Gagosian Gallery Launches an Advisory Service for Rare Books

Led by Gagosian's rare books expert Douglas Flamm, the new service expands its surprising array of book-related operations.

Gagosian, the mega-gallery known for its impressive roster of artists and wealthy clientele, is trying out a new type of advisory service. Earlier this month it launched “Building Libraries,” an initiative focused on curating collections of rare books instead of artwork.

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Two photos of a red book and black Basquiat book
Documenta 5 and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Gagosian

The service will be run by Gagosian’s rare book specialist Douglas Flamm. “It’s something that I’ve done throughout my career, and this was just a way of formalizing it and giving it a little more structure,” Flamm told Observer. He has worked in the field of rare books for 25 years, joining the gallery in 2016 with a focus on 20th- and 21st-century artists and movements, modern design and architecture.

When did Gagosian begin offering book-related advisory services?

Gagosian has long been involved in the book business. The gallery opened a publishing operation in 1986 and has released more than 600 titles of art books, catalogue raisonnes and monographs in subsequent years. While the books are “a loser” financially, they’re well-loved by artists and collectors alike, Larry Gagosian, owner of the eponymous blue-chip gallery, recently told The New Yorker.

And in 2021, the gallery opened Picture Books, an imprint conceived of by author Emma Cline that matches up fiction titles with images from renowned artists. Its inaugural pairings consisted of Ottessa Moshfegh’s My New Novel with artwork by Issy Wood and Percival Everett’s Grand Canyon, Inc. accompanied by artwork from Richard Prince. Gagosian additionally publishes the magazine Gagosian Quarterly, which contains essays and artist interviews alongside advertisements “from many of our customers—Prada, Gucci, Vuitton,” Larry told The New Yorker.

Black and white photo of man posing in suit
Douglas Flamm. Photo: Carey MacArthur

Now, clients looking to build up their own private libraries will be able to go through Gagosian to do so. “My specialties are reference books and artist books,” said Flamm, adding that he is able to source rare or out-of-print catalogue raisonnes and art publishings through the contacts he’s developed over the past two decades.

Some clients are seeking out specific titles, according to Flamm, while others “get interested in a new artist and want to have all the books on that particular artist.” Gagosian’s shows often influence trends in the rare book world—Picasso shows typically translate into interest in Picasso-related books, while the most recent Cy Twombly show at Gagosian led to heightened interest in books on the artist and his work, he said.

But while some of Gagosian’s artists and art collectors use the gallery’s rare books business, the advisory service draws in a balance of pre-established and new clientele, added Flamm. “I really like working with people to help them meet their needs,” said the rare books specialist, who explained that each client receives a unique consultation and collection. “I don’t always turn around and offer them the same library; I work with what they’re looking for and really try to tailor a collection of books to match their interests.”

Gagosian Gallery Launches an Advisory Service for Rare Books