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6 Influential Female Art Dealers Working Today

  • Portrait of Victoria Miro
November 18, 2018
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

In the contemporary moment, art dealing can be highly profitable activity, yet the launching of this career largely depends from the demands of the market, familiarity with a certain scene, and numerous liaisons with people from art world (artists, curators, gallerists, etc.). An art dealer is basically a connection between artist or buyer and their client and usually manages their business through a gallery.

Although the primitive forms of art dealing date back to the 17th century, for a long time the distinction between the private or public patronage and the activity of art collecting or art dealing could not be established. However, the circumstances largely changed at the beginning of the 20th century due to major social and political upheavals; it was no longer just the aristocracy who commissioned, purchased and collected the artworks – there was a new class – bourgeoisie which did that as well. Among them appeared some of the most influential collectors, who could be described as a form of art dealers as well, and the person who empowered the development of modern art by supporting, collecting and promoting it was a woman – none other than Peggy Guggenheim.

The contributions of this notable figure are grand, alongside those of British curator and art dealer Betty Parsons who championed Abstract Expressionists during the early post-war period. Except for the two mentioned woman, for a long time, this career was mostly male-dominated – until the late 1960s and 1970s, when a number of women started running galleries, mostly in New York. Step by step, they changed the rules of the game into their own favor, which reflected on the increasingly globalized market during the 1980s onwards.

In order to underline the importance of women art dealers and to contextualize the shift, well-known photographer Annie Leibovitz had a shooting of fourteen of today’s influential women gallerists in 2014, which can be treated as a powerful statement in comparison with a photograph featuring group of male artists and gallerists made by Hans Namuth in 1982, during the 25th anniversary of the Castelli Gallery.

We honor the domains of bold and persistent women such as the six art dealers below. They remain highly influential and are practically dictating both historical and latest art tendencies in global terms.

Marian Goodman

The first on our list is Marian Goodman who is a founder of the Marian Goodman Gallery which opened in Manhattan, New York in 1977. She is best regarded for introducing the European masters such as Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers and Gerhard Richter to the United States.

The unmistakable and refined selection of contemporary art and the names of artists spanning from Tony Cragg, Tacita Dean, and Christian Boltanski, to Annette Messager and Maurizio Cattelan, marked Marian Goodman as one of the most influential figures in the art world since the 1970s and 1980s, a time when few women worked in this sector.

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Paula Cooper

This year, Paula Cooper celebrated five decades of her gallery’s activity. Prior to opening the gallery in 1968, she separated from her second husband, with a child under 2 and six months pregnant. The gallery opened with an anti–Vietnam War benefit exhibition which featured the works by the Minimalists Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, and Sol LeWitt.

Throughout the years, Cooper managed to profile the exhibiting politics by focusing on socially and politically engaged practices of artists such as Lynda Benglis, Elizabeth Murray, Joe Shapiro. Sherrie Levine, etc. The gallery became an important cultural and social spot not only local but in the global context as well.

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Mary Boone

The next art dealer on our list is Mary Boone, the founder of the Mary Boone Gallery. In 1977, she decided to open this notable exhibition space after working as a secretary at the influential Bykert Gallery. Julian Schnabel and David Salle are the first two artists she represented; Schnabel’s success soon reflected on Boone, so she was featured on a New York magazine and described as The New Queen of the Art Scene.

As the time passed by, she became one of the most successful gallerists of her generation and the first one to introduce a waiting list for collectors to purchase artworks which are not produced.

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Barbara Gladstone

An American art dealer and film producer, Barbara Gladstone runs Gladstone Gallery on two locations in New York City and in Brussels. She set off in the 1980s by showing the works of Jenny Holzer, while in the early 1990s she run the SteinGladstone gallery, together with an Italian art dealer Christian Stein, as a space focused on installation works by both Italian and American artists.

Interestingly so, Gladstone was the producer of Matthew Barney’s movies The Cremaster Cycle and Drawing Restraint 9. The gallery represents a number of other internationally recognized artists such as Anish Kapoor, Shirin Neshat and Sarah Lucas, to mention a few.

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Victoria Miro

Following up is a well know British art dealer Victoria Marion Miro, the founder of the Victoria Miro Galleries in London and Venice. In 1985, she took over the space previously owned by dealer Robert Fraser and started running her own gallery. Soon afterwards, Miro opened a second gallery in Florence in Italy, but the art market collapsed so it was shut in 1991.

Miro is also known for her search of artists to represent among the students of the Royal College of Art, among which are now Jake Chapman and Sam Taylor-Wood, for instance.

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Helene Winer

The last on our list is an American curator and art dealer Helene Winer, who co-owns Metro Pictures Gallery in New York City with Janelle Reiring. She started her career by working as an assistant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art before traveling to the UK, where she took the position of assistant director of the Whitechapel Gallery. In 1970, Winer started working as Director of the Museum of Art at Pomona College, as an assistant professor of art as well and curated a number of exhibitions. During the mid-1970s she wrote for the Los Angeles Times and worked as Director of the non-profit Artists Space in New York.

Winer also promoted the works of artists belonging to the Pictures Generation such as Sherrie Levine and Robert Longo. Finally, Metro Pictures opened in 1980 with an exhibition featuring various artists such as Cindy Sherman, James Welling, and others. Since then, the gallery gained fame due to a considerate curation of both established and burgeoning artists.

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Featured image: Portrait of Victoria Miro. Photography: Suki Dhanda