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PERSPETIVA ATUAL


Architectural rendering of 540 West 25th Street, New York. Courtesy of Bonetti / Kozerski Architecture.


David Zwirner building. Photography credits: Jason Schmidt, © Selldorf Architects 2019


Felix Gonzalez-Torres “Untitled” (Loverboy), 1989. Private Collection, New York. © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York and David Zwirner, New York/London.


Installation view, Felix Gonzalez-Torres at David Zwirner New York, April 27 – June 24, 2017. © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery and David Zwirner.


Installation view of Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet. 510 West 25th Street, New York, NY, July 10 – August 17, 2018. Photography by Tom Barratt, © Fred Wilson, courtesy Pace Gallery.


Installation view of Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet. 510 West 25th Street, New York, NY, July 10 – August 17, 2018. Photography by Tom Barratt, © Fred Wilson, courtesy Pace Gallery.


Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere, 1932 / 1933. Photography Courtesy of Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, New York. © 2019 Calder Foundation /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


Pace Gallery 540 West 25th Street, New York. Photography by Thomas Loof, courtesy Pace Gallery.


Peter Hujar T.C., 1975, vintage gelatin silver print image. © The Peter Hujar Archive; courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.


Loie Hollowell Standing in Blue, 2018. © Loie Hollowell, courtesy Pace Gallery.


Fred Wilson No Way But This, 2013. Murano glass and light bulbs. © Fred Wilson, courtesy Pace Gallery.

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2017-01-06


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2016-02-15


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2016-01-08


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2011-09-23


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2011-05-02


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2006-10-30


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2006-10-29


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2006-10-11


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2006-09-25


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2006-09-03


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2006-08-17


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2006-07-24


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2006-07-06


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2006-06-14


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2006-06-07


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2006-05-24


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MEGA GALLERIES SERVING A MEGA MARKET: THE PARADIGM OF MUSEOLOGICAL OSTENTATION



SÉRGIO PARREIRA

2019-09-02




 

 

 

It was perhaps in May 2017, while visiting Felix Gonzalez-Torres exhibition at David Zwirner’s in New York, that I finally perceived the Mega Gallery phenomenon as a direct competitor of what we might consider to be a traditional Museum.

David Zwirner's Gallery, located at 537 West 20th Street, majestically unrolls through five floors totalizing about thirty thousand square feet. This space welcomed, with some tranquility and subtleness, the retrospective of an artist whose work is characterized by the use of mixed media through such disparate techniques as sculpture, digital printing, photography, installation, video-art and performance. The gallery, alongside with the recently closed Andrea Rosen Gallery (former representative of Felix Gonzalez Torres' estate), gathered with the collaboration of private and public collections (Museums) more than twenty works scattered throughout two floors in approximately ten rooms, portraying the exceptionality of the artist's plastic narrative. Exploring the uniqueness and generosity of the space, designed by Annabelle Selldorf (Selldorf Architects), the viewer was challenged to discover and understand the subjectivity of the dichotomy between what is public and what is private, the aesthetic creation, and the multiple contradictions one faces to perceive a work of art.

It is certainly noteworthy that the space viewed nowadays as a commercial art gallery, and as a result of the evolution of the market and some other infinite reasons (also associated with this fact), is able to arise to the upmost challenging category associated to the showing of works of art – Its educational potential and overhauling understanding of the human evolution.

Approximately a year later, in July 2018, I went to Pace Gallery on 510 West 25th Street, to see Fred Wilson 's exhibition entitled Afro Kismet. Pace’s space on this location is about 11,000 square feet with a majestic step up, industrial style, architecturally stripped down and sober, with countless skylights and openings for natural light. The renovations were carried out in 2012 by architectural firm HS2 Arquitecture, which had refurbished five years earlier an adjacent space also belonging to the gallery.

The Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet exhibition, produced for the 15th Istanbul Biennial with the artist's most recent work, predisposes to a particularly museological reading of its objects, partly due to the artist's spatial selections, the aesthetics of the sculptures, and also by the appropriation and reuse of artifacts. In Afro Kismet, Fred Wilson depicted an antique imaginary where Istanbul is culturally and historically a portion of a triangle composed also by Cairo and Venice. Using this concept as a starting point, the artist employs more classic noble materials, from painted tile panels, luminescent glass, Arabic calligraphy inscribed on paper and oriental paintings, which he articulated with more contemporary objects such as candelabra or the drawings that frame the borders/baseboards of the upper ends of the gallery walls. What primarily allows this exhibition to easily slide into the classicism of the museological universe, are the deliberate choices the artist has made in this regard. This effect is achieved through the color of the gallery walls, the positioning and display of objects on showcase plinths, the golden rococo frames of the paintings, and other details that we freely associate with traditional contexts of classical museums and "ancient art". Clearly, in this case, the contemporary artist explores a classical universe. However, and once again, the spatial dimension of this pavilion/hall, the spacious and imposing "galleries", turn possible, this involuntarily catapulting. Were it not for the megalomaniacal dimension of this permanent Pace Gallery “programming” space, located at a mostly commercial galleries district in Chelsea Manhattan, initially designed for and presented at a biennial exhibition, this unique project would not have been placed or set within a city perimeter other than at a traditional museum.

On September 14, 2019, Pace Gallery inaugurates its most recent “Headquarters” in Chelsea, New York: a newly eight-story building designed by Bonetti / Kozerski Architecture which opens the two-year season of inaugurations of the prominent Mega-Gallerists.

