What will be most remarkable about LA’s new warehouse gallery corridor and transformed downtown in the spring of 2016 will be that there will be four major artworld institutions in close proximity for the fist time ever in the city’s history. MoCA has been restored to order and has begun a masterful turnaround, finally hiring new curators, offering a program of world-class exhibitions, and most recently, Artists Talks about the current exhibitions. The sparkling new Broad Museum, which has a stellar exhibition space of 50,000 sq. ft., will offer major exhibitions from its rapidly expanding collection of premier contemporary art, and curated exhibitions from other collections. What will be the world’s largest contemporary art gallery, at 100,000 sq. ft., Hauser, Wirth and Schimmel plan to offer a new model for the gallery as museum. As they plan to do historical shows, and shows of artists not on their roster who have not shown in Los Angeles, and bring in leading curators to do prime exhibitions, this will be the beginning of an unprecidented time in the life of the artist in Los Angeles. The Mistake Room, LA’s first international, mid-sized Kunsthalle, is part of the LA warehous gallery transformation. Already they’ve shown Oscar Murillo, and have a show by Cao Fei upcoming soon, and are bringing a major mutichannel video installation by Issac Julien to the US, in downtown LA.
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel compound in the LA warehouse gallery district
The Broad Museum on Grand avenue in downtown LA, across the street from MoCA
Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel’s debut exhibition in the east of downtown LA warehouse gallery corridor will be A Revolution Within,” and will feature “35 artists from the late 1940s to the present working in abstraction–kind of biomorphic and figurative abstraction.”
“With seven buildings of eclectic character clustered inside a square-block complex on the former site of the Globe Grain and Milling Company distribution center, on East 3rd Street, he feels he has that covered. The gallery will produce a rotating schedule of overlapping shows across the many structures, and he looks forward to being surprised by how the artists will respond. “Some people do very well in a clean white cube,” he says. “Some people do well in industrial spaces, some in modest or cabinet-sized galleries. Some people do well in open space.”
“One of the reasons we are opening up the whole footprint of LA space is that we are trying to make the building not just a place for exhibitions but as a place to come and sit, with a garden, a courtyard, a restaurant, a bookshop. A breezeway you can ride your bike right into. We’ll have Saturday and Sunday hours, stay open late Thursday through Saturday.”
“It’s a group show, a thematic show, with material covering mid-century to the present. It will be fundamentally about exceptional artists, put it into a larger context, along with lesser known figures—people from here that are not necessarily associated with each other. Mixing it up that way is something I’ve always enjoyed as an art historian. To say, okay, let’s just reshuffle this thing and put new cards in there.” Also, without mentioning names, Schimmel plans to bring in a number of top curators, and “give them the resources, independence and time they need to do something really exceptional. I don’t feel like it’s any different than how I was bringing in guest or project curators at MOCA. You construct a program of ideas, artists, and historians—it all feeds in.”
One of the more intriguing sights at the Frieze New York art fair on opening day was Paul Schimmel, the curator and art historian, selling works at the booth of Hauser & Wirth. Schimmel spent 35 years working for museums and, after a controversial exit from the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles in 2013, eventually landed at Hauser & Wirth, one of the biggest commercial galleries in the world. Schimmel will run the business’s L.A. outpost, and he will be a name partner.
He’s far more relaxed than most people I’ve encountered at these kinds of events, and he took a seat at a table with me and talked casually while his colleagues ran around the booth conducting business with even more frantic collectors. Thinking about his new life as a dealer, he said, “I’m thinking if five percent of these people really have their life changed by becoming a collector, I hope that they will come for something that isn’t just consumerist, but something that really allows them to meditate and learn and experience art in a way that’s a little slower, a little more personal.” And with that in mind, he laid out the business model for Hauser Wirth & Schimmel.“Our ambition was and is great,” he said, “in that we really wanted to create a kind of hybrid where a third of our program will be historical exhibitions–non-selling exhibitions–a third of it will be artists with whom this will be a unique opportunity to show them in Los Angeles, and a third will be from the Hauser & Wirth program. And to that degree we’ve found an extraordinary facility that allows us to do this kind of programming simultaneously.” He also said the space will have a “beautiful restaurant,” a 20,000-square-foot courtyard, and a retail shop run by “one of the top booksellers.”Schimmel also said that the inaugural show, scheduled to open next January, is called “A Revolution Within,” and will feature “35 artists from the late 1940s to the present working in abstraction–kind of biomorphic and figurative abstraction.”As for switching roles from highly revered museum curator to occasionally having to sell art at a fair, Schimmel said the two aren’t so different. “I haven’t been dealing so much at fairs,” he said, “but I’ve come to maybe half a dozen since I started, and I found it’s very easy to talk about and sell things that I love and know about.”At Frieze, this included a sculpture by Juan Muñoz, an artist not represented by Hauser & Wirth, but whom Schimmel described as a “family friend,” adding that he spent time in Muñoz’s studio, seeing how he worked. As for Paul McCarthy, one of Hauser & Wirth’s most beloved artists, and a staple of their booths at numerous fairs, “He’s my neighbor,” Schimmel said. “Literally. We live five minutes apart.”Asked about his selling style he said, “If anything, I’ve been told I probably have a tendency to talk too much.”
Paul Schimmel Looks Ahead by shayna nys dambrot Jan 2015
Photo: Felix Clay, courtesy Hauser & Wirth
Undated drawing of the Globe Grain & Milling Co.
Photo: courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection and Hauser Wirth & Schimmel
Paul Schimmel was MOCA’s chief curator from 1990-2012, a tenure that coincided with and arguably spearheaded Los Angeles’ rise to international art world attention. While not exactly prodigal, Schimmel’s heralded return to the LA conversation as vice president and partner in global gallery armada Hauser & Wirth and co-founder of Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in LA, is naturally quite a headliner-grabber. HWS LA’s square-block campus is slated to open toward the end of the year in an industrial part of where else but downtown—around the same time as the new Broad Museum, and very nearby his MOCA alma mater, itself experiencing something of a rebirth this year. To say he’s wildly excited about the potential would be an understatement. He’s on fire about it.
A pop-up show previewing the gallery’s program had been scheduled for January, concurrent with the January art fairs and ahead of renovations to the seven buildings on the HSW LA campus. This is no longer happening, for boring construction reasons, but speculation as to which of the LA artists in the roster with whom Schimmel could soon be working locally—Sterling Ruby, Mark Bradford, Paul McCarthy, Diana Thater, Richard Jackson, Thomas Houseago, and the estates of Jason Rhoades and Allan Kaprow—remains rampant. In the meantime, at the dawn of what promises to be one of the most dynamic years in LA’s already energized art world, and in light of the coming winter art fair season, Schimmel spoke to art ltd. about enlivening art history, best curatorial practices, architecture as destiny, serving the public, and Los Angeles’ allure as a proper cultural destination.
“I know nothing about art fairs,” Schimmel starts. “I’ve been taking trustees to art fairs forever and I do understand about how they provide a service. But from a programmatic standpoint, I’m like the anti-art fair guy. I think fairs make people think in terms of consumerism. I think when art is made with a customer in mind, it perpetuates a certain kind of art that is almost a genre in itself. Plus it serves artists so much better to pursue a body of work, and not have it go all here and yonder. To be able to bring it together and show it in a place where there is a dialogue that they have with their own work, that the community of artists have with the work, the critics, and the general public. I just think the success of fairs is different from what galleries do best—which is to make long-term commitments to artists and to show them in a regular fashion. And in fact, one thing I can say about the HWS program is that everything from projects in progress to historical work borrowed from institutions will be included.”
At the same time, Hauser & Wirth’s brand is all about visually spectacular spaces, and architectural vastness. The gallery will be a mammoth even by the standards of the proliferation of new and noteworthy galleries setting up in the area that’s already well underway. From The Mistake Room to François Ghebaly, Night Gallery, CB1, The Box, CES and literally dozens more, HWS will certainly not be an outlier. Surprisingly, Schimmel seems committed to bucking the trend towards the ginormous in favor of offering more, if less palatial, spaces with a range of qualities, understanding from his time in the institutional world that upscaling is not every artist’s friend. “First of all,” he says, “I couldn’t agree more that there is a concern about the sheer scale of individual works; the notion of super-sizing everything. I remember when the ’80s art world blew up and everyone blamed Julian Schnabel. But I don’t think it comes out of the gallery world, I think it comes out of the biennials, their pavilions and spectacle-oriented production scales.” With seven buildings of eclectic character clustered inside a square-block complex on the former site of the Globe Grain and Milling Company distribution center, on East 3rd Street, he feels he has that covered. The gallery will produce a rotating schedule of overlapping shows across the many structures, and he looks forward to being surprised by how the artists will respond. “Some people do very well in a clean white cube,” he says. “Some people do well in industrial spaces, some in modest or cabinet-sized galleries. Some people do well in open space. One of the things I learned at MOCA, where I did everything from intimate drawing shows to large-scale installations, is that variety is hugely important in being able to accommodate that which artists do best, whatever that is. And so when I started looking for a space, I wasn’t looking necessarily at raw square footage, but rather at the range of structures. At HWS, it’s really much more like a museum, where you have a selection of spaces that function very differently.” The site has buildings that were made for transportation trucks, mills, storage, built from the 1890s through the mid-20th century. Arrayed around a central courtyard, there are two spaces with classic wooden bow-truss ceilings, one space that’s open to the sky, one with clerestories running down the length, and one with a 75-foot skylight. Two of these buildings, the mill and the bank, have cast concrete columns, with the insignia for the old Globe Mill—strands of wheat and the globe —at the top. They are using that as the HWS logo, differing from the other Hauser & Wirth operations. This makes Schimmel very happy, reminding him about what it looks like to “make something here that is unique to this area, that is grown and nurtured here and then distributed all over the world.”
So what is it that makes the LA art world, and the work that has been produced here, so unique? As an art historian and curatorial voice based here for essentially his whole career—and whose next phase is sounding more and more like a private-sector continuation of the same—Schimmel is in a position to ponder that question most profoundly, and share his findings with the world. “There’s no question that for much of the 20th century, certainly in the 1950s-80s, LA measured itself by the NY yardstick. Yet already there were real exceptions, including Kienholz taking assemblage and the combine and turning it into theatrical spectacles and walk-in environments. I don’t think Kienholz was all that far from Robert Irwin, in that they were saying ‘It’s not about a thing, it’s about an experience. It’s not about an object but an environment.’ That started changing the paradigm. What happened in the 1980s, however, was the rise of LA’s art schools. There was nothing like that on the east coast. That became LA’s foundation rather than a gallery system. You could do experimental work that was in a sense outside the commercial arena.
The breaking down of institutional walls that happened here allowed a new kind of culture to develop. Those students who stayed changed the world of LA art.”
The architectural spaces here were profoundly different, too. Schimmel remembers how in 1984 the Geffen (then called the Temporary Contemporary) scrambled to open in time for the Olympics when MOCA’s main building was not going to be ready. And how that big raw space became where all the artists wanted to show. “I think about what the TC represented—super cheap warehouse space converted lightly—and the impact it had, whether we’re talking about Beacon, DIA, Bordeaux, or the Tate. I’m amazed people don’t acknowledge how Chelsea wouldn’t exist without LA. They looked around and said, ‘We need these LA kinds of spaces. More natural light, bigger, more generous, industrial.’ Every aspect of what I’m doing at HWS is influenced by that legacy.” Even so, Schimmel is also very aware that LA has been slow to parlay all that potential. “Look how quickly New York was able to capitalize on that shift, and frankly how slow LA has been, both to develop its own natural infrastructure—and I say this thinking about how beloved by artists the Geffen is—how unfortunate it is that an institution should have to struggle to keep such a great asset alive. But I also think MOCA’s specific turnaround from a very difficult period, in terms both financial and ideological, has been remarkably fast. Usually when these things go askew, it takes a generation for them to get back on track. That makes me believe, I do believe, that in this community there are people who really do fundamentally respect creativity.”
A lot of those same people are clearly expecting HWS to place a serious focus on LA artists, and for the relationship of the program to the city to be apparent from the start. Adamant that LA is central to the mix, Schimmel vaguely but firmly promises “huge differences” between HWS and the other Hauser & Wirth galleries. “I think it’s up to galleries to figure out how to do this, but I would like to see artists have as much respect and appreciation for galleries as they do for museums, and the only way I know how to do that is to make galleries behave more aggressively both in the area of education and public engagement. There’s real value to that. For artists, they need a gallery to act in the interests of history rather than in the moment.” To that end, HWS will have more thematic, group, and historical exhibitions—à la institutions or kunsthalles. Schimmel sees that as making up about a third of the schedule. The second third is the opportunity for artists from all over the world to show here, which many would like to do, including but not only those from the gallery’s own stable, project by project. Then of course, there is the full, expansive program of Hauser & Wirth to be addressed.
