Marian Goodman Gallery’s New Leaders Prepare for the Future by Honoring Its Founder’s Legacy - Living Strong Television Network
Marian Goodman Gallery’s New Leaders Prepare for the Future by Honoring Its Founder’s Legacy

How might a renowned contemporary art gallery move beyond its founder? This is a question currently circulating at Marian Goodman Gallery. In 2021, shortly after its namesake turned 93, the gallery announced that Goodman, who opened up shop in 1977, was stepping aside from daily operations, and that a partnership was taking over. Though Goodman retained the title of CEO, operations since then have been led by a president, former curator Philipp Kaiser, working in concert with four longtime gallery directors newly named partners.

As the art world emerged from pandemic-related lockdown, the arrangement appeared auspicious: in June 2022 the partners announced they would open a branch in Los Angeles, which had recently become a magnet for New York galleries. But then, last December, came news that superstar painter Gerhard Richter, whom Goodman had represented for almost 40 years, was leaving for gallery giant David Zwirner.

This past February, the partners announced a plan to move the gallery’s longtime headquarters from 57th Street to Tribeca, the city’s hottest new gallery district; upon its planned opening in mid-to-late 2024, Marian Goodman will be among the largest galleries there, at 30,000 square feet, double its current size in Manhattan. Then, the following month brought another artist defection: photographer Nan Goldin, fresh off an Academy Award–nominated documentary about her activism targeting the Sackler family, announced she was joining Gagosian. Goldin had been with Goodman for just five years, but her departure prompted a headline in the New York Times: “Nan Goldin Is Second Major Artist to Exit Marian Goodman Gallery.” And the article’s kicker read like a twist of the knife: “[Goldin] wished nothing but the best for her former dealership: ‘I hope it lasts. I hope it continues.’”

Succession plans at galleries have been a hot topic of late, esteemed dealers like Paula Cooper, Larry Gagosian, Barbara Gladstone, and Paul Kasmin (who died two years ago) implementing such plans. Now, with the new LA space having opened in late September with a show by Steve McQueen, the question remains: is the Goodman brand strong enough to outlive the presence of Marian Goodman?

Installation view of “Gabriel Orozco : Spacetime,” at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2021–ongoing.

Goodman made her name as a serious and rigorous artist advocate who worked closely with museums to develop their careers. The gallery was long defined by the tight-knit nature of its artist stable. They gathered for milestones like the gallery’s 30th anniversary in 2007, and again in 2018 for Goodman’s own 90th birthday at no less noteworthy a location than the palace and gardens at Versailles, a soiree attended by the directors of the world’s most prominent museums and capped with a fireworks display.

As the art world became increasingly financialized and galleries expanded, Goodman focused on the primary market more than the secondary, where money is always waiting to be made. She opened in Paris in 1995, but her expansion paused there until a short-lived space opened in London a few years ago. She cultivated a reputation as the opposite of the sharklike Gagosian. Years before he left her ranks, Richter compared the two dealers in the Financial Times, saying that Goodman “has a kind of moral ethic. It’s not only business. Business is easy. I could never show at Gagosian.” A 2004 profile of Goodman in the New Yorker made the distinction even clearer: “‘Gallerist’ is the word she prefers for herself; she dislikes ‘dealer,’” wrote Peter Schjeldahl. “What’s the difference? She couldn’t exactly say. Perhaps she … is spooked by the shadiness that clings to her profession.”

The gallerist’s good standing gave her the pick of the litter when it came to luring younger talent, as she did around that time with Maurizio Cattelan and Gabriel Orozco, as well as established artists like William Kentridge. Goodman continued to add high-profile names to her roster: Tino Sehgal, Julie Mehretu, and the estate of Francesca Woodman. But as she reached her 90s, Goodman began to step back from the gallery—and momentous changes followed. Two titans of Conceptual art who had long been a part of her gallery—John Baldessari and Lawrence Weiner—died within two years of each other. And as the global pandemic took hold, the effects of Goodman’s absence amplified. “The last three or four years of Marian being involved in an intense and intimate way in the running of the gallery corresponded to the first years of Covid,” Kentridge told ARTnews. “In a way, her absence from the gallery feels like yet another example of long Covid.”

View of a two-channel video. At right is a sun and at left is detail of the sun.
Steve McQueen’s installation Sunshine State, 2022, on view at Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, Milan. The installation premiered in the United States at the September opening of McQueen’s solo exhibition at Goodman’s new gallery space in Los Angeles.

