For-Profit Galleries Adopt Non-Profit Strategies

by Paula Newton November 29, 2018

Rendering of the H Queen’s development in Hong Kong. Photo via Artforum

Hauser & Wirth is definitely a super-mega gallery with its nine locations throughout the world (Hong, London, Los Angeles, two in New York, Somerset, St. Moritz, Gstaad, and Zurich), with exhibition space lager than many museums, and with bookstores, restaurants, and boutiques. Now it has announced a new non-profit institute “dedicated to supporting art historical scholarship and to preserving and advancing the legacies of modern and contemporary artists through enabling greater public access to their archives for research.”

Its press release states:

To pursue its mission, the Institute will create a study center for the preservation, expedient cataloguing, and digitization of primary research materials for direct study and free online public access to these resources. It will seek to nurture innovation and substance in art historical research through the funding of fellowships in partnership with artists’ estates, foundations, and educational institutions. Another core activity of the Institute will be the production of online catalogues raisonnés and print publications that advance the highest academic standards in order to strengthen the field of modern and contemporary art history. The organization will also present public programs, including exhibitions of archival material and symposia that engage scholars, archivists, artists, collectors, curators, estate managers, gallerists, and the general public in dialogues about the obligations and opportunities inherent in archive stewardship.

Inaugural initiatives Include Franz Kline Paintings catalogue raisonné, a Spring 2019 Symposium, and three U.S. Fellowships. This all sounds fantastic and generous. But much of its programming and educational archives will revolve around artists from its own for-profit roster. When will visitors no longer be able to distinguish the difference between the missions of galleries and museums? Will the line become too blurry to recognize?


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anonymous_marfa November 29, 2018 - 10:22

Scary. Where is the catch? Certainly this will bolster their sales. Makes me think of the new Sotheby’s Curatorial Prize. Support an exhibition with a grant to increase the value of the work included in the show. Then sell the art from artists in that exhibition for an even greater profit.

Jordan December 2, 2018 - 10:12

It’s smart and responsible. They’re going to great lengths and investing in documenting and archiving artists and works which are associated with the gallery. In an environment where writers aren’t writing and those who would be art historians are choosing to go to finishing schools at Sothebys and Christies, galleries have to think of ways to get the work in front of people and to make sure the exhibitions don’t fade away with those few who may have attended.

Meris December 3, 2018 - 11:59

Agree w/ Jordan. There are plenty of legitimate critiques to be made about mega-galleries and the state of arts finance. But this is a solid, worthwhile effort in the right direction. I’m so tired of the knee-jerk vilifying of big galleries, or really any for-profit anything. Would the author prefer the non-profit institute simply not exist, because it’s financed by H&W? That seems baffling, for all the value it will offer to so many of us.

Side question: considering the heavy bias in how it is reported, does this really qualify as a news article? It’s a reproduction of a press statement with one rhetorically confusing op-ed paragraph and no references cited to the claims. Every other article I’ve read on this delves into a lot more detail and cites H&W’s statements that they will be including artists from within and outside of their roster (Franz Kline, for example, is not on their roster). Even the title is opinionated. I’m definitely no expert but it just seems misleading to call an underdeveloped op-ed a “news” article. It’s not what I’m used to from GT.


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