Besides high-profile hometown players like Mark Bradford, Paul McCarthy, and Sterling Ruby, Schimmel feels an enormous personal connection to his work with the estate of Jason Rhoades. “We very much would like to do Jason proper in his town,” says Schimmel. “Rhoades was discovered in Europe by Ivan Wirth before he became known in LA. Very early, simultaneously with the earliest people in Los Angeles, myself included, who came to him through people like Paul McCarthy. And Ivan had met Paul through the ‘Helter Skelter’ show and brought him in.”With a laugh Schimmel admits, “I probably did my best work for Hauser & Wirth before I even joined the staff!” Given the many areas of overlap between not only the roster but the scope and day-to-day of what he actually does, it makes sense that Schimmel sees it all as a continuum, one in which his time at MOCA is less of a legacy and more of a prologue. One of the most salient holdovers is his taste for assembling a team. “I had the smartest curators working for me at MOCA. Curators do the most extraordinary things for artists, as tremendous advocates that are in many ways undervalued and underappreciated. Rodney Graham would not have happened without Connie Butler. Russell Ferguson did great things, like the Douglas Gordon show. Maybe the most significant thing I accomplished at MOCA—and it was the hardest to see break down—was the depth of the relationship between an artist and a curator. I hope that galleries who have museological ambitions will raise the bar in terms of what scholarship and a lifetime commitment to an artist can mean. It can enable an artist to do their most significant work. That’s in some ways an old-fashioned European way of doing things. You see curators on their sixth exhibition of Sigmar Polke, and might think that’s too many. But no, it’s the perfect thing to do, getting in early and carrying it through. It doesn’t matter how successful an artist becomes, that handful of people who believed in them before there was any financial value, before they got confused by the marketplace—nothing is more profound than that early commitment. That doesn’t change.”
Early and lifelong relationships with artists, reliance on visionary curatorial teams, appreciation for the potential of eccentric architecture and room to experiment, and an artists roster with an already laudable penchant for Angelenos. Check. But what will all this really mean to the city when it is said and done and the inaugural show opens? Though loathe to drop any spoilers, it’s obvious Schimmel is ready to start talking about it—though he does pretty well with evocative generalities. “It’s a group show, a thematic show, with material covering mid-century to the present. It will be fundamentally about exceptional artists, put it into a larger context, along with lesser known figures—people from here that are not necessarily associated with each other. Mixing it up that way is something I’ve always enjoyed as an art historian. To say, okay, let’s just reshuffle this thing and put new cards in there.” Also, without mentioning names, Schimmel plans to bring in a number of top curators, and “give them the resources, independence and time they need to do something really exceptional. I don’t feel like it’s any different than how I was bringing in guest or project curators at MOCA. You construct a program of ideas, artists, and historians—it all feeds in.”
As far as the physical gallery’s direct relationship to the city that inspired it, Schimmel refers to the recent Hauser & Wirth success with their Somerset UK property, which opened this past summer. He describes it as both a destination and educational program, predicated on the idea of a museological art center experience. They had 58,000 visitors within a few months. “One of the reasons we are opening up the whole footprint of LA space is that we are trying to make the building not just a place for exhibitions but as a place to come and sit, with a garden, a courtyard, a restaurant, a bookshop. A breezeway you can ride your bike right into. We’ll have Saturday and Sunday hours, stay open late Thursday through Saturday. Our number one audience is the neighborhood, and the artists who live and work here. We are not about cultural tourism per se, though the Europeans love downtown, but rather a real town center. We want this to be the living room for the downtown arts community.” It’s a community Schimmel himself calls home, and he plans to see that proof in the HWS pudding. “What else can I do? I don’t know anything else. I’ve been a curator for 40 years!”
Over the past months, I have had the opportunity to think a lot about the future of the art world. With my departure from the Museum of Contemporary Art, the death of Mike Kelley, and my increased responsibilities as a co-director of the foundation he began in 2007, I have been forced to think about both the changed landscape of the arts in Los Angeles and internationally. I have always known that my first responsibility is to the artists themselves and that they should be privileged in the mix of public collectors, critics, dealers, and curators that make up my world.
Artists have never let me down. With Mike (again) another world has revealed itself to me—artists foundations that support their own. I have had the good fortune to closely observe the great work of the Krasner, Pollock, Gotlieb, Warhol, Rauschenberg, and now the Mike Kelley Foundation. Artists are clearly becoming even more important in supporting artists and their ideas, not just the things they make. Surely one of the great bonuses of the commodification of art is that the artists can and are making a huge difference in the lives of future generation of less commercialized artists.
With the hundreds of artists foundations already existing in the U.S. and many more to be formed by the wealthiest generation of artists ever, their legacies will become among the most important not-for-profit institutions to directly support the arts.
Paul SchimmelPAUL SCHIMMEL was Chief Curator of MoCA Los Angeles from 1991 to 2012. He is currently Chairman of the Mike Kelley Foundation and Co-Curator of the Richard Hamilton retrospective
Hauser & Wirth Nab LA Factory, Hirshhorn Names New Director, and More
When I sit down for breakfast with Paul Schimmel, he asks the first question, as if he’s conducting the interview and I’m the renowned curator who has recently joined up with one of the world’s three or four truly global, powerhouse galleries, and got the original owners to add my name to the shingle – Hauser Wirth & Schimmel – to boot. We’re at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, not far from the Norton Simon Museum or from where Schimmel lives, and once a regular breakfast spot for him and Richard Koshalek, most recently of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, but once Schimmel’s boss at LA MOCA. I’m in great company. So that question?
“What shows have you seen?”
I’m not surprised. Schimmel lives for making shows. He’s been doing it since the 1970s, before arriving at the Newport Harbor Art Museum (now the Orange County Museum of Art) in 1978 from the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, where he was responsible for American Narrative/Story Art: 1967–77 (1977), which included John Baldessari, Eleanor Antin, William T. Wiley, Ed Ruscha and Allen Ruppersberg, among other artists of, as Schimmel describes them, the “narrative conceptualist” persuasion. That show travelled west, to UC Berkeley and Santa Barbara, and apparently Baldessari was there each step of the way. “John treated me like a curator,” Schimmel says. “[He] went to every venue and helped me to get the very best work.” And after a stint back in New York at the Institute of Fine Arts and a master’s degree, Schimmel said to his wife, “You watch. My first job will be in California.” That was Newport, where the museum’s holdings of postwar California art grew by a reported 300 percent during Schimmel’s tenure.
His second job in California? LA MOCA, which is where, from 1989 until the middle of last year, Schimmel not only mastered the craft of the substantial historical survey – his last show for the museum, which opened in October 2012, Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949–1962, is a case in point – but also shifted the artworld’s (to that point rather moribund) thinking on the history and value – intellectual, aesthetic, commercial – of postwar California art with Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974–81 (2011), which tackled the prehistory of 1992’s Helter Skelter: LA Art in the 1990s, in many ways that era’s and perhaps Schimmel’s career-defining exhibition (if such a narrowing of lens is possible).
Why California and why LA? For the art, and the artists. Within months of arriving at Newport, Schimmel met Mike Kelley. His reaction? “I was like, ‘Yes! Thank God I don’t have to figure out how to invent this person.’ This person is here. When you find someone in your own generation who embodies the same kinds of interests, well, I knew this was where I was going to be. And there was no question that doing work deeply committed to the region but with international implications was doable.” There’s little question that he did it, either. And there’s little question that he was able to do it because of his commitment to the community of artists that included Chris Burden and Paul McCarthy, and of course Kelley and others.
When I asked Schimmel whether he thought about quitting LA after MOCA’s board forced him out (presumably because he and then-new but now-former MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch didn’t mix well, but Schimmel wouldn’t say, and no one else is talking either), and following Kelley’s death in 2012, he said yes, he did. He considered New York, and Europe, but in the end he couldn’t leave, “not so much because of my own generation”, but because of the “younger artists, people like Mark Grotjahn and Thomas Houseago and Sterling Ruby and Laura Owens”, and because of that “languorous sense of community” that comes from a “place where you can both make something and show something”. “More than anything else,” Schimmel said, “it was that sense of being part of a community of younger artists who both believe in and appreciate their community and my place in it.”
Someone else appreciated Schimmel’s place in that community as well. A few days before we spoke, Schimmel opened Re-View: Onnasch Collection – a survey of Reinhard Onnasch’s nearly unparalleled collection of postwar art from the 1950s to the 1970s (including a number of important works by Edward Kienholz from 1960 to 61) – at Hauser & Wirth’s Piccadilly and Savile Row spaces in London. As Schimmel tells me, “Iwan [Wirth] was very clever. Long before I joined the staff,” – this is one of Schimmel’s great gifts: the ability to be modest and self-aggrandising at once – “he put together a list of four or five potential people to work on the show, which he’d been trying to do for a long time. My name was on the list without me knowing it, and Mrs Onnasch said – and I’d worked with the Onnasches on the Out of Actions show, and for the Rauschenberg Combines show, and forHand-Painted Pop; so at three different times over the last 20 years I’d worked with them; I’m a known quantity – and Mrs Onnasch said, ‘Oh yes, that would be good, but I don’t think he would do it’. And Iwan says he looked at her and said, ‘Oh, you never know’.” Indeed you don’t, unless you’ve had the following exchange, as Schimmel told me:
I was opening Under the Big Black Sun and Iwan calls me and asks, “Paul, are you at the Geffen?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “I’m going to be there in five minutes. I want to pick you up.” I said, “I’m in the middle of an installation.” And he says, “No, no, no. It’s just right in the neighbourhood. I want to show you something.” I said, “OK, the break’s at eleven. So pick me up at eleven.” He takes me three, four blocks away, and shows me just a beautiful warehouse space. And he says, “What do you think?” And I say, “I think it’s beautiful.” And says, “No, really, what do you think?” And I said, “Iwan, no. No. I’m not thinking about it.” He says, “OK, what do you think we could do here? What would make sense here?” I said, “Well, things should be very different than the kind of programme you would have in New York and there should be fewer things, bigger, richer, deeper; and don’t think about it in terms of how much stuff you can sell here as how much stuff can enter into Hauser & Wirth.” And he says, “Exactly.”
Of his new partner Schimmel says that, yes, “there is that sort of inscrutable quality of the Swiss, but it’s also combined with an overwhelming joy and enthusiasm for things. He’s sort of like a California kid”, but one who learned about California from Jason Rhoades and Paul McCarthy, figures who embody what Schimmel appreciates most about California artists, their fiercely independent and ambitious “can-do spirit”, which he traces back to Ed Kienholz himself, one of a generation of artists who were going to write their own history and “were going to control not just what you see but how you see it”.
“Ultimately”, Schimmel says, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel “was the only opportunity to make something from the ground up in Los Angeles, with a community of artists with whom I felt completely comfortable. And I believe it’s more than just the opportunities I’ll have as a curator, but also the opportunity to bring in what I think are still woefully undervalued players in the artworld, which are art historians and curators. There’s a bigger role for these people. Parties are nice; scholarship is the foundation. For me this is the great attraction. Ursula [Hauser] and Iwan have a real sense of the importance of serious scholarship – taking a more scientific and less a celebratory approach to the work.”
It’s not clear when or exactly where Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will open its doors. “Downtown is the focus,” Schimmel told me. He has a clear idea of what he wants. A compound of buildings, of different spaces, indoor and outdoor, that afford some creative restrictions rather than the ever-looming tabula rasa of a 4,000sqm warehouse-cum-kunsthalle, plus some amenities that will make it a destination. “LA is very a funny place,” Schimmel admits. “The classic Gertrude Stein line, ‘There is no there there’, really is true.” So it will be important that visitors to the new space will value the time and, as Schimmel says, “give it over”, because “if you put on a great show, tons of people will come”, But, he continued, “you have to make it rich enough and comfortable enough”, which most Angelenos know really distils down to two things – “Good parking. Good parking.”
This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of ArtReview.
BY ASHTON COOPER, ALANNA MARTINEZ | JUNE 06, 2014
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel announce new space in downtown Los Angeles.
(Courtesy Hauser & Wirth )
— Hauser Wirth & Schimmel Names Venue: A former flour mill in downtown LA has been announced as the location of multidisciplinary arts center Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, a collaboration between the ever-expanding gallery and former LA MOCA chief curator Paul Schimmel. A two-month show will debut at the building in January, after which the institution will close for renovations until 2016. “More of our artists live in LA than in any other city. They’re a diverse, multigenerational group whose work informs our international program and shapes contemporary dialogue,” said gallery president and owner Iwan Wirth. “It seems particularly fitting to launch our third decade by creating Hauser Wirth & Schimmel and pioneering a new gallery model in the city known around the world as a place for imagination, reinvention and new forms of cultural expression.” [LAT]
Beginning in January 2015, the still raw spaces will host a three-month group exhibition focusing on Los Angeles-based artists who have emerged in the past 15 years. The facility will then close for renovation and reopen the following winter.
Work on the seven late 19th and 20th-century buildings and interior courtyard that make up the historic 901 East 3rd Street complex will be overseen by the L.A. real estate and project management firm Creative Space, with support from local Los Angeles city councilman José Huizar of District 14.
UPDATE: This news article has been updated. It previously misstated Paul Schimmel’s role at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles.
