Artwork Gallerist and Patron Virginia Dwan Dies at 90

Virginia Dwan in her New York gallery, 1969 (digital ID 8801)

Virginia Dwan stated she didn’t actually like to speak about artwork

However by her galleries in Los Angeles and New York in addition to financing artists, significantly Land artists like Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson, she had a huge effect on artwork within the Sixties and ’70s. 

Dwan, who died of most cancers at age 90 on September 5 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, dropped out of the College of California, Los Angeles the place she was learning artwork, and opened her personal gallery. It was 1959, and women-owned galleries weren’t really easy to search out — or to run. Dwan reportedly requested her husband to not attend occasions together with her or individuals would assume he owned the gallery. 

At Dwan Gallery within the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, Dwan confirmed art work by Joan Mitchell, Philip Guston, and Robert Rauschenberg, amongst others. She introduced Yves Klein’s first West Coast solo exhibition, and in 1962, the gallery had one of many first exhibitions of Pop artwork, My Nation ’Tis of Thee, which included work by Claes Oldenburg and Roy Lichtenstein. Dwan opened her New York gallery in 1965, making it the primary gallery within the nation to have a presence on the 2 coasts. She closed the LA gallery in 1967, and in 1971, she closed the New York gallery as effectively. 

Robert Smithson gathering sand in Pine Barrens, New Jersey, 1968 January. Pictured left to proper: Mary Peacock, Virginia Dwan, Nancy Holt, and Robert Smithson. Smithson is shoveling sand right into a bag held open by Holt, gathering supplies for his first “non-site” (indoor earthwork) piece. (picture by Sol LeWitt, digital ID 11612)
Set up view of the Yves Klein le monochrome exhibition on the Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles, Could 29-June 24, 1961 (picture by I. Serisawa, digital ID 10025)

Dwan was born in Minneapolis in 1931. Her grandfather was a co-founder of the 3M Firm, and he or she was one among 18 heirs, which allowed her to maintain her gallery open although, based on James Meyer, a curator of contemporary artwork on the Nationwide Gallery of Artwork, she misplaced cash 12 months after 12 months.  

Meyer first met Dwan in 1991, when he interviewed her for his dissertation on minimalist artwork (it grew to become a e book, Minimalism). She stored going due to her sheer love of artwork, Meyer stated in an interview with Hyperallergic, noting the earthworks she later financed — like Heizer’s 1969 “Double Destructive”  and Robert Smithson’s 1970 “Spiral Jetty” — have been unmovable and unsellable. 

“She was one of many few individuals I’ve met who simply beloved artwork and backed it unreservedly,” he stated. “She had a want to see new artwork and get to expertise it in particular person. Her absolute basis was a love of artwork and respect for artists.”

Set up view of Sol LeWitt one-man exhibition at Dwan Gallery, New York, 1966, Double Modular Dice (1966, foreground) and Modular Flooring Construction (1966, background) (digital ID 18249)

Meyer labored with Dwan on her present to the Nationwide Gallery in 2013 of 250 works, together with work by Yves Klein, Agnes Martin, sculptures by Yves Tinguely and Sol LeWitt, and collages by Rauschenberg. In an interview with Artforum in 2014, Dwan stated that the concept of her assortment sitting in storage depressed her. “The concept is de facto that folks ought to really feel one thing from the gathering,” she stated. “When the works are lastly proven on the Nationwide Gallery, the chance might be there for the general public to linger, to soak up.” 

Meyers additionally curated the Nationwide Gallery’s 2016 exhibition Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971, which traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Artwork the next 12 months. 

The present made Dwan’s contribution to artwork historical past apparent, Meyer stated. 

“The proof was on the partitions and the flooring of her enormous impression on the artwork of the ’60s and ’70s,” he stated. “It was a tremendous present.”

Set up view of  Walter De Maria, “Mattress of spikes” (1969) (digital ID 12745)

Dwan, together with artists Charles Ross and architect Laban Wingert, designed the Dwan Gentle Sanctuary, meant as a peaceable area, which opened in 1996 in Montezuma, New Mexico. 

Meyer says Dwan’s idealism and lack of curiosity in revenue have been uncommon. 

“She represented an concept of artwork that’s highly effective and pure,” he stated. “It was divorced from the market mentality that’s dominant right now.”

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