An artist, a gallery: Nathaniel Mary Quinn and Larry Gagosian


Nowadays the major galleries dictate who shines on the art market. They are the new trendsetters of our time and their choices generally lead the market. How do they do it? Their numerous strengths include their powerful networks, their international reach and their knowledge of the inner workings of the market. They are extremely effective on the primary market (direct sales to collectors and museums) but their choices also have a direct influence on the “secondary” market, that of auctions, which legitimizes’ price levels in the public’s eyes.

When one of the biggest galleries takes a close interest in an artist, his/her career is sure to receive a substantial boost with almost instant success in the auction rooms. When the gallery owner in question is Larry Gagosian – nicknamed “The Shark” by some, “Gogo” by others – the effect is guaranteed. Joining the Gagosian stable ensures global visibility. The most powerful art dealer of our time reigns over an empire of 17 branches around the world and employs 250 people, including twenty hand-picked and hyper-connected directors.

One of his latest favorites is Nathaniel Mary QUINN (1977), a 40-year-old African-American artist who joined the Gagosian team in April 2019 while already enjoying the support of another major gallery, Almine Rech, via an exhibition in Brussels. Rech was therefore a step ahead of the great market-maker”, Gogo having waited until the fruit was ripe. Although a number of prestige galleries had already supported Quinn, it’s his association with the Gagosian that has really placed him on the market launchpad.

Quinn’s composite portraits had already caused a sensation at the Pace gallery in London in 2014. Four years later during an auction sale at the Whitney Museum (2018), the piece he presented fetched one of the sale’s top prices. In the English-language version of Vogue Magazine published after the Whitney sale, the artist revealed that the work was acquired “by one of the world’s most formidable collectors. A few months later the Whitney Museum acquired his Class of ’92 for its permanent collections… and Larry Gagosian decided to sign with him. The news generated the usual excitement and demand immediately surged. Gogo organized his first exhibition in Beverly Hills in September 2019 (Hollow and Cut) and, in perfect synchronization, Phillips submitted Quinns first work to auction in early October. The work in question (Over Yonder of decent size at 85.8 x 77.5 cm without being a monument) rocketed, multiplying its high estimate by 3.5x to reach $261,400.

A six-figure result from the first work submitted to auction… that’s the “Gagosian effect”. The message is clear. Nathaniel Mary Quinn is officially one of the new stars of the market and the two sales companies Christies and Sothebys immediately sought to include his work in their catalogs. Christies even promoted it in an article entitled “Hot right now, 10 American post-war and contemporary artists to have in your collection ». However, as we have seen before, the market has its limits… By asking $120,000 for a 25 centimeter Quinn drawing, Christies suffered its first sale failure for the young favorite in early March.

Article by Artprice published in Diptyk Magazine, April 2020