Iwan Wirth opens his first gallery, at age 16, in St. Gallen, Switzerland. So as not to clash with his attendance at school, the gallery is open only on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and Sundays. In 1990, Iwan Wirth moves to Zurich and begins to work as a private dealer. It is here that he first meets Ursula Hauser, an art collector and retail magnate, who helps him to fund the purchase of works by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.
In 1992, Ursula Hauser and Iwan Wirth open a gallery together in the first-floor apartment of an Art Deco villa on Sonneggstrasse, a quiet, residential street in Zurich, where Iwan Wirth has been living for a year.
‘In the late 1980s I lived in St. Gallen, and as a teenager I ran a gallery there. Beginning in 1985 artists I had only heard of, like Martin Disler, Klaudia Schifferle, Fischli & Weiss, Urs Lüthi, or Josef Felix Müller, were exhibited by curators like Bice Curiger, Bernhard Mendes Bürgi and Harald Szeemann. The important galleries in Switzerland at the time were Thomas Ammann, Pablo Stähli and Stampa in Basel. And of course, Ernst Beyeler! The Zurich institutions in those years that I still remember well are the Shedhalle in the Rote Fabrik and of course the Kunsthalle. I moved to Zurich in 1991 to Sonneggstrasse 84. The art market was stuck in a deep recession, and commercial interest in contemporary art was at a low point. So I lived in that apartment and also ran an art dealership there, but didn’t actually represent any artists in the usual sense’.