Art world news: Gagosian’s smooth dealings, Norton's $6 tantrum, and the new Roman takeover

Meanwhile, Ricard tries his hand at larceny while Blum's Judd masterpiece makes bank


Lessons from Larry

We who marvel at the mercantile genius of Gagosian, the only dealer in history to have gone from the secondary market to the hottest primary works, long to know some of the secrets of his success. So how does Gagosian actually sell? Slowness and silence are his mantra. Larry’s instructions in the art of selling art are exemplary and instructive. Take it slowly and never, never get lost in chit-chat, never bombard the collector with information, never rush in to fill silences, better not to speak at all than to speak too much. The strategic principles are to assume the collector is there to buy; the work is in front of them; they should just be left to come to the conclusion to own it; no prompting needed. The dealer should, of course, be very well informed about the work, but only offer facts if asked. Otherwise a Zen calm is the key, a simple silence of seriousness. “Don’t always feel you should TALK so much!” The Gagosian lesson for every aspirant dealer. Collectors who need the bathroom after Gagosian’s silent-sell will be equally awed by the official gallery lavatory key, attached to an old-fashioned, traditional painter’s brush, indeed a CHIP 100% Pure Bristle, 2" brush. Proof that bohemian-style lingers even in deepest azure chipsville.

Gagosian seems to be specialising in exhibitions of successful photographers who already have well-established Manhattan gallery representation. Gregory Crewdson’s show from Luhring Augustine is now on display with Gagosian in Los Angeles, some cunning new bi-coastal machination. Thus visitors to Gagosian on Madison may have been rather surprised to see the whole of Cindy Sherman’s Metro Pictures exhibition proudly on display, indistinguishable from its previous hanging. “Oh, we showed these works in LA and just decided to show them here afterwards” came the explanation.

Norton explodes at DIA

The new DIA up at Beacon is coming on apace, walls built, floors sanded, Serra’s series of mammoth torqued ellipses the first actual works to be installed. As Barnes & Noble’s ceo Leonard Riggio readily admits, tears almost in his eyes, it was his first experience of these sculptures that literally transformed his notion of art and made him a dedicated DIA devotee, generous provider of “substantial capital support” for the whole new building. Other artists are naturally keen to ensure their place in this vast complex. Apparently whilst the building was still in its earliest stages Walter De Maria was to be found literally down on the floor measuring out and claiming his own space before any other artist could get to it. As it is Maria has managed to nab the best spot of all, occupying the entire entrance-axis with one work. DIA is almost as fabled for its massively wealthy supporters as for its equally gargantuan taste for physical space, but these discreet billionaires sometimes cause trouble. Peter Norton was NOT happy at being asked repeatedly for his $6 entrance donation by some slacker dude guarding the door. He replied casually, “I am Peter Norton”, and just kept walking inside. The staff member told him he HAD to pay $6 and was calling security. Whereupon Norton exploded in uncontrollable rage shouting at the top of his voice, “I am Peter NORTON, I have given millions to this place, millions!” Norton demanded to be put on phone immediately to Michael Goven, director of DIA, and continued his tirade, determined to have the Williamsburg stoner fired for disrespect. This being a busy Saturday morning a small crowd gathered to watch in fascination as the eponymous king of Norton Utilities had his own meltdown. Doesn’t Norton know that the truly chic wealthy people, including all those oil heirs and real-estate moguls on the DIA board, pay their crumpled $1 notes at the entrance as the very epitome of elegance?

And who is the only person ever to be caught shoplifting from the glamorous DIA bookstore? Of course, none other than the legendary writer René Ricard, who was stopped red-handed trying to steal his OWN book of poems. This may have well been an homage to his hero Jean Genet, also a notorious book thief well known for stealing back his own first editions and manuscripts from their rightful collectors. The police were called and gave him a strict warning, but DIA finally agreed not to prosecute. Hey, roll over Rimbaud and tell the other poor poets the news. Radiant Child indeed.

Ciao Roma

Could Italy be the new Britain when it comes to fresh contemporary art? Italian-speaking teenage stars such as Maurizio Cattelan and Vanessa Beecroft have signaled a return to the glory days of the early 80s when Mediterranean men whose names began with C seemed to run the whole crapshoot. All the hottest young New York artists nowadays seem to be largely supported by hip Italian galleries such as MC Magma, Marella or Monica de Cardenas. Equally active, the Tema Celeste/Gabrius organisation is sponsoring everything and making editions with all currently modish names.

Meanwhile, thanks to the building of a Contemporary Art Museum (plus the long-term planning of British Council maestro Brendan Griggs), Rome is luring a wide variety of programmes and new residents, from Mark Kostabi to Scottish Wunderkind Charles Avery. Final proof that the Italian pudding is piping is news that hot teen gallerist Gavin Brown is to open his own enterprise in that city this month, tentatively called just “Roma.”

The value of Judd

Irving Blum was waxing mirthful on the subject of his fabulous Judd sculpture that occupied the cover of Christie’s Contemporary Sale in May.

In 1967 he had a sudden financial windfall and sent the money straight over to Donald Judd asking him to “just send me back your best piece.” The return post brought this huge work, which occupying over 20 feet and requiring much hard labour to install, Mr Blum simply left in its packing crate, never even really looking at it. Mr Blum was much amused by his dealings with the auction house when he rang them to ask how they thought the piece might go.

“We don’t think, we KNOW for certain, we can tell you precisely, exactly, how much money it will make.” Mr Blum was naturally excited until they revealed their precise insider-information. “It will, without any doubt, make between $2 and $10 million.”

As Mr Blum put it, when they are desperate for the work, they tell you it’s easily $10 million and then once they have it on the block they tell you $2 million! In the end, Mr Blum’s sculpture sold for $4,629,500 including premium (for sale report see p.45) setting a new world record for the artist.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Gagosian’s smooth dealings'