Gagosian Launches an Advisory Firm and Enlists a New Leadership Team, Suggesting a Pivot for the Mega-Gallery’s Direction
Andrew Fabricant has been made COO while his wife, auction veteran Laura Paulson, will spearhead a new advisory division.
Art dealer Larry Gagosian has made major changes at the highest levels of his gallery’s management structure, giving some insight into the much-speculated-upon succession plan and future direction for the 73-year-old’s global mega-gallery business.
Andrew Fabricant, a gallery veteran who was the longtime director of Richard Gray Gallery’s New York operation, was named chief operating officer, a newly created position, after having joined the gallery last summer. The role, which seemingly positions Fabricant as Gagosian’s natural succession in the organizational structure, is effective immediately. Fabricant had a previous 15-year stint with Gagosian in the 1980s. The Gagosian news was first reported by Kelly Crow in the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, Fabricant’s wife, Laura Paulson, an auction veteran of both Christie’s and Sotheby’s and well-known rainmaker, has been brought on to the gallery to oversee a new, separate division, Gagosian Art Advisory LLC. According to the Journal report, the advisory business will manage, conserve, and appraise collections and estates, creating an end-to-end suite of services to steward art after it leaves the gallery. Paulson will operate under the Gagosian brand, but will be separate from its sales teams, with her own office, staff of about six people, database, and even a different entrance to the gallery’s flagship Madison Avenue headquarters.
According to the gallery’s website, also new, is the establishment of a global advisory board to the gallery, comprised of senior directors who will oversee strategy, business development, artist relationships, and exhibitions
Because of the global scale and reputation of the Gagosian brand, and because there is scarce precedent of a gallery outliving its founder absent a blood heir (Gagosian has no children), there has long been an open question over what might happen to the historic blue-chip operation he established over the longer term. Gagosian denied to the Journal that the new appointments were part of a succession plan, and said he plans to remain “as engaged as ever” in the company. Yet he hopes the reinforced top management make the gallery “a more durable company.”
In addition to multiple locations in New York, Gagosian operates galleries in Beverly Hills, San Francisco, London, Paris, Geneva, Rome, Athens, and Hong Kong.
The Journal report noted that the expanded gallery operation might parallel Sotheby’s, which acquired Art Advisory Partners, founded by another auction veteran, Amy Cappellazzo, and top advisor Allan Schwartzman in 2016. The acquisition price was as much as $85 million. Gagosian seemed to shrug at the suggestion, telling the paper that the firm’s latest revenue figures, of about $6.1 million, “don’t sound too exciting.”
Paulson left Christie’s in late 2017, after nearly two decades there. At the time, Christie’s said she would continue on as an independent advisor. But Paulson told the Journal that the auction house management had pressured her to step back from conducting appraisals regularly: “They wanted me to turn over the reins of these collections I’d cared over for years, but these are relationships, not portfolios.” It was then that she approached Gagosian, who saw the novel combination of a gallery and an advisory firm as a way to keep the business innovating.
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