Clients Preoccupied
So far the gallery furloughed part-timers and paid interns, but Gagosian is aware that more tough choices may have to be made.

“You want to keep your business healthy,” he said. “You are stupid if you just pretend that nothing is going on.”

Gagosian, 75, understands that clients are preoccupied with more important things.

“Buying art is not a priority even for active collectors,” he said. “They have other concerns now.”

But the biggest challenge is not having access to the galleries, where customers can see a painting on the wall, fall in love with it and buy it on the spot.

“That’s really what it boils down to,” Gagosian said. “It’s very difficult to even move a painting, to get a truck, to get someone to do a condition report. All the things the art world takes for granted have become very problematic.”

The strength of online sales surprised him, he said. This week, as Frieze New York opened its virtual edition, the gallery found a buyer for a $5.5 million Cecily Brown painting featured in its online viewing room. Sellers, who feel under pressure and are motivated to offer discounts, have been another active part of business lately, he said.

Seeking Masterpieces
And then there are the major works.

“There is always a buyer somewhere for a masterpiece,” Gagosian said. “They say, ‘Maybe it’s not the greatest moment to buy something, but when will I get offered something like this again?’”

He recalled buying three significant works at auction in the wake of the financial crisis -- by Gerhard Richter, Brice Marden and Christopher Wool. A large Marden painting from his “Cold Mountain” series had a low estimate of $10 million at Sotheby’s.