Sperone Westwater’s relocation is just the latest and perhaps most elegant in a surprising series of gallery moves or expansions during the recession, all designed to leapfrog status, create buzz or keep artists happy with more luxurious and expansive surroundings: Lombard-Fried, Zach Feuer, Bryce Wolkowitz, RH, Pace and Bortolami, among the galleries in play further uptown. Last spring, Gavin Brown massively expanded his space, and David Zwirner bought a new building on 20th Street, adding 27,000 square feet to his operation. The Proposition, in business for 18 years, opened in the Bowery area this summer, joining several galleries that had staked out the neighborhood a few years earlier.
Sperone Westwater’s new headquarters has already been dubbed “Norman Foster’s Big Red Box” and “the levitating showroom” by Curbed.com. “It’s a real innovation in terms of a way that it enables visitors to look at art,” said the dealer. “From the street, you will see this Ferrari-red box through the glass facade. It will be either moving or parked. It will be pretty amazing and quite distinctive. I suspect that’s the feature that will be the most discussed.” In an email, Sir Norman insisted, somewhat defensively, “It is not a large elevator. It is a mobile gallery with all the systems for environmental control, lighting and fire-suppression.”
The gallery’s artists seem to like it. Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, who recently had a hard-hat tour (it still has scaffolding), said he liked “the vertical strength of the building,” which he found to be “very Gothic, in a sense.” The Argentine painter and sculptor Guillermo Kuitca, who inaugurates the gallery space, said that he was most impressed by “the shifts of scale in the architecture,” which motivated him “to explore a wider range of painting sizes in order to activate the space.” For the first show, Mr. Kuitca has come up with a vertical installation of painted mattresses from 1992, which has been seen in several museums, but it has always been installed horizontally. “It has never been experienced as it will be next month,” said Ms. Westwater.
Other artists of the gallery have had their opinions, too, she said. “Richard Long has seen the space, and I can imagine he could do some kind of large mud drawing on the wall. … Bruce Nauman saw it and he is considering some kind of video installation. When Susan Rothenberg saw it, she said, ‘My paintings … I don’t know.’ Then we took her up to three, and she said, ‘This is the room I love. This is perfect for my paintings.'”