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Zesty Meyers and Evan Snyderman founded R 20th Century in New York just over 20 years ago. The gallery focused on 20th- and 21st-century design. The duo posed questions about design, and were passionate about promoting the canon and educating collectors.
Now known as R & Company now, and Meyers and Snyderman have changed the way furniture and collectibles are perceived in America. They represent some of the biggest names in the field: the Haas Brothers, Wendell Castle, Rogan Gregory, Jeff Zimmerman, and Oscar Niemeyer. They’re also supporting up-and-coming talents like Katie Stout and Sebastian Errazuriz.
Since 2000, they’ve been in Tribeca on Franklin Street, and in 2018 they opened a dynamic second location at 64 White Street. There, they have more exhibition space, installation opportunities provided by a multi-floor atrium, and room to house and open up their extensive library and collection.
Snyderman and Meyers were always struck by the lack of American design influence on a global scale, and they have worked hard to create a program that is both strong internationally and representative of the great achievements of U.S. makers. They’ve helped to put American designers on the map and groom a new kind of collector base.
Whitewall spoke with the pair about their vision for what’s next.
WHITEWALL: What does it mean for you to be celebrating 20 years?
EVAN SNYDERMAN: We built this new space at 64 White Street to celebrate the history of the gallery, but also to push the whole business and design movement and market forward. It’s what we really believe in, and that’s our big goal.
ZESTY MEYERS: We are able to present questions for the viewer, whether that’s the difference between craft and fine art or design and lighting. We’ve always had the same mission of trying to push the boundaries of why people should own or collect design.
ES: It is not so much to be about us, but about the bigger picture and looking toward a much larger conversation around design. We’ve been at it for over 20 years now, and we feel like we’re at the beginning of something new. The collectible design market is still in its infancy. We find ourselves at this really key moment, which is why we decided to build this big new space to celebrate that.
WW: What was your vision for the new gallery?
ZM: It’s a space for the people we represent that are living. They can have intimacy or a very big space, and we can curate a different scale for them. At the same time, we can show historic pieces. We can have three shows on at the same time, whereas at the other gallery we would have one. We get to put things with other things that we couldn’t have done before.
ES: Part of the goal of this new space is to give the opportunity for the designers to elevate their work by giving it breathing room. We didn’t go looking for this kind of space.
ZM: We get to keep raising the bar here of what it means to show and sell design. And the archives are a way for us to give back. There’s so much potential in working with contemporary designers to be able to get the dreams out of their heads and into reality.
WW: Can you tell us about your plans for the archives?
ZM: We’re opening our archives that we’ve been collecting for 20 years. There’s about 10,000 things in it. We want to give back to the community, from elementary school students to scholars, and lend to institutions globally to help educate, save history, and help create future history.
ES: We’re not just a contemporary design gallery, and we’re not just a historical design gallery—we do both. We really want to push the historical design program just as much forward as the contemporary program.
ZM: If you didn’t have the past, you wouldn’t be able to have the future. In this country alone, there’s a huge vastness of wealth that still needs to be put in the right perspective of what is good or great. That’s part of our job.
WW: You represent international designers, but you’ve done so much for American designers and educating American collectors on collectibles and furniture.
ES: We’ve always looked for those holes in the marketplace or design canon. American design is always left out of the conversation. None of the American designers have museums shows, yet every European designer that’s under 30 seems to have had a museum show. Why is that? We figured this is something that we can do something about. We have had a big concentration of American designers over the past 10 years. We have really pushed the American design program forward.
ZM: Our clients are global. We’ve helped a lot of people that have a home in New York, but it’s rarely just New York anymore. It’s amazing how many people come here from all over the world now, compared to when we first opened 20 years ago.
WW: 2018 was the first year you showed at the Armory Show fair. Are you hoping to continue your presence at art fairs, posing those questions around the intersection of art and design?
ES: We would love to. We’ve shown at more and more fairs like at EXPO Chicago and FOG in San Francisco. We love that intersection of art and design.
ZM: It’s not something we need, to be in the art world. We don’t want to be art dealers. At EXPO we were next to Gagosian and Lévy Gorvy and Rhona Hoffman. People are putting us there. They’re coming to us, which is a great thing. But we are a design gallery.