Hauser & Wirth Hoovers Up Yet Another Superstar Artist, Poaching John Chamberlain’s Estate From Gagosian

After a bruising auction season, the artist's family calls the move the start of a "new chapter."

John Chamberlain, PARISIANESCAPADE (1999) © 2019 Fairweather & Fairweather LTD / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the John Chamberlain Estate and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Thomas Barratt
John Chamberlain, PARISIANESCAPADE (1999)
© 2019 Fairweather & Fairweather LTD / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the John Chamberlain Estate and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Thomas Barratt

Hauser & Wirth gallery has added yet another high-profile estate to its stable: that of star sculptor John Chamberlain. For years, Chamberlain—known for his twisted chrome sculptures made from car parts—worked with Gagosian, which also represented the artist’s estate after his death in 2011.

Hauser & Wirth, which has been adding blue-chip artists to its roster at breakneck speed in recent years, will present three never-before-shown sculptures, including COMEOVER (2007), at Art Basel in Switzerland next month. (Eagle-eyed observers may recall that Gagosian presented monumental sculptures by Chamberlain at Frieze New York earlier this month.)

This fall, Hauser & Wirth will mount an exhibition of Chamberlain’s small-scale sculptures at its space on 69th Street and is planning a major exhibition of the artist’s work in New York in 2020. Gagosian, which has held seven solo shows of the artist’s work since his death, did not respond to a request for comment.

John Chamberlain, <i>SIMPLYSPLENDID</i> (1986) <br /> © 2019 Fairweather &amp; Fairweather LTD / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the John Chamberlain Estate and Hauser &amp; Wirth<br /> Photo: Thomas Barratt

John Chamberlain, SIMPLYSPLENDID (1986) © 2019 Fairweather & Fairweather LTD / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the John Chamberlain Estate and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Thomas Barratt

As part of the deal, Hauser & Wirth will work closely with the late artist’s wife, Prudence Fairweather, and her daughter, Alexandra Fairweather. They seek to bring to light unseen archival material from the artist’s studio on Shelter Island and advance his catalogue raisonné, which currently only goes up to 1985.

“As with all the artists and estates we represent, the goal with Chamberlain is to introduce his work to larger and more diverse audiences over time,” Hauser & Wirth partner and vice president Marc Payot told artnet News. “For us, the excitement comes from connecting the dots between his work and that of his peers but also younger artists today.”

As for the artist’s market, Payot says, “we see Chamberlain as an artist with enormous market opportunities that have not yet been tapped. His work is definitely undervalued right now when compared with that of other artists of his importance and his generation.” Payot adds that the gallery is “convinced that the market will be very different in a couple of years, and we’re committed to that goal.”

According to the artnet Price Database, the record for the artist at auction is $5.5 million for NUTCRACKER (1958), one of his signature twisted and colored steel sculptures. A total of 20 sculptures have sold at auction for more than $1 million each, a track record that seems relatively modest compared with those of his peers. He also posted a somewhat dismal performance at last week’s spring sales in New York, where five of the six works on offer were bought in and one sold for $560,000 with premium on an estimate of $500,000–700,000.

John Chamberlain, <i>COMEOVER</i> (2007) <br>© 2019 Fairweather & Fairweather LTD / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the John Chamberlain Estate and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Thomas Barratt

John Chamberlain, COMEOVER (2007) © 2019 Fairweather & Fairweather LTD / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the John Chamberlain Estate and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Thomas Barratt

Chamberlain first achieved renown for sculptures made in the late 1950s through ’60s from automobile parts. “These were path-breaking works that effectively transformed the gestural energy of Abstract Expressionist painting into three dimensions,” Payot says. They range in scale from miniature to monumental.

In a statement, Prudence Fairweather says she looks forward to working with Hauser & Wirth’s “remarkable team” and “sharing Chamberlain’s many untold stories through new projects.”

Noting that the artist had his first solo show with the legendary Martha Jackson, whose gallery was at the same East 69th Street address where Hauser & Wirth is located now, Payot adds: “It almost feels destined.”


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