THE ART OF THE DEAL, THE DEAL OF THE ART: ART DEALERS
Art dealers are like worms. If you cut them in half, both ends shall live, subdivide and find more artists to screw over. This is obviously a joke. Art dealers don’t subdivide. Another jibe, certainly one that too often has been lobbed against even the greatest most generous art dealers. Not to be confused with appraisers or curators (though a dealer’s job description is often inclusive of those roles) an art dealer finds artists to represent, who are indicative of a culture at large or its (hopeful, potential) futures, and present said artist’s worth to dealers, galleries, collectors and museums. Occasionally an art dealer must do this from the time an artist is nobody until after that time where an artist has passed and the dealer must look after his artist’s legacy, its contents and one’s authenticity. An art dealer, good or bad, plays both sides against the middle, certainly. If there is money to be made an art dealer wants something from each participant as any smart middleman would. Yet, an art dealer knows that he or she is dealing with fragile ego and uneasy esthetics and must nurture their clients, coddling them like children. In that regard, an art dealer is as much of a baseball team’s minor league scout and manager, as much a psychiatrist as he or she is a parent watching over one’s cubs. Protective. Looking out for the best of opportunities for all parties concerned while hopefully maintaining his or her own esthetic taste level all while watching for and/or hopefully making the trends to follow. Some own galleries. Some do not.
There are some giants in the field, some who loom as large as their charges. If not for John Weber, post-minimalism and the likes of Robert Indiana would have gone unheralded. The names Mary Boone and Basquiat go hand in hand. Arne Glimcher reps Chuck Close, David Hockney and the estates of Picasso, Calder and Agnes Martin. ArtReview just called Larry Gagosian one of the five most powerful persons in the art world. Representing as he does artists such as Damien Hirst, Chris Burden, Francesco Clemente, Anselm Kiefer, Edward Ruscha, Richard Serra, David Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Richard Wright and the Alberto Giacometti estate in the United States. That’s the upside. Then again Gagosian is being sued by an elderly woman who says her son sold off a Lichtenstein out of financial desperation for a far lesser price than its worth. Don’t all people sell their art because they’re desperate? Or is desperation only the province of the artist?