David Zwirner and Leo Xu began their conversation at Art Basel in Hong Kong this past March. The fair, in its fifth year, had grown to over 240 dealers from 34 countries, with an increasingly international audience and a noticeable uptick in the sophistication of Asian buyers.
Xu had become known for presenting innovative exhibitions by young and emerging Chinese artists, such as
and Xu Wenkai, better known as
. Many of their projects focus on urbanism and the relationship between new media and its influence on the visual culture of modern China. Working with institutions such as the Power Station of Art in Shanghai and the Jewish Museum
in New York, Xu had been at the forefront of an international dialogue.
But Xu said staging ambitious, internationally oriented programming, combined with running an artists residency and the cost and work of traveling to fairs, had stretched him thin. Despite the name he was making for his artists and his space, he felt his efforts were unsustainable.
“It’s becoming harder to travel and participate in major international art fairs…considering costs, logistics, staging offsite projects around the world while running a dynamic exhibition project back home,” he said. Moving to Zwirner enables him to continue these kinds of international projects with more resources. Although he will no longer represent his current roster at Zwirner, he said he will continue to work closely with them once the gallery shuts its doors, in particular connecting them with international and local institutions.
“I see many opportunities to work with my artists in the future, and they’re in a great position to go out and grow internationally,” he said, pointing to Liu’s debut solo show with New York stalwart Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
, which opens in February 2018. Xu said he and his colleagues at Zwirner are working to determine which local artists they can bring onto their roster to help strengthen the gallery’s presence in Asia and to further the appreciation for
internationally; the timeline for this to take place is, however, not set.
In the meantime, it’s unclear who will help today’s cohort of emerging artists grow. Xu was one of the few who was promoting his artists abroad and bringing them into dialogue with international artists.
“I think we’re all waiting to see what the impact of losing such a well-respected gallery mainstay will have overall,” said Shanghai-based independent curator Leigh Tanner.