"Twenty-five years ago, the gallery opened in a relatively small space at 43 Greene Street in SoHo in New York, with the intention to show challenging art without compromise. It's been an extraordinary quarter of a century, with over 300 exhibitions behind us—from Greene Street to Chelsea in New York, then onwards to London, the Upper East Side, Hong Kong, and soon another Chelsea expansion—and an incredible roster of artists, outstanding staff, and community of collectors, curators, and supporters. I am proud that the ethos and spirit of commitment to the artists and their art that guided the gallery from the beginning remains true today and as we look ahead. This anniversary presents an opportunity to look back at—as well as behind the scenes of—a few of the highlights that have made these decades so memorable." —David Zwirner, January 2018
Pre Chapter Module
David Zwirner and gallery partners by John McCracken's Fair (2011) at 537 West 20th Street, New York, 2017. From left: Zwirner; Hanna Schouwink, Senior Partner; Bellatrix Hubert, Senior Partner; David Leiber, Partner; (on stair) Gérard Faggionato, Partner; Kristine Bell, Senior Partner; (on stair) Christopher D’Amelio, Senior Partner (on stair), and Angela Choon, Senior Partner and director of David Zwirner London. Photo by Jason Schmidt
Michaël Borremans, Marcel Dzama, John McCracken, Jockum Nordström, and Mamma Andersson at the joint opening of Jockum Nordström, 525 West 19th Street, and John McCracken, 533 West 19th Street, New York, 2006
SoHo and the Early Years
In February 1993, David Zwirner opened his eponymous gallery on the ground floor of 43 Greene Street with a solo exhibition of work by Franz West; the catalogue for the inaugural show listed David's home address, as at time of printing, he wasn’t sure where the gallery was going to be located.
The building was in the heart of SoHo, just down the street from the legendary number 112, the address of one of the city’s first artist-run venues in the 1970s where future gallery artists Gordon Matta-Clark and Richard Serra made some of their earliest work. The Greene Street space was designed by Annabelle Selldorf—the first of many projects for the gallery; a Bloomberg article describes the long-running collaboration between gallerist and architect: "They’re both from Cologne, but they met, Zwirner says, when he was 15 and studying in New York for a year, and she was 18 and starting at Pratt. In 1993, when he opened his first gallery, a 1,600-square-foot space on Greene Street in SoHo, 'her firm was a two-man show at that point, and I was a one-man show.'"
David Zwirner's program launched with radical, experimental shows by emerging artists such as Stan Douglas, Jason Rhoades, and Diana Thater, all of whom had solo exhibitions at the gallery in its inaugural year and are still part of the roster today. "Zwirner began his gallery with some very risky artists, commercially," Randy Kennedy observed. "One early show involved Paul McCarthy, who was still mostly a West Coast cult phenomenon. He also discovered, through McCarthy, Jason Rhoades, whose equally difficult work Zwirner embraced perhaps as only a more rarefied European gallerist could in the early 1990s." The founding team—many of whom have remained with the gallery, including Angela Choon and Hanna Schouwink—wore many hats, serving as front desk assistants and security, doubling as scale models and registrars, while working with artists and clients alike.
David Zwirner working alongside Angela Choon (left) and Hanna Schouwink (right) at the front desk of 43 Greene Street, New York, circa 1995
Front and back of showcard for David Zwirner's first exhibition, Franz West: Investigations of American Art, which opened in February 1993 at 43 Greene Street, New York
"[Zwirner] went into the business in a space on Greene Street in SoHo that was, by today's standards, little more than a coat closet. 'The front desk was David's desk back then,' remembered Diana Thater."
The New York Times
David Zwirner with his children, Scott Portnoy (far left), and Hanna Schouwink in Franz West's Kasseler Rippchen (1996), on view in Franz West: New Sculptures and Installations, 43 Greene Street, New York
Fax from Franz West to David Zwirner arranging a Bowery Bar meeting, 1995
Gallery staff dressing up as David Zwirner (fourth from left) for Halloween, circa 2002. Pictured here are Senior Partners Bellatrix Hubert (left), who joined in 1999, Hanna Schouwink (second from left), and Angela Choon (third from right).
