Larry Gagosian, the strong man of Contemporary Art, 2/2
An American collector, familiar with the dealer, describes this panache as a tactic: "Larry introduced a bit of the Hollywood spirit into art. Often, he invites celebrities to his luxurious events. Meeting the actress Jennifer Lawrence or the former tennis player John McEnroe, at a party in Capri or an opening dinner in a New York palace gives dreams to its customers by giving them the impression of belonging to the ultra-privileged club. The party is his way of retaining high society. "The significant capital gains that he lets them sparkle, too.
"Larry," continues the same collector, "was the first to understand that to make money, you first have to know how to lose it. The system is well established. For his best selling artists, he relies on a handful of enormous fortunes. They buy and support Koons or Twombly. This is how the last period of it, although not the best, became the most expensive. Gagosian has control over the production of an artist. Larry is powerful and determined. "
Christophe Van de Weghe, one of his former employees, now at the head of a gallery in New York, adds: "Larry is a bulldozer. You have to observe it when he arrives at the big sales of Sotheby's or Christie's. Frozen gaze, he walks straight, and everyone has their eyes on him. He knows how to urge his big clients with extraordinary firmness: "You have to buy this!" I saw him do it. Gagosian quickly learned to manipulate the minds of the powerful. In the emulation, he orchestrates, billionaires frolic. Among them: Steven Cohen, star owner of "hedge funds" who, in 2019, in a sale of Christie's, acquired a rabbit from Jeff Koons for 91 million dollars. Or businessman Leon Black, famous for his donation of $ 40 million to MoMA in New York,
In Gagosian living room, Joe Bradley abstract canvas and a guitar because Larry Gagosian is also a guitarist and saxophonist in his spare time.
According to those close to him, Gagosian is a real chameleon. Gentleman polite, composed, modest - even slightly fearful - and very stingy with confidences, he is also an impatient manager. Able to call ten times to achieve his ends, he sometimes shows a certain aggressiveness towards his employees, whose sales he obsessively monitors. He had an internal computer network set up, which trumpeted every transaction to its branches. In the past, he reigned without a rival, but in recent years serious competition has emerged. "I don't care about the competition. If you don't have one, it means you're in the wrong area. I like to be the first to do things. They copy me. I think that's smart of them, and I don't underestimate them. "
Usually, Gagosian comes to Paris about six times a year. "I like walking to the Tuileries, dining at Le Duc restaurant with my friends. Among these are François Pinault, Xavier Niel and his partner, Delphine Arnault, the antiquarian Patrick Seguin, and Jean Nouvel architect. "In the Louvre, a plaque indicates that my gallery financed the ceiling executed by Twombly *. I am very proud of it. I liked his work as soon as I discovered it. He renewed the notion of painting, which Kirk Varnedoe, curator at MoMA, put it very well by saying that he was the only artist who could face Jackson Pollock. "
The future of this collection, he admits, "not having decided yet". The idea of disappearing seems so unbearable to him that he avoids the word "death".
This workaholic is an eternal young man, childless, collecting girlfriends. Larry Gagosian, who likes long nights, disdains to share neither a grand cru nor a joint, on occasion, with his artists or his clients. Almost nothing is known about his collection except the sample of 72 pieces presented in 2010 in Abu Dhabi, works by Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Willem De Kooning. "That's a third or a quarter of what I own. I collect the artists that my gallery represents and important modern works of the estates with which we collaborate, such as Giacometti and Picasso. I try to save the best, but sometimes a customer walks by and says, "Hey, Larry, you saved the best!" I have to be careful about this. »As for the future of this collection, he admits "not having decided yet". The idea of disappearing seems so unbearable to him that he avoids the word "death".
Does he regret it? "When you work a lot, you make mistakes. Ambroise Vollard had bought several Van Goghs, but, not believing in his market in the long term, he had sold them. He later admitted his blunder. My Van Goghs are the paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I was his dealer, and I still have a few paintings of him, but I sold too many. I regret not having kept more. We understand it. Not only because the American artist, who died of an overdose at the age of 27 in 1988, invented a unique vocabulary, recognized worldwide. But also because the record for one of his paintings to date stands at $ 110.5 million.
© Paris Match, Judith Benhamou-Muet