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Marlborough gallery closes after 78 years | Culture

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The Marlborough gallery, one of the most important contemporary art institutions in the world, will close this June, after 78 years, as announced this Thursday by its board of directors. Franz Plutschow, one of its managers, has assured that the gallery founded in 1946 by Frank Lloyd “will disappear after long and careful consideration.” This time yes, not as happened in 2020 when it was announced that the New York headquarters was closing and, subsequently, they backed down: now the original office in London, those in New York, Barcelona and Madrid will cease to exist.

From June, Marlborough galleries will no longer exhibit and represent artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko or Robert Motherwell. Or in Spain, great exponents of contemporary art such as Alfonso Albacete, Blanca Muñoz, Juan Genovés, Antonio López, Lucio Muñoz, Soledad Sevilla, Luis Gordillo, Juan José Aquerreta and Juan Correa, among many others, will be orphaned. The firm currently employs 52 people worldwide; Some team members will stay on to ensure shipments are returned and inventory sold, although most face layoffs, reports The Art Newspaper.

The artist Alfonso Albacete and the sculptor Blanca Muñoz pose at the Marlborough gallery in Madrid, in December 2021. Kike Para

The problems began for Marlborough in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, when harsh economic losses came and the departure of at least two of its main artists, Paula Rego and Frank Auerbach. The gallery’s statement reads: “After long and careful consideration, we have made the decision that now is the time to close our nearly 80-year-old estate. We are deeply grateful to all the artists who have been at the heart of Marlborough Gallery and who have been an integral part of its historic legacy. In doing so, we are mindful that the extraordinary breadth and depth of our inventory attests to the relationships formed over decades with some of the most important artists of the modern era.”

The company’s inventory is estimated at more than 15,000 works and is valued at about 250 million dollars (about 230 million euros). It will be sold in the coming months and a portion of the proceeds will go to non-profit institutions that support artists, according to the official statement.

Arrival to Madrid

In 1992, Francis Bacon was walking through the streets of Madrid. The great expressionist artist not only wandered through the city, but was going to be the protagonist of the exhibition with which Marlborough opened its headquarters in the Spanish capital at the end of 1992. Death met Bacon before, in April of that year. Even so, he had already done his part so that a group of artists felt attracted to knowing how a gallery whose trajectory and projection was unprecedented in Spain was going to change the Spanish scene.

The painter Juan Genoves, in his studio, in 2017.
The painter Juan Genoves, in his studio, in 2017.Bernardo Perez

Until that moment, Juana Mordó, Nieves Fernández and Fernando Vijande were some of the gallery owners who dominated the contemporary art market in this country. His promotional work remained within the country. For this reason, the landing of the Marlborough, which turns 30 in 2022, was a shock. Pierre Levai, the head of a gallery that had some of the most sought-after artists in the world in its portfolio, arrived in Madrid.

Levai did not land alone in what was the third stop of a brand internationalization trip that included New York and Tokyo. He created a team that will serve as a safety net for many artists until June. “Most of the galleries in Spain cannot afford it,” Alfonso Albacete pointed out in an interview with EL PAÍS, who assured that these types of institutions provide support that “does not exist in the plastic arts, contrary to what happens.” in other disciplines, such as the industry behind film or music.”

Juan Genovés was the gallery’s first signing before even arriving in Madrid. “I was starving without a gallery owner. “Frank Lloyd asked me if he wanted to work for them,” recalled the author of Hug, died in 2020. From that moment, Genovés was able to make a living from his art and his family had a livelihood, his son Pablo, also an artist, assured EL PAÍS. Then Antonio López and Lucio Muñoz would arrive. The latter “had been left somewhat helpless with the closure of Juana Mordó, about eight years passed before he exhibited again in Madrid. It was the second exhibition at the Marlborough,” explained his son Rodrigo, who defined, in an interview with this newspaper, the house as “a gallery of artist friends.” Muñoz also benefited from the peace of mind of the exclusive contract he signed in the nineties. “It may seem like he ties up an author because he prevents her from negotiating on his account, but at the same time allows her to focus on his work,” he said.

That safety net that the Marlborough gallery has provided is now retracted. If there is no surprise twist, as has happened in the past. With the closure of this institution a chapter in the history of contemporary art also ends.

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