• 14 Jun 2018

On the occasion of the 2018 edition of the Contemporary Art Fair Art Basel, Artnet interviewed its Global Director Marc Spiegler. During the conversation, he evoked the difficulties faced by the galleries and the Art fairs’ role.

Art Basel 2018 entrance

Art Basel 2018 entrance © Art Basel and Creative Team

The galleries’ difficulties according to Marc Spiegler: the emergence of a new model

It has been a few years now since the debate about the galleries’ difficulties, particularly the ones representing emerging Artists, has been shaking the Art world. Recetly, “The Future is Everything” festival organized by the Wall Street Journal host a conversation between Larry Gagosian, one of the main international Art dealers and Edward Dolman, Phillips’ CEO. As explained in Art-Trope’s dedicated article, Larry Gagosian then said “I think it is a pretty good system from my perspective”. However, to Marc Spiegler’s opinion such a system is currently shifting because the galleries’ traditional model is about to disappear. Indeed, “Artists, especially successful artists, will work with many galleries in the course of their careers, not only sequentially but also simultaneously” explains Marc Spiegler. Moreover, the arrival of online platforms and the digital era resulted in the shifting of part of the Fine Arts market’s business out of the galleries.

Fred Sandback at David Zwirner gallery

Fred Sandback, David Zwirner gallery © Art Basel

The increasing expenses of galleries

The galleries involved in the current Fine Arts market are confronted to several new phenomena according to Marc Spiegler. First of all, there is a change in the collectors’ typology. “The quality of interaction with collectors, has decreased. Everybody is busier than they used to be, everybody is more distracted than they used to be” notes Marc Spiegler. Moreover, as soon as a gallery starts stand out difficulties intensify. Indeed, Artists are then invited to Biennials and Musuems. However, galleries are expected to deal with all of these exhibitions’ expenses. In addition, the most successful Artists represented by the galley are approached “by galleries that are bigger and better financed than you are” reminds Marc Spiegler. “Compared to 10 years ago, there’s not one aspect of doing business as a mid-level gallery that’s easier than it was before” explains Marc Spiegler.

Sam Gillian at David Kordansky gallery

Sam Gillian, David Kordansky gallery © Art Basel

The Art fairs’ role according to marc Spiegler

Art fairs have become in a few years the main Collectors rendez-vous. Nevertheless, the Art fairs’ participation fees are very expensive especially since the galleries participate in many of them each year. “A mid-sized gallery that does all three of our fairs might be paying $150,000 to $200,000 a year in square meters—but that doesn’t by a wide margin represent the entire cost of doing the fairs” says Marc Spiegler. This is the reason why David Zwirner at the recent Art leaders conference in Berlin organized by the New York Times proposed a “tax” on the most important galleries which would pay more to participate in the Art fairs so that it eases the costs’ burden on other galleries. To Marc Spiegler’s opinion, it means mostly that major galleries acknowledge that they need emerging galleries to exist. In order to support mid size galleries, Art Basel enacted a series of measures. For instance, the social media and press managers of each fair give a special attention to the galleries which need it the most. The VIP preview is also the occasion to introduce new Collectors. Nevertheless, Marc Spiegler is against the Swiftian proposal which consists in opening the Art fairs’ access to online galleries or the ones that do not have the financial resources to rent a space.

Read our article about the overview of Art-Trope’s exhibition INTERSECTION in Paris here.

Sources: Artnet et Art Basel