Is Marlborough Aiming to Become the Next Mega-Gallery? The Business Is Reorganizing and Expanding in Chelsea

The gallery scooped up Cheim and Read's former Chelsea space.

Installation view of Beverly Pepper "Cor-Ten" at Marlborough Contemporary.

As market pressure forces some galleries to scale down and adopt alternative business models, others are doubling down on bricks-and-mortar. In a sign of these split scenarios, Marlborough has acquired the former space of Cheim and Read just one year after the latter gallery moved out. Conveniently, the building is directly next door to Marlborough’s existing contemporary art space on West 25th Street in Chelsea.

Now, Marlborough plans to merge the two buildings and open a new flagship this fall. The new model will replace the existing arrangement in which the gallery’s three businesses—Marlborough Contemporary, Marlborough Fine Art (London), and Marlborough Gallery, which is currently located on 57th Street in New York—operated independently. The changes will streamline operations under the leadership of Max Levai, the great-nephew of Frank Lloyd, who co-founded Marlborough in London in 1946.

Installation view of Julius von Bismark, "Good Weather" at Marlborough Contemporary.

Installation view of Julius von Bismark, “Good Weather” at Marlborough Contemporary.

“It was of the utmost importance in New York that our physical decisions reflect our new consolidated programming model,” Levai told arnet News. The unification of the Marlborough brand has been a goal for a few years and was put into motion in 2018. “I have been working to update our brand identity, systems, and web presence to reflect this new direction,” Levai said. “In today’s globalized market, the geographically specific programming of the individual galleries no longer seems viable.”

Pierre Levai—Max’s father and Lloyd’s nephew, who for years ran Marlborough in New York—will assume the position of chairman. Pascal Spengemann, who has helped lead the gallery’s contemporary program since 2012, has been promoted to vice president.

Copy of Portrait of Red Grooms and the Bus (1995). Photo by John Lamka. Image courtesy of Marlborough

Copy of Portrait of Red Grooms and the Bus (1995). Photo by John Lamka. Image courtesy of Marlborough

The new model “is more in line with how other international galleries operate today,” Levai said. The program will combine contemporary exhibitions by younger artists such as Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, who will open a new installation at the London gallery in September, with historical exhibitions like a forthcoming presentation of work from the estate of sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz.

A new, unified Marllborough website will go live in June 2019. In London, Marlborough will remain in its current space on Albemarle Street in Mayfair.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Red Grooms, The Bus (1995) at Frieze New York from Marlborough gallery, for sale for $550,000. Photo by Sarah Cascone.

Looking ahead in New York, Marlborough will close its 57th Street space in New York by December. The gallery is also planning the first solo show in over a decade by Cuban painter Tómas Sanchez, a career-spanning exhibition by filmmaker Kenneth Anger, and a wide-ranging group show on postwar assemblage.

Last June, Cheim and Read announced it was closing its storied Chelsea space after 21 years there. The gallery has relocated uptown and transitioned to private practice. “The solution presented itself unexpectedly but is ideal with regard to the criteria that drove our search: space, scale, flexibility and high foot-traffic,” Levai said.

The new space—which will bring Marlborough’s combined New York footprint to 15,000 square feet—is designed to provide “ultimate flexibility for programming.”

In addition to more than doubling the lateral storefront on 25th Street, the expanded gallery will feature two spaces for outdoor sculpture and the addition of a street-facing 24-hour jewel-box gallery for special projects.  As with past gallery improvements executed after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Marlborough is working with longtime collaborator Betty Rexrode of Rexrode Chirigos Architects.

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