Alison McDonald

Alison McDonald.

Alison McDonald

Head of Publishing at Gagosian Gallery

Alison McDonald
By October 15, 2020 8:57 AM

Perhaps no other gallery can boast as much online success as Gagosian. Alison McDonald, the gallery’s head of publishing, accounts for a lot of that success. The department publishes over 30 books a year, the in-house magazine Gagosian Quarterly, and all online digital material, not to mention exhibition signage, advertising and mailings. McDonald oversees it all. 

Gagosian takes an expansive view of publishing; the high-profile online sales that occurred over social media, for example, are a result of efforts led by McDonald and Director Sam Orlofsky. In May, Artist Spotlight, an Instagram program that features a single work by a single artist that they promote for a week, attracted a collector who ended up purchasing Roe Ethridge’s photograph of Andrew W.K. with a bloody nose for $20,000. The gallery followed up that success by selling a Cecily Brown painting for $5.5.million. As part of their online sales kit, the gallery included essays by historians, videos and even an art market report explaining why their price points suggested a sound investment. 

McDonald attributes their success in pivoting online to Larry Gagosian’s long-term investment in publishing. The collector who purchased Etheridge’s photograph, according to McDonald, was a first-time buyer from the gallery. 

“We had 14 artists in the spotlight program and were able to sell 49 important primary market works [through that initiative].” McDonald cites 17 million impressions on Instagram and 50 percent growth of online magazine readership during the first three months of the coronavirus shutdown. Although Gagosian initiated Artist Spotlight to shed light on artists whose shows had been canceled due to the pandemic, the program has been so successful that the gallery intends to continue it into 2021. Ed Ruscha, Rachel Whiteread, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Takashi Murakami and John Curin are all confirmed artists.

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