The Gagosian Gallery is attempting to make permanent inroads with a rising class of wealthy Russian collectors with an exhibition of post-war and contemporary art opening on 17 September in Moscow. This is Gagosian’s second Russian show; the gallery staged a ten-day exhibition in a high-end shopping mall outside Moscow in October 2007.
Gagosian is sparing no expense this time and is installing 70 works of art in the former Red October chocolate factory, an architectural landmark on the Moscow River with dramatic views of the Kremlin. According to Sam Orlofsky, a gallery director and the curator for the exhibition, Gagosian has retrofitted nearly 28,000 sq. ft of industrial space on the first floor of the 19th-century complex, which developers plan to convert into luxury apartments and shops. Although Mr Orlofsky declined to reveal the amount paid for the renovation, he says the gallery will use the space for just one month.
When asked if Gagosian plans to open a permanent space in Moscow, gallery director and organiser of the exhibition, Victoria Gelfand, said: “We do have plans for future exhibitions in Russia, and will continue to show there, but we haven’t made any long-term commitment yet.” Instead Ms Gelfand says the gallery is using a flexible exhibition model, where it presents shows to a new and expanding audience. The approach necessitates that all sales of art be conducted through the London, Rome, New York and Los Angeles branches. She says the gallery has not ruled out using this strategy in other emerging art markets in Asia and the Middle East.
Currently there is only one foreign-owned gallery in Russia, founded in April by Berlin dealer Volker Diehl, so there is little competition to sell Western art and Gagosian hopes to capitalise on this gap in the market. One of the advantages in Russia, says Mr Orlofsky, is that “very few artists have representation there, so you can propose a show and it doesn’t present a conflict of interests in terms of an artist’s pre-existing relationships”. The September show, titled “For What You Are about to Receive”, includes work by non-Gagosian artists such as Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman, Aaron Young, and Banks Violette who will be shown alongside gallery heavyweights Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly and others.
A highlight of the exhibition is a David Smith Cubi sculpture on loan from the estate whose interests are represented by the gallery. It is not for sale. Larry Gagosian purchased a similar Smith sculpture on behalf of American collector Eli Broad for $23.8m at Sotheby’s New York in 2005.
When asked about the rising importance of Russian collectors, Ms Gelfand, originally from Belarus, said: “When I started at the gallery four years ago we had zero Russian clients,” adding “I don’t think there’s any commercial gallery that does nearly as much business now with the Russian market as we do.”