There is never a dull day in the art world of 2017. This week’s surprises have included Jeffrey Deitch revealing that he will open a Los Angeles gallery and Eataly proudly announcing that it will help save Leonardo’s Last Supper. Now comes word that longtime New York Times art journalist Randy Kennedy is headed to mega gallery Hauser & Wirth, taking the title of director of special projects.
In the newly created role, Kennedy will “helm a number of new editorial, writing, and documentary initiatives for web and print, including relaunching and expanding the gallery’s magazine Volume, for which he will serve as editor-in-chief,” according to a news release from Hauser & Wirth, which has galleries in Zurich, London, New York, Los Angeles, and Somerset, England.
The hire is the latest sign that big-money dealers are increasingly interested in engaging in activities beyond just the selling of art, like publishing and even hospitality—the better to entice collectors, broaden their audiences, and satisfy their top-tier artists, who are always at risk of pursuing new commercial arrangements.
Gagosian Gallery, for instance, has been aggressive in developing its editorial products in print and online, and in 2014 hired gadabout journalist Derek Blasberg to work on those operations. And Hauser, Gogo, and David Zwirner have developed serious publishing imprints, as have a handful of other dealers.
Among its gallery peers, Hauser has been particularly bold in experimenting with new offerings. Some of its galleries include bars and bookstores, and it has full-service restaurants in Los Angeles (Manuela) and Somerset (Roth Bar & Grill). The Somerset estate even includes a luxurious rustic farmhouse residence that can be rented out. As in other industries—note the rise of Nobu hotels—brands are becoming lifestyles in the art world.
The move from art writing to the market is an exceedingly rare one. Past examples include critic Robert Pincus-Witten linking up with Gagosian years ago and, more recently, Charlotte Burns, a reporter and editor at The Art Newspaper, jumping to Sotheby’s, another commercial outfit that has been branching out in new directions.
Hauser has lured adjacent talent over to the commercial world before. In 2013 it tapped Paul Schimmel, formerly a veteran curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, to become a name partner in its Los Angeles gallery, which opened in 2016. (Schimmel departed in February.)
“We are thrilled and honored to welcome Randy Kennedy to Hauser & Wirth,” Marc Payot, a partner in the gallery said in a statement. “For some years now, he has been a member of our large, extended art world family through his passionate engagement with art and artists, including many represented by the gallery.”
Indeed, Kennedy will avoid much of the meeting-and-greeting that his new job might otherwise entail, having interviewed Pipilotti Rist (more than once), Pierre Huyghe, Mark Bradford, Christoph Büchel, Paul McCarthy, and Isa Genzken, who disappeared in the middle of their conversation in her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2013. (Kennedy stuck around, though, and ended up filing one of the rare interviews with the German sculptor.)
Kennedy had been at the Times for 23 years, and started covering art in 2005. In other big news, his first novel, Mr. Fool, is slated to be published next year.