Art of the Dealer: Paula Cooper Shows Her Legacy

In her first show Paula Cooper Gallery In Chelsea, the painter Cecily Brown showed a large triptych, “One day! Help! Help! Another day!” (2014). The 33-foot-wide work, which draws its title from an Emily Dickinson poem, was an energetic field of colorful traces of brown expression style.

To his general liking, it was placed relatively high on the wall. But this process was transformed by Cooper, a veteran of the art world who has owned his gallery for 53 years.

“Paula walked in and said, ‘No, no, this has to go low. One has to be immersed in the painting,'” recalled Brown. “She was so right. Now I hang them down, so you can put them in Can step in. “

Cooper’s eye – and his ability to convince others that he’s right, strongly taking the cast along – are among the reasons that Brown followed a period of Gagosian and then a brief hiatus without a dealer. , Signed up to work with Cooper, whom she called a “female legend”.

The legend turned 83 in March, and this month Cooper is announcing four new partners at his gallery: Tapped with Steve Henry, its director, senior partner; Her son Lucas Cooper, a former record executive who will be a managing partner; And two long-time employees, Alexis Johnson and Anthony Allen.

At the same time, the gallery intends to turn a Palm Beach, Fla., Seasonal pop-up into a year-round branch, which will be its first time outside of New York when some galleries have multiple outlets. The expansion reflects Henry’s influence, which is giving momentum to the project.

Last month, Cooper was relaxed and outspoken as he talked about these decisions in the back room of his temporary gallery on 26th Street. It has two permanent locations on West 21st Street: its flagship, established in 1996, is currently closed for construction, and another that reopened after the fire.

“I’m tired and I’ve never loved the social part,” Cooper said. “I slowly stopped doing some things.” He said the development of the partnership was “organic”, the way he had been working with these four people for years.

Although she received a light-hearted bout of Kovid in December, which she said she mostly “slept in,” Cooper said she was now in good health and had received a vaccine; So her husband, editor and publisher are Jack macron. (The couple opened a bookstore, 192 books, On 10th Avenue in Chelsea, in 2003.)

Her interests double here: “Working and Setting Up Artists.” He said, “It is my great love to set up the show.” He is in favor of giving some air to the works around him – no rush on the walls.

Some dealers have been at it for a long time. Cooper opened the first gallery in SoHo in 1968, making it a spectacular art neighborhood of the 1970s and ’80s; Then he did the same with Chelsea in the mid-90s.

Now Cooper has opted to make a carefully considered handoff instead of quitting it. The direction of her gallery, not mega-sized but large in stature, is a data point for a particularly recent announcement for the art world Metro PicturesOn West 24th Street, that It will be closed after more than 40 years.

“I’m so sorry that the metro is closing,” Cooper said. “They have been such a fine, strong, straightforward gallery – no fool. This is the end of an era. “

Cooper has a reputation for not suffering fools. “I’m very judgmental,” he said, laughing. His son Lucas, who joined the gallery in 2013, put it this way: “I don’t know if he is tis ough“He paused.” But I will not play with him. “

The closing of Metro Pictures raises questions, Cooper said, “about the future of what the midsize gallery is capable of flourishing.”

From the beginning, “I didn’t want to be a big business,” she said. “The long-term strategy was to remain ‘a gentleman art dealer’.” Mega Gallery was never her model. “If I wanted to be a mega-something, I wouldn’t choose art,” she said, noting that she toyed with opening the Paris branch around 1980, but decided against it because of the challenging logistics.

Cooper showed his name, and even sold, the Minimalist and Conceptual Art, while he was in action; She was one of the pioneers teaching collectors idea For a work – a set of Sol Leavitt’s instructions such as a drawing of his wall, with execution by someone else – was not just a physical object but a value. It revolutionized art in the 1960s and 70s.

There is still a strong ideological tension in his now more diverse roster. Adam D., director of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Weinberg said that Ms. Cooper’s lineup “has a brain of a brain, but it is not.”

It features Christian Markle, who is famous for his 24-hour film Montage “Clock,” As well as Levitt’s sculptor, Carl Andre, and photographers Hilla and Berned Beecher, known for their stunning water tower paintings.

“I think we show tough stuff,” Cooper said. “It means that people need to take time out and think about it.” Starting on April 24, the show, “No More Than Three Other Times,” features three generations of conceptual artists: Douglas Hubler, Sherry Levine and Walid Raad.

