Larry Gagosian can afford to smile as he stands in his new gallery. The American in Paris watches as his show of Cy Twombly works lures billionaire buyers.
The French branch of Gagosian, the world’s biggest commercial gallery network, sold more than $20 million of Twombly paintings at its opening, dealers say. This month, its owner was awarded the French Legion d’Honneur and also topped Art Review’s Power 100 list.
“I’m hoping to give the artists I represent more exposure in Europe, specifically in Paris,” Gagosian says in an interview. “During the last five years the city has become more significant in the global art landscape. Artists have always had a strong connection with this city. I feel comfortable about being here.”
Gagosian, 65, is expanding as the art market slowly recovers from recession: while other galleries failed, he opened in Athens last year with another Twombly show. The presence of collectors such as Francois Pinault and Bernard Arnault is boosting Paris’s rivalry with London as the capital of Europe’s art market. The Gagosian opening coincided with the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain, or FIAC.
The 350-square-meter (3,757 square feet) Gagosian space, at 4, rue de Ponthieu in Paris’s affluent 8th arrondissement, debuts with an exhibition of five new acrylic abstracts and five bronze sculptures by Twombly.
The 82-year-old Rome-based artist’s 8-foot-high orange and yellow “Camino Real” paintings are inspired by a 1953 Tennessee Williams play.
Priced between $4 million and $5 million each, all the paintings sold before the gallery officially opened on Oct. 20, according to three dealers with knowledge of the matter who declined to be named. Gagosian doesn’t release prices or comment on sales, said Christelle Maureau, the gallery’s Paris-based press attache.
Gagosian wears an open-necked white shirt and blue suit, modestly lacking his Legionnaire’s lapel pin: He was given France’s highest decoration in recognition of his impact on Parisian cultural life two days before his gallery opened.
“Frederic Mitterrand, the culture minister, gave me the award in the gallery,” says Gagosian. “Then we went for dinner.” The party ate at Le Stresa, an Italian restaurant in the 8th arrondissement.
Gagosian Paris is the ninth gallery the U.S. dealer has opened since founding the company in Los Angeles in 1979. He now has exhibition spaces in the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Greece and France.
“Larry has a global strategy,” the London-based dealer Offer Waterman says in an interview. “It only takes three billionaires for Louis Vuitton to set up shop in a country. They’ve recently opened a branch in Mongolia.” The luxury goods company’s store is located at Ulaanbaatar Central Tower. France has 12 dollar billionaires, Forbes said in March 2010.
“Larry knows he can get the best artists, because he has the best gallery representation. He’s become bigger than the artists themselves,” Waterman says. “He’s become a global brand.”
Paris dealer Patrick Seguin is showing prefabricated architecture by the French designer Jean Prouve in Gagosian’s upstairs project space. Two original steel-framed timber houses -- whose construction process is shown on videos -- are priced at 800,000 euros ($1.1 million) and 600,000 euros, said Seguin, who collaborated with Gagosian on a Prouve show in Los Angeles in 2004.
(Scott Reyburn writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)