In an unusual move, David Zwirner, a mega-gallery that’s best known for representing artists like Yayoi Kusama, Jordan Wolfson, and Kerry James Marshall, will help bankroll the literary magazine the Drift, which has gained a loyal following in New York.
The gallery said on Wednesday that it would become the Drift’s lead funder. Through the arrangement, the Drift will be able to grow its budget, and David Zwirner will host the publication’s gala starting next year.
Founded in 2020 by Kiara Barrow and Rebecca Panovka, the Drift publishes a print edition three times a year. It was conceived as a throwback to a kind of publication that no longer exists: one that was willing to publish leftist journalism that is unabashedly intellectual, much of it in the form of long-form criticism. Almost all of the writing, Barrow and Panovka wrote in the first issue, is by “young people who haven’t yet been absorbed into the media hivemind.”
“They are a nonprofit, and they are unbelievably worthy of support and in need of support,” Lucas Zwirner, the gallery’s head of content, said in an interview. “It felt like a way to be involved with a culture-shaping publication like the New York Review of Books.”
Since its launch, the Drift’s offerings—and its parties—have been closely watched by many, including New Yorker editor David Remnick, who once told the New York Times, “I would be a fool not to read something like The Drift.” The Times‘s profile of the Drift called the publication “the lit mag of the moment.”
Readers of the Drift prize its offerings because they are lengthy, considered, and occasionally even controversial. Recent pieces have included essays on the “liberal apologia” for Anthony Fauci, the problems associated with capitalizing the word “Black,” and the pratfalls of talking about Minimalism using the terminology put forward by art historian Michael Fried.
That last essay was penned by none other than Lucas Zwirner, who sent the editors of the Drift a cold pitch. The editing process was so “compelling,” he said, that he was moved to forge a longer-term partnership between the gallery and the magazine.
In a phone conversation, Barrow told ARTnews that the Drift’s sensibility wouldn’t be compromised by the new arrangement with David Zwirner.
“It’s important to us that the Drift remains independent—we’re not going to be incorporated into the gallery’s editorial wing in any way,” she said.
Instead, she continued, it would mainly allow the Drift’s editors, many of whom are volunteers, to commission “more ambitious writing and reporting projects” and to offer better freelance rates.
David Zwirner, like its competitors Pace, Gagosian, and Hauser & Wirth, has a publishing arm that puts out catalogues, biographies, and critical texts. Many of these books are related to the gallery’s artists, although not all of them are.
The Drift will bear no relationship to David Zwirner Books, yet the new arrangement is still a part of Lucas Zwirner’s efforts to expand the gallery’s editorial side.
He said he did not mind if many of the Drift’s articles were not art-related—the gallery’s support was mainly meant as a way of helping to fund a new generation of writers. “There’s so much good that can come out of it and trickle into the world of letters,” Zwirner added.