? The Art Newspaper, which first reported the split, notes that artist Sean Scully—who joined Blain|Southern last year—now says he is “in dispute” with the gallery (which the gallery has confirmed), presumably over money or artworks (or both). Reached by email, Scully told Artnet News he is no longer represented by the gallery, a fact that he says is “unconnected to the dispute between the partners.” When asked for clarification on the nature of the dispute, Scully responded cryptically, “take a wild guess.”

The two London-based art dealers, Graham Southern and Harry Blain, co-founded their eponymous gallery in London back in 2010, some years after selling their former art-dealing business, Haunch of Venison, to Christie’s in 2007. They duo made headlines when they opened their eponymous gallery and took a number of big-name artists with them, including Mat Collishaw and Bill Viola. 

Filings cited by the Art Newspaper show that Blain|Southern made 60 percent of its turnover from private sales in 2018 ($40.9 million), up from 49 percent in 2017 ($30.5 million). But profits after tax were down last year, to $2.8 million compared with $3.6 million in 2017. The accounts also report that the gallery is funded by “third party creditors” who will continue to support the group “for the foreseeable future,” or at least for 12 months from the date of the financial filings.

For now, both Scully and the Chapman brothers remain on the gallery’s website, though no future shows or fairs have been posted. The gallery says its lineup will be updated in the coming weeks, along with new artists joining the program. 

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