Ebony L Haynes shakes up tradition at David Zwirner’s new Manhattan outpost

At David Zwirner’s new downtown New York space, 52 Walker, director Ebony L Haynes is restyling the traditional gallery model in an incubator for experimentation

Installation view, 'Kandis Williams: A Line', 52 Walker, New York, director Ebony L Haynes, until January 8, 2022.
(Image credit: TBC)

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

Exterior view, 52 Walker, New York Ebony Haynes David Zwirner New York

Exterior view, 52 Walker, New York.

(Image credit: Photography: Nicholas Venezia)

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.’ 

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

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

(Image credit: 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.’

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

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

(Image credit: Courtesy 52 Walker, New York)


’Kandis Williams: A Line’, David Zwirner, 52 Walker, New York, until 8 January 2022, davidzwirner.com

Pei-Ru Keh is a former US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru held various titles at Wallpaper* between 2007 and 2023. She reports on design, tech, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru took a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars, actively seeking out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.