Establishing relationships both here and in Asia for Pace Gallery

by leslierankowfinearts

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PACE GALLERY OFFERS AN ENORMOUS CROSS-SECTION OF EXCEPTIONAL ARTWORKS, 20th CENTURY CLASSIC MASTERS SUCH AS MARK ROTHKO,  JOSEF ALBERS, AGNES MARTIN AND ISAMU NOGUCHI. ITS CURRENT ROSTER OF CONTEMPORARY ART INCLUDES ARTISTS OF INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION SUCH  AS TIM EITEL, YOSHITUMO NARA, AND ZHANG HUAN, TO NAME JUST A FEW. THE COMMON LINK BETWEEN ALL OF THE ARTISTS REPRESENTED  AT PACE, BE IT AN ARTIST’S ESTATE OR A CUTTING-EDGE CONTEMPORARY INSTALLATION ARTIST, IS QUALITY.

PETER BORIS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT  AT THE PACE GALLERY,  EXUDES A TIRELESS ENTHUSIASM FOR ART AND ARTISTS AND A  DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR WORK, CREATIVE IMPULSE AND AESTHETIC THINKING.  AT A CRUCIAL MOMENT IN PETER’S CAREER, ARNE GLIMCHER, FOUNDER OF THE PACE GALLERY, RECOGNIZED  PETER’S POTENTIAL  AS A GREAT DEALER AND PROPONENT OF THE WORK OF OTHER ARTISTS, AND HIS CAREER AS A GALLERY DIRECTOR BEGAN.

PETER HAS KINDLY AGREED TO TELL MORE OF HIS  STORY, A  GUIDEPOST  FOR ALL THOSE INTERESTED IN PURSUING A CAREER IN THE ARTS, AND A STANDARD TO WHICH WE CAN ALL STRIVE.

THANK YOU, PETER, PLEASE CONTINUE…

Then one day I decided that I had to move on again. I did not have a plan other than to escape. By that time I had a friendship with Arne and the other dealers. Long story short, Arne said look, don’t leave, here’s $500, (he now claims it was more) go buy a suit, you can meet and greet people in the gallery. Maybe you can be an art dealer. So I took the money and bought a suit. At that point I gave up the idea of being an artist. It was actually liberating as my new job allowed me to focus on a broad range of artists. As an artist, I only let a few artists into my head. In the end, I realized didn’t “need” to be an artist like the artists I got to know at Pace. But I needed to be in the art world. And I believed, and still do, that art is an uncorrupted discipline. (It is uncorrupted because the artists are the gatekeepers to the tradition.)

WE SHARE, WITH MANY PEOPLE IN THE ART WORLD, I SUSPECT, A SIMILAR HISTORY.  I WAS VERY INTERESTED IN CONTEMPORARY ART WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, HAD A CERTAIN “FACILITY” WITH DRAWING AND PAINTING AND DIDN”T KNOW ANY OTHER WAY TO BE INVOLVED IN THE ARTS, EXCEPT BY BEING AN ARTIST. LUCKILY, IN COLLEGE, I WAS INTRODUCED TO THE POSSIBILITIES OF BEING INVOLVED IN THE BUSINESS OF ART,  A PERFECT COMBINATION OF LOVING THE FIELD AND FINDING A PATH THAT WAS MORE SUITED TO MY TRUE TALENTS. (THERE IS NO EVIDENCE. I HAVE DEEP-SIXED ANY OF THE “EARLY” – AND LUCKILY ONLY-WORKS !)

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE AS A DEALER AT PACE? WAS THE TRANSITION FROM ARTIST TO DEALER A DIFFICULT ONE INITIALLY?

As an art dealer, or as I believe I was seen, an attractive meeter and greeter, I didn’t sell anything right away. But I really made an all out effort to succeed. And after I did sell something, my confidence rose and it became a lot easier. I felt great about selling something even though the truth is that you could have probably stuck a donkey in the gallery with a sign that read “Buy something” and it would have succeeded too! But then something fortuitous happened, something that the donkey may not have capitalized on.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH DEALING WITH ASIAN COLLECTORS AND ARTISTS?  HOW OFTEN DID YOU TRAVEL TO ASIA BEFORE THE MOMENTUM OF OUR CURRENT MARKET TOOK HOLD?

