Why Watch Hulu When You Can Watch Art? David Zwirner Launches a Star-Studded Livestream Program at Galleries Around the Globe

The gallery will host six talks across four cities and show dozens of artworks in a bid for live programming.

Still from Christopher Williams' Video Asset nos. 1-10 created for "Program" Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner Gallery.

Normally, the second week of June sees much of the international art world jetting off to Basel, Switzerland for the city’s eponymous art fair. But given that, for the second consecutive year, the fair is not taking place in real life this week (it is currently scheduled for September), mega-gallery David Zwirner is trying to drum up an event of its own—online. 

On Thursday, June 10, the gallery will launch “Program,” a global livestreaming event that it claims will “transport” viewers directly to its galleries in New York, London, Paris, and Hong Kong.

Viewers will be treated to a walkthrough of each gallery, where new and historic works are on view by 35 artists including Francis Alÿs, Harold Ancart, Kerry James Marshall, and Alice Neel. After that, a star-studded program of talks led by curator Helen Molesworth will offer famous figures such as writer Hilton Als and director Barry Jenkins the opportunity to reflect on the art on show. 

The gambit arrives as mega-galleries continue to experiment and seek out ways to differentiate themselves online. (Gagosian created its own livestreamed series, called “Gagosian Premieres,” in October.) While auction houses have found success with theatrical livestreamed sales, art fairs and galleries have struggled to create the same energy around live events. 

According to Zwirner’s global head of online sales, Elena Soboleva, the idea for “Program” grew out of a smaller-scale effort the gallery organized during the online version of Art Basel Miami Beach in December. (“Miami New York” presented considerably more works than were permitted by the fair’s online viewing room and featured livestreamed walkthroughs of Zwirner’s New York galleries.) 

“Certainly, live is a frontier that is so needed in the space,” Soboleva told Artnet News.

Elena Soboleva. Photo by Jascon Schmidt

Elena Soboleva. Photo by Jascon Schmidt

Plus, while the United States has been fortunate with respect to reopening, “there are still many countries struggling with lockdowns and very tight borders so that travel is not really possible across countries,” Soboleva said. 

To increase the event’s unique feel, Zwirner commissioned the artist Christopher Williams to create a tailored graphic identity. In a nod to the sense of urgency created by a traditional art fair, Williams designed a countdown clock that rolls upon entry to the website. It is accompanied by a rotating selection of 10 “jingles” primarily performed by Emily Sundblad, co-founder and co-director of Reena Spaulings Fine Art.

Throughout the day, Molesworth will be in conversation with various writers and experts including Als and New Yorker writer Peter Schjeldahl. Jenkins will speak about Kerry James Marshall’s latest series while photographer Deana Lawson discusses the legacy of the late Diane Arbus. (A complete line-up can be found here.)

A gallery spokesperson confirmed it is providing honorariums to the speakers “as we do for any in-person or virtual event.”

Today, the gallery will offer tailored, sales-focused virtual events for small groups of collectors and clients that “resemble the VIP day at a fair,” Soboleva said. “This really brings innovation into it. I’m excited to share this with the world.”

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