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 James Casebere and Callum Innes.
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 Los Carpinteros, Iran do Espírito Santo, Leandro Erlich, Antony Gormley, Laurent Grasso, Johan Grimonprez, Rebecca Horn, Tehching Hsieh, Idris Khan, the estate of Robert Mapplethorpe, Anthony McCall, Alec Soth, Frank Thiel, and Kehinde Wiley. The Gallery also began representing the estate of the renowned Danish furniture designer Poul Kjærholm.
In October 2012, Sean Kelly opened a new 22,000 square foot space at 475 Tenth Avenue in a historic 1914 building. Award-winning architect Toshiko Mori designed the two-story gallery, which opened with a series of events culminating in its inaugural exhibition with Antony Gormley. Toshiko Mori was awarded the AIA Design Award in Interiors for her unique architectural approach to the Hudson Yards location. Since moving to the new space, Sean Kelly has continued to add internationally renowned artists to its roster, such as David Claerbout, José Dávila, Candida Höfer, Mariko Mori, and Sun Xun. As the Gallery continues to grow, its commitment to excellence and quality remains unchanged.
The Gallery's artists have consistently been included in major international exhibitions and recognized with esteemed awards across the globe. Several of the gallery's artists have represented their countries at the 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. In 2008, Abramović was the recipient of the Austrian Decoration of Honour for Science and Art and in 2009, during the 8th Florence Biennale, she was presented with the Lorenzo il Magnifico award for Lifetime Achievement. Japan’s prestigious Praemium Imperiale Prize for Sculpture was awarded to both Antony Gormley (2013) and Rebecca Horn (2010), who, in 2011, was the recipient of the Grande Médaille des Arts Plastiques, Académie d’Architecture de Paris. Most recently, José Dávila was selected as the winner of the 2014 EFG ArtNexus Latin America Art Award and Kehinde Wiley was presented with a 2015 U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts for his outstanding commitment and contributions to the Art in Embassies program and international cultural exchange.