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Nicole Klagsbrun to close gallery after 30 years in the business

New York dealer says she is “sick” of the current system

Nicole Klagsbrun is closing her Chelsea gallery (right, installation view from the 2010 show "John Giorno, Black Paintings). Photo: Christopher Burke Studios

The New York dealer, Nicole Klagsbrun, will close her gallery this summer. “I’m not sick and I’m not broke. I just don’t want the gallery system anymore,” Klagsbrun says. “The old school way was to be close to the artists and to the studios. Nowadays, it’s run like a corporation. After 30 years, this is not what I aspire to do. It is uninteresting.”

Klagsbrun will continue to work, however. “I’m not quitting the business—I want to be involved and engaged, but from a very different angle,” she says. “It’s been my forte to find artists and I want to do that. I want to connect things in a way that’s not just a conduit for a marketplace.”

She will continue to work with artists, and will maintain representation of the estate of Cameron Parsons. She plans to organise shows in America and Europe, starting with the first solo show of works by the young artist Brie Ruais in a rented space in New York this autumn. She will also keep a small office space in Chelsea on West 26th street, on the site of her former gallery.

Klagsbrun says that the current “structure of the system is overwhelming. A dealer’s job is to edit an artist’s work but your eye for quality gets swallowed up by this endless sea of events, fairs and biennials. The pace of it means you don’t have time to reflect or think, or strategise about the right steps for your artists’ careers. The standard of the art goes down, but there are always buyers and, if you don’t take part, you’re not successful.”

She says that the public has changed too. “The conversation is very much about the market—more people ask me about the price of a work than what it’s made of. Paint is irrelevant,” she says. “People want the shopping mall experience of fairs and auctions. In the 1980s and 1990s, you’d sell smaller things to people who had less money and they’d be excited—it meant something to them. Now, a lot of the younger collectors are like gamblers, they just want to make money from art. Some good people have been priced out. Others collectors are just confused.”

Together with Clarissa Dalrymple, Klagsbrun founded the Cable Gallery in 1984. She then established her own gallery in Soho in 1989, before settling in Chelsea in 1998. She has a reputation for a keen eye. The gallery made early showings of artists including Candida Höfer, Karen Kilimnik, Sarah Morris, Billy Sullivan, Rashid Johnson and Brendan Fowler. Klagsbrun has long promoted West Coast artists such as Wallace Berman and Jay DeFeo in New York, presenting a group show in 1991 called “California Assemblagist”.

“I don’t know how sustainable the [current global] gallery model is. If you don’t want to compromise, it’s very difficult—it’s like the Barnes and Noble effect. There are no little libraries.” But, she is looking forward to the next chapter. “It is the end of a series rather than a closure,” Klagsbrun says. “Now I’ve spoken to all the artists, I am starting to feel excited. It’s a new model of functioning.”

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Comments

5 Nov 13
18:26 CET

MARTHA FALSETTA, DENTON, TX

Bravo, in this day and age of sponsorship, etc. it is refreshing to see a woman, so prominent in her field, step out and return to the people's view of art. It strengthens my heart to read of her boldness and honesty, as we artists live a content struggle to be seen, let alone heard and for this, I/we thank you.

19 Jun 13
21:53 CET

JAMIE RAUCHMAN, NEW YORK, NY

Your words ring so true. We look forward to the next act, Nicole..x, Jamie & Paul

6 Jun 13
17:57 CET

PATRICIA CORNISH, SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL

Nicole Klagsbrun makes me feel conforted with her decision as I just opened a very small gallery. My mission is to sell art to people who have pleasure to own art rather than "I want to sell it in 5 years time for a mulitple of five over the purchasing price". Saying affordable art seems a deadly sing. In my old days in Banking and Leveraged Finance it was common practice to buy companies today and sell them in a few years with a 10x multiple. Sadly it seems that model is moving into art but one can have faith that as the leveraged model did not prove sustainable the "global gallery model" may not be the long term survival. Let's support the small galleries aiming at offering new and GOOD art! And affordable !

5 Apr 13
15:38 CET

LAURA, NYC

Kudos to Nicole and to those supporting her and the art industry as a whole. I created Artmeme to empower and educate visual artists to give them access to business and art related resources and workshops. I'm glad we all agree there's a disconnect and are attempting to do something about it! If anyone wants to talk, please reach out! I'm all for connecting.

2 Apr 13
18:45 CET

LAURA, NYC

Kudos to Nicole and to those supporting her and the art industry as a whole. I created Artmeme to empower and educate visual artists to give them access to business and art related resources and workshops. I'm glad we all agree there's a disconnect and are attempting to do something about it! If anyone wants to talk, please reach out! I'm all for connecting.

2 Apr 13
16:5 CET

LUCY MEAKIN , LONDON

Art fairs are like the amazon.com of the modern art dealing world, sadly. I also wish more could be done to combat the ridiculous rents in major cities like London and NY. No one really looks at art any more, it's depressing.

