The Yale-educated, San Francisco-born, Alexander Berggruen cuts an impressive figure at thirty-one years old. The son of Gretchen and John Berggruen, owners of the well-respected Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco, and grandson of dealer, collector, and philanthropist Heinz Berggruen, it might surprise some to discover that Alex didn’t always intend to follow his family’s path in the art world. But after stints at BlockRock, Google, and ArtBinder, he ultimately ended up in the nexus for much of the art world, as a junior specialist in Christie’s Impressionist & Modern department in 2014.
At Christie’s, Berggruen followed the traditional path of an auction house specialist, going from junior specialist to associate specialist, and then from specialist to associate vice president. Midway through, he transitioned from Adrien Meyer’s Imp/Mod department to the Post-War & Contemporary where he became head of the afternoon sale. In his five years at the house, he went from bringing in one lone consignment in his first season, to bringing in 29 consignments worth an aggregate $7 million in value for the day sale in his last season.
It was, therefore, even more of a surprise when he ofcially submitted his resignation to Christie’s this past December. The Reason? Berggruen is now embarking on a career as a dealer, with his own gallery scheduled to open in the fall of 2019. Located in Mitchell-Innes & Nash’s former space on the Upper East Side, the future home of the gallery is currently undergoing some light renovations to improve the space.
On a brutally hot July afternoon, we sit in his blissfully well-air-conditioned downtown apartment as he explains his decision-making process in choosing the Upper East Side as the home for his gallery; divulges what the programming and focus of the gallery will look like; and walks me through how he plans to attract collectors to the gallery at a time when collectors are increasingly gravitating towards only the biggest galleries in the business. What follows is a refreshingly honest and insightful look into the choices and options any dealer – regardless of age – must confront when deciding to start a new gallery in New York City.
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