Gallery behind US$35m Art Basel sale to open Asia headquarters in Hong Kong

  • Lévy Gorvy will open its Asia headquarters in Hong Kong early next year
  • The boutique firm deals in post-war and contemporary art
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 7:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 7:28pm

Lévy Gorvy will open its Asia headquarters in Hong Kong next year, as the boutique dealer of post-war and contemporary art ramps up its global presence and expands its products to include art investment funds.

The firm, which will open on the ground floor of St George’s Building in Central district in March, was set up in 2017 when gallerist Dominique Lévy joined forces with Brett Gorvy, former head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s.

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It made a splash at Art Basel Hong Kong this year by selling a painting by Willem de Kooning, owned by Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen, before his death, for US$35 million.

“The de Kooning sale represented the more public aspect of our business,” Gorvy says, adding that the firm’s private sales can involve artworks that are much more expensive than the one at Art Basel.

Lévy Gorvy has a business model that is fundamentally different from Western galleries that have set up permanent spaces in Hong Kong such as David Zwirner, Gagosian and Hauser & Wirth, he adds.

It only has a small stable of artists and artist estates, and many of them, like Zao Wou-Ki, are shared with other galleries. “Our 2,500 sq ft space in Central will complement our existing operations in New York, London and Zurich, and it will have many exhibitions throughout the year. Unlike other international galleries, we are not limited to just showing artists who we represent,” he says.

The company works collaboratively with other dealers and auction houses in both the primary and secondary market, and it has an advisory arm.

Recently, Lévy completed the fundraising for the company’s first art fund in New York. “It works like a hedge fund and we do all the buying and selling, returning any profits to investors over a three-year period,” Gorvy says. “We may launch new funds in the future and I expect interest from Asian collectors since they often see art as an investment class.”

Lévy Gorvy is unusual in the way it has so many different revenue streams. But diversification is becoming an industry trend. Galleries previously engaged in primary sales only are starting to trade art in the secondary market. Auction houses, too, are keen to expand their private sales, such as Christie’s “Loaded Brush” sale of Western art, which Gorvy launched in Hong Kong two years ago.

Private sales appeal because there is more time to think about a purchase and room for bargaining. Many Asian collectors also prefer the absolute anonymity of the transaction since there is no public record. Sales like these are responsible for the art market’s notorious lack of transparency and its attraction to money launderers.

Gorvy says while there is no regulatory oversight for his business, it is in the company’s best interest to only deal with customers they know, to preserve its reputation and its ability to control the placement of the artwork it deals in.

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It opened a Shanghai representative office last year that is headed by another former Christie’s specialist, Li Danqing. Li will move to Hong Kong as senior director of Asia.