The Gagosian Succession Sweepstakes

Larry Gagosian
Gagosian is such a hard charging salesman that he reputed to complain that his staff isn’t keeping up with him. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
Marion Maneker
May 26, 2024

The future of the Gagosian Gallery is a topic of conversation again, following the news late last week that megadealer Larry Gagosian had poached top Sotheby’s executive Brooke Lampley to join him as a senior director. Gagosian, of course, recently turned 79 years old, raising questions about what’s next for the billion-dollar gallery empire that he essentially willed into existence. Two years ago, Gagosian convened a board of directors, including Snap’s Evan Spiegel and LVMH heir Delphine Arnault, to advise him on the next era of his business. Around that same time, there had been rumors that LVMH was trying to buy Gagosian. But the truth is that Larry, who has no heirs and no designated successor, could not sell his business right now even if he wanted to. C.O.O. Andrew Fabricant has helped to professionalize the operation, but Gagosian Gallery remains overwhelmingly dependent on Gagosian himself, who—by virtue of the extreme wealth of his clients, the size of his deals, his encyclopedic memory, and long history of dealing at the very top of the secondary market—brings in the lion’s share of revenue through the highest value deals. 

Nevertheless, there’s a sense that the gallery needs someone else dealing in the high-value secondary market. In that regard, the Lampley announcement was not terribly surprising. Lampley has long been a high-wattage figure in the auction world, first at Christie’s, in the Impressionist and Modern department, and then at Sotheby’s, where she inherited Amy Cappellazzo’s role as head of the fine art division. She also has strong media appeal: Lampley became meme-able in 2021 by bidding for Ken Griffin on a copy of the U.S. Constitution; her opponents were so smitten with her image on the webcast that they mistakenly assumed she was bidding for them.