Top Hauser & Wirth Director Graham Steele Is Leaving the Gallery to Start a Private Dealership of His Own

Steele, a sales director who was made partner earlier this year, has been with the gallery since spring 2015.

Graham Steele. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images)

Hauser & Wirth’s expansive building in downtown Los Angeles may be temporarily closed, but change is still afoot behind the scenes at one of the city’s most essential gallery spaces. Graham Steele, a rainmaker sales director who was made partner at Hauser & Wirth earlier in 2020, is departing after five years to start his own private dealership in LA. He is due to depart the mega-gallery in mid-September.

A large part of Steele’s new venture will be collaborating with his husband, the powerhouse contemporary design dealer Ulysses de Santi, on projects that will blend their two spheres.

“Hauser & Wirth has provided me with the most exciting and gratifying home possible in the art world, and brought me to my new home town of Los Angeles,” Steele said in a statement. He expressed gratitude to the gallery’s leaders for helping him “evolve and grow alongside them at what I consider to be the world’s finest gallery.”

Larry Bell and Graham Steele attend Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles Opening of Annie Leibovitz and Piero Manzoni. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Hauser & Wirth)

While Hauser & Wirth’s West Coast outpost will be losing a top sales force—as well the director who worked with artists Larry Bell and Luchita Hurtado—the mega-gallery’s president, Marc Payot, said he was excited for Steele’s next chapter. He also hinted at future mutually beneficial interactions, where Steele’s clients would still buy through the gallery, just through a different avenue—perhaps providing one model for navigating a post-lockdown art-dealing landscape.

“We have loved working with Graham over the past five years—he has a unique combination of high energy in business dealings and great sensitivity toward art and artists,” Payot said. “We’re delighted that he’s taking this step to fulfill his long-held ambition to be a private dealer, especially since he will still be part of our extended Hauser & Wirth family.”

While it may be unusual to strike out on one’s own at a moment of unprecedented strain for the art industry, Steele said the atmosphere of flux was part of his motivation. “The landscape of the art world is shifting in complex ways and it seems like the right time to refocus and further define my collaborations with artists and clients,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hauser & Wirth’s LA gallery is tentatively planning to allow timed reservations in the coming weeks, and a show of work by late New York School titan Ed Clark is slated to open August 22.

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