Hauser & Wirth, the gallery founded in 1992 in Zurich but later expanded into an empire reaching Hong Kong, London, and Los Angeles, has a remarkable founding story. Ursula Hauser, a retail magnate who has collected some of the most important female artists in the past four decades, once agreed to support the young Iwan Wirth kick-off his career as an art dealer and almost accidentally launched one of the greatest dealerships and galleries of our time. At age 19, Iwan asked his future mother-in-law for a loan to help buy works by Chagall and Picasso and she famously agreed. This allowed Ursula, Iwan and her daughter Manuela to join forces and birth a respectable family business, now known as Hauser & Wirth.
Now, Manuela Wirth is organising a non-selling exhibition of around 70 works by female artists drawn from the famous Ursula Hauser Collection. The gallery announced that the tribute to her mother is set to open in May on Hauser’s 80th birthday, in Somerset.
Hauser’s collection includes several artists that museums, dealers and collectors are eager to acquire. On show will be works by Louise Bourgeois, who has “a special place” in Ursula’s collection, as well as works by Eva Hesse, Lee Lozano, Carol Rama, Meret Oppenheim, Sheila Hicks and Sonia Gomes.
“Getting to know Louise Bourgeois has probably been the single most important event in Ursula’s life as a collector,” Manuela told artnet News. “Despite being a generation apart, they still had a lot in common, Small in size by strong in character, European, with three children each, they come from a background of textiles.”
The exhibition will take place at Hauser & Wirth Somerset in the West of England, where the Wirths have a home, and is the first to show many works in Hauser’s collection. Ursula often lends many works to museums around the world but has not shown this many pieces around each other at once.
Manuela says that many works are “interwoven” in her mother’s life story. Ursula was widowed young and managed to transform a small family electrical appliance business into a retail giant in Switzerland.
Apart from the cultural significance and history presented in the exhibition, it is also seen as a birthday present from Manuela and Iwan, to the matriarch of the House & Wirth dynasty, after whom Ursula, the magazine they launched last year, is named.
“Unconscious Landscape: Works From the Ursula Hauser Collection,” 25 May through 8 September 2019 Hauser & Wirth Somerset.