In many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever. The equation has flipped and streaming has become the primary delivery system. Still, I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters.
That includes me, and I’m speaking as someone who just completed a picture for Netflix. It, and it alone, allowed us to make “The Irishman” the way we needed to, and for that I’ll always be thankful. We have a theatrical window, which is great. Would I like the picture to play on more big screens for longer periods of time? Of course I would. But no matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.
And if you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing. [Martin Scorsese on Art]
“Gagosian himself is estimated to clear $1 billion in sales annually and is among a small group of gallery owners whose appetites are omnivorous: He works across the contemporary and modern eras, representing living artists like John Currin and Mark Grotjahn while also dealing on behalf of the estates of Alberto Giacometti, Richard Avedon and Helen Frankenthaler. He exhibits a wide range of work, from Instagram images appropriated by Richard Prince to boulders-as-sculpture by cerebral artist Michael Heizer. At the same time, he conducts sales on the so-called secondary market—a term he hates—by privately buying and selling artworks to clients. He was also an early proponent of the museum-quality show within a private gallery, securing sought-after loans of historic works that are often not for sale. Such wide-ranging exhibitions have included a show on Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens in 1995 and 2009’s Picasso: Mosqueteros, co-curated by Picasso biographer John Richardson, which drew 100,000 visitors to the gallery to see the artist’s less-examined late work.
Gagosian does all of this on an unprecedented scale, with 16 locations from Hong Kong to New York’s Chelsea, around 200 employees, a publishing arm that produces 40 books a year, a quarterly magazine and an in-house newspaper—even a retail storefront that sells Warhol Campbell’s Soup candles and butterfly-print deck chairs by Gagosian artist Damien Hirst. (Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner galleries, both helmed by people a couple of decades younger than Gagosian, and both perceived as strong competition, have galleries in six and three locations respectively. Pace, which predated Gagosian’s first art gallery by 18 years, has 10 branches worldwide. Along with Gagosian, these galleries dominate the global art-fair circuit.)” [Elisa Lipsky-Karasz on Larry Gagosian]
Good middle market dealers rarely get the praise they deserve. They get a fraction of the press of their blue chip counterparts—regardless of show quality. When their artists succeed, they leave for larger galleries. Those who stick it out in this segment of the business have to hustle constantly, often with no recognition or reward.
Last month, Toronto dealer Clint Roenisch eloquently discussed these issues over Instagram in a tribute to Toronto-based dealer Katharine Mulherin. Writing of her death, and the importance of honoring and preserving her work, he worried that the culture was not up to the task. “The legacy is often fragile and gossamer thin,” he wrote of Canadian gallerists. In truth, though, that legacy is in jeopardy everywhere. “We are essentially the background, the stagehand with the ladder, the barker on the sidewalk: people should remember the shows more than the venue.”
As Roenisch points out, artists need dealers who are every bit as daring as them to make their work possible, and that’s a rare breed. [Paddy Johnson on Middle Market Galleries]