Do you want to organise a pop-up show in an unfamiliar city? Need someone to haggle with a contractor over a construction project that just won’t end? Trying to figure out where to get that strangely shaped sculpture fabricated on a tight deadline? Arisohn + Murphy can help.
Part McKinsey for the art world, part project management firm and part start-up, the company was quietly founded by two former Gagosian employees in 2015. More interested in working behind the scenes, they have not discussed it publicly until now.
Over the past year, Jessica Arisohn and Rysia Murphy have advised clients ranging from Selldorf Architects and Gagosian to smaller art dealers such as Karma in New York and Nature Morte in New Delhi. The company also works with artists, including several on Gagosian’s roster.
While at Gagosian, the duo watched as more and more galleries opened temporary pop-ups and artist studios grew into sprawling—but not necessarily efficient—operations. These developments, they believe, created an opening for a new kind of business.
“We felt like there was a change happening, that we could work outside the umbrella of the traditional brick and mortar gallery,” Arisohn says. “You see project management and management consulting in almost every other industry.”
The pair started at Gagosian on the same day in 2007, and created new roles for themselves as the gallery exploded into a global business. “When we started, there were six galleries worldwide, and when we left, there were 16,” recalls Arisohn, who served as exhibition manager at the gallery’s Madison Avenue location. Murphy worked as the art fair manager and oversaw many of Gagosian’s pop-up shows.
Now, they are taking the skills they developed at Gagosian—from figuring out how to efficiently ship art into and out of Brazil to creating a custom art database—and applying them to smaller shops. Rather than open an office in New York, for example, the Indian gallery Nature Morte hired Arisohn + Murphy to oversee its Frieze New York presentations and facilitate US museum loans and exhibitions.
The company charges around $5,000 to $10,000 per month or per project. But Arisohn and Murphy say they often end up saving the client money elsewhere to cover their fee. When they were hired to help streamline an artist’s studio, for example, they recommended the artist hire an outside bookkeeper rather than maintain an in-house employee for the same job. “There were enough salary savings that covered our costs and set up the studio to have cost savings indefinitely,” Murphy says.
Employees often greet outside consultants with scepticism and anxiety. But Arisohn says their approach (“we do everything from high-level strategy to what an intern would do”) and their intimate understanding of the art business keeps them from feeling like interlopers.
For one recent project, the pair found themselves in a cab late at night to track down a vendor who was late delivering a steel architectural component ahead of a gallery opening. “When we’re working on an opening, we’re sweeping floors, putting books on shelves—no task is too small,” Murphy says. “We’re not making recommendations and walking away.”