David Zwirner Hires Susan Dunne, a Former Pace Dealer Who Resigned Amid Allegations That She Fostered a Toxic Work Environment

In addition to hiring Dunne, the gallery has brought on board the estate of Robert Ryman, an artist Dunne worked with for years.

Susan Dunne in Basel, Switzerland. (Photo by JOE SCHILDHORN/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

In yet another recent example of a legacy artist switching from one major gallery to another, David Zwirner announced today that it has obtained exclusive representation of the estate of Robert Ryman. The famed minimalist had been on the roster of Pace Gallery for the last three decades; after his death in 2019, the gallery represented the estate.

Moving to Zwirner with the estate is Ryman’s wife of 50 years, artist Merrill Wagner, as well as dealer Susan Dunne, who will become a senior director at the gallery. Dunne, a former president at Pace who worked closely with Ryman for nearly 30 years, resigned from her position in March after several employees raised allegations of abuse, harassment, or mistreatment against her and fellow dealer Douglas Baxter.  

“I first met Susan Dunne in the early 1990s when we were both working on Greene Street,” dealer David Zwirner said in a statement included in the gallery’s announcement. “I was at my gallery down the street and she was up the street at Pace Gallery. Susan has been an outstanding gallerist and art dealer for over three decades, and I am very much looking forward to her joining the gallery in the fall.”

Dunne and Baxter were the primary focus of a Artnet News investigation in November 2020 about the work culture at Pace Gallery, which numerous current and former staff members described as “toxic.” 

“It was a Devil Wears Prada situation,” a former assistant to Dunne said in the report. “My hands would sometimes shake thinking that Susan was coming into the office.”

Robert Ryman. Photo courtesy Pace Gallery.

Days after the article was published, Pace launched a legal investigation into the two dealers. This spring, the company announced both had departed the gallery (though Baxter would remain an advisor).

Representatives from Zwirner did not immediately respond to emails from Artnet News about whether the gallery was aware of the allegations against Dunne upon her hiring. Dunne is expected to start at the gallery in September.

The Ryman move, meanwhile, represents the latest example of blue-chip artists and artists’ estates shuffling among mega-galleries. Just last month, Pace announced worldwide representation of Jeff Koons, the pricey artist who previously worked with Zwirner and Gagosian.

Meanwhile, since 2016, Zwirner has added to its roster the estates of artists including Roy DeCarava, Joan Mitchell, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Josef and Anni Albers.

In his statement, Zwirner called Ryman a “singular artist, among the most important of his generation.” The dealer added that “his work is in deep dialogue with many of the gallery’s artists, from Josef Albers and Giorgio Morandi to his peers Donald Judd, On Kawara, Fred Sandback, and Richard Serra.”

Ryman’s auction market appears to have room to grow: only four of his works have sold for over $10 million publicly, according to the Artnet Price Database.

The gallery will collaborate with Ryman’s sons, Ethan, Will, and Cordy Ryman—all artists—on presentations of their father’s work. 

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