John Rabe and Jori Finkel | Off-Ramp | July 17th, 2014, 1:37pm
LA Public Library/Security Pacific National Bank Collection
Undated drawing of the Globe Grain & Milling Co. headquarters and warehouse, at 907 E. 3rd Street in Los Angeles, now an arts district. The complex is the location for Hauser Wirth & Schimmel’s new LA gallery.
Off-Ramp host John Rabe gets an update from arts reporter Jori Finkel on the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel gallery coming to the downtown Arts District and the Broad Museum coming to Grand Avenue.
One’s gritty; one’s grand. Two new important arts spaces are coming to downtown L.A. soon, one in the Arts District that’s long been the home of poor artists, another alongside Grand Avenue’s grand edifices. Jori Finkel, an arts journalist currently freelancing for the New York Times, gave us an update on both this week.
First, we went to 901 East 3rd Street, the site of a former flour mill. It’s near the former Al’s bar, a punk rock Mecca, and across the street from Wurstküche, the sausage and beer hall.
The international art gallery owners Hauser & Wirth will be opening a huge new gallery here in partnership with former MOCA chief curator Paul Schimmel. Finkel says, “A powerhouse gallery, for sure. Galleries in Zurich, New York, and London.”
It will be called Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. “[Schimmel] is actually a partner with them worldwide now,” she says, “but this particular gallery he will be running, and we can already see his stamp on the program, because the first thing they’ll be doing — maybe January of 2015 — is a pop-up gallery show to show the world what they’re bringing to L.A., and it’s going to be a big one.” Finkel says that show will include Mark Bradford, Laura Owens, Sterling Ruby and Mary Weatherford as among the artists.
Then, it’ll close again and — after extensive renovations — reopen sometime in 2016 as a “gallery on the model of a museum,” as Finkel puts it. “It is commercial, but they’re staffing up as though it were a museum,” with educational programming and some exhibits at which the art will not be for sale, she says.
Schimmel left MOCA because he didn’t get along with Jeffrey Deitch, the former high-end gallery owner brought in to direct the museum. He’s since been replaced by Philippe Vergne. The question asked then, with raised eyebrows, was, “What does a gallery owner know about running a museum?”
Now, it’s only fair to ask, “Does Schimmel, who has spent decades in the museum world, have what it takes to run a gallery? ”
Finkel responds: “‘Does he have what it takes to make sales?’ is a question I’ve heard other (art) dealers ask.”
And despite the fact that he’s built deep relationships with important artists, “Paul is not known for working on the service model so much. He has a big personality. People love him for that reason, and he rubs some people the wrong way for that reason.”
Next, it was off to Grand Avenue to check out the progress on Eli Broad’s new edifice, the Broad Museum, completion of which has been delayed until at least the middle of next year, according to what Broad told Finkel.
Finkel says the works inside will be the contemporary art collected by Broad and his wife Edythe and by the Broad Art Foundation. “So while you’ll find some early Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Warhol-type works, you’re also going to find some really big names of contemporary art today: Murakami, Koons, Cindy Sherman.”
Will the Broad hurt MOCA, which is almost across the street? Finkel says she doesn’t think so, because MOCA has struggled with low attendance, and “anything else that brings people who are art-interested or even just art-curious to this area will make this more of a destination for art. How much more is the question.”
Los Angeles Hauser Wirth & Schimmel to Open Downtown Los Angeles
09.06.2014Iwan Wirth, president and owner of Hauser & Wirth, announced the company’s new Los Angeles venue will be located at 901 East 3rd Street, in a historic 100,000 square foot flour mill complex in the city’s burgeoning downtown Arts District.Under the direction of partner Paul Schimmel, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will transform the site’s sprawling collection of late 19th and early 20th century buildings and outdoor spaces into a multi-disciplinary arts center. The new venue will offer exhibitions, museum-caliber amenities, and a schedule of public programs. In addition to indoor and open air spaces, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will over time include special studios for artist residencies and projects; dedicated spaces for workshops and education; and a restaurant and bookstore.
In January 2015, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will host a three-month group exhibition focusing upon Los Angeles artists who have emerged in the past fifteen years. The facility, for which the gallery has signed a long-term lease, will then close for renovation and open to the public permanently the following winter.
“Los Angeles has exploded as a creative community for the visual arts”, Paul Schimmel said. “Artists based here want to exhibit in their home town, and increasing numbers of artists from around the world want to live and work in Los Angeles. With Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, we aspire to give all of these artists a unique second home: a place to create and show their art in historical context, a place that encourages their most rigorous and best expressions, a place that brings them and their art into a dynamic, exciting, and transformational dialogue with the public.”.
Paul Schimmel. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth & Schimmel. Photo Felix Clay
MAJOR UPDATE: PAUL SCHIMMEL BECOMES NAME PARTNER IN NEW HAUSER WIRTH & SCHIMMEL
“As partner in Hauser &S Wirth, Mr. Schimmel will help the gallery develop and will run a new Los Angeles arts space called Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. Envisioned as a museum-like destination for experiencing art in context, the new venue is expected to open in 2015 and will offer three to five major exhibitions per year. Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will place significant emphasis upon education and public programs, offering an array of on-going events and activities inspired both by its exhibitions and the local culture.”
“Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will be shaped as a cultural center. It will provide a platform for the substantial group of exceptional Los Angeles artists represented by the gallery; introduce Los Angeles to the work of artists from around the world through solo exhibitions and rigorously organised historical shows; invite leading scholars, curators and writers to participate in programs seeking new and compelling connections between history and the present day; and prioritize can be no dount ommunity engagement and lingering visits.”
The spectacular cultural program announced by the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel gallery is nothing less than astounding. It seems that it is a response to every criticism of MoCA Los Angeles. That it will do what the Jeffrey Deitch led MoCA has claimed it cannot do – as it had to become a Populist institution that allowed street art to overwhelm true high culture. There can be no doubt that this new gallery in formation will become the space that lifts Los Angeles’ cultural scene to untold new heights. Over the years many LA arts institutions have had dreams they could not realize, from building a major new museum building, to having the level of cultural programming that draws an international audience. It would seem that the gallery will also be providing the kind of public intellectual life that MoCA claimed was impossible to exist in Los Angeles. LA’s artworld thought that it was major error in having a former gallerist run a major contemporary art museum. It seems that the correct formula is to have a world class curator as the tastemaker, and the high minded deep pockets business end will make it all possible.
Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles
The Hollywood Reporter has offered the news that former MoCA Los Angeles Chief curator Paul Schimmel has accepted a offer and position with Hauser & Wirth, one of the most powerful galleries in the world. This is the first world-class international gallery to expand to Los Angeles from Europe. The gallery would be the only one in Los Angeles with a contemporary art curator of the highest rank on its team. There are a few others internationally with major curators on its staff, such as Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris. Schimmel would be quickly moving beyond his departure from MoCA, which was fighting for its financial life, to one a commercial gallery with vast resources. I am anticipating that he will create thematic group shows with exhibition catalogs that will be as potent as the best shows ever curated at MoCA. His curatorial eye and vision will give the works he selects a double power – that of immediate curatorial validation from the highest of cultural authorities, yet within the context of a hugely commercial enterprise. Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles gallery space could become the dominant player in the LA artworld.
It has only been a few months since the gallery expanded into the Chelsea gallery district in New York City, opening a spectacular 23,000 sq. ft. space with an exhibition of the work of Dieter Roth. The gallery was also already operating on New York’s Upper East Side. Now with spaces in London, Zurich and New York City, the gallery will be expanding into Los Angeles. When this happens and the actual location and scale of the space is announced, it would join a small number of the super elite galleries that have recently expanded west into LA, including L&M Arts and Matthew Marks (2 separate new spaces). This new tier of LA gallery, which includes massive spaces at Blum & Poe, Regen Projects, Perry Rubenstein, LA Louver, Gagosian, are offering a platform for many international artists, many whom have never before exhibited in Los Angeles, or at least not in recent or even distant memory. Add to this Laura Owens 12,000 sq. ft. studio space, east of downtown LA, that is currently showing several of her recent large scale paintings. The space is already being used for readings, screenings, and possibly a show by the legendary New York City painter Alex Katz. Many LA artists are quite surprised to see the continued growth of the LA art market at the uppermost elevation. Yet it is also quite rewarding to go to openings at these new venues, as several are defacto LA kunsthalles that are also commercial galleries, bringing in the best of international art to Los Angeles as never seen till today. Perhaps this also means that more of LA’s own top art stars today, from Paul McCarthy to Thomas Houseago to Sterling Ruby, will be exhibiting some of their works here, created in airplane hanger sized studios, (McCarthy, 150,000 sq. ft. LA studio), Ruby, 90,000 sq. ft. LA studio) instead of shipping everything to NYC or out of the country.
Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles
Hauser & Wirth take on Paul Schimmel for Los Angeles gallery
Friday, 24th May 2013
Press release: Hauser & Wirth is pleased to announce that internationally acclaimed curator and scholar Paul Schimmel has been named a partner of the gallery. Schimmel joins Iwan Wirth, Manuela Wirth and Marc Payot in leading an enterprise founded over 20 years ago.
Described by The Financial Times as ‘a marketplace of ideas’, Hauser & Wirth has locations in Zurich, London and New York. Its program focuses upon significant contemporary artists and includes historical surveys and thematic group exhibitions that advance new dialogues about art.
The gallery represents over 50 established and emerging contemporary artists, as well as the estates of Eva Hesse, Allan Kaprow, Josephsohn, Lee Lozano, Jason Rhoades, Dieter Roth, Philippe Vandenberg and the Henry Moore Family Collection.
Over the course of the past three decades, Paul Schimmel has become known as one of the most influential curators of his generation. Formerly chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), and recently a co-director of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, Schimmel is credited with playing a pivotal role in establishing southern California’s unique contemporary art scene as a potent force on the global cultural stage.
Pictured above: Legs of a Walking Ball by Eva Hesse
He is a scholar of the art of the 1950s; has created ambitious thematic exhibitions that have shaped recent art history; and has organized defining retrospectives for significant artists ranging from Willem de Kooning to Charles Ray, among many others.
As partner in Hauser & Wirth, Mr. Schimmel will help the gallery develop and will run a new Los Angeles arts space called Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. Envisioned as a museum-like destination for experiencing art in context, the new venue is expected to open in 2015 and will offer three to five major exhibitions per year.
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will place significant emphasis upon education and public programs, offering an array of on-going events and activities inspired both by its exhibitions and the local culture.
Like Hauser & Wirth Somerset, the exhibition and outdoor art facility scheduled to open in 2014 on the historic 100-acre Durslade Farm at the edge of the ancient town of Bruton in southwest England, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will be shaped as a cultural center.
It will provide a platform for the substantial group of exceptional Los Angeles artists represented by the gallery; introduce Los Angeles to the work of artists from around the world through solo exhibitions and rigorously organised historical shows; invite leading scholars, curators and writers to participate in programs seeking new and compelling connections between history and the present day; and prioritize community engagement and lingering visits.
Pictured above: Plans for Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset gallery
Hauser & Wirth will announce additional details about the location, design and programs of Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in early 2014.
‘Los Angeles has been an essential part of Hauser & Wirth’s history from the very beginning,’ Iwan Wirth commented. ‘In 1992, our first year in business, I saw Paul Schimmel’s MOCA exhibition ‘Helter Skelter’, and for me it was a revelation. Los Angeles is a place of breakthroughs. Dieter Roth’s first exhibition in the United States took place in Los Angeles.
‘The work of pivotal figures we represent – Allan Kaprow, Richard Jackson, Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades – would be unimaginable without the impact of Los Angeles upon their thinking and practices. And now younger generation artists like Diana Thater, Thomas Houseago, Sterling Ruby and Rachel Khedoori are extending our relationship with this amazing city.
‘We have long dreamt of opening a space in Los Angeles and making a contribution to the community that means so much to our artists and to us personally. We are honored and delighted to have Paul Schimmel as our partner in realizing that dream’.
‘Each of Hauser & Wirth’s locations reflects the distinct character of its city,’ said Marc Payot. ‘The buildings we occupy in Zurich, London and New York all have colorful histories, the local communities have very specific cultures, and these things influence our thinking about our program.
‘With Paul Schimmel leading our Los Angeles initiative, the gallery’s West Coast destination is guaranteed to have a fantastic sense of place, a great complement and counterpoint to our presence on the East Coast and in Europe’.
‘It is a great honor to join Hauser & Wirth,’ said Paul Schimmel. ‘The gallery has a profound dedication to artists, a consistent commitment to scholarship and a strong sense of community in an increasingly globalized world. The partners, directors, staff and artists of the gallery are an extraordinary extended family’.
About Paul Schimmel
Born and raised in New York and educated at Syracuse University and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, Paul Schimmel has resided in Los Angeles for thirty years. He has spent much of his career examining the artists who have defined that city. Schimmel began his career at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston TX, where he was a curator from 1975 to 1977 and senior curator from 1977 to 1978.
He served as the chief curator of the Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach CA from 1981 to 1989. In 1990, he became chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), a position he held until 2012. At MOCA, Schimmel mounted many of the institution’s most ambitious and effecting exhibitions.
