Hauser & Wirth is launching an ambitious expansion into Asia. The powerhouse gallery plans to open an exhibition space in Hong Kong in spring 2018 and offices in Beijing and Shanghai next month.
The gallery’s 10,000-square-foot Hong Kong space will extend across two stories of a purpose-built, stacked gallery building in the city’s Central district. (The same building is home to Pace and David Zwirner.)
Architect Annabelle Selldorf, who has helmed the construction of six of Hauser & Wirth’s spaces around the world, will design the new Hong Kong gallery.
The space will be co-directed by Vanessa Guo, who joined Hauser & Wirth in early 2016 from Christie’s, and Lihsin Tsai, a new hire who recently helped collector Qiao Zhibing launch his high-profile exhibition space in Shanghai. (Tsai previously collaborated with Hauser & Wirth on projects with Martin Creed and Wilhelm Sasnal at the Shanghai space.)
Marc Payot, a partner and vice president at the gallery, will oversee the sales and programming for the new branch.
Payot tells artnet News that the seeds for the space were planted two years ago, when gallery directors started making regular trips to mainland China and Hong Kong.
“On one level, we’re visiting our clients and the key people in the region, but we also really wanted to have a feel for the culture of China and Hong Kong, because being European or American, it’s really a very, very different country,” he says. “And we realized that Hong Kong is the easiest way into that market,” not least because it is much easier to conduct business in Hong Kong than in mainland China.
At the same time, with the help of the gallery’s Chinese clients, “we realized that the Hong Kong gallery is not enough. We have not figured out how to be present in mainland China, but we know that this is very important, so we’ll start with the two offices. That is just the beginning.”
In a statement, the gallery’s co-founder and president Iwan Wirth called the expansion into China “a new chapter,” though he noted that the gallery has been active in Asia for over a decade and previously participated in art fairs in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Hauser & Wirth is the latest addition to a growing group of Western galleries that are expanding to Asia. Lévy Gorvy announced plans to open a Shanghai office earlier this month, while Pace, White Cube, David Zwirner, and Simon Lee operate spaces in Hong Kong, Beijing, or both.
Wirth said the gallery had carefully researched the best ways to expand in the region over the past two years so that it could be “a fully present part of the art scene in China and engage meaningfully.” He noted, “For us, it was never a matter of ‘if,’ only a matter of ‘how’ and ‘when.'”
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