It started last summer in the Hamptons, then it happened again this past winter in Palm Beach, and now it’s moving on to Aspen: galleries are bringing long-term pop up projects to the locales where their collectors have retreated during the pandemic.
While the lion’s share of galleries with the means to open pop-ups chose to do so in the Hamptons last summer, Lévy Gorvy and Lehmann Maupin were among the handful giving Aspen a shot. This summer, more are set to join them in the Colorado city. The latest gallery to announce a summer pop up is Almine Rech, the 32-year-old gallery founded and led by Almine Ruiz-Picasso (who is married to a grandson of Picasso).
Based in Paris, the gallery has branches around the world, in Brussels, New York, London, and Shanghai. Almine Rech’s Aspen gallery opens on June 4 in a 900-square-foot space next door to the Aspen Art Museum, a center for the city’s summer collector base, which includes Amy and John Phelan, Glenn Fuhrmann, Susan and Larry Marx, and Gabriella, and Ramiro Garza, all of whom rank on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list. The inaugural exhibition at Almine Rech’s Aspen outpost will be by Nathaniel Mary Quinn, followed by two group exhibitions and two additional solo shows, Genesis Tramaine and Wes Lang. The project space plans to operate into September, with the potential to become a permanent location thereafter. Speaking by phone from Paris, Ruiz-Picasso outlined the thinking behind her new venture, and described how the pandemic year has been for her gallery and what might lie ahead.
Our program will resonate very well there. There are not many galleries there. One of my directors in New York was really pushing me to do it, because I like Aspen and we have many collectors there. We love the Aspen context, even the historical one—there have been artists, writers, designers there since the ’50s. When I learned that a space adjacent to the museum was becoming available, it was a natural opening for us to engage the conversation with this audience where we already know quite a few great collectors and to offer our artists a different opportunity to display their work in a fresh context.
A number of changes have taken place recently, with few in-person fairs and an increasing reliance on the digital. When we emerge from this period, what will the new normal look like?
People will not rush in crowds to the main fairs. It will be a different pace because some people have appreciated the fact that they did not have to travel so much. And it might change the way they decide to travel in the future. If this pandemic had happened only five years ago, it would have been disastrous for the art world. But now, we have great tools, digital ones, and I think they will get better and better. They are going to evolve. Collectors have gotten used to using these tools. My gallery had a very good year in 2020, thanks to that. All of this is going to continue. We may see a change in the number of fairs. There might remain only the [established] ones. It’s difficult to predict. But I don’t see thousands of collectors rushing to queue in front of the door of the fairs to the art fair, one hour in advance, all crushed together, waiting for it to open. I think people will take their time with these in-person events.
In the absence of fairs, galleries like yours have been bringing the art to the collectors, whether that’s in Aspen, Palm Beach or the Hamptons.
Absolutely. We go to where the collectors have relocated during the pandemic.
Do you think that trend will continue after the pandemic is over?
Maybe not in such an extensive way, maybe not for as long a duration, but I think collectors do appreciate it, that we go to where they are. In Europe, too. This past winter, my gallery planned to do a project in the Swiss Alps. It was canceled because of the pandemic. But we will do it next year—for two, three, four weeks.
Here in New York, it has been heartening to see how few galleries have closed this past year. What have you observed in Europe? Have you been surprised at the resilience of galleries?
Yes. When collectors know an artist’s work well, if a gallery knows how to use digital tools and has a good relationship with their collectors, those collectors bought. It was a very active market in 2020. I think the art world went well during the pandemic, from what I have seen. Collectors’ interest in art didn’t change one inch.
Your gallery has branches in cities around the world. Do you think of yourself as a mega-gallery?
There are maybe three or four mega-galleries in the world. We are just after that. Those three or four they have many more locations than I do.
And over 100 employees.
We have 50 or 60 employees. I like the size we are. I don’t feel like I should have more and more. The size we are allows me to really remain in close contact with the artists. Of course, I have artist liaisons on staff and I absolutely rely on them, but I regularly visit the artists and can have this human relationship with them and collectors. My gallery is not small, but it remains with a human feeling. Also, my gallery is not at all about a particular generation of artists. My first artist was Jim Turrell. He was already in his 40s, and I was just starting my gallery. I am always looking for new artists. I go to their studios myself. I have that personal involvement. I like the idea that we work with estates, with established artists and with newer artists. I am able to do all this, and to control it myself.
Obviously it’s impossible to generalize, but are you seeing more interest among collectors in new, young artists, or in established artists and rediscoveries?
Many of the Chinese collectors we see at our gallery in Shanghai are extremely interested in new artists, millennial artists. This is very noticeable in China, but everywhere people right now have a great interest in what art is going to be in the twenty first century. But of course there is still interest in artists who have been overlooked—for instance, someone like Larry Poons, who we will show in June.