In addition to ‘Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s’, these included ‘Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955 – 1962’; ‘Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949 – 1979’; ‘Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949 – 1962’; and ‘Under the Big Black Sun: California Art, 1974 – 1981′, the most comprehensive survey ever organized to examine the fertility and diversity of art practice in California during a unique period in American history when artists’ and institutions’ societal roles were re-examined dramatically.
Schimmel’s monographic exhibitions included shows devoted to Chris Burden, Willem de Kooning, Takashi Murakami, Sigmar Polke, Robert Rauschenberg and Charles Ray. He has won numerous honors and awards, including two awards from the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), seven awards from the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), and the Award for Curatorial Excellence given by The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (2001).
Mr. Schimmel has recently served on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House and the La Caixa Contemporary Art Collection Acquisition Committee. He has been co-chairman of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. In spring 2013 he received an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute.
About Hauser & Wirth
Hauser & Wirth is a global enterprise representing over 50 established and emerging contemporary artists, including Rita Ackermann, Ida Applebroog, Phyllida Barlow, Louise Bourgeois, Christoph Büchel, David Claerbout, Martin Creed, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Martin Eder, Ellen Gallagher, Isa Genzken, Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Subodh Gupta, Mary Heilmann, Andy Hope 1930, Roni Horn, Thomas Houseago, Matthew Day Jackson, Richard Jackson, Rashid Johnson, Rachel Khedoori, Bharti Kher, Guillermo Kuitca, Maria Lassnig, Paul McCarthy, Joan Mitchell, Ron Mueck, Caro Niederer, Christopher Orr, Djordje Ozbolt, Michael Raedecker, Pipilotti Rist, Sterling Ruby, Anri Sala, Wilhelm Sasnal, Christoph Schlingensief, Roman Signer, Anj Smith, Monika Sosnowska, Diana Thater, André Thomkins, Ian Wallace, Zhang Enli, David Zink Yi, and Jakub Julian Ziolkowski. Hauser & Wirth also represents the estates of Eva Hesse, Allan Kaprow, Josephsohn, Lee Lozano, Jason Rhoades, Dieter Roth and Philippe Vandenberg, as well as the Henry Moore Family Collection.
A view of Hauser & Wirth’s cavernous new space, with one of Dieter Roth’s “Floors” in the back left (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)
Yesterday afternoon, Hauser & Wirth opened the doors to its new space in Chelsea for a preview. The gallery’s only home until now in New York has been a townhouse on the Upper East Side, which, like all buildings of its sort, makes for a narrow, multilevel (and sometimes fragmented) art-viewing experience. The new gallery, the site of the former Roxy nightclub and roller rink on West 18th Street, is pretty much the opposite — a cavernous warehouse that, although it’s technically only one floor, seems to expand and spread in every direction.
Another view of the space
The space, first and foremost, is huge: 23,000 square feet, bested probably only by David Zwirner’s 30,000 square feet a block north and Gagosian’s 25,000 square feet of space nearby on West 24th Street. Compared to those two, both of them quite pristine white cubes, Hauser & Wirth’s new gallery has a much grungier, more industrial feel. Co-owner Marc Payot touched on that in his remarks yesterday, saying the gallery “didn’t want to create another white cube. We wanted to respect the architecture.” Not that huge, industrial spaces are anything new, mind you, but it’s just as well: the place is pretty jaw-dropping as is, and though there’s no doubt I’d prefer Chelsea still sport a roller disco rather than yet another massive gallery, at least the shell of the Roxy — its vaulted ceilings and skylights, a small plate on the floor where the roller rink used to start — remains. (As an amusing side note, I discovered that the Roxy’s former website is now a Japanese site about dogs.)
Björn Roth explaining his father’s “Landscape with Tower” (1976–94)
The gallery is opening with a show devoted to Swiss artist Dieter Roth and his collaborations with his son, Björn Roth. A somewhat abbreviated visit left me with the impression that this is a fantastic exhibition, and a great choice to inaugurate the space. Whether it’s “Large Table Ruin,” a sprawling installation made from the accumulated tools and miscellaneous studio detritus that seems to have a mind of its own; an assemblage made partly from junk and paint cans and toys; or a painting that includes plastic tubes and is activated by pouring liquid into them, Roth’s work is rough to its core. His aesthetic is one of controlled chaos, an embodiment of the provisional, and his palette full of browns and tans and earthy colors.
Dieter Roth’s “Floors” (click to enlarge)
All of this fits well with the feeling and architecture of the former nightclub — in addition to things that just fit, quite literally, in there, like Roth’s “The Floor” pieces, which are composed of two floors from his studio in Iceland. On a brief walkthrough of the show, which unfortunately was largely drowned out by noise from non-listeners and the echo of the space, Björn explained that his father had originally upended and installed the floors as artworks in 1992, when he was having an exhibition in Switzerland and didn’t have enough work to fill the giant space. I can’t help but take this as confirmation that by continually creating and opening huge spaces, the art world is encouraging artists to basically go big or go home — but that’s another story for a different day.
The second generation Roth and one of his sons, Oddur, also created a beautiful site-specific bar for the gallery, a permanent installation located in a little nook in the southeast corner of the space. To get to it, you traverse another permanent installation, Mary Heilmann’s “Two-Lane Highway” painted on the floor, while one of the bar’s windows overlooks the third permanent installation, a gleeful striped tape piece by Martin Creed that decks the entrance hallway and stairs.
Videos by Dieter Roth on the wall, Mary Heilmann’s “Two-Lane Highway” on the floor
A view of Martin Creed’s permanent installation from inside the Roths’ bar
The bar was the subject of much conversation among the assembled writers, artists, and others — I suspect because its dark wood, jumbled candles, coziness, and slightly underfinished feeling make it exactly the kind of place you’d want to hang out in (if only it were in Brooklyn …). Also because most of us will never actually get to hang out there: like so much of the art world, the bar won’t be open to the public, only accessible for special occasions.
Björn and Oddur Roth’s “Roth New York Bar”
Hauser & Wirth’s new space at 511 West 18th Street (Chelsea, Manhattan) opens to the public tomorrow, Wednesday, January 23, with the exhibition Dieter Roth. Björn Roth.
Edited by Michaela Unterdörfer, Hauser & Wirth, texts by Susanne Hillman, Michaela Unterdörfer, Iwan Wirth, Maria de Lamerens, graphic design by studio achermann, Zürich
2013. 1082 pp., more than 1500 ills.
21.90 x 29.30 cm
hardcover in slipcase
| History of the gallery’s past twenty years in a comprehensive reference work
| An example of an influential contemporary art gallery with branches in Zurich, London, and New York
When Iwan Wirth, Manuela, and Ursula Hauser founded the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in 1992, there was no art market in the current sense. The numerous fairs, auctions, biennials, and festivals were not initiated until later. Philanthropic entrepreneurs professionalized, public cultural institutions privatized, and collectors opened their own museums. Art become a status symbol and an investment; hence, the mediation of content, protected by the new profession of curator, also became more important. Parallel to its gallery platform and its over fifty artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Isa Genzken, and Paul McCarthy, Hauser & Wirth regularly shows historical stances in elaborate museum-like presentations of artists such as Egon Schiele, Francis Picabia, and Hans Arp. This publication devotes itself to the gallery’s artists in more than fifty generously illustrated chapters and includes an extensive chronology, archival material, and personal photographs of over two hundred exhibitions, shedding light on the gallery’s lively history.
In 1964, Eva Hesse and her husband Tom Doyle were invited by the industrialist Friedrich Arnhard Scheidt to a residency in Kettwig an der Ruhr, Germany. The following fifteen months marked a significant transformation in Hesse’s practice. ‘Eva Hesse 1965‘ running from 30 January to 9 March at Hauser & Wirth, brings together key drawings, paintings and reliefs from this short, yet pivotal period where the artist was able to re-think her approach to colour, materials and her two-dimensional practice, and begin moving towards sculpture, preparing herself for the momentous strides she would take upon her return to New York.
Hesse’s studio space was located in an abandoned textile factory in Kettwig an der Ruhr. The building still contained machine parts, tools and materials from its previous use and the angular forms of these disused machines and tools served as inspiration for Hesse’s mechanical drawings and paintings. Sharp lines come together in these works to create complex and futuristic, yet nonsensical forms, which Hesse described in her writings as ‘…clean and clear – but crazy like machines…’.
Seeking a continuation of her mechanical drawings, in March of 1965, Hesse began a period of feverish work in which she made fourteen reliefs, which venture into three-dimensional space. Works such as H + H (1965) and Oomamaboomba (1965) are the material embodiment of her precisely linear mechanical drawings. Vibrant colours of gouache, varnish and tempera are built up using papier maché and objects Hesse found in the abandoned factory: wood, metal and most importantly, cord, which was often left to hang, protruding from the picture plane. This motif would reappear in the now iconic sculptures Hesse would make in New York.
The time Hesse spent in Germany amounted to much more than a period of artistic experimentation. In Germany, Hesse was afforded the freedom to exercise her unique ability to manipulate materials, creating captivating, enigmatic works which would form the foundation of her emerging sculptural practice.
Eva Hessse 1965, 30 January until 9 March, Hauser & Wirth London, Savile Row, London, W1S 2ET. www.hauserwirth.com
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of Hauser & Wirth, New York
New York, NY… After World War II, a devastated Japan processed the impact of the atomic bomb and faced a cultural void. It was in this atmosphere of existential alienation that the Gutai Art Association (Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai) – a group of about twenty young artists, rallying around the charismatic painter Jiro Yoshihara – emerged in the mid-1950s to challenge convention. Although keenly aware of Japan’s artistic traditions, the Gutai artists attempted to distance themselves from the sense of defeat and impotence that pervaded their country, and to overcome the past completely with ‘art that has never existed before’. They burst out of the expected confines of painting with daring works that demonstrated a freewheeling relationship between art, body, space and time. Dismissed by Japanese critics as spectacle makers, the Gutai artists nevertheless produced a profound legacy of aesthetic experimentation, influencing Western critics and anticipating Abstract Expressionism, Arte Povera, Fluxus, and Conceptual Art.
‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ traces efforts by these artists to resolve the inherent contradictions between traditions of painting – the making of images on a flat, framed plane – and the core tenets of a movement that called for experimentation, individuality, unexpected materials, and, perhaps above all, physical action and psychological freedom. On view at Hauser & Wirth New York will be more than 30 works spanning twenty years, all of them exciting responses to the constraints of painting and the limits of time itself.
Curated by Midori Nishizawa and organized with Olivier Renaud-Clément, ‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ also marks the half-century anniversary of Gutai’s first U.S. exhibition, which was organized by the French critic Michel Tapié, noted champion of Art Informel. His ‘6th Gutai Art Exhibition’ was presented in New York City in September 1958 at the Martha Jackson Gallery at 32 East 69th Street – in the townhouse now occupied by Hauser & Wirth New York.
‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ will remain on view at the gallery through 27 October and will be accompanied by a new publication based, both in concept and design, upon the twelve Gutai journals that the group published and disseminated internationally in the decade between 1955 and 1965.
The Gutai Art Association was formed by Jiro Yoshihara in July 1954, in the Ashiya region of Japan. Exhorting younger artists with such slogans as, ‘Don’t imitate others!’ and ‘Engage in the newness!’. Yoshihara challenged Gutai’s members to discard traditional artistic practices and to seek not only fresh means of expression but the origins of artistic creation itself. The Gutai artists responded with performance, installation, flower arrangement, and music, often in public places. In seeking to define this constantly changing body of work, Yoshihara penned The Gutai Art Manifesto in 1956, proclaiming ‘the novel beauty to be found in works of art and architecture of the past which have changed their appearance due to the damage of time or destruction by disasters in the course of the centuries…that beauty which material assumes when it is freed from artificial make-up and reveals its original characteristics.’ Yoshihara concluded the Manifesto by stating, ‘Our work is the result of investigating the possibilities of calling the material to life. We shall hope that there is always a fresh spirit in our Gutai exhibitions and that the discovery of new life will call forth a tremendous scream in the material itself’.
In working toward the goals outlined by Yoshihara, the Gutai group realized that the elements needed to make unprecedented art were in fact to be found in unexpectedly familiar places. Kazuo Shiraga wallowed in mud; Saburo Murakami leapt through expanses of paper; and Atsuko Tanaka employed bells and lightbulbs in theatrical performances. In tandem with such efforts, however, Gutai artists continued to struggle with the expected materials and physical parameters of classic painting techniques, and to explore abstraction as a means to escape its intellectual and creative confines. In ‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’, visitors to Hauser & Wirth will encounter works in which stretched canvas is married to acrylic, plastic, cloth, vinyl, resin, plaster, tin and even projected light – works that occupy a liminal realm between painting and sculpture. Works by Tsuruko Yamazaki, Norio Imai and Takesada Matsutani in particular ambush the pictorial plane with, respectively, cloudlike tin projections, white molded apertures, and glossy vinyl and resin blobs.
