Back in the early days, before David Zwirner became an international art empire, the staff at the New York gallery would kick off their holiday celebrations with a round of Secret Snowflake. They would play the White Elephant version of the gift-giving game, in which previously opened presents could be poached in lieu of choosing a new one from the pile. But because so many members of the team (art handlers in particular) are talented artists themselves and contributed their own work as gifts, things got pretty competitive. “It had to be discontinued, because it led to too much strife,” says Lucas Zwirner, the eldest of the gallery founder’s children, and now its head of content. Later in the evening, they would head to a bar and let loose—another activity that was enhanced by the group’s creative skill set. “We have a lot of DJs in the gallery, and we all love to dance,” adds Marlene Zwirner, Lucas’s sister and an associate director.
While the gallery is still a family affair, multiple locations in Paris, London, and Hong Kong mean new traditions—and the pandemic obviously put the kibosh on intraoffice dance parties. This year, Lucas and Marlene have been focused on a different kind of art exchange: Platform, a new website where you can click to buy work from independent galleries around the world, with a new batch of paintings, drawings, and sculptures appearing each month. It acts as a “24/7 art fair,” as Lucas puts it, but, unlike physical art fairs, which demand exorbitant up-front fees and the presence of top staff, Platform runs effortlessly in the background, and the company collects a commission from the galleries only if something sells.
Together with Bettina Huang, the general manager and head of Platform; Alec Smyth, an associate director at Zwirner, who led the site’s pilot program; and Sharon Gong, Platform’s design lead, Lucas and Marlene have been envisioning a collaborative, accessible future for the art market. Platform’s soon-to-be office, in front of which the group was photographed, reflects this sensibility: It will be a flexible meeting space and a Zwirner company canteen.
For holiday gifts this year, in addition to paintings by Jillian Evelyn and Nathaniel Robinson, which will be featured for the site’s December collection, Team Platform recommends artist-designed plates from the Artist Plate Project, the proceeds of which benefit the Coalition for the Homeless, and a new collection of Virginia Woolf’s writings on the visual arts, published by David Zwirner Books. “Virginia sold herself short as a critic,” Lucas notes. “But of course, anyone who has read To the Lighthouse knows that she can write about painting unbelievably well.”
The Platform Team’s Gift Guide
Hair and makeup by Amanda Wilson for Milk Makeup. Still lifes photographed by Devin Doyle; set design by Elaine Winter; styled by Christina Holevas.