1 Apr 13
15:10 CET

TERRI LEW, GOLD COAST - AUSTRALIA

I hold the internet responsible for the demise of some galleries. The collectors can follow an artist on Facebook or website. They can also buy directly from the artist. An artist without a gallery representation misses out big time! The job of a gallery director is to direct! The artist needs to grow and prosper as a business in order to be a sought after commodity. The artist needs to be nurtured, challenged and encouraged in order to grow. Artists need a manager so that all they have to do is create art. That’s why galleries need to exist. Galleries who will survive this new revolution and tough economic times will reap the benefits in future. Art buyers and collectors will want to go back to a gallery environment in order to avoid falling out with the artist they fell in love with (their work) but not their personality. Galleries act as a buffer between a sometime complicated artist and a difficult client. Movie stars need their agents! Artists need their galleries!

1 Apr 13
15:15 CET

MARC ARRANAGA, NEW YORK

After working for Pace Gallery for 5 years I couldn't agree more. I applaud your commitment to the arts and not to a corporatized art factory. I transitioned my experience at Pace from processing the complicated sales of established artists into helping emerging artists as an agent and advisor to manage their own careers. I started Artist Management Services (AMS) to help artists find their way. I want to wish you good luck on your future endeavors.

29 Mar 13
21:13 CET

DENNIS ANDERSON, DETROIT

Nicole has always been ahead of the curve. I'd like to invite Nicole and anyone else that shares our ideas of rebuilding the artworld to come to Detroit. We have a new blank canvas to work on. Large gallery buildings can be bought for $500 dollars. Spaces for artists are a dime a dozen. One can work here with no market pressures, and its a lot of fun again. There's plenty of things to do, sporting events, great music, clubs and the great outdoors. Come on everyone, join us, let's build something new !

29 Mar 13
21:17 CET

JOYCE POMEROY SCHWARTZ, NEW YORK

I sadly agree with Nicole's valuation of the state of the art world today. I too ,have had a long and satisfying career working closely helping artists in the area of public art. That is what is rewarding to me and so many others like Nicole who put artists and their art first. Always optimistic the younger artists i meet, under 30, seem to be looking back for inspiration, to artists who made art history, not the art market. So happily Nicole will continue to be the great art professional she has always been and things will change for the better for our art world.

29 Mar 13
15:12 CET

ASHLEY PRINCE, TUPELO, MS

I am so in tune with Nicole! I co-owned an art gallery, the only one in Tupelo, MS, for two years with my business partner. I never liked the idea of keeping 40-50% of the price of the art. I want as much as possible to go to the artists to reward them for their talents and creativity and production. Of course, overhead requires that the gallery retain a significant amount, along with the idea that the owners should actually hope to make some income as well. I left the gallery, and my partner is doing a fine job of continuing its success on her own. I however wish to go in a new direction, like Nicole. I am networking and hoping to educate friends and new acquaintances on art and place art in homes, businesses, and locations that have never appreciated it as deserved before. I am so excited about where this journey will lead, and which artists will come along for the ride!

29 Mar 13
15:15 CET

IAN J.HENRY KNOOP, AMSTERDAM

Welcome in the true world of promoting contemporary Art without lies so the art world will still have a future for the free spirit of artists which benifit all of us. congratulations, Ms Klagsbrun !

29 Mar 13
15:16 CET

CHER LEWIS, PIETRASANTA, ITALY

Nicole, finally a brave woman points to the blind Emperor's fine clothes, chosen by bankers' from select boutiques.

29 Mar 13
15:17 CET

CHARLIE NYC, NYC

Kudos to Nicole. She is still the pioneer that she always was. And there will be many more to follow her. the system doesn't work anymore, and everyone knows it. Something new will take form...and we are all looking forward to what they wil be. What good is any system that excludes 99% of the previous participants?

29 Mar 13
15:17 CET

LUIS DE JESUS, LOS ANGELES

I'm proud of Nicole and I share her feelings. The time has come to rethink this club mentality and the greed, nasty attitudes, and misplaced priorities that are suffocating the art world. I cherish the time I spent working for her and Clarissa at Cable--their values and ethics, their love of art and support of artists continues to inspire me to this day. Nicole will always be a great.

29 Mar 13
1:11 CET

VANPHOUTHON SOUVANNASANE, PROVIDENCE

Nicole Klagsbrun is definitely ahead of the curve with this closure. The art market eco-system is in dire need of curation, especially on the collector side. Artists create, galleries exhibit and sell (or at least try to), and a small percentage of top collectors control the art market. Something is wrong with this equation, which is why we need to redefine the last segment of this trifecta if we want artists to thrive in our communities and galleries to stay in business.

28 Mar 13
21:25 CET

CLAUDIA, MEXICO CITY

I totally agree, we need to change perpectives and platforms. art has turn into available product rather than a reflection

28 Mar 13
21:8 CET

DEIRDRE NOLAN, HAMPSHIRE, UK

Refreshing. Good luck to Ms Klagsbrun. Delighted someone still has some values in the shoddy world of market art. The greed in our world is astounding and it has trampled on everything including art. Time to buck the system which is the story of the progress of art.

28 Mar 13
21:8 CET

SYLVAIN, SHANNON, MS

I am refreshed and renewed with hope that such valuation of the arts continues to live in our society. Klagsbrun is a new hero, and I wish her greater success and dare to dream that her influence will bring about a revolution in education and understanding of Art in our society.

28 Mar 13
21:8 CET

CAMILO ALVAREZ, BOSTON

BRAVO!!! (loud hand clap!) Nicole Klagsbrun has been a beacon for years. An example to young gallerists. The gallery model is becoming outmoded, Klagsbrun has been mostly ahead. I think its symptomatic of NYC being the financial center for the art world.

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