Many in the art industry were taken aback by the announcement that venerable Chelsea gallery Cheim & Read would transition into “private practice” next year. But one of the most frequent questions asked by insiders in the aftermath concerned the fate of one employee in particular: gallery veteran Adam Sheffer.
Since joining Cheim & Read as a partner and sales director in 2003, Sheffer has earned a reputation for close and committed collaboration with some of the gallery’s most esteemed artists and estates, including Lynda Benglis, Jenny Holzer, Ghada Amer, and Sean Scully.
Now, in the wake of Cheim & Read’s pivot, he has revealed his next act. On Monday afternoon, Pace Gallery announced that Sheffer would become its new vice president, effective in August.
According to a statement from the gallery, Sheffer will work to “support primary and secondary market activity for artists and estates across the gallery’s international program.” He will remain based in New York.
The new role simultaneously represents a smooth transition and a novel challenge for Sheffer. While his responsibilities will still revolve around artists, Pace—now boasting 10 individual spaces in seven international cities, compared to Cheim & Read’s single location—will require Sheffer to scale up his approach without sacrificing his personal touch.
For his part, Sheffer seems confident that his attention to detail will remain intact. “Regardless of whether I’m working at a boutique or at Bergdorf’s, I’m going to be the one folding the sweaters,” he said. “That’s how hands-on I am.”
Sheffer’s transition begs the question of whether any of the artists on his former employer’s roster will travel with him to Pace. According to Sheffer, such an exchange “was not a part of the conversation” with the gallery. “But when you’re in a 15-year relationship with an artist, you know one another through and through. If we agree that Pace is the right environment for an artist to continue their career, then we will begin a dialogue.”
However, he emphasized that his hire “was not a quid pro quo, and there is nothing in place” at this time regarding transitioning any of his past artists to his new home.
Sheffer identified Pace’s willingness to be patient and thoughtful about this matter as one of the reasons he decided to work with the gallery. “Our business is based on relationships, and we must never forget this,” Sheffer said. “No matter how digitized we become, no matter how monetary the perception of the business seems, at the core it’s all about relationships.”
Sheffer’s new post keeps him squarely in the gallery sector, where he has worked since joining Mary Boone back in 1994. He was elected president of the Art Dealers Association of America, the leading trade association, in 2015, and served in that capacity until early 2018. Before that, he was chairman of the ADAA Art Show from 2009 to 2015.
“Adam is an extraordinary talent in our world,” Pace’s president and CEO Marc Glimcher said in a statement. “He brings an inclusive, collegial spirit and innovative leadership style to his work with artists, curators, collectors, and peers—forging lasting relationships based on trust and grounded in a passion for supporting artists’ work and legacies. He embodies the spirit of curiosity and deep respect for artists that has infused Pace since its founding in 1960; we look forward to welcoming Adam to the gallery.”
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