Marc Payot On Hauser & Wirth’s New Space and Why Books are Having a Moment

We asked the president and senior partner about the new space in Chelsea and why books and bars will always be an important part of the gallery’s program. 

A few weeks ago, Hauser & Wirth announced they would open a new space in New York City at 443 West 18th Street, in a historic two-story former industrial building that will complement the gallery’s multi-story home at 542 West 22nd Street, which opened in 2020. It will also serve as the site of the Hauser & Wirth Publishers flagship bookstore. The gallery has another space uptown, at 32 East 69th Street, and has also announced another space in SoHo that will open this fall.

A building facade in New York City
Hauser & Wirth’s West 18th Street exterior. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth Photo: Kyle Knodell

The gallery has expanded significantly over the past decade, but these fresh developments clearly mark the beginning of a new moment for Hauser & Wirth in New York. Observer recently caught up with Marc Payot, Hauser & Wirth’s president and senior partner, to hear more about the new space in Chelsea and why books and bars will always be important to the gallery’s program.

What made Hauser & Wirth want to open a third gallery space in New York?  

Having occupied temporary sites in the neighborhood in past years—the former Roxy discotheque and subsequently the historic former Dia building—we’re thrilled that this space on 18th Street will complete our creation of a permanent West Chelsea ‘campus’ for the gallery. It is a converted two-story early 20th-century industrial building, a complement to our beautiful five-story Annabelle Selldorf building on West 22nd Street not just architecturally but also programmatically. Whereas 22nd Street is devoted to grand exhibition spaces for major shows, 18th Street is an interdisciplinary site that houses our first-ever physical gallery space devoted to editions and prints, as well as a home for Hauser & Wirth Learning’s educational and community programs and projects, and an amphitheater for public programs like panels and performances.

And 18th Street also features the latest iterations of our wonderful Hauser & Wirth Publishers bookstore and our beloved Roth Bar. Upstairs, we’ve created a whole private world for the gallery’s team—extensive office and co-working spaces with some pretty great amenities, including site-specific works by some of our artists, like a very witty mural Rita Ackermann made for a conference room, a grand chandelier by Pipilotti Rist, some artist-made ceramic planters for an array of things growing in a full-building-width wall of huge casement windows and artist-designed furniture. So, 18th Street is a very special place that fulfills our original vision for Hauser & Wirth’s presence in the neighborhood.

How has the market for prints and editions changed in the past ten years?  

As the art world has become more global, with so many more art fairs around the world and the recent accelerated expansion of the digital realm, the very idea of collecting has also caught fire among many, many more people worldwide. Editions are a wonderful way for new collectors to hone their vision: they provide access to the work of great artists in a format that offers a special kind of intimate contact with those artists’ thinking. But editions are also now understood as essential for very established, astute collectors because prints and other types of series are the channels through which many great artists incubate their new ideas and experiment with techniques they have not tried before. Editions are a site where you see the artist’s mind expanding. It made sense to us to finally formalize our longstanding love of editions into a department and to open a dedicated space for them in New York.

Chelsea is still going strong but much has been made about the recent migration of galleries to Tribeca. How do you perceive Chelsea’s place in the current New York art ecosystem

We love West Chelsea and consider it an essential destination for anyone committed to experiencing exceptional contemporary art, so our commitment to the neighborhood is deep. But for us, geography is not an ‘either, or’ question. Hauser & Wirth has always created multiple unique gallery sites in major cities where we do business—London, New York, Zürich and Los Angeles. We believe there can be more than one energy center, and our approach is to create significant programming wherever we are. In New York, we’re on the Upper East Side and in West Chelsea, and this fall we’ll open a beautiful space in Soho, a district of the city we adore. We are thrilled that galleries are expanding across different parts of the city. That’s healthy for everyone and it’s very, very good for art.

In his recent New Yorker profile, Larry Gagosian called books a financial “loser.” But it seems that more and more galleries are bolstering their publishing arms. Why do you think that is?

Publishing has been central to Hauser & Wirth’s vision and value system since day one, and our longstanding independent imprint, Hauser & Wirth Publishers, reflects this. For us, publishing is essential to collaborating with artists—to representing them and advancing their careers by positioning their ideas in the cultural discourse for a long time to come. This is not about money or making a profit, it’s about creating a platform for the voice of the artist through a range of activities that amplify that voice across channels and generations.

From publishing artists’ writings and exceptional exhibition-related books to commissioning new scholarship and focusing on excellence in the craft and design of bookmaking to building an extensive artists’ oral history archive and offering a fantastic cultural magazine, Ursula, and operating destination art bookstores in different cities, our imprint creates a lasting record of artists’ work and ideas. It’s exciting to think other galleries are following suit.

Many people will welcome the return of the Roth Bar, which has now had many iterations across Hauser & Wirth’s spaces. What do people look for in a Roth Bar? What makes a good one?  

The Roth Bar is by and for artists and is a functional work of installation art. And that’s what makes it entirely unique in the world, wherever it may be in the world. That’s how it began decades ago when Dieter Roth first started making bars wherever he was installing an exhibition or setting up a studio. Now the Roth Bars are made by Dieter’s son and collaborator Björn and grandson Oddur, also an artist. And like him, they create the Bars primarily from things found, donated, scavenged, and repurposed that are available in the local environment. Consequently, a Roth Bar always has this very strong local atmosphere and an air of creation or creativity, a feeling of improvisation, invention and immediacy.

Marc Payot On Hauser & Wirth’s New Space and Why Books are Having a Moment