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.
Fax from Franz West to David Zwirner arranging a Bowery Bar meeting, 1995
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
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.
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."
Polaroid of Angela Choon and Hanna Schouwink in back office of 43 Greene Street, New York, circa 1997
David Zwirner, wearing a Raymond Pettibon T-shirt, at the front desk of 43 Greene Street, New York, circa 1997
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