The future is now: traditions and innovations at David Zwirner with gallery partner Greg Lulay and director Veronique Ansorge
OVER THE LAST DECADE, DAVID ZWIRNER HAS UNDERGONE AN UNPRECEDENTED TRANSFORMATION AND STANDS AS A MAJOR DRIVING FORCE IN REDEFINING WHAT A GALLERY PRESENTS AND HOW AUDIENCES INTERACT WITH THE ART AND EXHIBITIONS. A NEW BREED OF EXPANSIVE AND TRANSPORTING SHOWS OFFERS UNIQUE EXPERIENCES TO A WIDER , CULTURALLY ENGAGED PUBLIC WHILE ALWAYS SUPPORTING AND HONORING THEIR ARTISTS’ AMBITIOUS VISIONS.
THE LOCKDOWN AND PANDEMIC CRISIS ONLY SERVED TO FURTHER STIMULATE THEIR EFFORTS TO SUPPORT THEIR ARTISTS, THEIR GALLERIES AND OTHER SMALLER STRUGGLING GALLERIES REACHING OUT IN NEW AND INNOVATIVE WAYS TO THEIR INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC.
TODAY, THE LRFA BLOG WARMLY WELCOME BACK VERONIQUE ANSORGE, GALLERY DIRECTOR AND GREG LULAY, GALLERY PARTNER, TO SHARE THEIR ARTICULATE VISION OF DAVID ZWIRNER NOW AND IN THE FUTURE.
GREG AND VERONIQUE, ART FAIRS HAVE BECOME A DOMINANT VEHICLE TO SHOW ARTISTS. WHEN THE PANDEMIC HIT, HONG KONG ART BASEL WAS THE FIRST FAIR TO CREATE EXCLUSIVELY VIEWING ROOMS FOR ALL THE EXHIBITORS AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO BEING AT THE FAIR.
HOW DID THE GALLERIES IN GENERAL DO AND HOW SUCCESSFUL WERE THE MAJOR INTERNATIONAL GALLERIES?
GL: I think that the dominant form of physically seeing work still happens within the galleries and museums themselves. After that, comes the art fair setting.
Since the 1970s, with the birth of Art Cologne, and on to the long-standing fairs like Art Basel, we’ve seen the landscape of art commerce change dramatically. The art world and the art fair sector of that art world has grown tremendously into a global industry. Regional art fairs are now held across the globe and are typically intended to serve the collector base of the specific country or region where they take place. Other art fairs have a much wider reach in terms of exhibiting galleries and the international patrons that visit and buy from the fair. The difference between the two types of fairs has to do with the brand behind the fairs, the destination, the time in the yearly calendar, and the longevity of the fair as an institution. As the art fair model of business took off, galleries became more reliant upon them for a large part of their annual business. In one week and in one spot you are able to interact with large numbers of new and existing clients, connect with curators, and make significant sales. Over the years we’ve found that all of that activity for each fair is precluded by digital outreach to our clients. So, there’s been a growing online component of what we do at a fair which occurs digitally even before we set foot in our booth.
I think one of the big questions is, will the digital art fair exchange begin to replace the need for an actual art fair?
When Art Basel Hong Kong was cancelled earlier this year due to Covid-19, all galleries had to turn solely to online presentations and interactions supported by Basel’s new online platform. Because our gallery already had developed the technology to support an online viewing room experience, we were able to do something in tandem with Art Basel’s platform. We were able to reach people who were interested in looking at art even if they couldn’t go to the fair, let alone leave their homes.
VA: I’m very happy that it was a success for the gallery. We will all have to see what is happening now based on the health crisis in the long run for the art fairs. But you do miss the interactions with clients in an art fair context, and human interaction will certainly not be able to be replaced completely.
GL: Certainly not. I think that a key component of this industry is that it is experiential and social. People who are interested in building collections and living with art love the personal connections they make with artists, curators, and art dealers. There is a social aspect of gallery openings and art fairs that will never be replaced by a purely online experience. What we have built online is something to run in tandem with what we are already doing in our physical spaces.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER WAYS IN WHICH YOU ARE NOW COMMUNICATING WITH CLIENTS AND ARTISTS IN LIGHT OF THE CURRENT CRISIS?
GL: I think in a time when people are forced to be at home, we all still have a need to be connected. Even this conversation that we are having now is being done virtually, where we can see each other on the screen and have a conversation. This is something we are doing on a daily basis with our artists, many of which are busy in their studios, but they need a connection and want a connection just like the rest of us.
VA: And obviously all these video conferencing apps that allow you to have meetings and interact with multiple people are very helpful both in terms of internal meetings and meetings with artists. I do feel a lot of clients also appreciate calls and ways of communicating where we see each other.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS TO DEVELOP YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE IN THE FUTURE?
GL: While we discussed this earlier, I think it’s worth noting that while we have focused on this initiative for the past several years, we are only just beginning and will continue to explore what this new online platform can offer to our artists.
VA: Yes and also making it usable in a way where artists can really have control over the experience the visitor has on the site; the artist can put their artistic vision in it.
DO YOU AGREE THAT THIS IS MORE AND MORE THE FUTURE OF THE GALLERY WORLD, AND THAT THE COVID-19 WAS MORE OF A CATALYST TO AN ALREADY ESTABLISHED TREND?
VA: Yes, Covid-19 is somewhat of a catalyst. As the other options are temporarily inactivated it is forcing us to accelerate our performance in the digital space.
GL: Exactly, I think that this is obviously the way in which the world is moving, and people are becoming more and more accustomed to receiving content of all sorts online. Like we’ve said, these changes are not going to replace the essential in-person exchange or experience. But certainly in this moment when none of us can physically be with each other or walk into a gallery space, the necessity to charge ahead in some fashion has been a catalyst for this digital exchange on a larger scale.
GL: It’s worth saying that the gallery in its 25+ years has weathered several storms, including the attacks on September 11th and Hurricane Sandy. This is a new experience for all of us, and a challenge we will overcome together, hopefully stronger as a gallery and as a world. During this uncertain time we have come together as a gallery to help those who may be struggling even more than we are. We’ve been able to share our existing technology and Online Viewing Room with galleries in New York and London who don’t have the same capabilities to present and sell artworks online. With an initiative called Platform: New York, and Platform: London, respectively, we’ve invited a group of young gallerists from those cities to select one artist from their program to feature on our online viewing room platform. We’re hosting our friends and neighboring galleries in an effort to connect them with collectors who are interested in buying art during this very challenging moment.
IT HAS BEEN A GREAT PRIVILEGE TO HAVE GREG AND VERONIQUE SHARE THEIR THOUGHTFUL AND DEEPLY KNOWLEDGEABLE PERSPECTIVE ON THE DAVID ZWIRNER GALLERY PLATFORM, PHILOSOPHY AND ARTIST-CENTRIC POINT OF VIEW AND THEIR VISION OF OUR ART WORLD IN GENERAL NOW AND IN THE FUTURE. SO MANY THANKS TO YOU BOTH!
THE LRFA BLOG WILL RESUME AFTER LABOR DAY. WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO A CONVERSATION WITH LAURA LESTER AND LEARNING ABOUT HER NEW POSITION AS DIRECTOR OF GREY GALLERY, NEW YORK.