Lauren Wittels expands on the distinguished history of Luhring Augustine Gallery
SINCE ITS FOUNDING, LUHRING AUGUSTINE GALLERY HAS SUPPORTED A DIVERSE AND INVENTIVE ROSTER OF ARTISTS WHO INVESTIGATE THE VISUAL AND INTELLECTUAL LANGUAGE OF CONTEMPORARY ART. THE GALLERY IS ALSO DISTINGUISHED BY ITS STRONG AND SUCCESSFUL PRESENCE IN THE SECONDARY MARKET. ITS FOUNDERS, ROLAND AUGUSTINE AND LAWRENCE LUHRING, SPECIALIZE IN THE RESALE OF SELECT WORKS OF ART OF 20th CENTURY MODERN MASTERS AS PICASSO, JACKSON POLLOCK, ANDY WARHOL, GERHARD RICHTER AND SIGMAR POLKE. MEMBERS OF THE ART DEALERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA (ADAA), THE GALLERY SUBSCRIBES TO THE HIGHEST STANDARD OF CONNOISSEURSHIP, SCHOLARSHIP AND ETHICAL PRACTICE. ROLAND AUGUSTINE SERVED AS ADAA’S PRESIDENT FROM 2006 to 2009. http://www.luhringaugustine.com
IN TODAY’S LRFA BLOG WITH SENIOR DIRECTOR, LAUREN WITTELS, WE WILL LOOK AT THE UNIQUE WORKING RELATIONSHIPS THAT THE GALLERY STAFF MAINTAINS WITH ITS ARTISTS AND EXPLORE ITS NOTEWORTHY HISTORY IN THE SECONDARY MARKET.
HI, LAUREN, THANK YOU FOR YOUR EXPERT INPUT. LUHRING AUGUSTINE IS STRUCTURED SLIGHTLY DIFFERENTLY THAN MANY OF THE GALLERIES WITH WHOM I WORK. IN OTHER GALLERIES, THE RELATIONSHIP I HAVE IS WITH ONE DIRECTOR WHO HANDLES ALL OF MY INQUIRIES ABOUT GALLERY ARTISTS.
We are not the only gallery that is structured this way; however, it is definitely not the norm. Roland and Lawrence have a firm belief that the conventional structure of a sales team combined with distinct artists’ liaisons doesn’t work for them for two reasons. First of all, they don’t feel that a commission-based sales team situation foments the same kind of teamwork, and I have to agree. But secondly, and more importantly, by working with inventory instead of directly with artists, the sales director doesn’t develop personal one-on-one relationships with the artists, and we feel that this kind of intimate relationship is communicated to the client or the curator when you are discussing the work.
Since each director is assigned specific artists, often a client or advisor will work with numerous directors in the gallery. However, when a strong professional relationship arises, one director will manage that relationship and the offers to that client – we just make sure to keep each other informed. There are however a few artists who are very difficult to handle this way, because their available work is in such demand, but we manage to all cooperate with each other very well.
IF I UNDERSTAND CORRECTLY, AT LUHRING AUGUSTINE, EACH OF THE DIRECTORS IS ASSIGNED TO WORK WITH SPECIFIC ARTISTS IN THE GALLERY ROSTER. DOES THE WORKING RELATIONSHIP INCLUDE ARRANGING EXHIBITIONS IN OTHER GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS OR IT IS EXCLUSIVELY FOCUSED ON THE EXHIBITIONS AT LUHRING AUGUSTINE?
We have divided the list of artists amongst the directors and associate directors; if one works with an artist, one manages everything for them, from their list of upcoming exhibitions all the way through private and institutional sales. The gallery has been working like this since about 1992, when a colleague and I split the artist list between ourselves – interestingly enough, the staff at that time was only two full-time employees, a part-time preparator and a part-time bookkeeper. In all this time, through all of the growth and expansion of both the gallery staff and artists’ roster, we have kept this structure intact, and it works very well for us.
THE GALLERY HAS A VERY STRONG SECONDARY MARKET PRESENCE AND OFFERS AN EFFECTIVE AND DISCRETE ALTERNATIVE TO AUCTIONS AND PRIVATE SALES. DOES THE GALLERY HAVE A FOCUS IN TERMS OF ITS SECONDARY MARKET WORKS?
Roland and Lawrence have placed a great deal of significant works on the secondary market over the past three decades, often by (but not limited to) a handful of important artists: Richter, Polke, Warhol, Kippenberger, many others. I would say their discretion, expertise, and impartiality really define their presence in the secondary market.
I WOULD DESCRIBE THE LUHRING AUGUSTINE ARTIST’S WORK AS INTELLECTUALLY RICH AND CHALLENGING, OFTEN MORE CONCEPTUAL IN NATURE PERHAPS THAN IN SOME OTHER VENUES. DO YOU AGREE AND DO YOU SEE AN UNDERLYING AESTHETIC OR CEREBRAL LINK EVEN IN THE CONTEXT OF A DIVERSITY OF MEDIUMS?
The gallery has a long history of working with a wide swath of artists, some much more conceptual in their ambitions than others. Often there is a level of craft that is extraordinary, but that is not always the primary goal. So I would have to say that what really is the glue between the artists in our stable is the level of seriousness and dedication they each commit to their work.
WHAT ARTISTS DID YOU RESPOND TO WHEN YOU FIRST DISCOVERED AN INTEREST IN ART? WHAT ARE THE GALLERY ARTISTS THAT RESONATE WITH YOU, ON A PERSONAL LEVEL, THE MOST FERVENTLY AND WHY?
Ironically, I had no interest in contemporary art when I got my job at Luhring Augustine in 1989 – my only real brush with it was seeing the David Salle show at the ICA Philadelphia in 1986, and it really made an impression on me. But as I said before, this job was a means to an end for me – getting back to graduate school. My true love was Northern Renaissance painting, and I was completely unprepared for the meteor I was about to be hit with.
Like most people, I was able to start looking at what I would consider to be the most understandable and accessible form of art: representational painting. I had no idea what conceptual art was – when my colleague at Luhring Augustine told me in 1989 that Jeff Koons couldn’t draw, I was dumbfounded. What could that possibly mean, if an artist couldn’t draw? I am not proud of this naivete, but it’s honest. Anyway, my learning curve ramped up super-fast, I can tell you.
IN OUR NEXT POST WITH LAUREN, THE LRFA BLOG WILL EXPLORE THE GALLERY’S EXHIBITION PROGRAM, BOTH PRESENT AND FUTURE. WE LOOK FORWARD TO A CALENDAR OF SHOWS THAT ARE ALWAYS PROVOCATIVE, BEAUTIFULLY INSTALLED AND DEDICATED TO REPRESENTING THE ARTISTS TO THEIR FULLEST CREATIVE INTENT.