Paula Cooper Gallery has survived and thrived in a mercurial art world for more than five decades. On today’s show, the legendary dealer talks about the history and future of her gallery together with Steven Henry, who has been the gallery director for more than two decades, Allan Schwartzman, co-founder of Art Agency, Partners, and host Charlotte Burns.
Known for her eye, Cooper has represented some of the most important international contemporary artists of the past half-century. “Artists will give her the best shows, the best work,” says Henry. The gallery has remained a leader of the pack throughout the past 50 years, despite seismic shifts in the art world and market. Nowadays, “it’s this huge international money world,” says Cooper, who also discusses new styles of collecting and the impact of politics on the art world.
She also talks about the future: “I really have to think about not being here, now at this point,” she says. Ultimately, the legacy of the gallery will be the artists it has supported, she says: “The gallery will be forgotten. It’s the artists who survive.”
For this and more, tune in today to In Other Words.
Founder of Paula Cooper Gallery
Paula Cooper began her art world apprenticeship at age 21 at the World House Galleries on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She opened the Paula Johnson Gallery in 1964, where she presented Walter De Maria’s first one-person exhibition. From 1965 to 1967, Cooper ran Park Place Gallery and in 1968 in SoHo, a third floor walk-up loft at 96–100 Prince Street. The inaugural exhibition, “Benefit For The Student Mobilization Committee To End The War in Vietnam,” included works by Carl Andre, Jo Baer, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Robert Mangold and Robert Ryman, as well as others, and Sol LeWitt’s first wall drawing.
The Paula Cooper Gallery moved to the ground floor space at 155 Wooster Street in 1973 and remained there for the next 23 years. Cooper was once again a pioneer in relocating the gallery in 1996 to West 21st Street in Chelsea. Three years later, she opened a second exhibition space across the street.
The Paula Cooper Gallery currently presents 15 to 20 exhibitions a year and shows the work of over 30 artists. Beyond its immediate artistic program, the gallery has regularly hosted concerts, music symposia, dance performances, poetry readings and special events to benefit various national and community organizations.
Director, Paula Cooper Gallery
Steven Henry has been the Director of the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York since 1998. He has organized numerous exhibitions at the gallery, from major one person exhibitions of the work of Sol LeWitt, Douglas Huebler, Bruce Conner, Jennifer Bartlett, Charles Gaines, Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain to group shows featuring the works of Josef Albers, Jonathan Borofsky, Sam Durant, Hans Haacke, Ellsworth Kelly, Sherrie Levine, Sol LeWitt, Glenn Ligon, Robert Mangold, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, John McLaughlin, Walid Raad, Jan Schoonhoven, Rudolf Stingel, Anne Truitt, Dan Walsh, Meg Webster, Carey Young, and Kelley Walker. Prior to 1998, Mr. Henry was the Associate Director at the Margo Leavin Gallery in Los Angeles, and previous to that he worked at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas.
Mr. Henry serves on the Board of Directors of the Little Opera Theatre of New York and was formerly on the board of the Harlem School of the Arts. He has also served as a founding member of the board directors of the Inner City Foundation. He holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Art History and Political Science from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and both an MBA and a Masters in Arts Administration from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Allan Schwartzman was a Founder and Principal of AAP. He brought to the company more than 20 years’ experience in advising some of the world’s most influential and sophisticated collectors in forming their holdings of contemporary art, both individually and in conjunction with their stewardship of major museums.
Schwartzman is also widely respected as an independent curator, most notably for Instituto Inhotim, the visionary contemporary art park set within a 5,000-acre botanical garden in Brazil. As creative director and chief curator of Inhotim, he has been central to developing the collection of the renowned institution and commissioning its signature site-specific works by artists including Chris Burden, Giuseppe Penone, Matthew Barney, Doris Salcedo, Doug Aitken, Rivane Neuenschwander, Olafur Eliasson and Rirkrit Tiravanija, including projects that could not have been realized anywhere else.
Known equally as a tastemaker in contemporary art and an authority on the art market, Schwartzman is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, Art Basel and notable events around the world.
Schwartzman was a founding staff member of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City and served as curator from 1977 to 1980. He has written extensively about art for publications including The New Yorker, the New York Times, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Artforum and Art in America and was a contributing editor of Connoisseur. He served as a board member of Franklin Furnace from 1980 to 2000 and currently serves on the Board of Artists Space, one of New York’s premier alternative spaces, having also served as the board’s president.
Executive editor of In Other Words
Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.
Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.