Art 101

The Rise of David Zwirner Gallery

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The Rise of David Zwirner Gallery
David Zwirner's West 20th Street location

Known for its notable roster of Minimal, video, and international artists, David Zwirner Gallery celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2013, which has turned out to be a seminal year for the blue-chip enterprise.

German-born David Zwirner founded the gallery in 1993, originally opening in SoHo on Greene Street amidst widespread gallery closures. The child of Cologne art dealer Rudolf Zwirner—who achieved renown representing American contemporary masters like Donald Judd and John Chamberlain alongside such German mavericks as Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke—Zwirner essentially grew up in a gallery setting, absorbing the era's art history on a first-hand basis. This grounding allowed him to turn his own gallery into a success early on. In a well-known bit of art-world folklore, the gallery sold out a show of important work by Jason Rhoades in its first year of operation.

Since then, Zwirner has risen to the absolute peak of his field, earning recognition from Forbes as being one of America’s two most powerful art dealers and gaining the admiration of collectors and artists for his no-nonsense approach to the market. (“Money alone does not make a great collector,” he has said.)

Zwirner has been credited with introducing the work of Luc Tuymans to an American audience, presenting his paintings in one of the gallery's first shows, and he also helped launch the career of Raymond Pettibon. Currently Zwirner represents such acclaimed artists as R. Crumb, Lisa Yuskavage, James Welling, Marcel Dzama, and Suzan Frecon. He also represents the estates of Gordon Matta-Clark and Alice Neel, as well as several of America's most iconic Minimalists: Dan Flavin, John McCracken, Fred Sandback, and Donald Judd (through the Judd Foundation).

In recent years that gallery has been undergoing a period of tremendous expansion, with two high-profile openings of brand-new gallery spaces taking place in 2013—one in London’s Mayfair district and one on Chelsea's West 20th Street, which debuted with a show featuring the work of Flavin and Judd. That new Chelsea space, designed by Annabelle Selldorf, adds 30,000 square feet to the gallerist’s empire and will now be devoted to historical, secondary-market exhibitions, while the flagship space on West 19th Street will continue to show new work by the gallery's artists.

And that roster of artists is growing. Zwirner has recently made headlines by working with major artists long associated with other galleries, gaining the representation of Japanese abstractionist Yayoi Kusama and staging significant shows by Jeff Koons and Richard Serra

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