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David Zwirner Plans Five-Story Renzo Piano-Designed Chelsea Flagship, Opening in 2020

540 West 21st Street in Chelsea.

COURTESY GOOGLE MAPS

David Zwirner may be opening a new space in Hong Kong in just a few weeks, but the mega-gallery is planning major expansion stateside as well. Today, Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times reported that Zwirner has finalized plans to open a five-story $50 million flagship in a new development on West 21st Street, set to open in 2020. It will be the first commercial gallery designed by Renzo Piano, the Italian architect who helmed the new Whitney Museum a few blocks down the High Line.

Zwirner already has two outposts in the neighborhood, and the plan is to keep the gallery on West 20th Street and close the one on West 19th Street. He also recently opened a space on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, and in addition to the nearly opened Hong Kong gallery, he has one in London’s Mayfair neighborhood.

Such expansion is significant, as while Zwirner is often seen as one of the top art dealers on earth, he has fewer gallery outposts around the globe than many of his high-flying peers—until his expansion boom of these last few months, there were just three Zwirner shops, compared to Gagosian’s 16. In an interview with Pogrebin, Zwirner addressed the push-and-pull between battling for global reach and maintaining personal relationships with his artists, and his search for a happy medium.

“Artists want you to stay small; they hate when stuff changes,” he said. “How do you keep it intimate while being able to compete in the increasingly competitive art market?”

He added, “On the other hand, if you don’t move, some artists will feel you’re not doing enough for their careers. They want to have intimacy, but they also want to have the reach.”

The new space will be at 540 West 21st, formerly the home of nonprofit Eyebeam. It was purchased in 1997 by the nonprofit Atlantic Foundation, which sold the lot to Casco Development in 2014 for $50 million. In December, the firm filed plans for a 20-story building with 38 residential units—the gallery structure will be separate from the rest of the high-rise.

Three of the five floors will house galleries, with offices on the other two. When it opens in 2020, Zwirner says it will be the “center of gravity” for his growing stable of spaces.

In other Zwirner news, a profile in the latest issue of WSJ. magazine revealed that, years after losing the artist Franz West to Gagosian in 2000, the late artist’s estate has chosen to return to Zwirner.

“I opened my gallery with Franz West’s work in a small space on Greene Street, and I am incredibly honored, twenty-five years later, to represent his estate,” Zwirner said in a release.

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