Pace debuts this seventy-five thousand square feet building at 540 West 25th Street with an exhibition of sculptures by Alexander Calder, a brand new panoramic twenty-four panel by David Hockney that is expected to cover the entire walls of one of the floors, an exhibition of biomorphic abstract paintings by one of the youngest artists of the gallery, Loie Hollowell, and finally, the presentation of Fred Wilson's candelabra sculptures. In addition to the indoor and outdoor exhibition space, this building will also make available to the public a research library exclusively dedicated to art, spaces for archiving and storage, a restaurant area, and finally, on the seventh floor of the building, an area exclusively dedicated to LIVE (performance-art), which will also host live concerts four times a year. For this new facet of performing arts, Pace hired a permanent curator Mark Beasley, former head of media and performance at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. In addition to this program, Pace has just launched PaceX project, dedicated to interventions intersecting Art and Technology: Led by Christy MacLear, taking place in spaces and on dates yet to be determine.

The program I have just described would perfectly fit into any profile of an International Contemporary Art Museum, where seasons are announced with a diversity of solo exhibitions, special projects by guest artists, performing arts programs, and much more.

The architects of this new Pace building in New York, which more than doubles the surface that the gallery already has available in the city, focused primarily on questioning and simultaneously demonstrating how the art gallery should look like in the 21st century: In response, the project determines the reevaluation of the previous concepts and redefines the paradigm in terms of construction and design. If we compare this building with the Met Breuer on the Upper East Side, which once hosted the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, this new Pace space only falls short by a mere nine hundred square feet.

 

Pace Gallery 540 West 25th Street, New York | Photography by Thomas Loof, courtesy Pace Gallery.

 

This year, David Zwirner’s Gallery also announced that, in 2021, will open a new space on 21st street in Chelsea, with about fifty-thousand square feet dedicated solely to exhibition space. Interestingly, also due to the proximity, this new gallery will have a similar size to the new Whitney Museum of American Art a few blocks down, with about sixty-two thousand square feet of exhibition space.

On an neither negative nor positive note, solely querying and analyzing while agreeing that dimension is no longer a criterion or argument, the question that arises at this point is: Shall we possibly try to understand what has changed in the art market? Which are the reasons that have brought us to this moment of the Commercial Art Gallery musealization?

The public/audience that "consumes" art has increased exponentially in the past two years. Massification of events such as art fairs, generated new categories of audience, perhaps more carefree, spontaneous, possibly less specialized, but simultaneously curious and astute.

In an era when, more than ever, communication takes place in real time through Arts Friendly social networks such as Instagram or Twitter, capturing and disseminating pictures concurrently takes on many other functions: these include promotion and/or marketing, be the source individual/personal or corporate/commercial/public. These factors fostered a modernized perspective and understanding of what was previously pictured as a typically elitist environment.

In 2018, the art market kept a sustained growth of about 6%, representing more than sixteen billion dollars out of a total of sixty-eight billion dollars in sales (source Art Basel & UBS Art Market Report 2019). Today, the so-called millennials represent almost 50% of the active art collectors/buyers. These factors did certainly contribute to the strategic redefinition of the blue-chip galleries. If about five years ago the public questioned whether or not it belonged in the commercial gallery space, which was mostly understood as an exclusive point for the visitor/collectors with purchasing power, today these spaces are categorically asserting themselves as any-audience friendly, redefining the paradigm of exclusivity for accessibility. By redesigning their new homes, the "heavyweights" of contemporary art, Pace, David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, and Gagosian redefine the meaning of an art gallery by placing an emphasis not only on commercializing and exhibiting contemporary art, but on the ability to provide a fuller service including basic needs such as refreshments or the access to restrooms. However, and despite all these changes or hypothetical 'evolutions', a commercial art gallery would not neglect its main objective which is, indisputably, the commercialization of artworks.

As a result of a healthy market with a solid growth, these strategies of accessibility and proximity not only aims to provide an optimized service to current customers, but also to win over a clientele that until today might have been left excluded or dissociated from the group. Furthermore, the art collector, has always defectively desired, to have museum-worthy artworks. What these Mega Galleries are providing them with this new format is precisely that, a worthy and improved space in which contemporary artworks, temporarily accessible to the masses, are shown in a similar fashion and with dignity akin of the presentation by "any museum".

These new commercial art spaces, which we now refer to as Mega, are surely an evolution resulting from the demand and robustness of the market, where the trade of multi-million-dollar objects has become a commonplace and way-less sporadic. What we may not learn so quickly, is whether the intention of these Mega Gallery tends towards coming closer to the distinctive nature of public service, that has been exclusive to Museums until today.

It shall be indisputable to say that, similarly to what occurs in any museum today, the Mega galleries will become a cultural destination versus local en passant, where we have traditionally gone to appreciate some works by a single artist. The ambition of these art billionaires and quoting Marc Glimcher (President and CEO of the Pace Gallery), is that future art galleries become some kind of a place for congregation, “like churches".

As any other commercial space, one cannot forget the major role of the providers, which in the case of an art gallery, are the artists: the question that arises, is to which extent these Mega spaces will not demand a Mega production. During an era where art merchants have been easily multiplying their decimal numbers in profit, we have to understand the likely implications of this equation on artistic production, its players, its identity, its product quality: ultimately the preservation of all of these.

 

 


Sérgio Parreira 
@artloverdiscourse