The Best Art Galleries in the World
Top 10 Industry Leading Art Galleries Today
Installation view of Gagosian Gallery (c)
Introduction: The Industry Leading 'Mega-Galleries'
It is clear to say art galleries play a major role in today's world of contemporary art. Art galleries are the blueprint of the art world. They act as the purveyor of the iconic masterpieces of tomorrow, having one's finger on the pulse of the latest trends in contemporary art. The influence of art galleries seems to grow exponentially – sometimes people even tend to argue the biggest galleries have become too powerful. Doing so, a new type of gallery has emerged – or rather expanded – the so-called 'mega-gallery'.
A 'mega-gallery' is an industry leading gallery with multiple locations of which its size, number of employees, the quality of the artists and the organized exhibitions is equal to the standards of a major (museum) institution, blurring the line between gallery and museum.
Whereas we all know the most important art museums in the world, art galleries seem to be a bit less known in the public opinion. When it comes to contemporary art we always tend to visit museums such as MoMA in New York, Tate Modern in London or Centre Pompidou in Paris. However, the artworks we behold and the artists who created them were first presented and represented by an art gallery before they entered those institutions.
So, who are those mega-galleries and where can we find them? Therefore, in this article we have listed a top 10 of the best and most influential galleries in the world.
S.n.: The ranking has been made in complete objectivity using the following metrics in order to set up the top 10 of the biggest art galleries in the world; square meters, number of locations, number of employees, artist rankings of the represented artists and online exposure.
10. Victoria Miro
London and Venice
Installation view of 'Idris Khan: Absorbing Light' at Victoria Miro in London (2017). Photo: Stephen White (c)
We open the debates with Victoria Miro Gallery. In 1985, Victoria Marion Miro opened her first gallery in London before moving to a larger space in the English capital in 2000 which is up to today the main office of the gallery. In 2013, a second space was inaugurated in London followed by a third gallery location in Venice, Italy.
Victoria Miro is highly respected as a prominent figure in the art world, as is her gallery. In 2018, three spaces covered over 2.000 square feet with around 50 people as working staff. At this moment, there are two active galleries. One in London and one in Venice.
Over the years, Victoria Miro has represented and launched many of the art world's current superstars. Think of the British artists Chantal Joffe or Chris Ofili, but also international artists such as Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Tal R, Alice Neel or Idris Khan. This impressive array of artists results in a tenth spot in our list, opening our article in style.
9. Lehman Maupin
New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London
Installation view of 'Erwin Wurm: Yes Biological' at Lehmann Maupin in New York (2021). Photo: Lehmann Maupin (c)
Contemporary art gallery Lehmann Maupin was initiated by David Maupin back in 1996 in New York, the United States of America. The highly rated mega-gallery currently has four locations across the world; New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London.
Lehmann Maupin has been exhibiting established artists from day one representing artists such as Kader Attia, Erwin Wurm or Gilbert & George to name a few. The gallery's influence is strongly noticeable considering their active contribution to the number of museum shows, public projects, biennials or their presence at art fairs and online. Further, the gallery covers approximately 2.000 square meters with around 45 staff employees.
Today, Lehmann Maupin is a true household name when it comes to the most influential contemporary art galleries. Doing so, Lehmann Maupin sits in a ninth spot for this article.
Paris (5), New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai
Installation view of 'JR: Tehachapi' at Perrotin gallery in Paris (2020). Photo: Perrotin (c)
In 1990, Emmanuel Perrotin opened his first gallery space at the age of just twenty-one in Paris founding Perrotin Gallery. Three decades later, Perrotin is set to open his tenth exhibition space, which will be his fifth location in Paris. The other five galleries can be found in New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Shangai, resulting in a whopping 7.500 square meters of exhibition space and around 110 employees.
Perrotin represents established artists such as Maurizio Cattelan, Wim Delvoye, JR, Takashi Murakami, Pierre Soulages, Claire Tabouret and several artist estates, focusing on both the primary market and the secondary market. The gallery participates in over twenty art fairs every year, asserting their presence in the art world.
As a result, Perrotin gallery is one of the biggest art galleries in the world resulting in a well deserved eight spot on our list.
7. Thaddaeus Ropac
London, Paris (2), Salzburg (2) and Seoul
Installation view of 'Georg Baselitz: Time' at Thaddeus Ropac in Paris Pantin (2020). Photo: Thaddaeus Ropac (c)
Up next, we have the gallery empire of Thaddaeus Ropac. The Austrian gallery owner opened his first space in 1981 in Lienz in Austria before moving to Salzburg in 1983 opening the current Thaddaeus Ropac gallery. Further, Ropac would open a second Salzburg gallery, two Paris galleries (Marais and Patin), one gallery in London and is currently expanding his team by openingen a new location in Seoul, South Korea.
