By Julie Halperin, October 25, 2011
NEW YORK—Gagosian, L&M, and Acquavella have a new neighbor. Blain Di Donna, a pedigreed secondary-market gallery, is opening in New York's swanky Carlyle Hotel on October 28. The Impressionist, modern, and contemporary gallery is a collaboration between former Haunch of Venison founder Harry Blain and former Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern art specialist Emmanuel Di Donna. Their inaugural exhibition, a René Magritte survey titled "Dangerous Liaisons" — the first New York show dedicated entirely to the Belgian Surrealist's work in over a decade — seeks to cement the gallery's reputation as a fresh force to be reckoned with on the Upper East Side. "It was time to have something in New York of this scale and quality," Di Donna told ARTINFO of the Magritte show.
The exhibition, comprised of 25 major oils, gouaches, and drawings, is sourced entirely from European and American private collections. (It was difficult to find the work anywhere else, says Di Donna, because both the Tate Liverpool and Vienna's Albertinaare mounting Magritte exhibitions at the same time.) Only a fifth of the works, including paintings "Le Rendez-Vous" and "Le Cinema Bleu," are for sale, at prices ranging from $800,000 to $6 million.
If the gallery name sounds familiar, it's because it is an offshoot ofBlain Southern, the London gallery Blain and his former Haunch partner Graham Southern founded last year. (The British outfit, which represents Mat Collishaw and Bill Viola, also has a Berlin branch.) But while Blain Southern "is really a primary gallery, doing fairs and placing its artists in museums, we are focusing on the secondary market," explained Di Donna. The partnership will be relatively organic: "I have clients who buy on the primary market, so I have access to Blain Southern's whole stable of artists, and they might have a client in London looking for aPisarro or a Renior, so they can come to me," he noted. Blain will split his time between New York and London, while Di Donna will remain based at the Carlyle full time.
The Big Apple venue has been a long time coming: Blain Di Donna itself has been operational since last November, but converting the 2,800-square-foot Carlyle space — formerly occupied by art bookstore Ursus and designed by architect Stephen Lerner — took much of this year. (The gallery shares the Carlyle with fellow secondary-market powerhouse Helly Nahmad.) Meanwhile, Di Donna says the gallery has been busy making sales to clients, many of whom have carried over from his Sotheby's days.
Blain Di Donna plans to host two to three exhibitions a year and put the rest of its energy toward private dealing. In May, the gallery will unveil a show on "a major modern movement," but Di Donna is mum on the details. "Most of the exhibitions will be selling — we're doing a mostly non-selling show now simply because it's the opening show," he explained. "But you know how it is. In this market, collectors want to buy and quite often they make unsolicited offers."