Kazuo Shiraga is perhaps the best known Gutai artist internationally. Among the works in ‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ are two of his powerful ‘Performance Paintings’ – aggressive abstractions from the early 1960s in crimson and green. ‘I want to paint as though rushing around a battle field’, he wrote in 1955. He even used his feet to create these works in the heat of the moment.
The exhibition also includes two important paintings by Atsuko Tanaka, the most internationally recognized female figure within the Gutai group who is best known for creating the ‘Electric Dress’ (1955). This garment made of incandescent bulbs was painted in primary colors and worn by the artist during a Gutai performance. The physical dress with its tangled wires and brightly lit bulbs morphed into Tanaka’s two-dimensional paintings, which are seemingly whimsical works exploring the circles and circuits in which she was ‘sensing eternity’.
‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ also includes two of Jiro Yoshihara’s famed ‘circle’ series of about 25 paintings, one of the most important bodies of work to emerge from the Gutai movement. ‘Work’ from 1967 is an important example from this series, which was influenced by the Zen artist-monk Nantembo Toju (1839 – 1926), an artist who worked in calligraphy and ink painting. In Zen tradition, the circle represents void and substance, emptiness and completion, and the union of painting, calligraphy, and meditation.
At a time when a majority of Japanese artists had adopted a Western approach to creating and criticizing art, Gutai’s ideas and works were repeatedly met with the question, ‘Is this art?’. What established Gutai as entirely unique was the fact that no one, often including the movement’s own members, could predict the group’s course and the manifestations its work would take. Gutai’s imperative to continually create something surprising took its artists in new directions, leading Yoshihara to ask himself, ‘whether or not the production process was stamped with the instant of creation as proof of the fierce desire to affirm a vivid sense of adventure and a free spirit’.
bruce nauman: mindfuck hauser and wirth london, savile row on from the 30th of january through to the 9th of march, 2013
from the 30th of january, 2013 hauser and wirth will present the work of renowned artist bruce nauman with an exhibition titled ‘mindfuck’
in the north gallery, savile row. the show, featuring an eclectic selection of works from throughout nauman’s career, will focus particularly
on his iconic neon sculptures and installations. the work triggers a critical dialogue surrounding a body of work whose central themes
explore the human condition, language, sex, and death. the experience of works by nauman speaks of a certain state of trauma,
a nod to the hysteric, and ode to the psychotic – to the consequences of the superego and to the logic of dreams.
weaved throughout the compositions is nauman’s bizarre ability to build visual and experiential manifestations that tap into the
complexity of the human unconscious. ‘mindfuck’ calls attention to the enduring weight of the mind-body split in the artist’s work –
neon sculptures such as ‘sex and death / double ’69’ (1985) and ‘good boy / bad boy’ (1986 – 1987) could be said to represent the
conscious and cerebral side of his art, whereas installations such as ‘carousel (stainless steel version)’ (1988) and
‘untitled (helman gallery parallelogram)’ (1971) focus on the phenomenological aspect of his exploration of perception, space, and the body.
nauman’s artistic approach enters the worlds of psychology, anthropology, sociology, and behavioural science.
the artist once stated that he wanted to make ‘art that was just there all at once…like getting hit in the back of the neck with a baseball bat’.
Former MOCA Chief Curator Paul Schimmel Inks New Gallery Deal
12:12 PM PDT 4/11/2013 by Degen Pener, Maxwell Williams
The deal with Hauser & Wirth could bring plans for the gallery to open a space in Los Angeles.
Paul Schimmel has landed.
our editor recommends
According to art world insiders close to the former chief curator of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Schimmel has inked a deal with the Zurich-based gallery Hauser & Wirth, which also has branches in London and New York. According to the sources, the deal will bring Schimmel to the gallery, and that plans for the gallery to open a space in Los Angeles are likely.
If this is the case, the gallery, which represents dozens of major artists including Paul McCarthy, Christoph Büchel, Pipilotti Rist and Rita Ackermann, would immediately become one of the biggest players in town.
The terms of the deal are not known.
Schimmel was fired from his position at MOCA amidst an imbroglio that included the resignations of the museum’s four remaining artist trustees, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie and Ed Ruscha. Since Schimmel’s departure from MOCA, he has worked as the co-director of the Mike Kelley Foundation in Los Angeles. It is unclear whether the gallery — which handles the estates of many artists including Eva Hesse, Jason Rhodes, Allan Kaprow and Dieter Roth — will take Kelley’s estate aboard.
On March 19th, Hauser & Wirth hosted a conversation between Schimmel and Los Angeles-based artist Sterling Ruby at its London branch, in conjunction with an exhibition of Ruby’s work. This talk sparked rumors about the curator’s involvement with the gallery, and soon whispers turned to full-blown speculation.
Schimmel is one of the most highly respected curators in the field, having organized upwards of 350 exhibitions, most notably retrospectives of the artists Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy, and Takashi Murakami, as well as a host of thematic group shows. His swan song at MOCA, “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962” about artists who physically damaged their canvases was hailed by the LA Times as “boldly thoughtful” and “illuminat[ing] a big — but overlooked — idea.”
A rep from the gallery did not reply to a request for comment.
Armory Show creative director Michael Hall has resigned effective Friday. He confirmed his departure to A.i.A. by phone today.
Hall will take up a new job at Hauser & Wirth Gallery next week after almost seven years with the Armory Show. Hauser & Wirth opened an Upper East Side location in 2009, and will inaugurate a new venue in Chelsea in January.
Hall started at the fair in 2005 as operations manager but became managing director when Katelijne De Backer left her post as director in 2011. He became creative director this fall. He was involved in developing the talks and film series (Open Forum and Armory Film) and the regional “Focus” section, and selected and worked with commissioned artists.
Cofounding director Paul Morris resigned in September after 18 years. On Sept. 27 A.i.A. broke the news that the Armory Show, the Volta Show and Art Platform Los Angeles were up for sale by Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties.
The Armory Show’s centennial edition will take place March 7-10, 2013, at piers 92 and 94 on the Hudson River.
PHOTO: Michael Hall and Jacob Fabritius. Photo by Catarina Lundgren Åström via Flickr.
Iwan and Manuela Wirth with Thomas Houseago’s Hermaphrodite, 2011
Photographed by Norman Jean Roy
On the heels of a major New York expansion, the gallery world’s Swiss power couple is set to open a cultural center in the English countryside.
New York’s Chelsea art district is fighting its way back from the devastating floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy. Countless works of art have been lost, and some of the smaller galleries may not survive, but the art community as a whole seems amazingly buoyant. At David Zwirner on West Nineteenth Street, where the water level hit five feet, Diana Thater’s video installation Chernobyl is up and running in the only operable space a week and a half after Sandy, while construction crews labor around the clock nearby. One block south, work is continuing full tilt on Hauser & Wirth’s huge new gallery, whose opening date is scheduled for January 22. Marc Payot, the Hauser & Wirth partner who is in charge here, tells me he hadn’t wanted to look at this space originally, because it wasn’t on the ground floor—but he did so, and it’s turned out to be a very smart decision. Confidence in the future, which has helped to make Hauser & Wirth one of the world’s most powerful contemporary-art galleries, is what drives the art world these days.
Iwan Wirth, a 42-year-old Swiss who started the business 20 years ago in Zurich, has never been afraid to think big. Exuberant, curly-haired, bursting with enthusiasm for his artists and their projects, he has transformed the London art scene during the past decade with his three galleries in Mayfair. Now, at 24,700 square feet, his emerging New York behemoth—formerly known as the Roxy, the famous eighties disco and roller rink—will be one of the largest column-free art spaces in town. Hauser & Wirth has had a smaller gallery on East Sixty-ninth Street since 2009, but now that it represents Paul McCarthy, Roni Horn, and several other important American artists exclusively, Iwan has decided that they need “a bigger playground.” He adds, “The artists will want this, and it’s important that we feel it before they do.” Martin Creed, the British Turner Prize–winner, is re-creating the grand stairway of the new gallery as an artwork. Because Dieter Roth, the late Swiss artist whose work will also inaugurate it, insisted on having a bar in all his exhibitions, Hauser & Wirth is installing one (permanently) in what used to be the Roxy’s VIP area, over the stairs. The exhibitions will stay up much longer than they do in other New York galleries: There will be only four a year. Unlike the globe-girdling Gagosian empire, Hauser & Wirth has no plans to establish outposts in other cities. “The artists lead the way,” Iwan tells me. “We’re located in exactly the right places, and now we have the ideal space in New York.”
Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1994
Photographed by Norman Jean Roy
I spent some time with Iwan and Manuela, his wife and business partner, in England last summer. Theirs is very much a family business. Iwan, who has been buying and selling art since he was sixteen, went to see Ursula Hauser in 1990 because he had an opportunity to buy a Picasso and a Chagall, but only half the money needed to pay for them. Ursula, a self-made retail and department-store magnate who became one of Switzerland’s greatest art collectors, found him charming, and agreed to put up the money. They celebrated the joint venture with a bottle of cognac, three snifters of which so unhinged nineteen-year-old Iwan that he became inarticulate when Ursula introduced him to her daughter Manuela, and then drove his car into their fence as he was leaving. Manuela overcame her dubious first impressions of him (“arrogant, young”); she joined the new firm of Hauser & Wirth as his secretary and agreed to marry him four years later. Their offices are side by side now, in their big, suavely modern gallery on Savile Row, and they have an equal share in all decisions—except those regarding sales. “Like Ursula, Manuela is useless as a salesperson,” Iwan tells me, “because she doesn’t like to let go of things, and she’s too polite to nag people. It’s much easier for me because I have to pay the bills.” All three of them are passionate collectors, and the personal family collection, most of which is in a warehouse in Switzerland, covers a very wide range of art in addition to the core holdings in modern and contemporary.
“Being Swiss,” he says, “you have to be a bit of a pirate—go out and find the treasure, because it won’t find you. We’re a small country surrounded by big players, and you have to find your niche. When we started our gallery in 1992, most of the important painters were taken, and local collectors already had strong relationships with galleries. So the niche for us was artists who were making more complicated work, work that needed support, that was highly important but not commercially successful. A lot of the artists we take on don’t have a market—our job is to build it.”Their first artist was Pipilotti Rist, a young Swiss whose uproarious video Ever Is Over All, produced by Hauser & Wirth, would soon take the art world by storm and be acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. Jason Rhoades and Paul McCarthy, two Americans whose unruly, in-your-face sculptural installations had cult status but scared off dealers and collectors, joined the gallery soon afterward, as did Louise Bourgeois, a legendary older artist whose market fell far short of her reputation. Others followed—Roni Horn, Ellen Gallagher, Rashid Johnson, Sterling Ruby, the estates of Eva Hesse and Henry Moore—50-plus artists and estates, more than a third of whom are women. “I’m a feminist,” Iwan explains. “I’ve always felt that women artists in the twentieth century are dramatically underrated, underrepresented, and underpriced.” (Manuela teases him because his family comes from the Appenzell region of Switzerland, where women couldn’t vote until 22 years ago.)
Hauser & Wirth artists check in, but they don’t check out; not one has ever left this artist-centric gallery. Iwan estimates that he spends 95 percent of his time working with and for his artists, and the other 5 percent on art sales in the secondary market, which, because he’s so good at it, keeps the gallery afloat. “The best thing about the art market,” he says, “is that it’s unstructured and unregulatable. That’s the nature of the beast. Sharing knowledge and information is the backbone of our business. Things that would put you in jail in another industry are not bad in this wonderful world. This suits me very well because that’s the way I think and function. I’m a fish in water. People confuse prices with quality, but if you’re knowledgeable and have a feeling for art, even in this crazy market, you can find great art that’s affordable.”
In 2000, Iwan joined forces with David Zwirner and opened Zwirner & Wirth in New York on East Sixty-ninth Street. They did a lot of great shows together over the next nine years but decided to go their separate ways because of what Zwirner describes as “brand confusion”—they still share artists, inventory, and clients, and continue to work together. “It’s a lot of fun to have a real friend in this industry,” says Zwirner. “Somebody I can trust a hundred percent.” Meanwhile, with the Zurich operation thriving, Iwan and Manuela established themselves in London—first in Piccadilly, then Savile Row. They moved their family over in 2005, put their four young children in English schools, and then, in 2007, they discovered Somerset.
On a typically English day—cloudy with periods of rain—Iwan, Manuela, and I are driving southwest in their sturdy Land Rover. It’s two hours to Bruton, the town where they went looking for a country place of their own and fell in love with the ancient, historic, and spiritual landscape of Somerset. (This is King Arthur territory, and its history goes back to Neolithic times: We pass Stonehenge on the way.) They bought a fifteenth-century farmhouse and set to work renovating it, a five-year project that involved extensive landscaping of the 500-acre property—restoring an apple orchard, putting in wildflower meadows, a walled vegetable garden, and 40,000 trees and bushes with the help of New York–based landscape designer Miranda Brooks. They moved in a few months ago, and the children now live there full time; Manuela and Iwan commute from London on weekends. “It’s the epicenter of everything we do now,” says Iwan. “It was in horrible condition when we first saw it. But within half an hour, Manuela looked at me, I looked at her, and we knew this was destiny. The place found us.”
