Gagosian, the world’s biggest art gallery, has denied speculation that it is in talks with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Talk of a potential deal between the two has wide been circulating both within the art and luxury goods worlds, with two art publications — the Art Newspapers Italian edition and Artnet News — reporting on the speculation. The speculation suggested that LVMH was in talks to invest in Gagosian, the mega-gallery founded by Larry Gagosian in Los Angeles, California, in 1980 and which now encompasses some 16 spaces worldwide.
Multiple sources also told WWD and ARTnews, its sister publication within Penske Media Corp., that they were aware of talk of a potential deal.
But on Tuesday, a Gagosian representative vigorously disputed that any deal is in the works.
“There is absolutely no truth to the rumor and the company is not for sale,” the Gagosian spokesperson said in an email.
LVMH declined to comment.
LVMH’s operations span from Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton to Moët Champagne, the Cheval Blanc hotels and the yacht manufacturer Princess Yachts. Owning or investing in Gagosian would give the conglomerate a foothold in the rapidly expanding art market.
The speculation comes as the art market directed its attention last week to the French capital. Paris+, the first edition of a new Art Basel fair, just completed its first edition in the city, where Gagosian has two locations, plus a third in the nearby suburb of Le Bourget. Numerous luxury brands, including several owned by LVMH, had activations around the art fair, as reported.
The talk also arrived as Gagosian begins to plot its future. Larry Gagosian, who is 77 years old, has begun to reveal his succession plans in the past few years, naming Andrew Fabricant as the gallery’s chief operating officer in 2019. Details have been scant since then, however, leading to speculation about where the gallery is headed in the years to come.
Previously, Fabricant has advocated for a total merger of the art and fashion sectors. “You have [Bernard] Arnault buying Tiffany’s and then buying a Basquiat painting and then producing a Patek Philippe limited[-edition] watch that is first seen on Jay-Z’s wrist,” he told WWD earlier this year. “The interaction of art and commerce and fashion is inevitable. It’s just being accelerated by the consolidation of all these issues, whether it’s Kardashian, Arnault or the Gagosian Gallery having 19 galleries. It’s just more, more, more. It’s also mutually beneficial.”
While Gagosian’s main competitors — David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth and Pace — have made forays into industries beyond the art world, none can boast an investment from a company as large as LVMH.
Gagosian represents some of the world’s most high-profile artists, including Georg Baselitz, Theaster Gates, Michael Heizer, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Richard Serra and Jordan Wolfson. These artists appear side by side on the roster with younger ones with loyal market followings, like Jadé Fadojutimi and Anna Weyant.
Gagosian reportedly accounts for a billion dollars in sales annually.
Meanwhile, Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chairman and chief executive officer, is one of the world’s top art collectors. Arnault is known to buy various Gagosian artists, including Hirst, Murakami and Richard Prince. Arnault and other members of his family are also believed to be close with Larry Gagosian. The luxury titan also founded the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris that houses some of his collection in a spectacular museum designed by Frank Gehry.
The acquisition of a stake in Gagosian would give Arnault a leg up in the art world over his business rival, François Pinault, the founder of French luxury goods company Kering, which owns the auction house Christie’s. Pinault is also a major collector with his own museum in Paris dedicated to his collection.
Another art connection is its portfolio, which at one point included a stake in the Phillips auction house. LVMH acquired the stake in 1999, then divested itself of it four years later amid a period of financial strain at Phillips.
Talk of LVMH’s potential investment in Gagosian comes as the boundary between art galleries and lifestyle brands has become increasingly blurred.
Gagosian, for its own part, operates a series of shops that sell branded offerings. Pace recently opened a teahouse in Seoul, South Korea, that’s partnered with the luxury brand Osulloc, and Manuela and Iwan Wirth, the founders of Hauser & Wirth, run a hospitality arm.
With contributions from Alex Greenberger, ARTnews