The artist-centric philosophy at the David Zwirner Gallery with Veronique Ansorge and Greg Lulay
IN 1993, WHEN DAVID ZWIRNER OPENED HIS FIRST GALLERY, A 1600 SQUARE FOOT SPACE ON GREENE STREET IN SOHO, HE LAUNCHED WITH RADICAL EXPERIMENTAL SHOWS BY THEN EMERGING ARTISTS SUCH AS STAN DOUGLAS, JASON RHOADES, AND DIANA THATER, ALL OF WHOM HAD SOLO EXHIBITIONS AT THE GALLERY IN ITS INAUGURAL YEAR, AND ARE STILL PART OF THE GALLERY ROSTER TODAY.
Randy Kennedy, March 21, 2013, New York Times Magazine
“ZWIRNER’S PROGRAM WAS FAIRLY RADICAL AND RIGOROUS, WITH A ROSTER OF UNDER-RECOGNIZED EXPERIMENTAL ARTISTS…HIS GALLERY WAS A LEAN OPERATION, WITH AN EMPHASIS ON WORK FROM EUROPE AND THE WEST COAST.”
The New Yorker
TEN YEARS LATER, THE GALLERY MOVED FROM SOHO TO CHELSEA. A DECADE LATER, DAVID ZWIRNER HAS EXPANDED ITS FOOTPRINT TO INCLUDE A SPACE ON THE UPPER EAST SIDE OF MANHATTAN, A SPECTACULAR TOWNHOUSE DESIGNED BY ANNABELLE SELLDORF IN THE MAYFAIR DISTRICT IN LONDON, A GALLERY PRESENCE IN HONG KONG IN A VISIONARY BUILDING ON QUEEN’S ROAD , AND MOST RECENTLY, AN IMPECCABLE VENUE ON RUE VIEILLE DU TEMPLE IN PARIS.
WHAT REMAINS THE SAME IS THE ETHOS AND SPIRIT OF COMMITMENT TO THE ARTISTS AND TO THEIR ART. THAT GUIDING PRINCIPLE IS SHARED BY THE DIRECTORS AND PARTNERS OF THE GALLERY AND MANY OF THE FOUNDING TEAM HAVE CONTINUED WITH THE GALLERY TO THIS DAY.
THE LRFA BLOG IS PRIVILEGED TO CONTINUE ITS CONVERSATION WITH THE HIGHLY INTELLIGENT AND ARTICULATE VERONIQUE ANSORGE, A DIRECTOR BASED AT 19th STREET IN CHELSEA, AND DEEPLY KNOWLEDGEABLE GREG LULAY, A PARTNER OF THE GALLERY, BASED AT THEIR 20TH LOCATION.
DOES DAVID ZWIRNER HIMSELF DECIDE ON THE ARTISTS THAT THE GALLERY ADDS ON OR DO EACH OF THE DIRECTORS HAVE INPUT ON THE AESTHETIC PROFILE OF THE GALLERY?
GL: Every single Director and Partner works in conversation with David about the stable of artists we represent. This is something we are constantly looking to build upon. Ultimately, it’s David’s name on the door, but he looks to us for our insight and opinions.
VA: Yes and I feel it’s important to know that it’s very much encouraged that we share what we see out there, what we like, and discuss it with the team. We can always bring ideas to the table.
WHAT ARE SOME OF QUALITIES THAT YOU WOULD SAY CHARACTERIZE ALL OF THE ARTISTS THE GALLERY REPRESENTS, WHETHER THEIR PLATFORM IS PAINTING, SCULPTURE, VIDEO.
VA: We consider them to be incredible talents!
GL: Yes, and one of the key cornerstones of the gallery and a key philosophy of David’s is that our artists always come first. This has been and will continue to be a guiding principle for the gallery.
VA: I think it’s interesting to look at the development of our roster over time. There are these connections between many of our artists, so much so that it seems almost like an organic process where the artists themselves influenced which other artists might join our roster.
GL: If you look at the gallery’s program that has continued to build since the early 1990s, there are some specific focuses within the program. There is a strength in historical Conceptual and Minimalist artists who worked within that language and became leaders of that voice, but there’s also a very strong group of figurative and abstract painters, an incredible group of photographers, sculptors and filmmakers. One of the things that I think has been true since the very beginning is that each of these artists has a singular and radical voice. Their work is challenging. They challenge audiences to rethink the way they are looking.
VA: I think it is interesting to point out, as an example, a natural connection within our program. Let’s look at Josef and Anni Albers. After taking them on we then added Ruth Asawa, a dear friend and also a student of Josef Albers, and then we also started showing Paul Klee, who was also an artist and teacher at the Bauhaus. So adding artists that obviously are standalone very strong voices, they also allow us to capture a certain moment in time and understand how they influence one another and certain art historical movements. This is also certainly the case for American Minimalism. I feel some of these networks are certainly an interesting part of the program, but as Greg said, I feel that all of them are very strong, unique voices that pushed whatever medium they have their focus in a very specific and strong way.
GL: Of course, and I think part of the strength of these individual artists and the place they have now in art history has to do also with the connections between them, but also how radical their work is. I mean, can you imagine walking into a gallery in the early 1960s and seeing a bunch of fluorescent lamps in various colors bolted to a wall? Think about how radical that was – that concept entering into the white cube of a gallery. Dan Flavin, completely radical in his thinking, was not alone in that thinking. You can compare him to someone like Richard Serra or Ad Reinhardt, or some younger artists that came after them – think about how radical Jason Rhoades’ work was.
Or a painter like Marlene Dumas, or Luc Tuymans – their approach to painting was radical and it changed the entire landscape of European painting. Whether there were specific historical connections and influences from one artist to the next, all of our artists bring a completely new process, and incredibly personal voice to the world.
IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG POST, VERONIQUE AND GREG WILL SHARE THE EXTRAORDINARY TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES THAT THE GALLERY HAS MADE, CERTAINLY STARTING SEVERAL YEARS AGO BUT PROPELLED BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. DAVID ZWIRNER’S SHIFT TO A PREDOMINANTLY VIRTUAL, ONLINE WORLD, AND HIS SUPPORT OF SMALLER, STRUGGLING GALLERIES IS A LESSON FOR US ALL.
PLEASE JOIN US!