The rain is coming down harder as we get closer, driving on a narrow lane that keeps turning into green tunnels between the thick high hedges on each side. “They’re ancient and full of birds and berries and small animals,” says Iwan. “I’m actually planning a book about Somerset hedges.” We enter the property, passing flocks of sheep, a monumental Thomas Houseago sculpture, and an allée of stone heads by Hans Josephsohn, which have just been delivered. Inside the front door, where two long rows of dark-green wellies are lined up, in various sizes, the two youngest children fling themselves into their parents’ arms. A deep immersion in English country life is the keynote here, coexisting with the challenging works of art on view throughout the marvelous old house.
The next morning, the sun keeps trying to come out as Iwan and Manuela offer an overland tour of Durslade Farm, the adjoining, 200-acre property that the gallery bought three years ago, and which they are turning into a local cultural center. The farm buildings here, which date from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, haven’t been inhabited for 20 years, and the place is a picturesque ruin—it was the setting for some scenes in the film Chocolat. Scheduled for completion in the spring of 2014, the renovation will provide art-exhibition and education spaces, film screenings, a two-acre landscaped park (with 24,785 plants) designed by Piet Oudolf, who did the plantings for New York’s wildly popular High Line, and a world-class restaurant and bar. The heart of the project is an ambitious artist-in-residence program, which has already started with a year-long visit from Pipilotti Rist, along with her ten-year-old son. As Iwan says, there’s a tradition of writers, music and theater here, but it’s a desert when it comes to visual art. “This is where art can go to work and change people.
“This place is a slowing-down facility,” adds Iwan, whose cornucopia of ambitious projects might overwhelm a fainter spirit, but who himself never seems rushed about anything. That night, sitting at the long dining table in the barn, with his four children, their nanny, and Phyllida Barlow, a 68-year-old, little-known English artist who’s recently joined the gallery, Iwan is indefatigable. He carves and serves the steaks he’s just grilled—from an animal on the next-door farm—passes around a huge wedge of Cheddar from the artisanal cheesemaker we visited this afternoon, and urges us to have another glass of his excellent Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He banters with Phyllida about the sculpture he’s asked her to make for the ancient well in their garden.“He’s forever young,” Mary Heilmann, another artist he represents, told me, “and he’s forever old.”
This month Hauser & Wirth is giving a dinner party in the entrance hall of the New York Public Library to celebrate the opening of its Chelsea gallery. All its artists are invited, and the gallery is flying them in from around the world. Both the setting and the scale are momentous, yet somehow appropriate. Anthony d’Offay, London’s most important art dealer from the late sixties until he closed his gallery in 2001, told me recently that he has known three great contemporary dealers. “There was Leo Castelli, Xavier Fourcade, and now, Hauser & Wirth. These three have had the old-fashioned idea that encouraging the artist and being truthful and doing great shows has an important role in the world. It’s not about making a trillion dollars. It’s about enthusiasm for great works of art. Iwan goes to sleep at night, and dreams about art.”
Iwan Wirth is standing at the top of the stairs in the former Roxy dance club and roller rink, which he recently had renovated into the largest of the outposts of his global art enterprise, Hauser & Wirth. It is the week of the opening of the big-box gallery’s first show, a survey of the rather intimidating work of Dieter Roth and his son Björn Roth, and he’s introducing his artists to each other: Zany British conceptualist Martin Creed, styled a bit like Willy Wonka (and who enlivened the entry stairway with strips of colored tape), meet world-weary Indian Subodh Gupta, draped in a scarf and looking desperate for a tea. Thirty-three of Wirth’s artists made the pilgrimage altogether, and many are still jet-lagged after being called from all over the world. “Everybody knows me, but not everybody knows each other,” he says with Swiss bonhomie. “It’s like a class reunion, only they’ve never met before.”
The grand opening of this converted disco is the biggest thing to hit West Chelsea since Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, the exhibition space is up a flight. What was once a sweaty, shirtless dance floor is now, thanks to architect Annabelle Selldorf, a vast, tidy exhibition hall, the largest column-free space in Chelsea. Later this month, the dealer David Zwirner, Wirth’s former partner in New York, whose own gallery already takes up most of 19th Street, is opening a five-story expansion on 20th Street, which Selldorf also designed. As the art gets supersized along with the profits, these new galleries look and feel like museums. Gagosian was a pioneer of this model, but, as one curator who has worked with both attests, “Iwan’s no Gagosian. He’s so warm,” and “unusually focused on art which is difficult to understand.”
And on naughtiness: Ten years ago, when Hauser & Wirth opened a gallery in a former bank in London, Paul McCarthy created a bawdy, messy food-fight video work featuring people wearing oversize heads portraying Osama bin Laden, President George W. Bush, and the Queen Mother. “These spaces are about education, of course,” says Wirth, a burgherish but still boyish 42.
Wirth’s journey began in 1990 outside Zurich, when he was a teenage entrepreneur looking for seed money to help buy a Picasso and a Chagall to then resell. He persuaded a department-store owner, Ursula Hauser, to invest, and after they started Hauser & Wirth together, he married her daughter Manuela. At first, the gallery worked in the “secondary market,” matching old works with new owners, before beginning to represent contemporary artists — which wasn’t easy, since, as Wirth has admitted, “No artist really needs to show in Switzerland.” They overcame their place on “the periphery” of the art world — though very much at an epicenter of European money — by punctilious customer service. (Wirth once cited good bookkeeping as a major reason for his success.) And by having good taste in what they bought for themselves: “They were my best collectors,” says Rita Ackermann, an abstract painter born in Hungary who now lives in New York and joined last summer. “A dealer must collect the art themselves.” The gallery brags that it’s never lost an artist.
In Zurich, Hauser & Wirth is part of a hybrid commercial and noncommercial arts complex in a former brewery; outside London, it is building a local cultural center with an artists-in-residence program. But in New York, the gallery that represents museum-approved artists like Pipilotti Rist, Roni Horn, Louise Bourgeois, and Dan Graham was tucked away from the contemporary-art spotlight in a townhouse on the Upper East Side, shared with Zwirner until 2009. (The Zwirner & Wirth partnership ended around the time Wirth started looking for spaces downtown; Zwirner has cited a need to avoid “brand confusion.”) The gallery’s arrival in Chelsea — in this New York dream palace, a Ziegfeld for art — is a sign that art globalism goes both ways. It’s not just Gagosian in Hong Kong, it’s also foreigners planting their flags in the New York market.
With, of course, their own values. “I think with Iwan it’s not a commercial venture. It’s very much about the artists and what they need and what they want,” says Paul McCarthy, who is seated with his wife in a bar designed by Oddur Roth, Dieter’s grandson, a cozy tangle of industrial junk. “For me, the pieces have gotten bigger, almost to the point where I can’t show them. They’d have no place to go; who would own them? Instead of saying ‘Scale down, this is better for your art’ — which means better for sales — Iwan just follows.” Which sounds awfully indulgent, but when I ask Wirth about it, he says, “It’s not carte blanche — well, of course, it is carte blanche, but in a very controlled way.”
“You can be a great artist but still make really horrible decisions,” says Ackermann, who felt that, when she met Marc Payot, the also-Swiss head of Hauser & Wirth in New York, “it was the first time in my life when I had spoken honestly and completely with a dealer.” Payot tells her, she says, “This is a better one, that is a worse one, that is a piece of shit.”
Traditionally, Wirth explains, the secondary market has paid for the fun part: the creating of new art. Now, as more young artists are successful in their own right, he’s taken to looking for “who is overlooked,” he says, pointing around to the Roth exhibition as an example. “This is why we do historic shows — we’re creating a context,” he says. Actually selling art is another matter — the transactions increasingly take place at art fairs. “The problem you have with galleries is that there is no trigger point,” he says. “People just come and come again and then come again.”
*This article originally appeared in the February 11, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.
An artist’s impression of Hauser & Wirth Somerset in Bruton. Photograph: Hayes Davidson
London! Zurich! New York! And now eight miles south of Shepton Mallet, convenient for the A303 and Bristol-Weymouth railway line. One of the world’s leading commercial galleries has revealed plans to expand its operations into what were derelict farm buildings in Somerset.
When galleries such as Hauser & Wirth announce expansion, it normally means a new space in Mayfair or Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, not what was, for centuries, a working farm in the middle of the English countryside.
The gallery said it would open its latest outpost on the edge of Bruton in the summer of 2014. “This is a beautiful part of the world and also a very creative part of the world,” said Alice Workman, who will be in charge of Hauser & Wirth Somerset. It will consist of a gallery and arts centre which “will serve the local community and town but also act on a national and international level”.
The gallery is expecting about 40,000 visitors a year and is an interesting development. While the public appetite for contemporary art seems to grow and grow, the chances of any publicly funded galleries being planned soon is remote. It could provide a model for other galleries to follow.
Somerset does not have any significant contemporary art galleries, said Workman. “We’ve got a great arts scene in Bath and Bristol but they are a good hour away.”
Planning permission was granted last week for a gallery and arts centre on what was originally built as a “model farm” dating back to 1760. There is a cowshed, a piggery, stables, barns, a farmhouse and land – but most of it is in a terrible state of disrepair with some buildings not safe to enter.
It could become something of a country retreat for Hauser & Wirth’s artists and the farm has already been visited by names such as Pipilotti Rist, Roni Horn, Phyllida Barlow and Paul McCarthy.
“Our artists are finding this a really exciting and inspiring project,” said Workman. “It is something really different.”
Hauser & Wirth was founded in Zurich in 1992 by Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Ursula Hauser, opening on Piccadilly in London in 2003 and the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2009. It expanded again in 2010 when it opened a new London space on Savile Row.
Workman said there was no real template or model to follow, and the enterprise was something “completely new”.
The site, Durslade farm, lies on the edge of Bruton – about 30 minutes from Glastonbury – and is not far from the railway station so it will not only attract visitors in cars.
Piet Oudolf has designed the landscaping including a one-and-a-half-acre meadow garden.
Workman said the local support had been striking. One resident is the Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, who said: “I’m excited that this magical town is being given such a shot in the arm in a way which is full of interesting promise. Art, architecture and cultural activity are not always the most common form of regeneration that small market towns see and it’s going to be interesting to chart how the wider pull of Hauser & Wirth Somerset will colour the atmosphere of Bruton. This project will bring culture from our cities into the rural world – one which I inhabit and love – and I’m particularly looking forward to the mix that it will generate.”
My personal style signifier is, apparently, my scarves. My wife, Manuela, was a great help here; she said I am “a scarf person”. I wear scarves because I fly so much and it is always warm, then cold, and I get a sore throat. I have them in all colours, fabrics, shapes; and I lose them quite regularly so I have to buy more. There is one from my friend Andi Stutz [owner of Fabric Frontline Zurich]; and whenever I go to visit Subodh Gupta, we seek out shops in New Delhi.
The last thing I bought and loved was a Swedish wood-splitting axe from the amazing German catalogue Manufactum. I love wood-chopping and I have a collection of axes. This one, called the Graensfors cleaving hammer (£111), is an art work. 0800-096 0938; www.manufactum.co.uk.
And the thing I am eyeing next is a “bella macchina” Berkel antique meat slicer, a high-quality industrial machine that slices your salami very thinly, safely. It’s very erotic. It really affects the quality of your food, and I am a food person. www.volanobiz.com/berkel-meat-slicers.htm.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is an 18lb salmon from my first fishing trip to Iceland. I went with my friend Björn Roth, the son of Dieter Roth. It was late-season fishing and it was the only salmon I caught in four days. Bjorn told me to stuff it, so we did, and now it hangs in our kitchen.
The last item I added to my wardrobe was a bespoke suit from my neighbour in Savile Row, Kilgour. It’s dark-navy, single-breasted and made in light wool serge. I have walked up and down Savile Row 10,000 times over the past few months, as our new gallery took shape, and have been impressed by the construction of these suits. 8 Savile Row, London W1 (020-7283 8941; www.kilgour.eu).
My favourite room is the kitchen in our London house. The world stops at 6pm for our family dinner. When I am in town that is an iron rule, and so it is the most important room.
A recent find is a restaurant in Somerset called At The Chapel, run by Catherine Butler and Ahmed Sidki. It is a unique place – a bakery, a cultural centre, a pizza place and a grill. And also – completely different – the Duty Free Paul Smith shop at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. The older I get, the earlier I find I want to get to the airport, so I often have 30 minutes to kill. At The Chapel, High Street, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0AE (01749-814 070; www.atthechapel.co.uk). Paul Smith Globe, Departure Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 5 (020-8283 7066; www.paulsmith.co.uk).
The last music I downloaded was actually amassed by my staff – I got an iPod for my 40th birthday this year. They all downloaded their favourite tracks, from 1970s punk to classical; my own musical taste is embarrassingly ill-educated. I can listen as I drive to Somerset.
