David Zwirner, who's often described as the world's most powerful gallerist, reflects on his gallery's recent expansion to Asia

Gallerist David Zwirner has had a busy start to 2018. He’s opened his Hong Kong gallery–his first space in Asia–and announced he’s building a new gallery in New York, a 50,000-square-foot building costing him roughly US$50million. And that was all before the end of January.

As he prepares to open an exhibition of work by Wolfgang Tillmans at his new Hong Kong gallery, Zwirner reflects on his expansion into Asia and reveals which artists he’s bringing to Art Basel in Hong Kong.  

When you opened your Hong Kong gallery at the end of January, you flew 25 artists and their families to the opening. Why?

We were celebrating two things in January.  We were celebrating the opening of the new gallery but we were also celebrating the gallery’s 25th anniversary. When I realised that, somewhat by coincidence, these two events would fall into the same month, I wanted to make a little brouhaha around it. So we had a very, very beautiful celebratory party in New York where we looked back a little bit [over our achievements]. But I’m even more excited by looking forward–and that of course is what’s happening in Hong Kong.

I invited the artists because I really wanted the artists to be part of this next chapter. I wanted them to see the space, imagine their work in the space, imagine their work in Hong Kong and also make sure we can introduce them to our folks here: our friends and our collectors.

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Above David Zwirner and Wolfgang Tillmans in Zwirner's new Hong Kong gallery. (Image: Nic and Bex Gaunt/Hong Kong Tatler)

On top of opening the Hong Kong gallery in January, you also announced an enormous US$50million new gallery space in New York, which will open in 2020. Why is now the right moment for that expansion?

Many reasons. The gallery’s grown consistently over the years. We’ve outgrown the space that we have currently on 19th street in New York, so I was looking for an opportunity. But I couldn’t have imagined the opportunity that presented itself. The space that we will be building with Renzo Piano is right behind our gallery on 21st Street and as it’s 50,000 square feet, we’ll have all the space we need. It’s really about building a headquarters for the next 25 years for the next chapter of the gallery.

Which of your artists do you think will be particularly well received in Asia?

We have a little bit of a track record here over the last eight years with bringing art to Art Basel in Hong Kong. Of course over those eight years we’ve learned where we have specially strong interests. Our first exhibition was with Michael Borremans, he has a very strong following in Asia. We certainly have a very large audience in Asia for Wolfgang Tillmans’ work. His work has been widely collected in the region.

See also: 10 Artists To Look Out For At Art Basel Hong Kong

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Above Wolfgang Tillmans, Sunken Forest (post solar eclipse) (2017). (Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/Hong Kong, Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne, and Maureen Paley, London)

Are you planning to add more Asian artists to your stable now that you have a gallery in Hong Kong?

Right now we have Yayoi Kusama and On Kawara, we have Asian artists in the programme. But I’m very excited that a young gallerist Leo Xu has joined my operation here. He has his finger on the pulse. He’ll be curating a show with Asian and Western artists in June this year for the gallery. So we’ll slowly be starting to bring Asian artists into the gallery.

But representation, meaning a full-on commitment to an artist, is a big decision for me and I don’t take those lightly, so I’ll need some time to understand better what the artists here are working on and that will play out over the next couple of years.

What are you bringing to Art Basel in Hong Kong?

We have a big March here. We’re opening Wolfgang’s show in the gallery but we’re focusing our booth presentation at Art Basel on the work of Jeff Koons. What we will do is bring Jeff to Hong Kong, celebrate his work and then travel with him to Korea where he’s unveiling a large sculpture.

See also: Wolfgang Tillmans & David Zwirner Land In Hong Kong

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