Last winter, after a year in which countless companies were forced to close, some of the world’s leading galleries announced that they were not only still open for business, they were expanding.
Lévy Gorvy, White Cube and Lehmann Maupin were three of the big-name galleries to open pop-up spaces over Christmas in Palm Beach, the sleepy Florida town where many of America’s billionaires spend the colder months. These temporary outposts were the latest effort by gallerists to bring art directly to collectors, many of whom had fled their primary homes in New York for second homes in ski resorts or seaside towns during the pandemic. Earlier in the year, pop-ups also appeared in the Hamptons and Aspen.
Now, the phenomenon has come to Asia. This summer, Lehmann Maupin is opening a pop-up in Taipei, which will run from August 3 to September 18. It is the first international gallery to launch a seasonal space in the region.
“I love the pop-up model,” says Rachel Lehmann, whose gallery has permanent outposts in New York, London and Seoul. “I think it’s a great formula and I’m very curious what our first Asian pop-up will bring. If it works in Taiwan, I can see us expanding it to other areas in Asia—and not only East Asia.”
Lehmann and her business partner, David Maupin, credit pop-ups with helping their gallery through the pandemic. They opened their first, in Aspen, for a short period last summer, then decamped to Palm Beach for the winter. Lehmann Maupin’s 2,000 sq ft Palm Beach space was open from mid-November to mid- March and featured pieces by the likes of pioneering African-American abstract painter McArthur Binion, sculptor Liza Lou and Marilyn Minter, who is famous for her glossy, hyperrealist portraits of women that explore ideas of glamour, sexuality and desire.
“Aspen was successful, but interest really built to a crescendo in Palm Beach,” says Lehmann. “When we were packing up in Florida, putting works into crates, people were still knocking on the door. Prior to Covid- 19, art fairs represented roughly 30 per cent of our revenue. Last year, pop-ups took the place of fairs.” Other gallerists have experienced success with the model, too: Marc Glimcher from Pace reported selling works at his Palm Beach pop-up for prices from US$50,000 to US$500,000, while art dealer Emmanuel di Donna reportedly sold a Willem de Kooning painting for US$10 million out of his Florida pop-up, Sélavy.
So it’s no surprise that these seasonal spaces may become a more permanent fixture. Lehmann Maupin has already committed to another pop-up in Aspen this summer, which will run from early July to mid-September, and has budgeted to open another Palm Beach space in the winter.
But right now, Lehmann is focused on Taiwan. The island has long been home to an exceptionally wealthy group of art collectors, though for many years these connoisseurs were focused on traditional Chinese art and antiques, as well as trophy pieces from the most famous western artists. Among the better-known collectors are Robert and Vivian Tsao, whose collection includes treasures such as a Neolithic ritual vessel from China that dates back to 3300-2000 BC, and Pierre Chen, who owns major works by Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko.