Larry Gagosian Almost Died at Balthazar in London

He lived to sell another painting.

Got you to click, right? Yes, in Bill Powers’s brand new interview with the mega-dealer for GQ Style, there is indeed an anecdote about Gagosian’s having once received the Heimlich maneuver at Balthazar, the London branch of the fancy downtown New York restaurant (he sent the guy who liberated the chunk of steak from his throat a case of wine for his trouble). But that’s not the only interesting thing in the interview.

We find out that Gagosian’s wedding in the late 1960s, when he was 21 (the marriage was extremely brief), took place in Las Vegas, and that the couple played pool beforehand: “We got there before the wedding chapel opened, so I remember we went to a 24-hour pool hall across the street and shot pool until 8 a.m., when the chapel opened. I guess I’m not so romantic,” the 74-year-old Gagosian tells Powers.

We find out (visually) that Nathaniel Mary Quinn, who recently joined the Gagosian stable, has already created an image of his new dealer.

And here’s another tidbit: At Powers’s prompt, Gagosian tells a story about his friend comedian Steve Martin. He says that Martin once visited him at his Los Angeles gallery and said of an Ellsworth Kelly diptych hanging above the dealer’s desk, “ ‘I know what you call that kind of painting—a duplex!’ He cracked himself up and started rolling around on the floor. He’s a great physical comic, Steve.”

As it happens, Martin’s observation is very similar to another Ellsworth-Kelly-as-real-estate one made by art critic Peter Schjeldahl, who is now at the New Yorker but who, when he visited Gagosian’s LA gallery in the late ’70s, was writing for the Village Voice. It’s really worth sharing the whole passage concerning Schjeldahl’s encounter with the dealer:

A sleek new blue-chipper is Larry Gagosian, who has a David Salle show up as I write this. He has a gallery space and office that, without being in the least ostentatious, breathe the cold excitements of money—whites and grays with carefully gauged amounts of Southern California light. The air in the office is like vaporized stainless steel. Steely himself, aftershave-ad handsome, Gagosian told me he figures to give the business two years to prove itself. ‘If I weren’t doing this, I’d probably be in real estate.’ On the wall behind him hung a beautiful black-and-white [Ellsworth] Kelly, and, thinking about it now, I wonder how the square-foot price of that canvas compares with condominium rates in Century City. Selling paintings, Gagosian may be in real estate after all—vertical real estate, flat condos, prestige addresses for the eye.

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