I joined the gallery a year after David first opened his New York space in SoHo. I want to share more about my first week on the job, which included the first opening I ever worked on, which was with Franz West. Back then we had less than five people at the gallery. Everybody pitched in. David and I would be at the front desk and would answer the phones. Email didn’t exist and we didn’t even have a copy machine. This opening was particularly memorable because we hired two stretch limos, one black and one white, to take us to a Russian restaurant in Coney Island. Instead of water on the table, we had vodka. So you can image, it was quite a festive evening! David even ended up playing the drums at the end of the night. There has always been a good and fun spirit about the gallery and our dinners even back then, and we have certainly kept that spirit throughout the years.
We have more staff on the team to help manage and take care of support for the artists, as well as the gallery staff in general. Even though we do have more staff, the workload also keeps expanding as well!
The gallery is still invested in every aspect of our artists’ careers. We also have close relationships with our clients. Even if we are much bigger now, we still maintain a personal, intimate, and thorough relationship with both our artists and clients.
Trust—as in any relationship—is the most important. You have to be a good listener and understand what artists really want and always put their best interests first. As a gallerist, you also have to share and work through ideas with the artists that they may not necessarily have considered but that you know could be beneficial for their career.
Bingo was on a long-term loan to a museum in Münster, Germany. I really wanted to show a sculpture of Gordon’s that many people in New York did not have the chance to see. So I asked Jane Crawford, Gordon’s widow, if it would be possible to bring the work back from Europe to New York. I also wanted to keep the exhibition about Bingo quite simple, since the sculpture is such a strong and amazing piece. Bingo was the center point of the exhibition and the rest of the show was curated around it. We were fortunate that The Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired Bingo from this exhibition.
The title of Luc’s forthcoming exhibition is The Shore. We opened the London gallery with Luc in October 2012, since he is an artist we have worked with since the beginning. That exhibition, titled Allo!,was originally made for a space in Zagreb in Croatia. The show in late January 2015 will be the first show where Luc is making work specifically for the gallery in London. He will be looking at the legacy of Scottish painter, Henry Raeburn, as well as paintings that relate to the current political climate.
I am extremely privileged to have been able to work with On Kawara so closely over the past fifteen years. His work is deceptively simple, yet the more you know and delve into the material, the more questions we uncover. I am lucky to have been able to hear the stories and laughter of On Kawara who was an extremely private person and artist. I would like to remain close to his work by retaining this privacy, but know that we can also share his legacy through this exhibition. The beauty of On’s work will remain always alive.
It is always a pleasure to work with Chris. We have similar views on work and how one should always achieve the highest standards possible. Every museum exhibition should be the best possible presentation of an artist’s work, and we collectively always try to make that happen. We have worked on quite a few shows over the years, including the Tate Britain show in 2010. The New Museum was a challenge because the architecture of the building itself is not so easy. We had a lot of discussions with curator Massimiliano Gioni and I believe we came up with the best solution for the work and the space itself. During installation, lighting was quite difficult to get right especially for the midnight blue paintings on the second floor. Chris’s idea to create a lush wall mural for the third floor was a stroke of genius, one that unifies the latest and more recent work with that of his earlier more well-known works.
First of all, the press responses have been overwhelmingly positive. Jerry Saltz of New York magazine even wrote that Chris puts “painting through far more enticing paces than Lucien Freud or Francis Bacon.” Roberta Smith’s review in The New York Times was also very positive. To put in context, back in 2010, there were talks of Chris’s Tate Britain show coming to New York then. In retrospect, it was better to wait until now, as Chris’s works have been marked with undeserved controversy along the way. Now that those controversies are well in the past, his works can be seen for what they are: incredible paintings. He stands out today because he is able to use paint in a very lyrical and thoughtful way and it was time that the critics caught up with this. I am very happy that people are finally able to see the work for what it truly is: great painting.
Dan Flavin: Series and Progressions, 2009
Primary Atmospheres: Works from California 1960-1970, 2010 (group show)
Marlene Dumas: Against the Wall, 2010
Edward Kienholz: Roxys, 2010
Raymond Pettibon: Hard in the Paint, 2010
Luc Tuymans: Corporate, 2010
Marcel Dzama: Behind Every Curtain, 2011
Donald Judd, 2011
On Kawara: Date Painting(s) in New York and 136 Other Cities, 2012
Doug Wheeler, 2012
Richard Serra: Early Work, 2013
Ad Reinhardt, 2013, New York
Yayoi Kusama: I Who Have Arrived in Heaven, 2013
Stan Douglas: Luanda-Kinshasa, 2014
Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings, 2014
Kerry James Marshall: Look See’, 2014
There is no single criteria to become a ‘David Zwirner artist.’ When we decide to work with a new artist, we discuss the work collectively. It is a process. The work has to be conceptually and visually engaging, rigorous and exciting, and the artist has to have a voice that is authentic. But most of all, we hope that it stands the test of time.
I would have the same answer today. In 2008, when we did this interview, we did not have the London gallery, so expansion is always a possibility. We also should be open to the expansion possibilities as you can see we are a not gallery that shies away from that.
We are definitely very interested in Asia. It was under my initiative that we started participating in Art Basel Hong Kong and to hire Charlie to work “on the ground” with us in the region. There are so many things happening there now and we are very focused on learning more and also increasing our presence there.
I would not rule out the possibility, of course. We should always be open to that eventuality.
In general, I am very excited about the upcoming year. Belgian painter Michaël Borremans and American sculptor Carol Bove will have their first exhibitions in London. I also look forward to working with Bridget Riley on her big gallery show in our New York space. And of course to see the works of On Kawara installed inside New York’s Guggenheim Museum. —[O]