Weinberg recalled visiting his gallery in Soho during his 1970s college days. “It was through him that I fell in love with minimal and conceptual work,” the director said. “I first saw Sol Leavitt’s work.”

As Weinberg puts it, “She has carefully cast her successors as she has curated her show.”

Henry has been a director since 1998, after learning about Cooper when he worked for the Los Angeles gallerist Margo Levine, with whom Cooper had several actors. He said the fact that he and Johnson, two of four new partners, are Black “was quite significant,” noting that “there were five black people in the art world when I started.”

He said, “I think it has changed significantly since then. People of color now have a more powerful presence in the art world.”

Henry said he was glad Cooper “took a chance on a fresh young black child”; They remained tied from the beginning after commending artists Markle and Rudolf Stingle. He has stamped the gallery by suggesting to add a filmmaker. Jetova gary, among others.

“The idea of ​​bigotry is in our DNA,” Henry said.

Cooper, born Paula Johnson and raised in Massachusetts, got her first New York gallery job in 1959. In 1964, he opened his own space, but it was short-lived. Therefore, there was a first marriage. “My first husband didn’t let me work, so I stopped getting married,” she told the Times in 2016. (She is again married to Neil Cooper, a music producer and record label founder, and they divorced in the 80s.) Ka.

From 1965 to 1967, he had a job that exposed the loose spirit of the era, directing the Park Place Gallery as an associate. Its owners were 10 artists including sculptors Robert Grosvenor and Mark de Suvro, both of whom he now shows.

“They call it ‘Taste,’ said Su Suvero.” But it’s reacting to work, and Paula has a great potential for it. “

The rigorous quality required to succeed in business was also in evidence. “She was able to put together this crazy group of artists, which was not easy,” Di Suvro said. In particular, he found some financial backers that helped, noting that Suvro stated that “there were practically no sales.”

Finally in 1968, Cooper opened the gallery that still bears his name on Prince Street (later moved to Voster Street). In that era, a female dealer was not a unicorn – Bertha Shaffer, Martha Jackson, Betty Parsons and Joan Washburn were active – but “people treated you very kindly,” she said. “A woman cannot be a major dealer, she was a second tier.” Dealer Dick Bellamy, He recalled, “used to pat me on the head.” This despite the fact that she was 30 years old with two children when she opened her doors.

And for those outside the art world, it was a socially acceptable profession for a woman. “‘Art’ was clean hands,” she said. “These kinds of things can cause women to concern themselves.”

Cooper’s political cast quickly tempered the idea that he would show masterful art. His initial exhibition was clearly anti-Vietnam.

“I had friends who didn’t talk to me, I was against the war,” she said. He did not take any action for himself, dividing them between artists and antagonistic causes. He has given earlier or earlier shows to Jennifer Bartlett, Linda Benglis, Jonathan Borofsky, Elizabeth Murray, Joel Shapiro and Robert Gerber. Other dealers have picked up his successes. The assets of Cooper Gobert and Tony Smith were lost to Matthew Marks; And he lost to Murray and Donald Judd to Pace (who was later seen moving elsewhere).

“Artists only steal when they’re doing well,” she said.

Cooper’s interest in expanding the gallery may have been a factor in some departures, though he “never, ever” regrets his route.

And the damage caused the loss: Garber’s move “broke my heart”, stating that she does not hold it “against artists or other dealers”. “Sometimes, they just want a different experience,” Cooper said. He said that “sometimes they come back too.”

Rachel UffnerA small dealer who opened his gallery in 2008 said he saw something significant in the fact that Cecily Brown and multimedia producer Tauba Auerbach have joined Paula Cooper over the past decade.

“These are strong female actors who feel that this relationship has found a kind of refuge from the market,” Uffner said.

Arne Glimcher, 83, founder of Pace, is also perhaps the only person with similar longevity in the art business. A famous 1970 group photo in Vogue, intended to feature up-and-coming dealers from New York, included her and Cooper, the only woman in the bunch.

Thinking for a long time, after making his name with minimalist and conceptual works, Glimmer praised Cooper’s adaptability. “He’s much more open to other genres in the later half of his career,” he said.

Based on his own track record in the business, Cooper said, “I didn’t think of any of the artists who were stolen.”

But she said with a smile, “Maybe she will change.”

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