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Los Angeles. Firstly, because it would be the ultimate challenge to live a completely different life; LA is the absolute opposite side of the coin to London. Secondly, many of our artists live there, and it would be extraordinary to be closer to them. And there is no other place where nature and the urban are so interlinked – sea, desert and city.
An indulgence I’d never forego is St Galler bratwurst, which you can get in the Kronenhalle in Zurich – the role model for all other artists’ restaurants. Ramistrasse 4, Zurich, CH-8001 (+4144-262 9900; www.kronenhalle.com).
The books on my bedside table are Marcel Duchamp and the Forestay Waterfall, an extraordinary history of Marcel Duchamp and his final masterpiece, Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage. This was edited by a guy who worked for me once, and it has texts by every Duchamp specialist. And another that’s completely different: The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich by Daniel Ammann, a present from my Zurich director. Rich is an interesting character and a great art collector.
My favourite website is Education City, a website for my children to do revision. It keeps me up to date with their curriculum. www.educationcity.com
With his round glasses and curly dark hair, Iwan Wirth looks a bit like a grown-up Harry Potter. Highly focused and energetic, the Swiss art dealer, at just 39 years old, is one of the most influential and successful players in the market. His gallery, Hauser & Wirth, has outlets in Zurich, New York and London, with an artist roster that includes such established names as Roni Horn, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Mitchell, the estates of Lee Lozano, Eva Hesse, Dieter Roth and the Henry Moore family collection, alongside emerging artists such as David Zink Yi or Zhang Enli. A recent coup has been the acquisition, with New York dealer David Zwirner, of a large part of the Lauffs collection of minimal and conceptual art, some of which will be exhibited at Hauser & Wirth’s stand at the Maastricht fair next month.
Wirth opened his first art gallery at 16, at a time when he was still using the school telephone to make calls. A significant moment was meeting Manuela, daughter of the wealthy collector Ursula Hauser, in his 20s; he married Manuela and the three founded Hauser & Wirth in Zurich in 1992. By 2000 Wirth was forging ahead – a joint partnership in New York with David Zwirner was followed by the opening of a London gallery in a Lutyens-designed former bank at 196 Piccadilly in 2003. He then expanded into Shoreditch in the east end of London with a project space, Coppermill, which hosted keynote shows by Paul McCarthy, Martin Creed and Christoph Büchel; he moved out of Coppermill in 2007. The joint gallery with David Zwirner has ended, although the two dealers continue to collaborate, and H&W has its own space in New York.
Now H&W is opening its biggest space yet, in the heart of London’s West End. The 15,000 square foot, column-free gallery with six metre ceilings, divided into two parts, will be inaugurated this autumn with a major show devoted to Louise Bourgeois, who celebrates her 100th birthday next year. It is currently being refitted by architect Annabelle Selldorf.
We meet in the upstairs floor in Old Bond Street above the famed Red Room of the Old Master dealer Colnaghi, which H&W uses for contemporary shows once or twice a year. Piled high on the table are artists’ books – supporting the gallery artists through publishing catalogues and books is an important but lesser-known aspect of the gallery’s work.
Does the decision to open another space in London say something about the position of the British capital at the heart of the art market? I ask. “London had expanded so rapidly in the previous few years, and it was specialised in younger material which was worst hit,” he answers. “But now the London market is back on track, and the Giacometti price is a sign of this. Also, my experience is that non-American collectors now hesitate travelling to the US, they just don’t want to go through that hassle, they prefer to come to London.”
“For us, London is close to Switzerland where we have a strong collector base, a strong artist base. And then we are European, in the sense of doing business in an old-fashioned way.” He laughs: “When we went to New York I said we were the Aga of galleries,” referring to his traditional, methodical Swiss approach, “but they totally failed to understand, they don’t have Agas [old-fashioned range-style cookers] there … ”
We are speaking the day after Giacometti’s “L’Homme qui Marche I” (1961) achieved over £65m just up the road, at Sotheby’s. What does that price mean? I ask. “It is one of the rarest and most iconic trophies that you can have, I was never offered a Walking Man,” he says, “And at last sculpture has also found its rightful place – I always thought it was under-valued, but no more.” En passant, he gives credit to the auction houses for their managing of the art market downturn. “I’m quite impressed how they steered through the storm,” he says. “They did a very good job of re-instilling confidence. Of course they were also partly responsible for the excesses of the boom as well!”
During the downturn, art galleries were getting the upper hand as vendors became more hesitant to risk their works of art at auction and were more likely to sell them through dealers. I ask Wirth if the recent huge prices change this. “I’m afraid the Giacometti price will tip the balance back again in favour of the auction houses,” he says. “We had a buyer’s market, but it didn’t feel like a buyer’s market any more at Sotheby’s sale,” he says.
Whether or not the pendulum will swing back, Wirth is convinced that his position on both on the primary and secondary markets is the most successful business model for a gallery. “It is a balance, but operating on the secondary market makes very long-term investments in the careers of certain artists possible. The cycles are far more extreme if you just do primary,” he says.
We walk over to the new space in Saville Row, of which he is obviously proud. One side consists of a vast raw space, with no columns; Wirth stands obediently in the centre, admiring the bare breezeblock walls while being photographed. Is it true that he always shows a new space to his artists before making a final decision? “Absolutely! I see them very much as part of the family, I love building galleries!” he says. “It’s great to create these spaces for art, with artists. Sometimes an artist might show for 15 years in the same gallery, and a new space stimulates them.”
Wirth is known to be very close to his artists, who range in age from 30-year-old Polish artist Jakub Julian Ziolkowski to Louise Bourgeois at 98. I ask him if this is easy. “I started out so young, everyone was older than me!” he says. “30 or 60 were the same to me then, and actually it never occurs to me to think about the age of the artists, I just look at the art.”
“The art market is at its most interesting moment for a very long time because for the first time it is truly global,” he says. He has another appointment and with Swiss punctuality is anxious not to be late. In conclusion I ask if he has any more expansion plans. “No” he says, waving good-bye. “But then I always say that – until I find another space.”
The rise of Swiss gallery Hauser & Wirth has been characterised by a quiet modesty some might interpret as stealth. “For those who’ve been watching, we’ve achieved a great deal,” says the gallery’s London director, Gregor Muir. “Hauser & Wirth may appear to some as an emerging gallery, but in fact it is one of the largest operations in the world.”
On 14 October, Hauser & Wirth opens the doors of its newest London space in the middle of Mayfair, on what was once the site of the English Heritage HQ. Designed by architect Eric Parry, it was recommended by its agent David Rosen at Pilcher Hershman, for its “New York factory” appeal. “This is the joy of London,” says Muir. “Finding this space was so unexpected.”
Opening night is scheduled during Frieze Art Fair, to be witnessed by everyone who is anyone on the global art scene, and the inaugural show will be Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works (“Untitled” 2007, pictured), a museum exhibition that comes straight from the Vedova Foundation in Venice. Many of the works are being shown for the first time, some of which have been lent by the Hauser family. Meanwhile, at Hauser & Wirth’s flagship gallery in Piccadilly, a Jason Rhoades show runs in tandem. For his 2005 exhibition, Black Pussy… And The Pagan Idol Workshop, Rhoades filled the former bank with flea-market junk and hung the place with 427 neon words, all euphemisms for vagina. He said he drew his inspiration from Mecca. So we can believe Muir when he says, “October will be an all-singing, all-dancing month for Hauser & Wirth.”
Now may seem like an odd time to be expanding an international art business, but this family-run outfit has always launched new galleries in dire circumstances. Iwan Wirth teamed up with his wife, Manuela Hauser and her mother, Ursula, to form their eponymous gallery, launching in Zurich in 1992, during the last recession and accompanying art-world slump. They opened their first London space in 2003, in a cultural and economic climate still reeling from 9/11, and at a moment when London’s top gallerist, Anthony d’Offay, had created shockwaves
by closing his space to become an “armchair dealer”. While the Establishment played it safe with bestsellers or retired to the sofa with its pipe and slippers, Hauser & Wirth moved into the grandiose ramparts of an Edward Lutyens-designed building opposite the Royal Academy and showed big, difficult, non-commercial, art.
It was all very impressive and smacked of authenticity, a rare commodity on the contemporary art scene, but who were these Swiss people with their good taste and bottomless funds? Such questions ricocheted around the velvet upholstery of antiquated London nightspot Tramp, during Hauser & Wirth’s discreet launch party. “Eight years on, people still don’t quite know,” says Muir. “I sit here and wonder when the penny will drop and they’ll realise Iwan isn’t just one of the biggest gallerists in London, but in the world.” Wirth has been placed in the top 20 of Art Review‘s Power 100 list every year since 2003, so I think they may have an inkling; he was No.11 in 2009, compared to Larry Gagosian’s No.5. What people really want to know is if Wirth’s muted yet meteoric rise is a threat to Gagosian, the man we all take to be the most powerful art dealer in the world.
In 2009, just as this recession got under way, Hauser & Wirth continued its expansion, this time to New York. Iwan Wirth already inhabited the building as half of the secondary market dealer, Zwirner & Wirth; but its new incarnation, as a large-scale, high-performance primary market gallery, was described by art commentator Robert Ayers as “an act of inspired art historical chutzpah”. They opened with legendary Sixties artist Allan Kaprow, inventor of the “happening”, who first produced his installation “Yard” in the same building, in 1961. Was this a red rag to New York-based Gagosian, or are comparisons missing the point? After all, Kaprow is no Jeff Koons, Gagosian’s bestselling, porn-star loving, figurehead artist. This is earnest stuff with no eye for fashion or sales. The closest Wirth gets to “the great male artist” is Paul McCarthy, known for his gigantic Disneyesque figures including “Gnome Buttplug” (Santa holding a sex aid), made for the City of Rotterdam, 2001. But McCarthy’s work is also rooted in the non-commercial “happening”: he performed psychosexual acts such as “Class Fool” (1976), in which he hurled himself about in a classroom splattered with ketchup until he was bruised and confused. He threw up, put a Barbie doll up his rectum and only stopped when the audience could take no more.
“Hauser & Wirth is a different type of model, unlike any other gallery,” says Muir. “We’re not just selling a product. Our focus is artists and they are unusual, distinctive people.” The right kind of space is intrinsic to the Hauser & Wirth vision, Muir tells me. Its acquisition of the cavernous Coppermill depot off Brick Lane in London led to shows such as Cristoph Büchel’s Simply Botiful exhibition (2006), for which the artist built sets of a sweatshop, recycling camp, a hotel/brothel and an import-export shop; visitors clambered up ladders and through dirt tunnels. In Turner Prize-winner Martin Creed’s 2007 show at the Coppermill, viewers were plunged into blackness save for a screen showing a penis sliding in and out of a woman’s anus to a slow, rhythmic beat; for the opening, this was accompanied by a live orchestra. The Labour government called Coppermill an outstanding rejuvenation project but was unable to halt the eventual destruction of the building, hence the three-year-search for a comparable space, ending with Savile Row.
The money for all this, one assumes, comes from the secondary market, buying and selling Modern Masters at auction and at art fairs such as the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF). This is not the glossy, social world of contemporary art galleries such as White Cube and Gagosian; it is the domain of some of the highest net-worth individuals on the planet, “people who don’t make a noise,” says Muir. “Iwan isn’t social, he has another agenda.” It is a world familiar to the Hauser family, however, whose private art collection is housed in a railway-shed museum outside Zurich, which also contains studios, a library and archives. They collected Louise Bourgeois for more than 20 years before her death last year. Not born to collecting like his wife, Iwan Wirth had nevertheless started his first gallery by the age of 16. The opening hours were Wednesday afternoons and weekends, to fit in with his school timetable. Who knows where his love of art came from, but his father climbs mountains and there is a sense that Wirth’s phenomenal drive, steady climb and expansive vision form a sort of conceptual mountaineering. He is hands-on with his artists, loves travelling with them and displays an energy that would put most 20-year-olds to shame. Then again, he is only 40, quarter of a century younger than Gagosian and younger, too, than Jay Jopling and his YBAs.
Hauser & Wirth
Louise Bourgeois, Paul McCarthy, Martin Creed
Portraits by the British artist Anj Smith appear at first glance to be those of young women. But careful viewing reveals elements that throw their portrayal of femininity into question—a few strands of facial hair, an Adam’s apple. Smith says the ambiguity is intentional, and that she was inspired to investigate issues of gender in her work by a close friend who recently underwent gender reassignment surgery. Her paintings are at once radical explorations of identity and sexuality, fused with a painting practice that has its roots in a fifteenth-century aesthetic and technique, a striking contrast that invigorates her work.
