BY Chris Waywell in Frieze London | 11 OCT 23

We Go Way Back: Hauser & Wirth

In this new series, galleries and gallerists who have been part of Frieze London since day one in 2003 talk about London, the art world and their approach to showing work

BY Chris Waywell in Frieze London | 11 OCT 23

Hauser & Wirth was founded in 1992 in Zurich by Iwan Wirth, Manuela Wirth and Ursula Hauser. It has since expanded to include outposts in Hong Kong, London, New York, Southampton, Los Angeles, Somerset, Menorca, Monaco, Zurich, Gstaad and St. Moritz. The gallery represents more than 90 artists and estates, inlcuding such names as Louise Bourgeois, George Condo, Iza Genzken, Philip Guston, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Henry Moore and Cindy Sherman. Neil Wenman, Global Creative Director and Partner, outlines the gallery’s genesis, position and relationship with Frieze, and remembers the importance of Phyllida Barlow, both personally and for Hauser & Wirth.

Can you outline the story of Hauser & Wirth in London?

Neil Wenman: Like Frieze London, 2003 was an important year for us. It was 20 years ago that we opened our gallery on Piccadilly with a gobsmacking show of Paul McCarthy, an artist who remains an important part of our DNA. Paul’s show ‘Piccadilly Circus’ was a performance and immersive installation that featured oversized and sardonic caricatures of notable leaders of the time. It had an irreverence and rebellious spirit that reflected the energy in the London art scene, something that also came to define Frieze London. 

The gallery in Piccadilly was open for ten years and during that time we hosted major exhibitions by artists including Isa Genzken, Roni Horn, Jason Rhoades and Diana Thater. Prior to that we had shown some incredible projects at Coppermill, a space in the East End, including a project by Martin Creed and Christoph Büchel. London became centre of gravity of the art world in Europe in the early 2000s, all of our artists wanted to show here.

The Wirth Bronze Gallery
‘Bronze Age’, 2017. Hauser & Wirth presentation at Frieze London in collaboration with Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge

What do you feel is the most important aspect of Hauser & Wirth’s approach to the artists it shows?

We always have been an artist-minded gallery and with each new opportunity we consider how we can cultivate a future in dialogue with the artists. 

One of the characteristics is a dialogue between artists of different generations. Avery Singer our current show in London has an affinity and deep respect for Philip Guston. Since the early days of the gallery over three decades ago, the family of artists has grown very organically – often artists introduce us to other artists that have connections with the programme. Jason Rhoades helped build our relationship with his art-school teacher, Paul McCarthy, who in turn introduced his mentor, Richard Jackson. When Mark Bradford joined the gallery in 2013, he encouraged us to look closely at Jack Whitten, in 2016, and conceptual art pioneer Charles Gaines, Bradford’s teacher at CalArts, both went on to become gallery artists. 

Phyllida Barlow, GIG, Hauser & Wirth Somerset gallery, 2014

Who have been some of the formative artists and shows for Hauser & Wirth?

There is a rich history to pick from, so I have to be personal here. For me, Phyllida Barlow has had the biggest impact on my own view of art. Her opening show for our Hauser & Wirth Somerset gallery in 2014 was a game- changer. With her memorial only last Saturday, this Frieze we all sense her absence, and the immense loss.

Louise Bourgeois was one of the very first artists that the gallery represented in the early days in 1996, and her presence looms large throughout the gallery. We have done over a dozen shows internationally and each time there is also something new to learn, to decipher and to hold on to. 

Pipilotti Rist is another strong female presence in the gallery and her exhibition in Savile Row in 2014 had thousands of visitors, with a line around the block most weekends. Her work immediately touches the viewer, and one feels a great sense of connection. She has a wonderful ability to tease your inner child out of you.

Pipilotti Rist
Pipilotti Rist, Worry Will Vanish Horizon, 2014

Can you describe London’s art landscape as you see it?

