Julia Joern, a partner at David Zwirner Gallery and a driving force in the gallery’s communications, marketing, and publishing departments, has resigned from the gallery after a decade there, due to health reasons.
Joern was with Zwirner in the years during which the gallery expanded internationally, from a single-venue New York gallery to additional New York locations, as well as a space in London and plans for one in Hong Kong. “[T]o a large extent, the way the gallery is perceived, both nationally and internationally, is a result of Julia’s immense talent and hard work,” David Zwirner wrote in a rare all-staff email that went out last week and was shared with ARTnews. He added: “In a field where a great deal of business is still conducted in a very old-fashioned way, Julia has been a relentless innovator and pioneer, and in the process has created the very blueprint for all the marketing efforts that are now necessary to effectively run and grow a large-scale, international art gallery.”
Zwirner added in his email that Joern has been “a colleague and a friend, but also, to a large extent, the gallery’s moral compass.”
It is rare that a partner at a gallery is not someone directly involved in sales. Joern’s role with Zwirner encompassed marketing, publications, photography, research and archives, websites, media relations and social media, public outreach and special events; she was overseeing a staff of 20.
Joern joined the gallery as a consultant in 2004 after working on architecture and design publications at Rizzoli, Monacelli Press, Phaidon, and the office of Bruce Mau Design in Toronto. Zwirner was one of Joern’s first clients after she left Mau and started a boutique firm organizing media coverage and events, mainly for architects and photographers. She came in-house at Zwirner in 2008, and took charge of marketing and publicity for the gallery, and worked with publications. She was made partner in January 2014. Asked about highlights of her tenure with the gallery, she named a Philip Glass concert in the Chelsea space during an exhibition of Richard Serra’s sculptures and a book signing with Marcel Dzama orchestrated by director Spike Jonze. Under Joern’s leadership, Zwirner’s gallery began holding biannual press briefings for its upcoming exhibition program worldwide.
“David has been a true kindred spirit to me all these years,” Joern told ARTnews. “He also left the door open if I ever want to act as a special advisor in the future, which I totally appreciate. All my experiences with the gallery’s artists and staff will forever be part of my DNA. As an all-or-nothing type of person who leads instinctively with my heart and not always my head, actually deciding to take this much-needed sabbatical after almost 25 years of working seems to be one of the more practical decisions I have ever made. It is what it is.”
Before Joern made the decision to depart, she and the gallery hired two additional staff to be a part of Joern’s department, both of whom begin work next month. Susan Cernek, a veteran of Elle magazine and Paddle 8, will become director of marketing. Ashley Tickle, who most recently worked on communications for Hauser & Wirth gallery, and before that the High Line, will serve as director of communications.