The traditional art world gallery model is no stranger to being challenged, but a new enterprise from David Zwirner is particularly significant in ushering in that new era. Opened in October 2021, Zwirner’s new Manhattan outpost, named after its address, 52 Walker, is set to function differently from the art giant’s other locations and is poised to foster creative experimentation while supporting a broad range of artists. 

Featuring a renovation overseen by Selldorf Architects, 52 Walker is situated on the ground floor of a historical landmark building in Tribeca. Its programme is led by director Ebony L Haynes, a respected curator and writer, and will showcase artists of all backgrounds and at various stages of their careers.

52 Walker and the vision of Ebony L Haynes

 Nicholas Venezia, Courtesy of Selldorf Architects Ebony L Haynes David Zwirner New York
Exterior view, 52 Walker, New York. Photography: Nicholas Venezia, Courtesy of Selldorf Architects

Its inaugural exhibition, a solo presentation of works by Kandis Williams entitled ‘A Line’, showcases the breadth of the artist’s multidisciplinary practice. Ranging from collage and video works to performance and assemblages, Williams’ works delve into ideas of race, nationalism, authority and eroticism – qualities that are heightened in the gallery context.

As Haynes says, ‘The gallery is built around the idea of giving artists space and time to create and exhibit over an extended timeline. I want artists to feel like they can experiment in this space and that visitors can spend longer moments engaging with the works in an intimate manner. I have been a long-time admirer of all the artists 52 Walker will feature, and all my exhibitions will be grounded in the thoughtful, critical background each artist brings to their work, including the first five exhibitions, which happen to be solo shows: Kandis Wiliams, Nikita Gale, Nora Turato, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, and Tau Lewis.’ 

 A Line’, 52 Walker, New York, until January 8, 2022. Courtesy 52 Walker, New York
Installation view, ’Kandis Williams: A Line’, 52 Walker, New York, until January 8, 2022. Courtesy 52 Walker, New York

Haynes’ conceptual and research-based approach has been proven at other galleries, such as Martos Gallery and Shoot the Lobster, and informs her explorations on how to reframe the gallery model. 52 Walker has been envisioned as a platform that blends the commercial gallery with the long-view exhibition development of a kunsthalle. While all the works shown will be for sale, the gallery will notably not represent the artists it presents. 

‘I want to make sure 52 Walker is a place of experimentation for artists. The adapted kunsthalle model enables this by removing the boundaries of representation and ensures that 52 Walker’s featured artists are brought into conversations and opportunities for collaboration with other galleries,’ explains Haynes. ‘I want artists to have exposure to as many opportunities as possible across their careers, with 52 Walker providing an ephemeral space they can inhabit for a time. We are also working in a commercial model, as selling their work affords more opportunities for growth within their practices, creates connections with great collectors and permanent collections of institutions, a place I think they all deserve to be, and many already are.’

Each show will be accompanied by an issue of the gallery’s publication Clarion, which will give ‘each artist a monograph archiving their work with scholarly intent’, Haynes continues. ‘This documentation builds on the exhibition, bringing in dialogues with other critical thinkers both in and out of the art world.’ §

 A Line’, 52 Walker, New York, until January 8, 2022. Courtesy 52 Walker, New York
Installation view, ’Kandis Williams: A Line’, 52 Walker, New York, until January 8, 2022. Courtesy 52 Walker, New York