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PaceWildenstein to End Its Beverly Hills Exhibition Program

Art: New York-based gallery, called the world's largest, cites lack of public interest as reason for decision.

June 22, 1999|CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT | TIMES ART CRITIC

New York-based PaceWildenstein Gallery will suspend the exhibition program at its Beverly Hills location in July. The gallery, which opened to great fanfare in September 1995, plans to maintain its present office and some inventory at its Wilshire Boulevard address in the former Gump's department store and will be open by appointment.

"It never really took off [with the public]," explained a spokeswoman for the gallery from New York. Closing the Beverly Hills gallery's public program while maintaining an office for West Coast clients seemed to make the most sense, she said.

PaceWildenstein is said to be the world's largest art gallery. It was formed by the 1993 merger of Wildenstein & Co., a Paris-based dealer of Impressionist and Old Master works, and Pace Gallery of New York, a major dealer of contemporary art headed by Arne Glimcher. Plans for the Beverly Hills branch of PaceWildenstein, designed by architect Charles Gwathmey and expected to provide a more accessible location than New York for the Asian market as well as for clients on the West Coast, were announced the following year.

Glimcher also had other ties to Los Angeles. In addition to being an art dealer, he has produced or directed several Hollywood movies, including "Gorillas in the Mist" and "The Mambo Kings."

Glimcher could not be reached for comment. Fecia Mulry, director of the Beverly Hills office, is traveling in New York and also could not be reached.

The 1995 opening of the gallery was greeted with both excitement and skepticism. The debut was marked by a festive, celebrity-studded party for nearly 1,000 guests on South Rodeo Drive, which was closed to traffic and covered with a dance floor. But Los Angeles outposts of galleries based in New York have often had a difficult time of it.

Collectors in Southern California have commonly worried that the best examples of an artist's work are held for the Manhattan gallery. BlumHelman, a gallery also formerly based in New York, closed its L.A. branch in 1991 after five years. In the 1960s, Glimcher and former BlumHelman co-owner Irving Blum operated a Pace outpost on La Cienega Boulevard; it lasted only briefly.

Gagosian Gallery, which is also headquartered in New York and opened a Beverly Hills branch on Camden Drive in 1995, remains an exception. Grant Selwyn Fine Arts, co-owned by former PaceWildenstein branch director Marc Selwyn and specializing in resale of paintings and sculptures on the secondary market, recently opened spaces in New York and Beverly Hills.

The Asian financial crisis that erupted in July of 1997 may also have had an impact on PaceWildenstein's fortunes.

PaceWildenstein represents a number of important artists, including Robert Irwin, Claes Oldenburg, Agnes Martin and Joel Shapiro, as well as the estates of Alexander Calder, Ad Reinhardt and Louise Nevelson.

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