Christie's closes Haunch of Venison galleries

Auction house says HoV's London gallery will "evolve into" Christie's private sale services the NY one will close
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Full Steam Ahead (Red 1) by Joana Vasconcelos at Haunch of Venison London, 2012
Full Steam Ahead (Red 1) by Joana Vasconcelos at Haunch of Venison London, 2012

When Christie's bought the contemporary art gallery, Haunch of Venison, back in 2007, the tie-up appeared to be sound. International interest in contemporary art was on the rise, while the costs of running a modest gallery with globabl appeal were growing. Christie's could provide the financial backing, while HoV could offer it a toe-hold in the primary art market. Alas, the purchase, like so many made in the late boom years, doesn't seem quite so sweet five years down the track.

Christies has announced its plans to close the galleries; the London exhibition space will become a permanent location for Christie's private sales department, while HoV's Manhattan gallery - a more recent addition - will close for good at the beginning of next month. 

"The proposal is for Haunch of Venison to evolve into Christie's private sales," Emilio Steinberger, the gallery's senior international director, explained to Bloomberg Business Week. "Private sales at Christie's have been growing exponentially and the decision was made that's where the focus should be."

Though this news doesn't reflect well on Christie's, the situation is mixed. The auction house's private sales have proved lucrative, growing by about a quarter, year-on-year, in 2012. Now they represent 16 percent of Christie's business.

However, others within the art world have pointed out that a gallery's business of nurturing new artists does not bring with it the kind of immediate returns an auction house might be more accustomed to. Moreover, the overheads associated with running an international gallery, in an age when the likes of Pace, Gagosian and David Zwirner can present works in many different spaces around the globe, remain considerable.

In a 2011 interview with the New York Observer, Steinberger said, "the cost of art -young artists, even - it's all accelerated. Because of information, because of technology, because of whatever, it's become a much more expensive business."

In the same piece, The Observer's Dan Duray suggests that the Christie's relationship might cast doubt over HoV's independence; he writes: "One doesn't have to be a conspiracy theorist to imagine that an auction house that owns a gallery might use it to goose prices of an artist it's in a position to sell at auction."

However this eventually works out for both Christie's and Haunch of Venison, we wish them both the best. For more on the story, read the Bloomberg piece here, and for further insight into the workings of the art market, consider our forthcoming book, Collecting Art for Love, Money and More.

 


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