The Pace Gallery, a leading contemporary art gallery, has hired a new general counsel as it expands its digital offerings. The gallery, which has outposts around the world, hired Halie Klein for the role. Prior to accepting the new position, Ms. Klein was an attorney at the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher in New York.
While an attorney in private practice, Ms. Klein advised the Pace Gallery as a client. She was on the legal team advising the Pace Gallery on their joint venture to sell financier Donald Marron’s art collection. Upon his death in 2020, his extensive collection was valued at over $300 million. The law firm was asked to represent Donald Marron’s estate in selling off the pieces. This project gave her exposure to the Pace Gallery from the client side and ultimately helped her land the general counsel role.
Klein Joins as Gallery Expands into Digital Art and NFT Realm
“Her move comes amid Pace’s plans to expand into the realm of digital art and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, with several projects in that space underway,” stated Marc Glimcher, the CEO of Pace Gallery. Glimcher has a long career as a dealer and is considered a power player on the international art scene.
Under Glimcher’s leadership, the Pace Gallery accepts payment for all digital and physical artworks in cryptocurrencies. “I’m a crypto person. I’ve had crypto for a while,” Glimcher commented.
Although headquartered in New York City, the Pace Gallery maintains global operations. It has eight locations worldwide: New York, London, Hong Kong, Palo Alto, Seoul, Geneva, East Hampton, and Palm Beach.
The Pace Gallery is a modern and contemporary art gallery that represents more than 70 artists and estates. Founded in 1960 by Arne Glimcher, father of current CEO Marc Glimcher, the gallery has built an international reputation. In addition, it has maintained decades-long relationships with artists such as Mark Rothko, Barbara Hepworth, and Alexander Calder.
Record Sales of Digital Art May Reshape Business
Prominent art galleries and artists consider digital art and NFTs to be a transformative force that could reshape the art business. As a result, traditional players in the art world intend to stay on top of the latest developments.
The world’s chief auction houses saw record sales in 2021. Christie’s reported $7.1 billion in sales. Sotheby’s, rival to Christie’s auction house, reported $7.3 billion in sales. Sotheby’s noted 2021 was its strongest sales year in its 277-year history. Meanwhile, small auction house Philips had a breakout year, reporting $1.2 billion in sales.
“Our clients aren’t agnostic to the broader economic context, but they’re motivated by passion—and they know now that we can operate well in uncertainty,” said Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti. “Higher inflation also helps us because it makes people want things like art that won’t lose value. It makes our market resilient.”
NFTs captured a notable share of high-end sales, despite that they began to attract mainstream attention recently, in early 2021. The craze was sparked by Christie’s sale of the artist Beeple’s digital art collage as an NFT for $69 million.
NFT sales accounted for $150 million, or 8%, of contemporary art sales in 2021. Philips noted it found buyers for every NFT it put up for sale, and many sales were in the millions. Sotheby’s completed its first NFT sale for $16 million in April 2021 using Nifty Gateway, an online auction platform for NFTs. In October, Sotheby’s launched its own NFT marketplace called Sotheby’s Metaverse.
Several prominent art galleries hope to snap up NFTs for their collections, including Pace Gallery, Acquavella Galleries, and Gagosian Gallery. In August 2021, New York City-based Acquavella Galleries made a major investment in the NFT platform MakersPlace.
Private Collectors Seek to Showcase NFT Art Purchases
Many private art collectors intend to display their NFT art purchases on wall-size LED screens in their homes. Collectors who have spent millions on digital art purchases hope to find ways to show them off beyond tiny phone screens. Many are exploring creative frames. For instance, New York-based Infinite Objects builds displays that encase NFT art in boxlike structures. These frames surround screens that project NFT art videos.
Broad Array of Legal Topics for New General Counsel
In her new role, Ms. Klein will have to stay abreast of the latest NFT-related legal developments. This nascent legal area touches on many intellectual property issues relating to copyright and licensing. As general counsel of an international art gallery, she will encounter a broad array of legal topics including trusts and estates law, business law, litigation, real estate law, and anti-money laundering regulations.