Gallery staff at a holiday dinner, circa 2000. Pictured here are Senior Partners Bellatrix Hubert (far left), Hanna Schouwink (fifth from left), Angela Choon (third from left), along with Monica Zwirner (second from right) and David Zwirner
Out-of-office sign on the front door during a gallery trip to Las Vegas, circa 1999
"Zwirner’s program was fairly radical and rigorous, with a roster of under-recognized, experimental artists . . . His gallery was a lean operation, with an emphasis on work from Europe and the West Coast. He and Monica lived nearby. Sometimes he skateboarded to work."
The New Yorker
Flyer for COMING TO POWER: 25 Years of Sexually X-Plicit Art by Women, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1993. Curated by Ellen Cantor, this group exhibition brought together works by women artists, among them Louise Bourgeois, Marilyn Minter, Alice Neel, Carolee Schneemann, Cindy Sherman, Nancy Spero, and Hannah Wilke.
Installation view, COMING TO POWER: 25 Years of Sexually X-Plicit Art by Women, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1993. Pictured here, from left to right, is a painting by Joan Semmel and photographic works by Patricia Cronin, Nan Goldin, and Lorraine O’Grady.
David Zwirner with Jason Rhoades at the artist's first gallery solo show, Jason Rhoades: CHERRY Makita – Honest Engine Work, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1993
Angela Choon looking tentative in Jason Rhoades's Spaceball (1997), on view in Jason Rhoades: Deviations in Space, VARIOUSVIRGINS, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1997
Hanna Schouwink taking a moment in Jason Rhoades’s Cheese (1999), on view in Jason Rhoades and Paul McCarthy: Propposition, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1999
Franz West and David Zwirner working on Limerick (1994) for Franz West: Home Elements (A Retrospective), 43 Greene Street, New York, 1994
Exterior view of 43 Greene Street, New York, during Diana Thater: Late & Soon (Occident Trotting), 1993
Official portrait of Diana Thater for the Whitney Biennial, 1996. Thater was among the first artists to be part of the gallery's original roster, joining in 1993.
Installation view, SAMPLER – Southern California Video Collection 1970–1993, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1993
David Zwirner with Toba Khedoori, circa 1993
"One of the best exhibitions now on view, by a beginner or not, is the first show by Toba Khedoori, at the David Zwirner Gallery . . . . Visual perception is paramount: attention is quietly drawn to every gesture and decision that went into these understated images."
Roberta Smith, The New York Times
Peter Pakesch dancing and David Zwirner playing drums at a Russian restaurant in Coney Island, following a Franz West show opening, 1994. "There were no openings in the music program at the university in Cologne," wrote Nick Paumgarten in The New Yorker, "so [Zwirner] sent an audition tape to New York University of him playing the melody of Charlie Parker’s 'Ornithology' on the drums."
Front of showcard for Luc Tuymans: Superstition, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1994. This exhibition marked Luc Tuymans's first gallery solo show as well as his United States debut.
Polaroid of Angela Choon and Hanna Schouwink in back office of 43 Greene Street, New York, circa 1997
David Zwirner and gallery staff, including Angela Choon, interacting with Franz West’s Passstücke (1983–1994), on view in Mike Kelley; Paul McCarthy; Bruce Nauman; Franz West, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1995
Installation view, Diana Thater: China, Crayons & Molly Numbers 1 through 10, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1996
Raymond Pettibon working on No Title (Well you needn’t . . . ) (1997), a wall drawing for his second gallery solo show, Raymond Pettibon, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1997
David Zwirner, wearing a Raymond Pettibon T-shirt, at the front desk of 43 Greene Street, New York, circa 1997
David Zwirner with Marcel Dzama at the artist's first gallery solo show, Marcel Dzama: Drawings, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1998
Untitled (Five Years DZ) (1998), a work created by Franz West specially for Five Years, 1993–1998, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1998
An installation of Gordon Matta-Clark's Garbage Wall (1970), on view in Gordon Matta-Clark, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1999. The gallery's recreation marked the first time this important work had been presented since 1970.
Front of showcard for Gordon Matta-Clark, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1999, which features an image from the artist’s work Hair (1972)
Hanna Schouwink with Yutaka Sone's Green Jungle (1999), on view in Yutaka Sone, 43 Greene Street, New York, 1999
Fax to Franz West wishing him a happy birthday from David Zwirner and gallery staff and artist, 2000
Lucas Zwirner with Jason Rhoades, circa 2000
David Zwirner sharing a moment with Raoul De Keyser at the artist’s first gallery solo show, Raoul De Keyser: Come on, play it again, 43 Greene Street, New York, 2001