Zurich Dealer Eva Presenhuber Explains Her Power Move to Gotham

Why open in New York just when some New York galleries are calling it quits?

Eva Presenhuber at the opening reception for
Eva Presenhuber at the opening reception for "Ugo Rondinone: Human Nature," Rockefeller Plaza, New York, 2013. Photo Nicholas Hunt, ©Patrick McMullan.

One of Europe’s most respected art dealers, Eva Presenhuber, who has long run an eponymous gallery in Zurich, will soon open a venue in New York. Sited at 39 Great Jones Street in NoHo, Presenhuber’s new space, which joins her two Zurich venues, will open May 5, timed to Frieze New York, with an exhibition of Austrian painter Tobias Pils, his first US gallery solo.

Galerie Eva Presenhuber's stand at Frieze London, 2013. Photo Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Galerie Eva Presenhuber’s stand at Frieze London, 2013. Photo Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Recently, Presenhuber talked to artnet News via email about coming to New York during a period of retraction in the art market, and about the need for growth.

Your opening a venue here comes against a backdrop of the closure of some prominent New York galleries, both large and small, young and old, including Andrea Rosen, Lisa Cooley, and Feuer/Mesler. There’s also a lot of talk about a cooling art market. What makes this the right moment for such a bold step?
I am in New York and Los Angeles quite a lot. One major reason is the fact the 25 artists who my gallery represents are living and working either in New York or Los Angeles, and one in Canada. For several years I was wondering whether it would make sense to have a least an office in New York. At some point I got the offer to rent the space at 39 Great Jones Street, and decided to do so. It’s a great opportunity for our main gallery in Zurich to have an address in New York and to be able to spend more time with the artists there.

Yes, this is a strange moment in time, not only in the United States but also in Europe. It seems that capitalism and democracy are fighting each other politically, to grow into a global world, and that seems to affect the art world too.

In a related question, both art fairs and art galleries have made such aggressive moves toward international expansion that “grow or go” has become a hashtag (one often used by Belgian collector Alain Servais when he tweets such news, for example). Is such growth not only salutary but in fact necessary?
I started my gallery, like most of my colleagues, in a small, cheap space, and it’s true, if you could not grow with your most successful artists, then you are in trouble. My personal experience is that 99 percent of the artists I am showing since I started in 1989 are still with me. I feel lucky. Thanks to the loyalty of artists and gallery employees, I could grow my reputation and my program.

I can see the negative sides too, if pure commerce takes over or art is purely seen as a short-term investment. But as we know, time will show which artistic positions survive and which are the fashion of their time. So “grow or go” is a fact for all the artistic disciplines.

As our friend Andrew Russeth pointed out in ARTnews, a number of the artists you show also have native New York galleries representing them: Joe Bradley shows with Gagosian, Doug Aitken and Karen Kilimnik with 303, for example. Will you work in collaboration with those galleries in some way?
Well, I work together with those galleries in a very friendly way—in the case of 303 Gallery for almost 25 years—so I do not think that this will affect our relationship at all. Our main gallery is located in Zurich and 39 Great Jones functions as an extension where I can do shows with artists who are not represented by galleries in New York, like Tobias Pils, who is our inaugural show. The next show after Pils will be Shannon Ebner in early summer, and then Sam Falls and Torbjørn Rødland in the fall. It will be more of an experimental space where younger figures can be shown with a specific body of work. I could also imagine secondary market shows of some of our artists.

In a related question, do you plan to take on new artists as part of this move?
Yes, there is a possibility to show new artists in that space too. We will see how we can develop it to its best potential.

Some other European galleries have opted for Los Angeles for their US outpost, for example Sprüth Magers. Did you consider Los Angeles, with its growing art scene, as a place for your American home? Or any other city?
At some point I thought about Los Angeles, but I think New York City is a good platform to visit L.A. more often.


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