In a deal that swaps Chelsea credibility for Christie’s International’s cash and global reach, one of New York’s more popular young art galleries has merged with Haunch of Venison, the art dealer owned by Christie’s.
Haunch is expected to announce later this week that Robert Goff, and the gallery of the same name, plus a handful of his artists, are joining the gallery. Haunch will also be moving out of Christie’s Rockefeller Center home and to the Chelsea area, although not into Goff’s relatively small space.
Christie’s Haunch has been somewhat adrift in New York since the departure (by cholce or otherwise) earlier this year of its two top executives. Now, Goff, a well-regarded art-world player said “I’m bringing four or five of my artists with me; I’ll be a director based in New York.” Goff said the recession had little to do with his choice (although his most recent opening, for a show titled “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” was, uncharacteristically, cash bar). “Turning 40 had more to do with it.”
Goff said he was approached by Haunch to show his artists in London and asked himself: “How to I grow as a gallery and not have these artists poached in the next few years? The only thing I had stopping me was my name on the door, and I decided that wasn’t important.” He added: “I think that’s part of why they wanted me, as I had run a Chelsea gallery.” Haunch also has galleries in London, Berlin and Zurich.
In 2007, Francois Pinault’s Christie’s International (parent of Christie’s auction house) bought the London gallery Haunch of Venison, which represents Bill Viola, Richard Long, and Keith Tyson. It seemed a savvy move for Christie’s at the time: Collectors traditionally turn to selling through dealers, not at auction, when prices weaken. Haunch then opened in the fall of 2008 in a 17,000-square-foot duplex penthouse atop the same building as Christie’s headquarters. Its early shoppers included Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire.
But Haunch was barred from exhibiting at some key art fairs and was plagued by rumors (as it continues to be) that it was a front for the auction house’s contemporary art division. Because Haunch handles all of Christie’s private sales, it never seemed a stand-alone gallery, despite some very good exhibitions. Goff stressed: “I’ll be managing my own artists.” Goff’s better-known artists include Ahmed Alsoudani, who is collected in the Middle East, and painter Isca Greenfield-Sanders, daughter of noted photographer Timothy.
In the past dozen or so years, Goff has been an arts writer for Forbes, an executive at E-bay.com, aiding in their purchase (now reversed) of Butterfield’s auction house, then at the Auction Channel and pioneer online art retailer Eyestorm.
Seven years ago, the Goff Gallery opened in Chelsea as the Red Dot Gallery and, in a brief moment of reality-show fame, was featured on the first episode of the then highly rated “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” television program. Renamed Goff & Rosenthal (his former partner Cassie Rosenthal, is a scion of the Rosenthal art banking clan,) the gallery opened on Chelsea five years ago and showed at Art Dubai and the National Art Dealers Alliance Art Fair, among others. It opened as Robert Goff Gallery earlier this year. “I’m really happy about this move,” he said.
For rivals interested in his prime ground-floor 23rd-street gallery, he said “I’ll be out of this space at the end of the month.” Haunch, though, is real-estate shopping in the neighborhood, a move that might give it the perception, or reality, of independence from Christie’s.