Making Waves in the Art World: Interview with Contemporary Art Dealer & Collector Adam Baldwin

Portrait of Adam Baldwin
Adam Baldwin

By Adam Hencz

“I’ve always believed that a gallery should serve its collectors by standing as a sort of cultural coterie.”

Adam Baldwin

London-based dealer and collector Adam Baldwin opened his eponymous gallery, Baldwin Contemporary, in his early 30s and soon after gained a reputation for himself as a serious dealer of important post-war and contemporary art.

Operating from a by-appointment space housed within a white stucco-fronted victorian townhouse in London’s exclusive South Kensington district, with his multidisciplinary focus and a deep ambition to carve out a niche for himself in the global art world, it’s easy to see how, in just 4 years, Baldwin has amassed a roster of high profile clients. And what’s more – he’s done this all without having a traditional gallery space.

In this interview, Adam shares his thoughts on the importance of private sales and discusses his gallery’s new publishing venture, Baldwin Books. This series of publications will explore the artists, genres, and themes that Baldwin Contemporary handles, providing an opportunity for collectors to engage in thought-provoking discourse.

From his approach to promotion and sales to the future of the gallery, this interview offers a glimpse into the workings of one of the rapidly emerging talents in the art world.

Installation view of the Baldwin Contemporary show “After Andy” in 2022.
Installation view of the Baldwin Contemporary show “After Andy” (2022). Courtesy of the Baldwin Contemporary, London.

Interview with Adam Baldwin

Your gallery specializes in secondary-market work by acclaimed artists who are well-known for their contributions to popular art genres and movements. It’s also clear from speaking to you that private sales are the central part of your gallery’s strategy. What would need to happen for you to reconsider running a primary program?

You know, I get approached a lot by artists looking for representation. There’s a lot of noise in the gallery world right now, and so I think it’s more important than ever to be honest with yourself as to exactly where your value is. To me, so far, that’s been the handling of post-war and contemporary works of art on the secondary market, conducted in a private sales setting. I don’t want to lose sight of that.

Running a primary program would be a totally different ballgame, especially to do it at the level I’d want it to operate at. And so, whilst I’m certainly not ruling anything out, it just doesn’t really feel like the right route for us just now.

How would you describe your clientele or a typical Baldwin Contemporary collector?

Informed, passionate, knowledgeable.

Baldwin Contemporary is releasing a series of publications this year – Baldwin Books. Can you tell us more about this project? Who are you working with on these publications?

I’m very excited about this project. Baldwin Books has been created to allow us to present our collectors with intriguing discourse in and around the artists, genres, and thematics that we handle. I’ve always believed that a gallery should serve its collectors by standing as a sort of cultural coterie, and what I’m really focused on right now is building a strong and loyal community of collectors who share our passions and beliefs. And so for that reason alone, this project feels important to me.

As a successful gallery owner and collector, you must have come across many individuals in the art world and beyond who have inspired and impressed you. Are there any other dealers or professionals, past or present, who you particularly admire? 

Saatchi. Gagosian. Castelli.

Are there any specific artists or movements you consider undervalued today? How do you balance the desire to take risks on lesser-known or underrecognized artists with the need to sell works guaranteed to perform well on the market?

I get asked this question a lot. The truth is that periods of dislocation between art history and the art market are much more common than they probably should be. Just look at Rauschenberg’s market. Or the overall under-appreciation of female artists throughout art history. Or, dare I say it, some of the prices are currently being spent on emerging work right now.

I’ve said this before, but one particular area where I see value right now is in the early YBAs. And I’m not talking about the Hirst and Emin markets but rather the other members of the group who were still hugely important in the movement. I’m talking about Gary Hume‘s hospital doors, Gavin Turk‘s trompe-l’oeil series, Angus Fairhurst’s gorillas, Sarah Lucas‘ Bunny girls, Jake and Dinos Chapman’s iconoclastic sculptures, Abigail Lane’s ink pads and so on. And there’s loads more. Some of these works are hugely important pieces when contextualized within art history, but the market right now just isn’t reflecting this. I’ve seen so many of these works come to market over the past couple of years at what I think are pretty low prices relative to their historical importance. It’s a good buying opportunity right now.

“For me it’s not about pursuing growth for growth’s sake. Right now, I’m just happy honing in on what we’re getting right and building a passionate community.”

Adam Baldwin

I’m curious about your approach to promotion and sales in the art world. It is a fiercely competitive field, so how do you generate enthusiasm and momentum for your gallery and position it within high-profile collector circles?

We focus on private sales, so we don’t need to operate an extensive exhibition-led marketing strategy. It’s just not our style.

Our modus operandi is actually quite simple – we want to work with passionate collectors around the world to help them build and manage important, respected, and interesting collections of post-war and contemporary art. At the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about, right? And we’re fortunate enough to have been able to build the gallery around a loyal community of collectors who follow us and trust what we do. And right now, we’re just focused on serving them in the best way possible.

Whilst most of what I spend my time doing these days is what you’d call ‘offline,’ my team here runs a fairly extensive online presence too. For our online efforts, most of the inventory we market online is blue-chip prints and multiples up to about £100,000. That’s actually how we first got started.

What advice would you give to new gallerists just starting out?

Be honest. Be reliable. And learn quick.

You opened a gallery in your early 30s, and within just four years, you have rapidly established your name in the global contemporary art scene. As you look towards the future, where do you see the gallery in another four years, and what are your ambitions and strategies for continuing to grow and evolve? You mentioned researching the possibility of opening an office in the US. What other locations would you consider expanding to in the future?

A lot of my clients are located in the US, and we’ve kept inventory over there for some time now too. So opening a US space at some point, probably Los Angeles would be an obvious next step for us. But frankly speaking, right now, we’re just focusing on a centralization strategy here in London. We’ve grown over the past couple of years which we’re very grateful for, but for me, it’s not about pursuing growth for growth’s sake. Right now, I’m just happy honing in on what we’re getting right and building out our community from here.

Relevant sources to learn more

The primary vs. the secondary art market
A History of Art Dealing
The Shows That Made Contemporary Art History

Wondering where to start?