“Four decisive criteria are used at Newspace: authenticity, grace, style and discipline. I can add ambition. Newspace, like a work of art, is made by hand; it is slow and earnest and one to one. You cannot be a contemporary art dealer unless the artists allow you. Artists are very powerful people.
I believe that art sells long into the night. Art is unforgettable to some one. Art and people mingle their feelings in incredible ways. I believe in the eternal capacity of art to endure and persist, to reflect and to change. Obviously, I believe in risk.”
Joni Gordon, 1979
Edward Albee summed it up perfectly: “Joni Gordon is not only a great gal, but she is intelligent, knowledgeable and sympathetic. Would that all galleries and all gallerists could say this!” For over 33 years, Joni tirelessly helped to nurture the now thriving Los Angeles art scene. Her keen eye and kind heart infuenced myriad artists, curators and collectors and her imprint on the West Coast’s art story cannot be overstated. From her renowned art ‘salons’ with lectures by important artists such as Ed Kienholz, to her development of the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art with the legendary Robert Smith, to her innovative stewardship of Newspace gallery, Joni was a keystone figure in the advancement of Southern California’s artistic identity.
Beyond her celebrated public persona, at heart Joni was also a passionate collector. With her husband Monte, she assembled a splendidly eclectic collection ranging from African sculpture to Native American pots and baskets; and from California Minimalism to Contemporary Pop. Nearly every inch of their home was carefully adorned with works of art of vastly differing artistic inspirations. Yet, the curation was anything but arbitrary: every piece had a raison d’être, a personal memory and an extraordinary story. True collectors, Joni and Monte were not driven by profit nor prestige (though they could have claimed both many times over), but rather by the desire to surround themselves with objects of vivid beauty, courageous inspiration and conceptual audacity.
Nothing was ever for sale. Joni made that clear from our very first conversation. When I wrote her originally to see if she could be tempted, she called promptly and politely declined. Yet from that initial rebuff was born a wonderful long-distance friendship. During our chats, Joni taught me much about her history and the history of the Los Angeles art world. About the infuence of Betty Asher and Betty Parsons; the brilliance of John Baldessari, the verisimilitude of Vija Celmins and the genius of John McLaughlin; and about all the artists such as Robert Dowd and Philip Hefferton who were vastly under- appreciated. In return, I gave her updates on the ever vibrant auction world, sent her a seemingly ceaseless quantity of sale catalogues and quietly took notes on the artist’s I should be paying attention to. Indeed, though we were in different time-zones, our art world chats were a continuous connection.
This season, Sotheby’s is honored to be presenting for sale a selection from Joni and Monte’s exceptional collection of Contemporary Art. In addition to important and exceedingly rare early works by renowned West Coast artists such as John Baldessari, Vija Celmins and John McLaughlin, collectors will also have an opportunity to acquire classic paintings by Post-War artists Andy Warhol, Robert Motherwell and Ad Reinhardt, as well as a number of those aforementioned under-appreciated artists such as Robert Dowd and Philip Hefferton. For that reason, much more than a reflection of a diverse collecting aesthetic, Good to Go represents a lifetime of intellectual discernment, keen artistic sensitivity and a truly remarkable knack for identifying important artists and concepts before anyone else. Indeed, in this fact is perhaps the defining attribute of the collection: courage. Joni was unafraid to be ahead of her time, to be aesthetically contrary or to challenge prevailing orthodoxy. Whether acquiring Celmins’ Cloud Study directly from the artist’s studio in 1967, to exhibiting a virtually unknown Mike Kelley in a group show in 1981, to her final exhibition “Good to Go: 33 Years at Newspace” in 2006, Joni was fearless in her pursuit of artistic innovation and integrity.
Obviously, she believed in risk.
Vice President, Specialist
Sotheby's to auction part of L.A. gallerist Joni Gordon's collection