Gagosian, the world’s biggest art gallery, has refuted rumors that it is in talks with French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Talk of a potential deal between the two has been circulating widely among market experts, with the Art Newspaper’s Italian edition and Artnet News running articles that mentioned the murmurings. The rumors suggested that LVMH was reportedly in talks to invest in Gagosian, the mega-gallery founded by Larry Gagosian in Los Angeles in 1980 that now encompasses some 16 spaces worldwide.
Multiple sources also told ARTnews and WWD that they were aware of talk of a potential deal.
But on Tuesday, a Gagosian representative vigorously disputed that deal as mere hearsay and not rooted in fact.
“There is absolutely no truth to the rumor and the company is not for sale,” the Gagosian spokesperson said in an email.
LVMH owns an array of luxury companies, from the fashion house Christian Dior to the jeweler Tiffany & Co. to the yacht manufacturer Princess Yachts. Owning or investing in Gagosian would give the conglomerate a foothold in the rapidly expanding art market.
A representative for LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton declined to comment to ARTnews and WWD.
The rumors came as the art market directed its attention last week to Paris, where LVMH is headquartered. Paris+, the first edition of a new Art Basel fair, just completed its first edition in the French capital, where Gagosian currently has two locations, plus a third in the nearby suburb of Le Bourget.
The talk also arrived as Gagosian begins to plot its future. Larry Gagosian, who is now 77, has begun to reveal his succession plans in the past few years, naming Andrew Fabricant as the gallery’s chief operating officer in 2019. Details have been scant since then, however, leading to widespread speculation about where the gallery is headed in the years to come.
Previously, Fabricant has advocated for a total merger of the art and fashion sectors. “You have [Bernard] Arnault buying Tiffany’s and then buying a Basquiat painting and then producing a Patek Philippe limited [edition] watch that is first seen on Jay-Z’s wrist,” he told WWD earlier this year. “The interaction of art and commerce and fashion is inevitable. It’s just being accelerated by the consolidation of all these issues, whether it’s Kardashian, Arnault or the Gagosian Gallery having 19 galleries. It’s just more, more, more. It’s also mutually beneficial.”
Any potential investment in Gagosian would lend LVMH significant clout in the art world. Much of the conglomerate’s dealings concern the fashion industry. Outside that sphere, the company also owns the publication Le Parisien, the luxury hotel chain Cheval Blanc, and the amusement park Jardin d’Acclimatation.
While Gagosian’s main competitors—David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, and Pace—have made forays into industries beyond the art world, none can boast an investment from a company so large as LVMH.
Gagosian represents some of the world’s most high-profile artists, including Georg Baselitz, Theaster Gates, Michael Heizer, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Richard Serra, and Jordan Wolfson. These artists appear side by side on the roster with younger ones with loyal market followings, like Jadé Fadojutimi and Anna Weyant.
Gagosian reportedly accounts for a billion dollars in sales annually.
Although LVMH is mainly known within the fashion space, it has some art connections. Bernard Arnault, LVMH chairman and CEO, is one of the world’s top art collectors. Arnault is known to buy various Gagosian artists, including Hirst, Murakami, and Richard Prince. Arnault and other members of his family are also believed to be close with Larry Gagosian.
The acquisition of a stake in Gagosian would give Arnault a leg up in the art world over his own business enemy, François Pinault, founder of the French luxury goods company Kering, which owns the auction house Christie’s. Pinault is also a major collector.
Another art connection is its portfolio, which at one point included a stake in the Phillips auction house. LVMH acquired the stake in 1999, then divested itself of it four years later amid a period of financial strain at Phillips.
Additionally, LVMH sponsors the Fondation Louis Vuitton, a Parisian contemporary art space opened in 2014. Even though Arnault initiated the project, the space is a nonprofit that is technically not operated by LVMH proper.
Talk of LVMH’s potential investment in Gagosian comes as the boundary between art galleries and lifestyle brands has become increasingly blurred.
Gagosian, for its own part, operates a series of shops that sell branded offerings. Pace recently opened a teahouse in Seoul that’s partnered with the luxury brand Osulloc, and Manuela and Iwan Wirth, the founders of Hauser & Wirth, run a hospitality arm.