Larry Gagosian defies the economy again by adding yet another outpost to his empire. Gagosian Athens opens this month; Gagosian L.A. is currently expanding by the design of Richard Meier—but the gallery needs neither exotic locale nor top-tier architect o justify its pre-eminence. The newest addition is quite simply a store, which opened September 18.
Video wall, marc Newsom desk, Jeanneret Table. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
Gagosian shares the retail space with Other Criteria, the publisher run by Gagosian star Damien Hirst and his business manager Frank Dunphy that mostly prints the work of other British artists. Other Criteria takes up the basement space and, as one would expect, its portion of the shop acts as a little temple to Hirst. Spin-painted skull editions are reverently displayed in vitrines and the walls are splashed with Hirst-designed wallpaper of daisies and cigarette butts that will be for sale but haven't been priced yet and serve as reminder that Hirst the brand and Hirst the artist were both born out of a talent for design.
Now you can buy or browse Richard Prince's limited-edition collage project Bettie Kline, a leather-bound visual mash-up of Bettie Page and Franz Kline (price upon request; read: expensive), or, more likely, its lower-end trade edition ($150). As in the gallery, the store features Gagosian's back catalog, and a new collaboration from a different artist every month. Prince's celebration of cult S&M model Bettie Page and the famed Wagnerian AbEx hero is the first of these editions. If you don't want to buy, you can leisurely browse the wares on a pristine vintage Jeanneret table, watch a video, marvel at a Prince nurse hat chair, or just grab a book or magazine and head to the reading room set up in the back. You might not want to curl up with a good book here—the words "Gagosian" and "cozy" don't really mesh—but there is some nice furniture back there, including a cowhide Richard Artschwager arm chair ($20,000 in an edition of 100) and a puffy leather Gio Ponti sofa with hand-painted arms.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
For the most part, Gagosian the store feels very much like its ultra-tasteful parent. There is no "cashier" per se. The two shop girls are the same pretty assistants you will find in the gallery, and they don't help to relax the mood. One of them followed me downstairs to make sure that I didn't have "any questions." Architecturally, the refined white-box interior does little to distinguish itself from the gallery and resides in the storefront of the same Aby Rosen-owned Madison Avenue building as Gagosian's headquarters. There are some prices on the walls however, which is one marked change from the gallery proper, which never gives out prices to the public.
Gagosian is already among the biggest art book publishers in the world by volume, but certainly doesn't need to start selling books and editions to make ends meet. The feeling with the store is that it might just be time to also add more relatively accessible goods to their repertoire. That is, if $25,000 for a Tom Friedman c-print can be considered accessible. (It can't, but as editions are produced specifically for sale in the store, prices should go down.)
In a sense, the Gagosian store is a way of documenting and distributing the history of the mega gallery. Gagosian has already out-museumed the museums, most recently with his Manzoni retrospective and the blockbuster late Picasso show—and their respective doorstopper catalogues. Now it has a souvenir shop as additional proof of its institutional legacy.
The Gagosian boutique is located at 988 Madison Avenue.