IN 2014 IN THE NEW YORK AREA, FOUR SUPERSTAR ARTISTS HAD MAJOR SHOWS AT LOCAL INSTITUTIONS—AI WEIWEI AT THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM, SIGMAR POLKE AT MOMA, JEFF KOONS AT THE WHITNEY, AND JULIAN SCHNABEL AT THE BRANT FOUNDATION. THE ONE COMMONALITY THAT LINKS THESE ARTISTS IS THE FACT THAT, AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER, ALL OF THEM HAVE BEEN REPRESENTED BY MARY BOONE. WHILE THERE ARE PLENTY OF BILLION-DOLLAR PLAYERS TODAY COMPETING FOR THE MANTLE OF THE PREMIERE NEW YORK GALLERIST, FOR MANY, THAT DISTINCTION GOES TO BOONE. SHE HAS, ALL AT ONCE, REVOLUTIONIZED THE ART WORLD, WEATHERED IT, CHALLENGED IT, SURVIVED IT, GIVEN NEW LIFE TO IT.
But it never occurred to me to show Jean-Michel because he was black or to show Barbara and Sherrie because they were women. I never thought it was the gallery’s responsibility to make this a fair and equitable world—you can’t do that. I just tried to show art that I liked, that I thought was powerful and strong.
Mary Boone interviewed by Eric Fischl in INTERVIEW MAGAZINE, October 2014
TODAY, MARY BOONE GALLERY, IN TWO PRESTIGIOUS LOCATIONS IN NEW YORK, 745 FIFTH AVENUE ON 57th STREET AND 541 WEST 24th STREET IN CHELSEA, SHOWS A MIX OF ARTISTS LONG-ASSOCIATED WITH THE GALLERY SUCH AS ROSS BLECKNER, BARBARA KRUGER, AND FRANCESCO CLEMENTE, REPRESENTS INTERNATIONALLY ESTABLISHED ARTISTS SUCH AS AI WEIWEI, KAWS, AND JACOB HASHIMOTO, AND IS ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT FOR NEW TALENT. HER TRACK RECORD IS IMPECCABLE. IT IS REMARKABLE THAT ONE GALLERIST CONTINUES TO IDENTIFY THE MOST INTERESTING AND VITAL ARTISTS OF EACH GENERATION.
TODAY, THE LRFA BLOG IS HONORED TO CONTINUE ITS DIALOGUE WITH RON WARREN, GALLERY PARTNER AND DIRECTOR, WHO WILL CONTINUE TO SHARE THE HISTORY OF THIS ACHIEVEMENT WITH US.
When did the gallery move into its current space on Fifth and what prompted that decision?
We closed the gallery in SoHo and moved to midtown in Spring of 1996. A number of galleries had already left SoHo because of what was considered the commercialization (and resultant rising rents) of an area that had originally been in the 1970s a place where artists could inexpensively live and work. Already in 1996 Chelsea was an option – galleries were buying spaces there to avoid what had happened in SoHo. But at that moment for us there was not the right space available – we were leaving a spectacular sky-lit garage! – and so it was appealing to look at the historical nexus for contemporary galleries around 57 and Fifth. 745 Fifth Avenue, also known as the Squibb Building, is a quintessential Art Deco tower. It’s a great location, a lot of collectors live uptown and there is a concentration of hotels where international clients stay, plus we are four blocks from MoMA.
What were some of the exhibition highlights that stand out for you in the Fifth Avenue space?
An early show in the Fifth Avenue space (1997) was a series of paintings by Richard Artschwager of potatoes, a very banal subject but brilliant in Richard’s hands. In 1998 we began a regular series of curated group shows that broke from our usual format of nearly exclusively solo shows by gallery artists. These shows created lively juxtapositions and brought work by many artists new to us into the gallery, including Huma Bhabha, Louise Bourgeois, Thomas Demand, Douglas Gordon, Carol Bove, Tom Friedman, and Richard Prince. Our 2010 exhibition of Sherrie Levine’s cast glass Newborn sculptures displayed on four grand pianos is one of the most remarkable installations in the space. In 2013 we had a dazzling show of Peter Halley’s paintings hanging against floor to ceiling wallpaper by Alessandro Mendini, and later that year an exhibition of Peter Saul paintings from the 1960s and 1970s provided a great opportunity to see a range of his historical work.
When did the gallery add the Chelsea space as a second venue and what was the impetus for that?
After considerable renovation, we opened our second gallery space at 541 West 24 Street in November 2000. Like the gallery in SoHo, this space had been serving as a garage: ground floor, single-story building with a skylight, but with an even more dramatic, soaring trussed roof. Mary calls it the space she always wanted to build. By 2000 Chelsea had become much more established, and particularly 24 Street had a concentration of top galleries. Regaining a large, unbroken space open to the street gave us more flexibility to do large installations, and of course allowed us to double our exhibition program.
Some of the outstanding historical shows that show the influence of a generation of master artists on the artists working today include Francis Picabia, Dan Flavin, Clyfford Still, and my favorite, as clients know, the Mirror Paintings by Roy Lichtenstein. Please describe these exhibitions and in which ways they exerted such a strong influence on the current generation of artists.
All amazing exhibitions. Although I came to the gallery after the Picabia show (1983), I do remember how eye-opening that show was. Definitely before its time… did you know that show was thoroughly panned by the New York Times art critic? A direct legacy of that show is that over thirty years later MoMA mounted their extremely well-received Picabia retrospective. Clyfford Still (1990) was a show that at the time was considered impossible to do – Patricia Still was still living and enforcing the artist’s draconian regulations. Working with loans from Museums and private collections, we were able to put together what amounted to a small but comprehensive survey. Roy and Dan were still alive at the time of their shows so it was fascinating to see them engage with their own historical works. Besides the impact and importance of the works, my lasting impression of their shows was the way they were lit. The Roy Lichtenstein mirrors (1989) were spot-lit like icons, which in a sense they were. For our Dan Flavin show (1991) of his Monument (for V. Tatlin) works, we relied only on the light emitted from the works. The gallery had a highly polished terra cotta tile floor, and the reflection of the vertical fluorescent tubes gave the darkened space the aura of a sanctuary.
IN OUR NEXT POST, RON WILL INFORM US OF SOME OF THE GREAT LEGENDARY ARTISTS THE GALLERY PRESENTLY REPRESENTS RANGING FROM AI WEIWEI, THE BRILLIANT CHINESE ACTIVIST AND ARTIST, TO BARBARA KRUGER, A QUINTESSENTIAL AMERICAN TEXT AND IMAGE PAINTER WHO AIMS HER KEEN VISUAL OBSERVATIONS ON AMERICANS’ PREOCCUPATIONS AND CONSUMERISM.
PLEASE JOIN US!