Consolidating Art-Market Power, Dealers Lévy Gorvy, Salon 94, and Amalia Dayan Merge to Form an Upper East Side Empire
The joint venture, which came as a surprise to many of the galleries' artists, is called LGDR.
Art dealers Dominique Lévy, Amalia Dayan, and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn have forged independent careers as gallery owners, art advisors, and secondary-market dealmakers. Over the years, they’ve also become friends and business collaborators. Now, they are taking these ties a step further in a merger that signals a major consolidation in the blue-chip gallery sector.
The dealers will form a new venture, LGDR, that is scheduled to launch next year, according to briefing notes. In addition to organizing exhibitions, LGDR will offer strategic services to collectors, artists, institutions, philanthropic organizations, and private companies, including family offices. The group’s name is an acronym based on the principals’ last names. The G stands for Brett Gorvy, a co-founder of Lévy Gorvy gallery and the sole male partner. The news was first reported by the New York Times.
Such consortiums are unusual in the gallery world, where businesses are typically mom-and-pop shops, founded by one or two people early in their careers. With the rise of mega-galleries and corporatization in the art world, access to capital is key to success. It looks like the four dealers, already independently wealthy, are pooling their resources for greater impact and as a counter force to behemoths like Gagosian, Zwirner, Pace, and Hauser & Wirth.
“For the biggest galleries, it’s a kind of arms race, growing their square footage and adding new locations,” said Natasha Degen, chair of art market studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “Ultimately these moves are not about profit but burnishing the galleries’ brands.”
LGDR, by contrast, is foregoing art-fair participation outside of Asia and consolidating its real-estate footprint. “Given that these are often the highest fixed costs a gallery has,” Degen said, “this new model seems especially smart—streamlined, synergistic, and nimble. It may be a harbinger of our post-pandemic future.”
The fate of the dozens of artists represented by the galleries is unclear. The new dealership will represent some names, but considerably fewer than their pre-merger rosters. “We’ve been speaking with certain artists, finding them alternative spaces,” Greenberg Rohatyn said. The final cut has yet to be made.
LGDR will be located at 3 East 89th Street, purchased by Greenberg Rohatyn in 2019 for $22.3 million to consolidate her three galleries in New York. (Lévy Gorvy will give up its tony Madison Avenue space as part of the arrangement.) The new company will also have offices in London, Hong Kong, and Paris.
The news has been tightly guarded, even from confidants and gallery artists. On August 27, when Artnet News reached out to two principals with requests to confirm the merger, the plans were described as “bullshit” and “crazy rumors.”
Even top artists represented by the galleries were kept in the dark. Laurie Simmons, a prominent member of the Pictures Generation who has worked with Salon 94 since its inception, learned the news after getting a call from Greenberg Rohatyn in the late afternoon on August 31, around the time it broke online.
“I think it sounds super exciting,” she told Artnet News. “There are no powerful gallery consortiums that are all women, and now there is one. Plus Brett.”
(Shortly after Greenberg Rohatyn hung up with Simmons, she called another longtime gallery artist, Marilyn Minter. “We each asked Jeanne if she’d called the other one,” Simmons said.)
LGDR is not the first significant example of gallery collaboration and consolidation in the pandemic era. Last summer, Gavin Brown announced he would close his taste-making New York gallery and join Barbara Gladstone as a partner. Just prior to lockdown, Acquavella, Gagosian, and Pace formed a joint venture to compete with auction houses for lucrative estates.
Unlike mega galleries that are opening splashy spaces on far-flung islands and publishing sumptuous catalogues, however, LGDR seems designed to minimize overhead and maximize profit.
“I don’t see that individual galleries have much choice other than to pool their resources,” the artist Adrian Piper, who has a non-exclusive relationship with Lévy Gorvy, told Artnet News. “It’s a rational response to current circumstances…. And the decision to forego further participation in non-Asian art fairs is both healthy and courageous.”
Lévy Gorvy is known for its secondary market program, although it works with a few older artists such as Pat Steir, Pierre Soulages, and Günther Uecker. Its clients are among the biggest spenders in the blue-chip art market, including controversial Mexican financier David Martinez and Las Vegas billionaire Lorenzo Fertitta.
Salon 94 represents more than 30 artists and estates, including Judy Chicago, Derrick Adams, and the late Betty Woodman. Greenberg Rohatyn came to pop-culture prominence as a judge on Bravo’s television series Work of Art: The Next Great Artist; she has also maintained a successful art advisory business, with such clients as Jay-Z and Alex Rodriguez (and Jennifer Lopez while the two were a couple).
Many of the principals have a history of collaborative business ventures. Lévy operated a joint gallery with banker-turned-dealer Robert Mnuchin for years before joining forces with Gorvy in 2017. (Gorvy previously served as chairman and international head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s.)
Dayan, granddaughter of the Israeli military leader Moshe Dayan, partnered with Stefania Bortolami on a primary market gallery in Chelsea in the early 2000s, and more recently with Daniella Luxembourg. Their dealership, Luxembourg & Dayan, focused on the secondary market, staging exhibitions by stars like Jeff Koons and rediscovered talents Domenico Gnoli and Martial Raysse. The two dealers parted ways last year.
Lévy, Dayan, and Greenberg Rohatyn have worked together on private sales for years, and could be frequently spotted together going in and out of Lévy Gorvy’s private viewing space on East 74th Street.
Last year, Dayan and Greenberg Rohatyn formed an advisory, Dayan Rohatyn Art Services LLC. Lévy Gorvy and Salon 94 collaborated in December with a pop-up in Miami’s Design district, presenting contemporary art and design.
Some artists see the move toward consolidation as a symptom of the current market moment.
“I’ve been watching artists being poached by bigger galleries my whole life but in the last few years this has accelerated in magnitude and intensity,” Marilyn Minter, who is currently working on a show at Salon 94’s Upper East Side gallery, told Artnet News. “The whole world is having a nervous breakdown right now and nobody knows what the future holds. There is strength in numbers so this merger is understandable.”
Additional reporting by Eileen Kinsella.
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