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Young Art Stars Prompt LeBron-Like Buzz as Buyers Seek Safety

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"Blue Twirl (Mountain)"
``Blue Twirl (Mountain),'' 2010, a found image on C-print by artist Elad Lassry. Lassry, 32, recently joined the Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York. Photographer: Fredrik Nilsen/David Kordansky Gallery via Bloomberg

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Ever since New York dealer Jeffrey Deitch closed his SoHo gallery to become director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the big question in the art world has been: Which blue-chip gallery will land his young star Tauba Auerbach?

“I feel like it’s a LeBron James announcement,” said New York-based art adviser Lisa Schiff. “You hear David Zwirner, Luhring Augustine, Barbara Gladstone, maybe Gagosian. Everyone is very excited about her.”

Auerbach’s large-scale paintings, depicting magnified close-ups of crumpled paper, have appeared in high-profile exhibitions, including the 2010 Whitney Biennial, “The Greater New York” show at P.S. 1 and the New Museum’s “Younger Than Jesus.”

Large-scale canvases which were priced at $15,000 four years ago have risen to $38,000-$40,000.

“I have been speaking with a few galleries, but I don’t think it would be polite to say which ones,” said Auerbach, 29, in an email. “I imagine I’ll be able to decide about a new gallery in the fall.”

Established galleries are always on the lookout for emerging talent with buzz, while the young artists they take on get better access to wealthy collectors and museums.

In recent months, several alliances have been forged, including Elad Lassry with Luhring Augustine and Matthew Day Jackson with Hauser & Wirth in London.

Waiting to Buy

“It’s a sign that an artist has been vetted,” said Schiff. “A lot of collectors wait to buy the work. They would rather spend more money on a safer bet.”

Los Angeles-based Lassry, 32, who works with images in photography and film, and whose current prices range from $5,500 to $50,000, joined Luhring Augustine in New York partly because it represents established artists Christopher Wool and Albert Oehlen.

“It’s a fantastic thing for young artists to be presented next to the artists of other generations who are a precedent for their work,” said David Kordansky, Lassry’s primary dealer, based in Los Angeles.

Timing is everything. Joining a major gallery too early could backfire, curtailing a young artist’s career, dealers and advisors warned.

“Market hot doesn’t mean market future,” said Allan Schwartzman, a veteran New York art adviser. “Artists who become singled out at a very early age, even when they have great promise, have an increasing difficulty living up to the market’s hope for their potential.”

Picking a Gallery

One way to avoid this is to keep tight control over prices and distribution. Artists also benefit from working with a mix of large and small galleries in various markets because each can advance a distinct aspect of their careers.

Jackson, 36, a Brooklyn-based sculptor and painter whose canvas fetched 601,250 pounds ($955,626) at Christie’s London this year, remained with Grimm Fine Art in Amsterdam and Peter Blum in New York, even as he joined blue-chip Hauser & Wirth with its three branches in London.

Jackson’s large-scale, carved-wood wall pieces are $100,000 to $120,000, while sculptures start at $90,000.

“All these galleries have different positions and different connections within the art world,” said Miriam Katzeff, director at Team Gallery in New York. “Some collectors are particular about what galleries they will and will not work with.”

Emerging Talent

Team, which typically shows younger talent, has represented digital artist Cory Arcangel since 2003, placing his works in the collections of the Whitney and the Museum of Modern Art.

Recently, Arcangel, 32, and Team decided to partner with London’s high-end Lisson Gallery, which represents art star Anish Kapoor. Arcangel’s prices range from $4,000 to $34,000.

“It’s as valuable for a blue-chip gallery to work with emerging artists as for emerging artists to work with a blue-chip gallery,” said Kordansky. “When you are running these huge operations, you can’t stay close to the ground. Bigger galleries often look at the younger generation to inform them.”

(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the reporter of this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at kkazakina@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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