Hauser & Wirth, a gallery with more than a dozen locations worldwide, has named Elaine Kwok as its new managing partner of Asia. In the newly created role, Kwok will be responsible for developing a client base and relations with institutions in the region. She will be based in Hong Kong, where she will report to Hauser & Wirth’s global CEO, Ewan Venters.
Kwok, who will assume her new position this summer, is currently director of 20th and 21st century art at Christie’s in Hong Kong. Since starting in that post in 2017, she has worked with top clients in China. During the pandemic, she became the public face of Christie’s Asia bureau, leading live-streamed sales from the house’s Hong Kong outpost after the marquee evening auctions were formatted. Prior to becoming a director at Christie’s Hong Kong, she served in various business development roles at the house for a decade.
Kwok currently serves on committees for the Hong Kong government’s cultural services agency and Friends of Hong Kong Museum of Art. In her new role, she will oversee a 12-person team in Hong Kong. In a statement, Hauser & Wirth president Iwan Wirth said Kwok will “leverage an exemplary network” in her new role to “reinforce” the gallery’s relations with collectors, as well as public and private institutions in China and across parts of Asia.
Kwok’s exit from Christie’s after 15 years comes ahead of the house’s plan to expand in the region. Christie’s has announced plans to build a new headquarters in Hong Kong in 2023. Meanwhile, the house said it will add a Shanghai portion to its London evening sale this March, a sign that it is betting big on the burgeoning Chinese sector of the international art market. In 2021, Christie’s reported $1.68 billion in sales to Asian collectors.
Top-tier Western dealers have begun placing a greater emphasis on bolstering their footprints across Asian-Pacific locales, which Wirth called “an essential region” for the gallery. The gallery’s competitors—Gagosian, Pace, White Cube, David Zwirner, and the newly formed LGDR—operate spaces in Hong Kong, Beijing, or both of those cities. Gagosian recently made moves to broaden its foothold in China, appointing Christina You, a former museum development executive in Beijing, to lead business strategies in the region.
Wirth said that the gallery’s decision to bring on a managing partner for Asia will allow him and the gallery’s other principals, Manuela Wirth and Marc Payot, to refocus on the gallery’s roster of artists.