For decades, Los Angeles has been a natural place for New York retailers to open a second store. At first Pace and Luhring Augustine tried, and more recently Matthew Marks, Michele Maccarone and Jeffrey Deitch have established roots, as well as Swiss mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth and, later, David Zwirner.
But these days, the opposite is also happening, with California-grown galleries finding ways and motives to open in New York City, aided to some extent by pandemic-adjusted real estate prices. In May, François Ghebaly opened a space on the Lower East Side with a group show featuring longtime gallery artists such as Neïl Beloufa, Kelly Akashi and Candice Lin. In October, the Nicodim Gallery opened in SoHo to show the spooky, ultra-vivid paintings and sculptures by Cape Town-born, Los Angeles-based artist Simphiwe Ndzube.
And, in the most publicized move to date, David Kordansky is currently renovating a space on West 20th Street in Chelsea, with the intention of giving Los Angeles artist Lauren Halsey her first solo exhibition in New York in the spring, before even bigger galleries sweep to do the same, as they have done for other Kordansky artists such as Mary Weatherford (Gagosian), Rashid Johnson (Hauser & Wirth) and Sam Gilliam (Pace).
“It makes a lot of sense to start with Lauren,” Kordansky says. “She’s having that amazing moment where she’s got the Serpentine [Galleries, in London] and all those institutional exhibitions that take place outside of Los Angeles.
Thus, the opening of galleries from Los Angeles to New York is not that different from the reverse scenario. A bi-coastal expansion allows galleries to schedule more exhibitions overall, give more visibility to their artists, get to know a different set of collectors and museums in the field and, in the case of in-demand artists such as Halsey, maintain a monopoly value in the North American market. But the number of Los Angeles galleries heading east these days also reflects their success in the artist discovery business and their desire to be more than a stepping stone for burgeoning artists.
Mihai Nicodim, who opened his gallery in Los Angeles in 2006 and a branch in his hometown of Bucharest in 2012, has built a reputation for introducing stimulating and at times gnarly new art, initially focusing on Europe. from the east. “We have an incredible group of young artists, most of whom have never shown in New York,” he says, citing Isabelle Albuquerque, Mosie Romney and Devin B. Johnson as examples.
“Simphiwe is the cornerstone of our youth program: it’s kind of the calling card when we want to meet young artists,” says Ben Lee Ritchie Handler, director of Nicodim. As for the October show, he said it was sold out before it opened: “Simphiwe has a mile-long waiting list.”
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Ghebaly also said that several artists in his program – including the Los Angeles painter and Sayre Gomez and the Franco-Algerian multimedia artist Neïl Beloufa – were not yet represented in New York, although he noted wryly that some of its artists have been approached by New York. gallery owners as soon as news of his space circulated there.
Ghebaly says he considered expanding into his native France, but New York won in part thanks to the quality of the institutions and collections there. “I think the move gives us the chance to work more closely and be in more constant dialogue with the best institutions in the country,” he says, adding: “Selling art right now is not difficult. , it’s more a question of who we want to sell to.
Dealers tell The arts journal they believe the pandemic’s effect on commercial real estate has made the east coast outposts more financially viable. “We found an incredible real estate opportunity and took it,” says Kordansky.
“I wasn’t really familiar with real estate in NYC but it was a manageable deal as we moved early [during Covid]”, says Ghebaly.
Or, as Nicodim said when asked if he found pandemic-era prices more achievable, “I am told. Everyone told me that there are great opportunities in New York. [But] I do not know. New York is not cheap, but our gallery grew, so we were able to expand.