Last night, art collector Glenn Fuhrman, a longtime fixture of ARTnews’s annual “Top 200 Collectors” list and founder of the Flag Art Foundation, interviewed mega-gallerist Larry Gagosian onstage at the 92nd Street Y on New York’s Upper East Side. Gagosian currently operates 16 galleries around the world and has sales that are believed to exceed a billion dollars a year.
Even for those steeped in Gagosiana, there were a few revelations about his history—that it was New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg that helped him get Damien Hirst’s sliced cow piece into New York from England for an exhibition at his gallery in 1996 during the mad cow disease scare, when even pickled beef from the country wasn’t being allowed past customs; that he still owns the gigantic Hirst ashtray from that show and that, in response to Fuhrman remarking that in the 1996 show the ashtray was filled with cigarette butts and stank of cigarettes, “it still stinks” of cigarettes; and that if he is being forced to name an artist he would like to represent, but doesn’t, it would be Charles Ray, who shows with Matthew Marks (one might think he’d name another artist in the Marks stable, Jasper Johns).
But the most interesting—and consequential—part of the interview came when Gagosian, who is 72, spoke about what will happen with his gallery, and his personal collection, after his death. This would appear to be the first time that Gagosian said he would like his collection, which is estimated to be worth more than $1 billion, to stay together and be donated to an institution, rather than build his own private museum.
On the gallery:
Glenn Fuhrman: I can’t think of any other billion-dollar business in the world that theoretically could disappear because it’s so reliant on a leader. Is your business something that could survive you?
Larry Gagosian: We are working on that. I just started really focusing on that and we are doing some things internally and in other ways that I don’t really want to get into here that will, I think . . . beyond me or my ultimate demise or retiring—I’m not retiring—but we built a great gallery, a great business, and I would like to see . . . I don’t have children and that’s usually how these legacies are established. . . . It’s a little trickier. But this is something that is really important to me.
On his personal collection:
LG: I’d like to be able to afford to give it away—
GF: To keep it together?
LG: I can’t keep everything together. But keep the vast majority of it together and to somehow…
GF: To have an identity of “The Gagosian Collection” . . .
LG: Well I don’t know what form that’s going to take, probably some other institution, I’m not [collector] Mitch Rales, I’m not going to build [the private museum] Glenstone, or Eli Broad. I don’t have the means to do that or really the ambition to do that. But I would like it to be—I would like it to live on as a collection.