Photo of a youngish man with stubble in thick black glasses looking warily at the camera
Alex Logsdail, chief executive of Lisson Gallery, photographed for the Financial Times © Daniel Dorsa

The lure of Los Angeles is proving irresistible to second-generation art dealers seeking to make their mark. Latest to succumb is Alex Logsdail, chief executive of Lisson Gallery and son of founder Nicholas, who will open a space in LA later this year. Thomas Kelly, partner at Sean Kelly and also son of the founder, will open a major gallery in Hollywood in the spring. And Marc Glimcher, chief executive of Pace gallery and son of founder Arne, recently announced the acquisition of LA gallery Kayne Griffin, which boasts 15,000 sq ft on South La Brea Avenue.

All are diving into the city’s lively art market, stimulated by the arrival of Frieze Los Angeles in 2019. Alex Logsdail, 36, says, “A huge number of artists that I find fascinating live in Los Angeles and more and more are moving there, everything’s accelerated. LA’s museums and institutions are very active and involved. And ultimately, I was attracted to LA for the same reasons as to New York [where he opened the gallery in 2016]: a large number of our artists don’t have representation there, or haven’t had a show there, or at least for a very long time.”

A two-storey rectangular white building behind a grey gravel lawn
Computer rendering of the new Lisson Gallery in LA
A ^ sign made into a large white sculpture
‘Angulo Blanco’ (2017) by Carmen Herrera © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Hollywood space where he will open in the autumn with a solo show of Carmen Herrera, the Cuban-American artist who turns 107 this year, has a racy history. The 8,090 sq ft building and outdoor space on North Sycamore Avenue was previously The Zone, an adult entertainment venue described on Yelp as “the most popular sex club for men in southern California”.

Alas, the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll on The Zone and Logsdail — who says he wasn’t aware of the venue beforehand — found an opportunity for his West Coast ambitions. “A lot of great things happen by accident,” he says. “It’s in the middle zone of LA, close enough to Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Westside, where a lot of collectors live, and 10 minutes from any hotel that art buyers from overseas would stay in.”

Three semicircular paintings in bright colours, a little like fingernails or boats
‘Floating World #3’ (2021) by Joanna Pousette-Dart © Joanna Pousette-Dart. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Other galleries nearby, in the sprawling city, include Regen Projects and Jeffrey Deitch. Logsdail says: “Because of its former use, the building has an abundance of parking. That is important in LA and gives us opportunities for sculptures and murals.” The space will be run by Kaeli Deane, a gallery director and Lisson’s point person in LA for more than three years; Logsdail has brought in the New York architecture firm Ashe Leandro.

His New York gallery launch served as a healthy break from the legacy of his family, who founded the gallery in London in 1967. “I had to carve out my own space, it was critical to making it work. You have to do something ambitious and New York loves ambition,” says Logsdail, who now lives in Tribeca. He underlines that he and his father — who is still involved with the gallery and its artists — “see eye to eye a lot”. When pushed, he adds, “Obviously we don’t agree on everything, but we share a basic understanding of the way to do things. And I have to give him enormous credit for giving me a very wide berth.”

A man all in black reclining in a chair in front of a wall full of art books
Logsdail appreciates a slower speed of doing business in the art world: ‘Very little happens in a 20-minute conversation, but a lot can happen in two hours’ © Daniel Dorsa

Logsdail Jr took over the reins of Lisson in 2019, just as Covid-19 began to grip. He concurs that the move to LA is, in some ways, a symptom of the pandemic and its associated rejection of previous norms and hierarchies. “I realised during Covid that one of the art world’s greatest assets as a community is its slowness. It’s not like traditional commerce because it is so relationship-based. It’s slow. It requires conversation, context, getting to know artists and collections. Very little happens in a 20-minute conversation, but a lot can happen in two hours.”

LA’s geography helps, he adds. “It is vast. That’s a reason why things go more slowly. People take time to do things, they don’t rush [artist] studio visits, for example.” Opening the new Lisson Gallery with Herrera, an artist for whom fame came late, seems appropriate.

Like many next-gen gallerists, Logsdail gives a lot more weight than his predecessors to collaborative behaviour. “Galleries, art fairs, auction houses — these are all interdependent relationships that are critical to business. If everyone isn’t on the same page with their longer-term goals then it’s a problem.” He does more than just talk the talk — Logsdail was the driving force behind letters lobbying the Art Basel fair to offer protection to exhibitors ahead of its return in September 2021, when Covid was still a threat to business. His galvanising action led to the fair establishing a $1.6mn one-time solidarity fund to support galleries that struggled. “I’m not a provocateur. But I’m not particularly afraid to tell people what I think.”

Two tall red paintings a little like trouser legs
‘Untitled Estructura (Red)’ (1966/2016) by Carmen Herrera © Carmen Herrera. Courtesy Lisson Gallery
A dark red reflective dish
‘Purple to Brandy Wine’ (2020) by Anish Kapoor © Anish Kapoor. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

He is, he says, “extremely encouraged by how resilient galleries have been without the fairs” during the pandemic. But some fairs are still “an important part” of the gallery business — good news as he prepares to show in this week’s third edition of Frieze Los Angeles. The gallery’s mixed-artist booth includes a work by Herrera — a wall sculpture from her “Estructuras” series — pieces by Hugh Hayden, Anish Kapoor and Ryan Gander and several works by Channa Horwitz (1932-2013), a minimalist artist who lived and worked in LA all of her life.

For now, much of Logsdail’s abundant energy is reserved for the new LA space. “Ultimately, I am driven by bringing our artists to a new audience, just as the gallery has done for decades. And Los Angeles is a city of such possibility.”

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