Peter Boris of Pace Gallery: his professional journey up the hierarchy of the art world

by leslierankowfinearts

Peter Boris 293-tif

ARNE GLIMCHER OPENED HIS FIRST GALLERY IN BOSTON IN 1960, AN IMPASSIONED  YOUNG MAN WITH A DEDICATION TO GREAT ART.  HE HAS BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR DEVELOPING AND NURTURING THE CAREERS OF SUCH LEGENDARY MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY MASTERS AS AGNES MARTIN, MARK ROTHKO, AND ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, TO NAME A VERY FEW.  RECENTLY CELEBRATING ITS 50th ANNIVERSARY, PACE GALLERY , NOW HEADED BY ARNE’S SON, MARC,  HAS SEVEN OUTSTANDING LOCATIONS: FOUR IN NEW YORK, TWO IN LONDON, AND ONE IN BEIJING.  LAST OCTOBER, IN LONDON I WAS ABLE TO ATTEND THE OPENING OF THEIR LONDON SPACE  AND VIEW, IN PERSON,  A MEMORABLE AND IMPECCABLE EXHIBITION CONTRASTING AND CELEBRATING THE SYNERGY OF THE MEDITATIVE SEASCAPE PHOTOGRAPHS BY SUGIMOTO AND THE SOMBER MONOCHROMATIC LATE ROTHKOS.

PACE GALLERY’S  FLAGSHIP LOCATION IS  32 EAST 57th STREET, IN NEW YORK,  A BEAUTIFUL GALLERY EXHIBITION SPACE, PRIVATE VIEWING ROOMS AND OFFICES, NOW FEATURING A STELLAR INSTALLATION EXHIBITION BY ARCHITECT/ARTIST AND ENVIRONMENTALIST, MAYA LIN.  IN CHELSEA, GALLERY SPACES INCLUDE TWO ON WEST 25th, THE LARGEST  DESIGNED BY ARTIST ROBERT IRWIN, AND THE SPECTACULAR SKY-LIT SPACE ON 22nd, FORMERLY PART OF THE DIA FOUNDATION.  http://www.pacegallery.com/newyork

PETER BORIS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF PACE GALLERY,   IS AN EXCEPTIONAL GALLERY DEALER, A  LONG-STANDING MEMBER OF PACE’S IMPRESSIVE ROSTER OF DIRECTORS. HIS GENUINE LOVE OF ART AND IDEAS AND ENCYCLOPEDIC KNOWLEDGE OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY PAINTING AS WELL AS HIS PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE ARTISTS AND INSIGHT INTO THEIR CREATIVE THINKING MAKE WORKING WITH HIM A GREAT PRIVILEGE  BOTH FOR ME AND MY CLIENTS.

PETER’S  OWN HISTORY IN THE ART WORLD IS A FASCINATING REFLECTION OF HIS COMMITMENT AND CONTRIBUTION TO IT.

PETER, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE BLOG. I KNOW YOU HAVE HAD A LONG RELATIONSHIP WITH ASIA ON BEHALF OF THE GALLERY.  PLEASE TELL US HOW YOU FIRST STARTED TO WORK AT PACE AND YOUR PROFESSIONAL EVOLUTION?
The new gallery in London is a very important development.  The first show, Rothko and Sugimoto is truly extraordinary. It was bliss.  Two voices, two different generations, different mediums, and even different civilizations… but each address confront the same timeless subject – the sublime.  It blew my mind – especially my first jet lagged look at it.

Pace London is the vision of Marc Glimcher, Arne and Milly’s son. With his wife Andrea and a great staff in London, they have set in motion Pace’s next stage of development.  The ambition is large: to extend an equivalent credibility of Pace’s first 50 years into a second generation.  The goal is to create a new form of the original in response to a different time .  I don’t think it has ever been done before in the gallery business and that, I think,  is what motivates Pace these days.  It is as exciting as it is challenging.

As for me, my interest in art derives from my experiences in the Albright- Knox in Buffalo where I got interested in art looking at the great masterpieces in the collection.   My first attraction was to Gauguin, Soutine, Matisse, and most notably for me, a Courbet painting called “The Source of the Loue” and Miro’s “Harlequin’s Carnival.”    Later on, Pollock, Clyfford Still, de Kooning, Rothko and Klein drew me in – literally.  I spent hours in front of these paintings.  They were like very good friends.  I didn’t understand exactly what I was looking at but the feelings that were generated in me were very strong.

When I first got to New York in late 1970’s New York was in bad shape economically but fantastic things were happening in the art world – a rebirth of painting and object making.  It was also the birth of what is known as “Celebrity Culture.” A new “content” or lack of it was emerging.   I had come to New York to be a painter.   After a while,  I got a job at Pearl Paint on the mezzanine where they sell paints, water colors, pastels etc.   It enabled met to build a knowledge of art materials.  I also met a lot of artists.  It was great fun and I was in the art business food chain.  As I saw it, wet paint was  an at the beginning of the art business.    At one point I declared that I was “The Manager for Life of the Mezzanine.”  I am not sure why but I really liked the title.   I stayed there a year before moving on.

WHEN DID YOU JOIN THE PACE GALLERY AND WHAT WERE YOUR INITIAL RESPONSIBILITIES?
A few months later,  I got a job  time at Pace Gallery as an art handler.  Art handling offered an exceptional opportunity for me to learn more about art.  This may sound odd but I learned a lot through my hands.  Holding a Picasso or Giacometti sculpture was illuminating to me. The same with paintings. The physicality of the objects was a source of knowledge.  And, of course,  when no one was around, being able to
set up rooms of paintings and sculpture I wanted to look at was spectacular. Another great thing was having some access to the Pace artists. They were often around the gallery.   They were very generous and sometimes tolerated a lot of questioning.  Lucas Samaras, Jim Dine, Saul Steinberg, Chuck Close and Bob Irwin were really nice to me.  Later, Agnes Martin was taught me a lot about her understanding of art.  And finally, being an art handler allowed me to eavesdrop on Arne talking about paintings and art in general. And to observe how art got sold. That had always been a mystery. Arne had a very clear way of explaining the complexities of visual language.  Point A led to point B to point C.  As you can see here, I am not that way.  So I was in heaven as an art handler for a few years.

I KNEW NOTHING OF THIS. I AM SO GLAD I ASKED! IN OUR NEXT BLOG, PETER WILL OUTLINE HIS TRANSITION FROM ART HANDLER TO GALLERY DIRECTOR, A PROFESSIONAL ARC THAT INCLUDES AN EARLY AND PRESCIENT FOCUS ON ASIA, CULMINATING NOW IN PACE’S EXTRAORDINARY GALLERY IN BEIJING.

I WELCOME ANY AND ALL SUGGESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE ON TOPICS THAT WOULD INTEREST YOU, QUESTIONS ON TOPICS THAT HAVE BEEN DISCUSSED, ALL OF WHICH WILL FURTHER INFORM US ALL OF THE WORKINGS OF THE ART SYSTEM AND ITS MANY SATELLITES.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!