Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Mega-Galleries of Chelsea

 David Zwirner's new five-story, 30,000 square-foot exhibition and project space at 537 West 20th Street. 
By Charles Kessler

I have mixed feelings about the enormous gallery spaces being built in Chelsea lately. On the one hand, they do some great shows. Gagosian (11 spaces worldwide, two large ones in Chelsea) just closed Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959an exhibition any museum would be proud of; David Zwirner (30,000 square feet added to its already enormous space) is currently showing Richard Serra, Early Work; Hauser & Wirth (their new space is a former roller rink, and they've included a bar that overlooks the High Line) recently had an enormous Dieter Roth exhibition.
Hauser & Wirth’s new 24,700 square-foot venue at 511 West 18th Street – former home to the Roxy roller rink.
Bar over the entry ramp to the Hauser & Wirth Gallery – architect Annabelle Selldorf.
And there’s Pace Gallery with three spaces in Chelsea, two in London and one and Beijing; and even Sean Kelly, a mid-sized gallery, moved to a 22,000 square-foot space at 475 10th Avenue.

What’s happening, I think, is the top galleries are making so much money that not only can they afford these huge spaces, but it’s also an absolute business necessity if they want to compete for the billionaire market. It’s no big deal for billionaires to pay millions of dollars for an ordinary Gerhart Richter painting, but they're not doing it because they’re committed collectors who are knowledgeable and passionate about art. What they’re really buying is prestige, and this kind of conspicuous size and luxury is necessary to convince them that they’re getting it.

I know the art world has always been like that, but these mega-galleries flaunt it so much that, in spite of the high quality of some of their shows, I feel dirty even going into them.

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