The Gallery, founded by British-born Sean Kelly in 1991, operated privately in SoHo until 1995. During these formative years, it established a reputation for diverse, intellectually driven, unconventional exhibitions. The original list of artists represented included Marina Abramović, Joseph Kosuth and Julião Sarmento, who exemplify the Gallery's commitment to exhibiting important, challenging contemporary art.
In 1995, the Gallery relocated to 43 Mercer Street, where it continued to enhance its reputation by taking on representation of such significant international artists as Christine Borland, James Casebere, Callum Innes and Julie Roberts.
In 2001, Sean Kelly Gallery moved into a converted 7,000 square-foot industrial space on 29th Street in the Chelsea gallery district. The move to the new, spacious Chelsea location enabled the Gallery to mount increasingly ambitious, museum-quality exhibitions to great critical acclaim. The Gallery's roster of artists also expanded to include such notable figures as Laurie Anderson, Iran do Espírito Santo, Antony Gormley, Rebecca Horn, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Frank Thiel, Gavin Turk and the estate of Robert Mapplethorpe. In addition, over the last few years, the Gallery has initiated relationships with Leandro Erlich, Los Carpinteros, Johan Grimonprez, Wolfgang Laib, Anthony McCall, Laurent Grasso and Tehching Hsieh. The Gallery also represents the estate of the renowned Danish furniture designer Poul Kjærholm.
Since its inception, the Gallery has garnered extensive attention for its work with many of the most significant cultural institutions in the world. The Gallery has coordinated hundreds of exhibitions on behalf of its artists at a plethora of museums including the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin, Italy; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; Kunstwerke Berlin, Germany; the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal, Canada; the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sapporo, Japan; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Tate Gallery, London, England; the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Holland; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, to name but a few.
The Gallery's artists have consistently been included in major international exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale, the Whitney Biennial, the Yokohama International Triennial, the Carnegie International, Documenta, Germany and international biennials in Istanbul, Moscow, São Paulo, and Sydney. Several of the gallery's artists have represented their countries at the prestigious Venice Biennale including Ann Hamilton (American Pavilion, 1999), Joseph Kosuth (Hungarian Pavilion, 1993), Julião Sarmento (Portuguese Pavilion, 1997), and Marina Abramović, who won the prestigious Golden Lyon Award for Sculpture in 1997.
The Gallery also participates in three major international art fairs each year; Art Basel: Switzerland, Art Basel: Miami, and The Armory Show, New York.