With the exception of Kaiser, who joined Marian Goodman in 2019, the partners now in charge represent a wealth of institutional knowledge. Rose Lord and Leslie Nolen have each been there for more than 20 years. Junette Teng, who started out as Goodman’s assistant, has been there for a little over 15. Emily-Jane Kirwan has worked at the gallery, in two stints, for 11 years.

In a wide-ranging interview this past June, Kaiser, Lord, and Kirwan told ARTnews about their plans for the future, collectively emphasizing both continuity and change. (Lord and Kirwan serve as managing partners and are responsible for overseeing the overall operational and sales strategy of the gallery.) While Goodman had long vetoed a move from 57th Street, Kaiser said he sees the forthcoming Tribeca space as a means to expand the gallery’s audience. Like Goodman, however, the partners are resistant to becoming a mega-gallery with venues around the world, and vowed not to expand the gallery’s footprint significantly.

While gallery heavyweights represent 80 or more artists, Goodman has 30, and nobody at the top wants to grow far beyond that. “We want to maintain an individualized boutique relationship with our artists, avoiding what can become a diluted situation,” Kirwan said. Kaiser agreed: “When we expand, we don’t want to pick up [just] any artist. The megas have started to just expand and be more speculative. We are one of the few ‘program galleries.’”

About Richter’s departure, Kaiser said the change did not come as much of a surprise. “Marian is turning 95. Richter is around the same age. He wanted to change parameters at the end of his life. He was non-sentimental about that. We would have loved to deal with his last chapter and estate. We were disappointed, but it is what it is. We have many other great artists.”

An installation of five video works with old school TVs mounted tot he wall. In front sit five wooden chairs.
Andrea Fraser: Reporting from São Paulo, I’m from the United States, 1998.

In 2014 Pierre Huyghe joined Hauser & Wirth, and presented a show in their London gallery, while remaining with Esther Schipper in Berlin and Marian Goodman in New York. Two years later, Jeff Wall left Goodman entirely for Gagosian, after 25 years. This past June, Francesca Woodman’s estate departed for Gagosian as well. Last year, Kentridge mounted shows with Hauser & Wirth in Hong Kong and Gstaad, Switzerland. He is rumored to have been in talks to join Hauser & Wirth over the past year or so, but, over the summer, he was actively organizing a show with Goodman that opened earlier this fall; he told ARTnews he planned to remain with the gallery. “Over the 20 years that I have been with the gallery, my conversations were almost entirely with Marian,” Kentridge said. “So a new modus vivendi has to find its shape.” He expressed encouragement around the future plans for New York and LA, but, in advance of his first exhibition since Goodman stepped away from operations, said he was waiting to see how his arrangement might change. “Only then will I know how it feels under its new direction.”

At the same time, the partners have brought on new talent and estates. The gallery was chosen in 2020 to represent the Holt/Smithson Foundation, which oversees the estates of Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt. Tavares Strachan and Andrea Fraser have come aboard. In October, Goodman’s Paris branch will host its first show with newly signed artist Delcy Morelos, one of the stars of the 2022 Venice Biennale.

An abstract painting that has an airbrush quality to it with various marks. It is mostly red and blue with yellow and white undertones.
Julie Mehretu: Rise (Charlottesville), 2018–19.

Goodman’s stable has always been more critically acclaimed than market minded. Richter, whose paintings have been selling for more than $20 million for the past 10 years and whose auction market generated $225 million in 2022 alone, was a notable exception. The other is Ethiopia-born, New York–based painter Julie Mehretu, whose record at auction reached $6.5 million in 2021, making her the fifth-most-expensive living female artist at auction. Mehretu showed with White Cube gallery in London before she began with Goodman in New York; this fall, White Cube, an enterprise with strong positions in the secondary market, is opening a new space on the Upper East Side of New York.

Kaiser acknowledged that Goodman herself “never focused purely on the secondary market. I don’t want to say she neglected it, but she wasn’t so interested in it. But if you build an artist’s career, then clients circle back to you [with artworks] and you need to be mindful, and deal with that. We have an open mind about that.”

Mehretu has plans for a show at the upcoming Marian Goodman space in Tribeca and, in August, told ARTnews that, while she has been approached by other galleries, she remains happy at Goodman, and confident about the new partners. “[Other dealers] have wanted to meet,” Mehretu said, but “I’ve been clear that I’m content and have no desire to do anything at the moment, and they have been respectful. At the moment, I feel very much supported in the ways that I need to be.”

She values the close relationship she has had with Goodman, and said the partners have “her same ethos, her same capability. They were the ones that instituted so much of her work—they’re very artist-centric. We’ll see what happens, but I think a lot of us [artists] have a lot of faith and excitement, and comfort in how the partners have decided to move forward.”

A painting showing basketball hoops and basketballs, masks, newspaper pages, a ratio schematic, a man in a military uniform, abstractions, and more.
Tavares Strachan: Allegiance, 2022.

“As Marian withdrew, we took on more and more of the day-to-day running and working with the artists,” Lord, one of the managing partners, said over the summer. “We’ve been here for such a long time. It’s a natural progression.” But sources close to the gallery and to Goodman told ARTnews that—not unusually for a determined founder with a strong vision—Goodman was always controlling and proprietary of her operation, and not particularly empowering to her directors. In a rare interview in 2016, Goodman told the New York Times, “I would like [the gallery] to carry on, and I am in the process of thinking about that. But I think I’ll carry on until I can’t.”

Other galleries, like David Zwirner, have promoted directors to be partners earlier in their tenure. According to sources, there have been times during which Goodman seemed close to bringing in a partner or elevating a director to a leadership position. One such occasion was in the early 2000s, when Robin Vousden, an 18-year veteran of London’s Anthony D’Offay Gallery, came to New York to work for Goodman. That lasted just two years: Vousden returned to London in 2004 to work for Gagosian.

Between 2014 and 2019, Goodman seemed to be grooming Andrew Leslie Heyward, who initially ran her Paris location and then took charge of the London space as well. A former director at Matthew Marks who ran his own gallery in the early 2000s, Heyward “was very close with Marian, and I saw him as potentially being part of the future of the gallery and a succession,” said Julie Miyoshi, a Los Angeles–based art adviser who has worked with the gallery since 2008. Another adviser recalled Heyward as a consistent presence alongside Goodman at dinners and other events. Heyward brought Nan Goldin, who had showed with Marks, over to the roster. But by late summer 2019, Heyward was no longer with the gallery, and in 2020, Goodman closed the London space over concerns about Brexit and Covid. (Heyward now works for Gagosian, where Goldin has moved.)

A horizontal abstract painting that is mostly composed of black marks with yellow, orange, green, and other colors.
Julie Mehretu: Loop (B. Lozano, Bolsonaro eve), 2019–20.

In 2020 executive director Jessie Washburne-Harris, who had joined Goodman in 2014 after working for Gagosian and then running her own gallery, was offered a leadership position—but declined. She departed in summer 2021 to become a vice president at Pace Gallery and, weeks later, Goodman announced the present leadership structure, with Kaiser as president. Asked about the leadup to that, the partners sent ARTnews a collective statement: “The individuals cited played important roles within the gallery’s history. Marian considered a few different scenarios through the years before ultimately deciding upon the partnership structure that was announced.”

Goodman brought on the Swiss-born Kaiser in early 2019 as chief executive director of artists and programs in charge of exhibitions at the gallery’s three locations at the time—New York, London, and Paris. With over 20 years of experience in the museum world, Kaiser had developed a reputation as a curator, most recently in Los Angeles, where he worked for five years at MOCA LA, and on a Cindy Sherman exhibition at the Broad. Heading up the gallery, he will be leaning heavily on the partners; before Goodman, his only experience helming an institution was as director of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, where he worked for little more than a year, starting in 2012. Though he said he now sells art at Goodman, he leaves much of the commercial aspects of the business to the partners.

“When Philipp started with the gallery, I started seeing the possibility of a succession …,” adviser Miyoshi said. Kaiser had “a synergy with Marian,” she added. “And it made sense to me, with his background. He’s continuing her legacy, carrying on her rigorous vision.”

At least one major ARTnews Top 200 Collector agreed. Emily Rales, who with her husband, Mitchell, has acquired numerous works from the gallery for their private museum, Glenstone, said, “The gallery partners are art world veterans whom we have known for decades, and we continue to work with them to identify mid-career artists for Glenstone’s collection. I have complete confidence in the partners to uphold Marian’s uncompromising standards while at the same time growing the program and securing the future of the gallery.”

A version of this article appears in the 2023 ARTnews Top 200 Collectors issue.

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