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Richard Prince, Larry Gagosian and Terry Richardson at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, Feb. 25, 2011
Richard Prince, Larry Gagosian and Terry Richardson at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, Feb. 25, 2011. Photo by Patrick McMullan

Larry Gagosian

by Emily Nathan

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To the envy of art writers everywhere, the world’s most powerful financial newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, has finally turned its eye on the world’s most powerful art dealer, Larry Gagosian.

Profiled by ace art-market journalist Kelly Crow in the paper’s April Fools edition -- the timing was presumably coincidental -- Larry Gagosian, whose modus operandi is described as an elegant combination of seduction and thievery, explained himself thusly: “If I don’t, someone else will, you know what I’m saying?”

Crow tallies the numbers -- Larry sells $1 billion worth of contemporary art a year, he mounts about 60 shows a year, he employs 150 people in 11 galleries around the globe, his jet costs $40 million -- and she drops the names, names like Steven Cohen, François Pinault and Eli Broad.

She also tells plenty of tales. Gagosian reportedly wore plaid, just like Richard Prince, as part of his courtship of the artist. Gagosian hired 50 people and spent $1 million just to install the recent Anselm Kiefer show. Gagosian gave Takashi Murakami a private tour of the Sistine Chapel on the occasion of the artist’s first show in Rome.

And gallery directors get a 10 percent commission. “Sometimes, it feels a little like Glengarry Glen Ross,” said Gagosian director Sam Orlofsky.

Finally, the WSJ  reports, Gagosian does not nurture his artists -- he “poaches” them from rival galleries. His most recent conquest, John Chamberlain, who had been represented by Pace Gallery for decades, was reportedly won over when Gagoisan bought out a studio full of sculptures that Pace had passed over, an estimated $20 million worth.

His stable now houses 77 of the world’s most lauded artists, including Damien Hirst, Pablo Picasso and Richard Serra, and he is eyeing, according to “sources,” Ai Weiwei, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Jasper Johns -- who, Gagosian admits, “seems happy” with his current representation, Matthew Marks.

Marks confirms that Johns was recently seen having coffee with the enemy.

EMILY NATHAN is assistant editor at Artnet Magazine.