Thaddaeus Ropac is specialised in the primary and secondary art market when it comes to contemporary art. Not only do they represent the most influential artists – such as Georg Baselitz, Adrian Ghenie, Gilbert & George, Alex Katz, Anselm Kiefer, Imi Knoebel, Arnulf Rainer, David Salle, Erwin Wurm or Lawrence Weiner – they also continue to contribute to the legacy of recent icons collaborating with their estates.
The influence, size and reach of the gallery is almost immeasurable as they attend every major art fair, being a consulting actor for major museums and public collections, and running their own publishing house actively contributing to the written canonization of contemporary art and its latest developments. Across six locations, Thaddaeus Ropac covers around 12.000 square meters of exhibition space curating around 40 exhibitions a year.
The mega-gallery Thaddaeus Ropac is undeniably one of the best art galleries in the world. Therefore it achieves a seventh spot in this article, however it must be said it was a very tight call as they could easily have been ranked fifth as well.
6. Lisson Gallery
London (3), New York (3) and Shanghai
Installation view of 'Liu Xiaodong: Weight of Insomnia' at Lisson Gallery in London (2019). Photo: Lisson Gallery (c)
In 1967, Nicholas Logsdail renovated three floors on Bell Street in London with some of his friends from the Slade School of Art establishing Lisson Gallery. As a result, Lisson Gallery is one of the longest running international contemporary art galleries, pioneering Minimal and Conceptual Art since its genesis.
Today, the gallery covers approximately 4.000 square meters and has around 80 employees spread across two spaces in London, two spaces in New York, one space in Shanghai and a current temporary space in East Hampton, New York, and in London's Mayfair district.
Beside it's impressive locations, Lisson Gallery distinguishes itself as a 'super-gallery' with an incredible array of more than 60 of the highest rated artists. The gallery still works with many of the artists they launched onto the art scene in the 60s and 70s whom have become icons by now in combination with the current generation of leading artists. Doing so, Lisson Gallery represents Marina Abramovic, Ai Weiwei, Sean Scully, Ryan Gander, Liu Xiaodong, Daniel Buren, Tony Cragg, Dan Graham, Richard Long, Anish Kapoor, Laure Prouvost and many more.
Therefore, it is absolutely no surprise at all to find Lisson Gallery in an article discussing the 10 best art galleries in the world, taking in the sixth spot of this list and are very close to take the fifth spot.
5. White Cube
London (2), Hong Kong, Paris and New York
Installation view of 'Imi Knoebel: Recent Works' at White Cube in London (2021). Photo: White Cube (c)
In 1993, a square space was opened in Duke Street in the West End of London by gallery owner and art dealer Jay Jopling. Today, in less then thirty years, the gallery has grown from one square space to six major locations with two galleries in London, one in Hong Kong, Paris and New York.
White Cube achieved national and international recognition by being one of the first galleries to represent the Young British Artists (YBA). Today, the gallery has an utterly impressive range of artists in their portfolio. Think of artists such as Damien Hirst, Ellen Altfest, Michael Armitage, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Chuck Close, Tracey Emin, Gilbert and George, Andreas Gursky, Imi Knoebel, Julie Mehretu, Bruce Nauman, Danh Vō or Jeff Wall.
White Cube covers over 10.000 square meters and is one of the most influential art galleries of today resulting in a fifth spot in this article. However, I also want to state that White Cube, Lisson Gallery and Thaddaeus Ropac are this close in our ranking, we could almost say the trio shares this fifth place by manner of an ex aequo.
4. David Zwirner
New York (3), London, Paris and Hong Kong
Installation view of 'Luc Tuymans: Le Mépris' at David Zwirner in New York (2016). Photo: David Zwirner (c)
Up next we have the ubiquitous David Zwirner Gallery. I was in fact a bit surprised the mega-gallery didn't make the podium. However, the top four could easily have been in any order as we enter the absolute greats when it comes to mega art galleries.
David Zwirner opened his first gallery in 1993 in New York and currently has six location across three continents. With three gallery spaces in New York and international galleries in London, Paris and Hong Kong, David Zwirner covers around 14.000 square meters and has over 150 employees.
Even more impressive is the list of artists David Zwirner represents. The list is absolutely stacked with the art world's superstars such as Francis Alÿs, Marlene Dumas, Michaël Borremans, Barbara Kruger, Neo Rauch, Luc Tuymans, Thomas Ruff, Wolfgang Tillmans and many more. Also, when it comes to the secondary market the gallery represents artists of the highest calibre, such as Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Josef Albers, Alice Neel, Juan Munoz or Sigmar Polke to name a few.
Doing so, the gallery sits in a fourth spot of the biggest art galleries in the world and is knocking on the door to enter the podium.