Since its founding in London in 1946, Marlborough Fine Art has gone through spurts of expansion, globalizing its business in a way that very well may have “invented the modern art market,” as The Guardian put it in 2012.
Currently, its gallery empire is still very international, but also compartmentalized, with galleries in various cities having different programs. Marlborough Fine Art is headquartered in Mayfair, and for over half a century it’s had Marlborough Gallery on 57th Street in New York. Galería Marlborough is in Madrid, with an outpost in Barcelona. In 2007, the brass opened Marlborough Chelsea on the first two floors of the Chelsea Arts Tower on West 25th Street, which in 2012 was taken over by Max Levai, son of Marlborough global director Pierre Levai, who is the nephew of its founder, Frank Lloyd. Under the younger Levai’s stead, the Chelsea space broke off from its uptown counterpart (the 57th Street and West Chelsea spots often both show at the same fair, with totally different booths) and quickly shed the global outfit’s reputation for stodgier, well-established programming by recruiting younger upstarts to join its roster.
And then, to complicate things, in 2012 Marlborough Fine Art in London opened another separate gallery, Marlborough Contemporary, on the second floor of its space at 6 Albemarle Street, the Mayfair flagship.
Five years into that space’s run, Marlborough is shaking up its strategy once again—and the name Marlborough Chelsea is no more. Instead, Marlborough Contemporary will be a transatlantic outfit with outposts in New York and London, and both will have coordinated programming overseen by Levai and Marlborough Chelsea’s director, Pascal Spengemann, as well as a London-based director newly brought on board. The London space will be on the second floor of the building at 6 Albemarle Street, but the programming slate has been reset.
“Marlborough’s former model was one that isn’t so common these days—having one program that’s united in New York and London makes a lot more sense,” Levai told ARTnews over the phone. “We’re in an art word that’s become so international. The opportunity came around and we decided that it was time to seize the opportunity.”
Andrew Renton—the Goldsmiths professor who was recruited by Gilbert Lloyd (Frank’s son and Pierre Levai’s cousin) to run Marlborough Contemporary in London—is no longer with the gallery, the younger Levai confirmed. Now that Max Levai and his New York-based team have taken the reins of the contemporary programming on both sides of the Atlantic, they’ve hired Ed Spurr, a British-born dealer who has worked as a director at Matthew Marks and Bortolami, to be the London-based director of the space.
“Ed will bring a unique perspective,” Levai said. “He’s been very active making exhibitions with friends, supporting artists, and really contributing to New York’s artist community.”
(One of those one-off exhibitions happened to be “Joyride,” a 2014 bike-themed group show that he organized with Brendt Barber at Marlborough Chelsea’s former space on Broome Street in the Lower East Side.)
And in order to transition to running galleries on both sides of the ocean, Marlborough Contemporary has beefed up its staff here in New York; one of the hires is Nichole Caruso, who was the director at Lisa Cooley before it shut down in the summer of 2016.
The change goes into effect immediately—signs at the gallery’s booth at the Armory Show will read Marlborough Contemporary, London and New York—and programming is being planned at the space through 2018, first focusing on artists that Levai feels have been not shown enough in London. Eventually, the London branch will show artists from the roster of the Chelsea gallery.
The space’s inaugural exhibition will be a solo show of new work by Sarah Braman that opens April 27, followed by a show of work by the New Zealand artist Susan King, opening June 1.
Meanwhile, the New York outpost of Marlborough Contemporary will open a show March 4 that rather overtly references the newly established connection to the gallery’s flagship location. It will be work by R.B. Kitaj, who had his first ever solo show in 1963 at Marlborough’s gallery in London.