"I'm not quitting the gallery," Lambert, now 65, told ARTINFO France, "but I will take more time to do the things that interest me, outside work. It is doing well, but having a gallery abroad you need to take care of it, to be there almost permanently with the artists. All the traveling takes a lot of time and it's very hard."
Lambert opened his first Paris gallery in 1966 and expanded to New York in 2003 with an outpost on Chelsea's West 25th Street, which he then traded for a custom-designed gallery by Richard Gluckman and Thomas Zolli on West 21st Street in 2007. The previous year he signed a 10-year lease for that space — previously occupied by Amy Sacco's once-thriving club Lot 61 — and has since held shows there of artists such as Berlinde de Bruckhere, Idris Kahn, Andres Serrano, Patricia Piccinini, Kay Rosen, Candice Breitz, and Carlos Amorales. It is not yet clear whether arrangements will be made for the gallery's artists regarding New York representation. The gallery's final exhibition, a group show called "Play Time," opens on May 20 and closes on June 4, the last day the gallery will be open to the public.
Olivier Belot, the general director of both Yvon Lambert galleries, will continue to run the Paris space. "We're faced with also having to ensure the continuity of the Paris space," said Belot. "There is a lot of in-depth work to be done there, and we had to make a choice. In the end, it's very logistical." Artists the gallery represents in Paris include such major figures as Anselm Kiefer, Louise Lawler, Jenny Holzer, and On Kawara.
"We remain a very family-style business, which is all Yvon Lambert ever wanted, and it's great for the artists and for us," Belot added. "Paris was always the mother ship, and New York has been more of a young structure. It has built itself up very well, so it's a bit of a shame, but that's part of the game. Life goes on."
The announced closure appears odd at a time when the art market appears to be rebounding. The closure will leave Lambert with his Marais space and his Avignon collection, where Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" was recently attacked amid protests by right-wing Christian groups. The dealer also opened a 7,000-square-foot outpost in East London's trendy Hoxton Square in October 2008, only to see it become the first prominent casualty of the global financial crisis a year later. Back then, Belot was splitting his time three ways, across both the Atlantic and the English Channel.
There is sure to be rampant speculation about who will take over the space after Lambert is gone. For one thing, it's on a power block, featuring heavy-hitters like Paula Cooper and Gagosian Gallery. At 5,500 square feet and comprising multiple rooms, Lambert's 21st Street gallery is also among Chelsea's larger spaces; presumably it would go to a well-capitalized blue-chip gallery with the material to fill it, and that narrows down the contenders. Several galleries are known to be looking for coveted Chelsea space at the moment, including the powerhouse Haunch of Venison, the Christie's-owned gallery currently located at Rockefeller Center. The gallery declined to comment. If it were to be Haunch that took Lambert's space, it would be a return to that space for Emilio Steinberger, who left Lambert a few years ago to become a director at Haunch's New York branch.
Operating the New York space has earned the Yvon Lambert gallery significant contacts with American museums and other public collections, with sales of Carlos Amorales's works to MoMA and the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, among others. "We are keeping alive the contacts with collectors, museums and other institutions," added Lambert. "There is no reason why this should change, and we certainly don't want it to change. It's just one door closing."