In the early 80’s, Japanese collectors started to come into the gallery. I met a lot of them and we had a very good rapport. Before long, I started selling them major paintings and I claimed a new title of “Mr. Asia.” I went to Japan frequently, overseeing exhibitions of Pace artists in Japanese galleries and museums. I did a lot of art fairs. First in Japan, then in, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and even Brunei. In the early 90’s I went to Korea. I was fascinated by the ancient Asian cultures. I feel very comfortable there.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, my job was to introduce Pace artists to Asia. We were aware of Asian artists but not thinking about showing them in the gallery. That changed after the turn o’ the century after a wave Chinese artists had jumped onto the international stage. The Japanese were really the first but the Chinese contemporary art was a bigger story. Gradually, it became clear that something important was happening in China. I learned a lot about Chinese art from Jack Tilton and his then director, Janine Cirincione. Jack had been buying Chinese contemporary art for 10 years. In spring of 2007, Arne and I went to Beijing and Shanghai to visit studios. Like 40 in a week or so. Jack had made the introductions. It was incredible.

It was immediately clear that these artists were not making art connected to the canon of Western art. The Chinese artists were not making Euro-centric art. It was China-centric and reflected their experiences – i.e the modernization of China, Tiananmen Square, the Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong. It was art from another civilization but, because there was no Chinese mainland market, it was made for export. So it broadcast on several frequencies, some understandable in the west and others in China. Although we did not understand every nuance of the art’s meaning, we knew the artists were real artists. And they were, in terms of market and museum exhibitions, now standing shoulder to shoulder with contemporary European and American artists.

IN 2008, PACE WAS THE FIRST AMERICAN GALLERY TO ESTABLISH A PRESENCE IN CHINA.  IN OUR NEXT BLOG, PETER WILL TELL US THE THINKING BEHIND THAT GALLERY EXPANSION  AND THE PROCESS BY WHICH IT WAS DEVELOPED. NOW, AS WE KNOW, MANY AMERICAN AND EUROPEAN GALLERIES HAVE OPENED LOCATIONS IN ASIA, AND ART FAIRS PROVIDED THE GROUNDWORK  FOR THE GALLERIES TO INITIALLY MEET ASIAN COLLECTORS AND INTRODUCE THEIR ARTISTS TO THEM.

AS THE HISTORIC ART BASEL (SWITZERLAND) IS JUST LAUNCHING ITS FIRST ART BASEL HONG KONG LATER IN MAY, WE SEE THAT MANY LONDON AND NEW YORK GALLERIES HAVE  SUBSTANTIAL EXHIBITION VENUES IN ASIA, AND SOTHEBY’S AND CHRISTIE’S HAVE HONG KONG AFFILIATIONS AS WELL.  THE COLLECTOR PROFILE HAS SHIFTED, NOT ONLY IN COLLECTING CONTEMPORARY WORK, BUT ALSO IMPRESSIONIST AND MODERN.

81% OF THE LOTS IN  IMPRESSIONIST AND MODERN AUCTION SALE  AT CHRISTIE’S THIS MAY CAME  FROM ASIAN BIDDERS.  THIS IS IMPORTANT NOT ONLY FROM A MARKET PERSPECTIVE BUT  SHOULD ALSO CREATE A NEW  SYNERGY OF AESTHETIC EXCHANGE. FROM MY VANTAGE POINT, I SUSPECT  THAT   THE  ACTUAL WORK THAT EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN ARTISTS CREATE WILL BE INFLUENCED BY NOT ONLY TRADITIONAL ASIAN ART  SUCH AS CHINESE LANDSCAPE PAINTING BUT ALSO BY THE CONTEMPORARY ASIAN ARTISTS’ OUTPUT. I, FOR ONE, AWAIT THESE CHANGES WITH GREAT ANTICIPATION.

MORE TO FOLLOW….!