In the two decades since we opened, the city’s art scene has continued to flourish. It remains extraordinarily vibrant and creative. London has been a multicultural city for decades and a magnet for creative people from all over the world due in part to its strong art schools. Its great strength has always been the cross-pollination between creative genres and in the past 20 years we’ve seen the scene become far more international. London has a strong creative community that’s far more fluid today.

What impact has Frieze art fair had on Hauser & Wirth and on the city’s art scene in a wider sense?

Following the landmark opening of Tate Modern in 2000, the time was right to rewrite the rules on art fairs in London. Fairs had always been targeted towards collectors and galleries with a commercial focus. What was brilliant about Frieze was that it created a fair experience that appealed to artists and the general public as well as collectors. Elements like the live music programme and artist commissions made sure it was different to the established fairs in Europe and the US. Frieze London really cemented London’s role as a leading hub for contemporary art. 

‘L’Atelier d’Artiste’, 2016. Hauser & Wirth presentation at Frieze London 2016

Which moments from Frieze over the years especially stand out for you?

I created the concepts for our Frieze London booth for many years and continually tried to throw out the rule book, if there was one. I wanted to come up with new ideas, silly propositions that artists would enjoy and that would entertain and stand out. 

From 2014 to 2017 we showed ‘A Study in Red and Green’ (2014) in collaboration with Mark Wallinger, with the infamous sleeping guard, a living sculpture by Christoph Büchel; then came ‘Field’ (2015) with 50 sculptures on plinths in a grid, this was followed by an ‘L’Atelier d’Artiste’ (2016), a pastiche on the reconstruction of a fictional artist’s studio. This culminated in our presentation ‘Bronze Age’ (2017) in collaboration with Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge, a fictional presentation of a forgotten, regional museum space. We had international museum loans and works by our artists mixed in with eBay items I had found, alongside a museum souvenir shop selling bookmarks and baby grows. Part of the irony was that it looked like a Frieze Masters booth, but it was right in the middle of the contemporary fair. 

I think Frieze London’s pioneering approach to the art fair format pioneered by Matthew and Amanda encouraged us to think outside the box. Frieze has provided a space to play, to rebel.

What does the future hold for Hauser & Wirth?

We return to Frieze London this week with a solo booth by the incredible Paris-based, American-born artist Barbara Chase-Riboud with her Standing Black Woman of Venice sculptures and a Philip Guston-focused booth at Frieze Masters. Next week we open our debut gallery in Paris with an exhibition with new works by Henry Taylor, so we will be practising our French while on the booth in Frieze. Looking further ahead to 2025 we’ll be opening our new flagship London space in the former Thomas Goode building at 19 South Audley Street, complementing our existing Savile Row location.  Our new home occupies the ground and basement of this historic Grade II* listed icon of Victorian architecture. So between Paris and London, it’s a tale of two cities. 


Barbara Chase-Riboud, Standing Black Woman of Venice
Barbara Chase-Riboud, Installation view, Standing Black Woman of Venice X, Vijja (BBBA) (1969–2020), Standing Black Woman of Venice IV, Praxilla (BABA) (1969–2020), Standing Black Woman of Venice V, Nossis (AABB) (1969–2020). Black bronze, dimensions variable. © Barbara Chase-Riboud. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Alex Delfanne 

Hauser & Wirth, 23 Savile Row, London W1S 2ET.

Read more…

We Go Way Back: Thomas Dane Gallery


Hauser & Wirth is part of Frieze London, which returns to The Regent’s Park from 11–15 October, 2023. Read the full list of galleries and curators taking part in Frieze London & Frieze Masters 2023.


Early-bird tickets to the fairs are now sold out. Limited full-price tickets have just been released. Don’t miss out, book yours now.



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Thumbnail and main image: Hauser & Wirth, exterior.

Thumbnail and main image: Hauser & Wirth, exterior

Chris Waywell is Senior Editor of Frieze Studios. He lives in London, UK.