Michael Shnayerson, the noted art-world chronicler and longtime Vanity Fair contributing editor, will add another biography to his oeuvre, one that is likely to be hotly anticipated. This one will be about mega-dealer Larry Gagosian, whose empire of 19 galleries spans New York to London to Paris to Hong Kong.
After publishing Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers and the Rise of Contemporary Art, a 2019 book about the rapid growth of the art market, Shnayerson will now turn his attention to one of that tome’s main subjects. His biography is being billed as “unauthorized.”
The book does not currently have a title or a release date, but Shnayerson has secured Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., as the book’s publisher.
Gagosian now runs the world’s largest gallery, with hundreds of employees and a roster that includes ultra-blue-chip artists like Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, Willem de Kooning, Christopher Wool, Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst, and Jenny Seville, alongside rising stars like Jadé Fadojutimi and Anna Weyant. He started out by selling prints on Venice Beach, before opening up in Beverly Hills, expanding to New York, and then building out from there.
A spokesperson for Gagosian declined to comment on the forthcoming article.
One section of Boom, which was excerpted by Vanity Fair, focuses on the rivalry between Gagosian and David Zwirner, specifically in regard to their battle over late artist Franz West (and, later, his estate). In one scene, Shnayerson recounts a public comment that Zwirner made after Gagosian poached the artist John Currin from Andrea Rosen in 2003, when he was not yet a star.
Per Shnayerson: “Yet for all his success, Zwirner nursed a grudge against Gagosian, who, in turn, had his own grievances. He bridled at Zwirner’s public pique, expressed after Gagosian wooed away portraitist John Currin from dealer Andrea Rosen with a brusqueness that startled the art world. ‘Our generation doesn’t have that aggressive behavior,’ Zwirner declared. Gagosian was furious. ‘If the tables were turned, he’d do the same thing,’ Gagosian now says. ‘Zwirner had a lot of nerve trying to burnish his ethics on my hide.’”
In addition to pieces for Vanity Fair on the launch of Pace’s new space in 2019 and the fall of Knoedler & Co., Shnayerson has penned several biographies on Harry Belafonte, Bugsy Siegel, and former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Cuomo book was also unauthorized. Other nonfiction titles include The Car That Could and Coal River.
That Gagosian, now 77, is not participating in Shnayerson’s biography will come as no surprise. Gagosian is notoriously tight-lipped, granting few journalists interviews. It’s a trick, according to a release, that he supposedly learned from his mentor, the late dealer Leo Castelli.
“Gagosian is in a class by himself, both for daring to expand as he did—and for being the brash figure he is on the international art scene, even as he fiercely guards his privacy,” Shnayerson said in a statement, comparing the dealer to his rivals. “His friends, who tend almost exclusively to be artists and collectors, speak of his brilliance at dealing, how he made his reputation in two-or-three painting swaps that left his buyers dazzled and a bit dizzy. Yet they also speak of his sardonic humor and keen sense of fun. My hope is to fill in the blanks of his brilliant, unparalleled career—and learn more about the man behind it.”