All of the eleven paintings on view at Hauser & Wirth in New York are small, but painted in intricate detail. At times Smith’s brushstrokes are scarcely detectable as hairline traces across her canvases. In other instances her brushstrokes are not detectable at all, as she has seamlessly created porcelain complexions and diaphanous textiles using an oil technique only achieved by true painting masters. It takes the artist six to nine months to create each painting, but the complexity of each piece succeeds in creating scenes that are surreal and alluring, well worth her time-consuming efforts. – Nadiah Fellah, NYC Contributor
Anj Smith | High Blue Country, 2012, Oil on linen, 14 1/4 x 11 in
Anj Smith | Portrait of a Girl in Glass, 2012, Oil on linen, 18 1/2 x 15 3/4 x 1 in
Anj Smith | The moon, like a flower, 2012, Oil on linen, 14 1/8 x 11 1/4 in
Among the many tediously-depicted details in each painting—common elements of which are insects, reptiles, monkeys, jewelry, flowers, cigarette butts—is Smith’s portrayal of each figure’s hair, richly highlighted, and which is intricately woven into braids and knots, adorned with feathers and fabric. That the tendrils seem to take on a life of their own is contrasted by the figures’ sullen or lifeless expressions, many shown in a three-quarter profile, another motif tying the artist’s work to a Flemish or Dutch painting tradition.
Anj Smith | Fruits of the Forest, 2012, Oil on linen, 19 5/8 x 16 7/8 x 1 in
Anj Smith | Fruits of the Forest (detail), 2012, Oil on linen, 19 5/8 x 16 7/8 x 1 in
Further conjuring Northern Renaissance masters like Jan Van Eyck is Smith’s use of symbolism, like the skulls so often seen in devotional paintings as momento mori, or reminders of the viewer’s mortality. However, she has written that, “symbols no longer stand for fixed intentions and a skull can mean pretty much anything…I feel those old defunct symbols retain a kind of ‘half-life’ meaning, a vestige of their purpose. As their original content decays in the present, they still suggest something to us, even if that ‘something’ is less clear and is morphing into something else.” The artist’s reimagined context for these symbols can be seen in her placement of an Alexander McQueen knuckleduster ring in the painting Fruits of the Forest, which features skulls in its design. The traditional symbol of mortality thus becomes one associated with consumerism and luxury, blurring the line between its traditional use in painting and the popular currency its gained as a fashionable icon. In another painting, New Blooms at the Ossuary, a crevice below ground and the decaying side of ghostly sea vessel reveal caches of skulls, each precisely rendered in detail. The artist’s myriad use of the motif in this instance borders on the absurd, taking the singular use of something meant to convey religious reflection, and repeating it until it becomes virtually meaningless.
Anj Smith | New Blooms At The Ossuary, 2012, Oil on linen, 22 x 27 1/2 x 7/8 in
Anj Smith | New Blooms At The Ossuary (detail), 2012, Oil on linen, 22 x 27 1/2 x 7/8 in
Although Smith’s paint handling is generally uniform and smooth, she departs from this method in her depiction of uneven terrain. By building up the oil on the canvas, parts of her paintings become almost sculptural, projecting off the surface of the work in high impasto to suggest a rocky texture. This technique is used in The Sentry, a picture of an androgynous reclining nude, whose gender is kept mysterious by a swatch of red fabric extending from the groin. Although the figure wears dark lip rouge and a flapper-style headband, closer observation reveals a barely-detectable layer of hair that covers the figure’s arms and legs, each strand rendered in painstaking detail. Despite the painting’s title, it is unclear what this figure guards, leaving one to contemplate its literal or allegorical meaning.
Anj Smith | The Sentry, 2012, Oil on linen, 18 1/8 x 15 3/8 x 7/8 in
The dark and whimsical nature of these works creates an aesthetic that is distinct, while displaying the artist’s ongoing engagement with the history and tradition of painting. In their careful rendering and rich, saturated colors, Smith’s paintings in themselves become like the priceless objects that are depicted within them. It is telling that the paintings in this show were sold almost immediately. Each tiny scene is an endless expanse of visual imagery and symbolism, and one could spend several moments tracing the minute details in her landscapes and portraits. Within each work are also remnants of popular culture and contemporary fashion that reward a meticulous eye. For this reason, Smith’s paintings are best experienced in person, where their sumptuousness and complexity can be fully appreciated.
Anj Smith | Ziggy, 2012, Oil on linen, 16 7/8 x 15 3/8 x 7/8 in
Anj Smith: The Flowering of Phantoms is on view at Hauser & Wirth in New York through February 23rd.
Anj Smith was born in Kent, England in 1978 and studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and Goldsmith College, both in London. Since 2003 she has had multiple international shows, in Europe, India, Thailand, and the US. Smith currently lives and works in London.
Nadiah Fellah is a graduate student of Art History at The Graduate Center, CUNY in New York.
Imagine that you’rean art dealer, and when you ask one of your artists for a work to sell at the Frieze Art Fair, he presents you with a thousand copies of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Arabic. What do you do? If you’re Iwan Wirth, you place those books smack in the middle of your booth, just as the artist, the Swiss sculptor Christoph Büchel, wanted. Did he ever consider just saying no? “Absolutely not!” Wirth insists. “But after the piece sold, we removed it. People were stealing the books. Why would anyone want to walk around an art fair with a copy of ‘Mein Kampf?’ ”
Looking like a grown-up Harry Potter with unruly curls and a hearty laugh, Wirth, 36, has become one of the most powerful players in contemporary art since founding the gallery Hauser & Wirth with his wife, Manuela, and mother-in-law, Ursula Hauser, in their native Switzerland in 1992. They now have outposts in Zurich and New York, as well as three gallery spaces in London, where he and Manuela live with their four children. Frieze, now in its fourth year, is Britain’s biggest art fair, drawing 152 galleries and some 63,000 visitors. It is also a highlight of Wirth’s business year. “It’s the center of gravity of the London art scene,” he says in his singsong Swiss accent, “thrilling, exciting and completely exhausting.”
Juggling the roles of curator, construction mogul, psychologist, entrepreneur and nanny, Wirth had a frenzied Frieze week in October. After presiding over the opening of a palatial new gallery on Old Bond Street, he gave a beer-and-sausage party to celebrate an installation by Büchel at his cavernous East London project space. Then there was the premiere of “Sick Film,” by the British artist Martin Creed. Wirth also had to buy for collectors at the London auctions that week, where he hoped to bag a Peter Doig painting for Hauser & Wirth’s own collection. After all of that, in addition to taking his children to school each morning, he still had several million dollars’ worth of art to sell at the fair.
Born in eastern Switzerland to an architect father and schoolteacher mother, Wirth got the art bug at 7, when he staged his first show — copies of Giacometti and Henry Moore sculptures he made himself. “I sold them for 75 francs,” he remembers proudly. Wirth opened a commercial gallery in their village at 16 and set up as a private dealer in Zurich in 1990. There he met Manuela, the daughter of a wealthy Swiss family. Together they acquired an ambitious contemporary-art collection for her mother and established Hauser & Wirth. Their artists include Europeans like Isa Genzken, Andreas Hofer and Pipilotti Rist, although Wirth has a penchant for “big boy” U.S. sculptors like Paul McCarthy and the late Jason Rhoades. He is equally excited about Büchel, whose East London show included a replica of an illegal industrial recycling plant. “When you meet a great artist like Paul, Jason or Christoph, you just know,” Wirth says. “There’s a particular type of energy — and they need a big gallery like ours to support them.”
That support comes from his secondary market, which generates most of Hauser & Wirth’s turnover. Like his rivals, Larry Gagosian and Jay Jopling, Wirth is an ace salesman. Having set new records at each of the first three Frieze fairs, he had high expectations for 2006. Wirth says that the frenzy of the fairs has transformed the art market, by replicating the buzz of the auction room and spurring even veteran collectors into making impulse purchases. “If people have time to decide, they’ll take it,” he observes. “The miracle of the art fair is that they don’t.”
By the second day of Frieze, almost all of the art in Hauser & Wirth’s booth has been sold, including a $480,000 McCarthy sculpture. The Old Bond Street gallery had opened smoothly, as had Creed’s film, although Büchel’s factory installation proved trickier. Local officials panicked at possible safety risks, and then a truck crashed into a sign outside. But his only disappointment was being outbid for the Doig painting at auction. “It was a beauty,” Wirth lamented. “My limit was £600,000, but I went up to £800,000, and someone bid £820,000. I tell collectors to set a limit and stick to it, but that’s what happens. It’s like a doctor telling his patients not to smoke and being a terrible smoker himself.”
Alice Rawsthorn is the design critic for The International Herald Tribune.
NEW YORK. Hauser & Wirth is opening a gallery space in New York in September as part of its long-term strategy to increase US market share. The gallery will expand its Zurich- and London-based operations at a time when shrinking demand for contemporary art has led several galleries to close international branches and others to cut staff.
“Everybody is looking at costs, and so are we,” said gallery owner Iwan Wirth. He added: “The art market has shrunk, but we made a decision one year ago that if there’s one place we want to be, and need to be, for the next 20 years it’s New York.”
The space will be located on the first four floors of the Upper East Side townhouse currently occupied by Zwirner & Wirth gallery. The six-story building, which was purchased by Ursula Hauser in 1997, is the site of the former Martha Jackson Gallery where Allan Kaprow installed his famed work Yard in 1961. The gallery, which represents the artist’s estate, will recreate the installation for its inaugural exhibition. Mr Wirth told The Art Newspaper: “Many of our artists, like Allan Kaprow, Paul McCarthy, Eva Hesse and Roni Horn, have no gallery representation in New York. We have great relationships in America and we want to shorten the distances.” Hauser & Wirth partner Marc Payot will run day-to-day operations at the New York outpost.
Although Mr Wirth will no longer share a space with New York dealer David Zwirner, the pair will continue their collaboration in the secondary market. Meanwhile, Mr Zwirner will also open a new space on 19th Street in Chelsea this September, in a building designed by Shigeru Ban, whose new Centre Pompidou-Metz opens next year.
International powerhouse gallery Hauser and Wirth makes a dramatic addition to its list of locations (Zurich, London, New York’s Upper East Side) this week, when its mammoth new space opens at 511 West 18th St. in Chelsea. A.i.A. attended a press preview Monday.
The new space’s debut comes less than two weeks after the row of small galleries on West 27th Street finally re-opened after Super-storm Sandy. Situated on the second floor, the new facility was unaffected.
“Dieter Roth. Björn Roth” (Jan. 23–Apr. 13) is the first exhibition on West 18th Street, and it includes installations, sculpture, video and prints by the father-and-son team, about half the works on loan from the Dieter Roth Foundation, Hamburg. Featured are more than 100 objects, created since the 1970s, some never before shown in the States.
As Hauser and Wirth’s Marc Payot told A.i.A. during a preview visit this fall, “Roth represents a kind of father figure for many of the artists we represent, in that his work is process-oriented and often collaborative, as well as highly complex and multilayered.” A gallery press release points out that Roth’s work sprung from a central concept of the indivisibility of art and life.
Visitors are greeted in the entryway by a site-specific, permanent work by Martin Creed, in which vertical stripes of colorful duct tape of various designs adorn the wall of the stairway that leads up to the second-floor space to the reception desk.
There, visitors turn a corner into a nearly 25,000-square-foot, column-free, sky-lit space under wood ceilings supported by black steel trusses. New York architect Annabelle Selldorf oversaw the design of the new facility, which is in the former home of the Roxy discotheque. It neighbors the High Line elevated park and Frank Gehry’s building for the IAC headquarters.
Large parts of the space are perfumed with the scent of chocolate, from Selbstturm (Self Tower), 1994/2013, a giant column of busts made out of chocolate, stacked on glass shelves in a metal frame, whose production continued in the gallery, with two young men cooking up the chocolate and carving the busts. “There are two-men teams working in 12-hour shifts,” the gallery’s Michael Hall told A.i.A.
Björn Roth led a walkthrough of the show Monday, explaining the genesis of two gigantic works, The Floor I (1973-1992) and The Floor II (1977-1998), that are actual floors from studios Roth occupied, displayed upright in the manner of a painting.
“The idea of the floor paintings came in 1992,” he said, when they had a large wall to fill in an exhibition. He pointed out where a section of the floor had been cut out to accommodate a door in that wall, saying with a smile, “we had to cut a door in the floor.”
Standing in front of some paintings made from tablecloths, he noted that “most works in the show are made from materials that had some other life.” The paintings are dated with huge spans of time, like Tischtuch mit Gechirrbildern (1987-94). “His philosophy was that you don’t do much at any one time,” he said, speaking of his father. “When I look at these paintings, every line brings memories from different times.”
Memorabilia from the Roxy adorns a café/bar created by Björn, who often collaborated with his father to create bars, and Björn’s son Oddur, whose name, he explained to A.i.A., is Icelandic for the point of a spear. “The business end,” he added with a mischievous smile.
“Some staffers had birthdays during the installation, which we celebrated here,” Hall pointed out, “and you can still see leftover cake in the glass-fronted filing cabinets above the bar.”
“Those are American-made cabinets,” Oddur told A.i.A., “which were exported to Iceland maybe 50 years ago, and which we found as scrap and brought back to the States. Scrap always has a history. And we live off of it. Or,” he asked philosophically, taking another drag on his cigarette, “does it live off of us?”
Oddur was standing in the bar, near a large glass cabinet in which scraps of paper were whirling around. “That’s a shredder for tearing up bad reviews,” he said with a meaningful glance at an art critic standing nearby.