Boxing has Don King. F1 has Bernie Ecclestone. Music (for its sins) has Simon Cowell. And if you were compiling a list of the most influential people in the art world today, chances are you would put Larry Gagosian somewhere near the top.
He’s an LA-born art dealer who has helped to launch the careers of some of the most iconic names in modern art, and those not currently in his Rolodex can consider themselves B-list artists at best. You know the people whose work you admire on prints and postcards, whose paintings are recognised the world over, even by people who’ve never set foot in an art gallery? People such as Andy Warhol, Edward Ruscha and
Cy Twombly? He has shared croissants with them all.
Having opened his first gallery in 1979, Gagosian now boasts nine exhibition spaces in five cities, accommodating the world’s most sought-after talents. Later this year, he’s opening a new exhibition space
down the road from Musée du Louvre in Paris. But before that he’s coming to Abu Dhabi.
As you might expect, he has accumulated a staggering personal art collection over the years. In fact, we’d wager that the canvas hanging on the wall of his downstairs toilet is probably worth more than your house. And it’s this personal treasure trove of artwork – some shipped in directly from the bedroom of his New York apartment – that is currently being hung on the walls of the capital’s Manarat Al Saadiyat gallery. Though it remains to be seen whether Gagosian’s haul is made up of the cream of his clients’ creative crop, or simply cast-offs deemed unworthy of his galleries, the show – named RSTW after four of the artists involved – represents a unique opportunity to witness a set of never-before-seen works from some of the 20th century’s most celebrated talents.
Not that the headline-grabbing names are the only talking points surrounding Gagosian’s visit. Shows of this magnitude have traditionally been reserved for Emirates Palace’s Gallery One, which has, in the past, exhibited heavyweights including Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock. For us, at least, the shift to Saadiyat Island is just as significant as the creative calibre of Warhol, Twombly and co. How come? In inviting the public to wander amid what are essentially his private possessions, RSTW promises to be a deeply personal show, so it’s appropriate that in shifting our attention to the site of Abu Dhabi’s ambitious cultural developments, this is also a personal moment for the capital. And, frankly, we can’t think of anyone more fitting to usher in the city’s cultural revolution.
RSTW continues until January 24 at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi. Entry is free. For more info, see www.saadiyat.ae
Celeb-spotting on Saadiyat gallery’s walls
Present at the birth of pop art, alongside Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Ruscha has since shifted the focus of his work on to typographical images, smearing his canvases with everything from blood to axle grease.
Though his works include photography, printmaking and performance, Rauschenberg is best remembered for his abstract canvases, which blur the lines between painting and sculpture.
A sculptor with a penchant for large-scale work, Serra has displayed his foreboding structures of raw sheet metal everywhere from the Guggenheim Bilbao to London’s Liverpool Street station.
Now at the grand old age of 82, much of Twombly’s work deals with issues of cycles and the passing of time, which he represents through large, calligraphic paintings.
The man whose name has become synonymous with pop art, Warhol is best remembered for his pioneering canvases that depict commercial imagery as art
Like Ruscha, much of Wool’s work revolves around bold, unambiguous typography, which he uses to broadcast provocative, vaguely alarming messages loaded with social commentary.