Hauser & Wirth, a mega-gallery with more than a dozen locations worldwide, is set to launch a performance festival in Los Angeles this month.
Kicking off on October 29, the event, titled the Performance Project, will be a recurring showcase that will include performance art, theatre pieces, dance works, music, readings, film screenings, and other live events. According to the gallery, it will place a focus on LGBTQ+ and BIPOC artists.
The first iteration of the Performance Project will include a number of names familiar to the U.S. art world.
British artist Martin Creed, for example, will stage the U.S. premiere of his performance LIFE IS SOFT, composed of little more than a grouping of wordy monologues, at Hauser & Wirth’s Downtown L.A. space in tandem with a show there. Wu Tsang’s film MOBY DICK; Or, The Whale, a feature-length adaptation of the Herman Melville novel that appears with live orchestra accompaniment, will have its West Coast premiere through the festival. And Okwui Okpokwasili, who recently had a residency at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, will premiere a new work as part of the Performance Project.
Other events will look beyond the field of art. Jeremy O. Harris will debut a new project that wasn’t detailed by the gallery, and the performance artist and LGBTQ community advocate Legendary Sean/Milan™Garcon, of the House of AWT, will host a Vogue Ball.
“Last year, when we started talking about the gallery’s impending 30th anniversary in 2022, we knew we
didn’t want to host self-congratulatory parties or retrospectives,” said Marc Payot, president of Hauser & Wirth, in an email interview. “Instead, we looked to our roots and foundational values, and decided to launch initiatives that reaffirm those and build upon them.”
“Performance has been essential to the gallery’s life since the beginning,” Payot continued, “and we’ve presented hundreds of events across our various spaces in 30 years.”
There are also a number of less classifiable events on tap. Artists EJ Hill, Jeffrey Michael Austin, DonChristian Jones, and Morgan Bassichis will band together to host a concert under the collective name GABE, while Kathryn Garcia will show what’s billed as an “immersive healing environment” that includes film, sculpture, and more. And other performances on the line-up include one by Autumn Breon, a self-identified “Afro-Surrealist artist and freedom seeker,” and another by poet Yesika Salgado and singer San Cha.
Almost none of these artists are represented by Hauser & Wirth, with Creed being the only participant with any formal ties to the gallery.
There is a long history of performance art appearing in commercial galleries, although for the most part, artists working in the medium have resorted to alternative spaces and institutions because their work is not easily monetized. Perhaps for this reason, mega-galleries have largely shied from hosting it.
Still, in recent years, certain blue-chip galleries have set up initiatives focused on live art as their business expands beyond what can simply been shown within their walls. Pace, one of Hauser & Wirth’s competitors, has a dedicated arm known as Pace Live that regularly stages concerts, screenings, talks, and more.
Asked about the wide spread of events being staged for the Performance Project, Payot said, “We have always presented performance, and have never limited ourselves to ‘performance art.'”