Blurring the Boundaries: The Rise of Blockbuster Museum-Quality Exhibitions in Commercial Galleries

February 20, 2021
11 am CST

Closed captioned

The past ten years have witnessed the rise of historical, museum-quality blockbuster exhibitions in commercial art galleries. This is a sign of a changing art environment, where traditional roles are interchangeable and boundaries are blurring. Why and how are these very expensive shows conceived and put together, what is their goal, and what are the results for the galleries that organize them? And what is their impact on the public, the critic, and the market in general?

In this inaugural Women and the Kemper Public Lecture, Valentina Castellani, former director of New York's Gagosian Gallery, will discuss the rise of blockbuster exhibitions in commercial art galleries, focusing on the Gagosian exhibitions Picasso: Mosqueteros and Piero Manzoni: A Retrospective.

Cosponsored by Women and the Kemper and the Olin Business School.

About the speaker

Valentina Castellani was born in Boston to Italian parents and grew up in Turin, Italy, where she graduated magna cum laude in Greek archeology and history of art from the University of Turin. In 1997 she began working for Sotheby’s in London as an expert in the Contemporary Art Department, playing a crucial role in putting together the first 20th-Century Italian Sale auctions and securing for sale important private collections. She continued to work for Sotheby’s as a deputy director in New York, traveling to South America and lecturing at the arteBA fair in Buenos Aires and at the Museum of Modern Art in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. In 2005 she joined Gagosian Gallery New York as a director, organizing and curating many historical exhibitions, including Francis Bacon Triptychs (London, 2006); Isabel and Other Intimate Strangers: Portraits by Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon (New York, 2008); Piero Manzoni: A Retrospective (New York, 2009), with Germano Celant, which won the Art Awards for Best Exhibition of the year in a commercial gallery and was listed by Artforum as among the best shows of 2009; and Lucio Fontana: Ambienti Spaziali (New York, 2012). In collaboration with Sir John Richardson and the Picasso family she organized and cocurated Picasso: Mosqueteros (New York, 2009); Pablo Picasso: The Mediterranean Years (London, 2010); L’amour fou: Picasso and Marie-Thérèse (New York, 2011); Picasso and Françoise Gilot: The Vallauris Years (New York, 2012); and Picasso and the Camera (New York, 2014). Francis Bacon: Late Paintings (New York, 2015) was the last exhibition she organized for Gagosian and the first ever devoted to the artist’s late production. Besides her involvement in exhibitions, she actively worked in the secondary market, outsourcing important works of art from European collections. Since 2016 she has worked as an independent dealer. She currently teaches a course titled “Market Histories” as an adjunct professor in the Master of Visual Arts Administration program at NYU Steinhardt. She sits on the board of the Casa Italiana of NYU and of the Drawing Center of New York.

Image credits

Frances Roberts / Alamy Stock Photo

Thumbnail: Piero Manzoni, Linea m 7200, 1960. Ink on paper, cylinder covered with lead sheets, 26 x 37 3/4 x 37 3/4". Photo by Gunnar Merrild.