artnet Asks: Dorsey Waxter, ADAA President and New York Gallerist

The art maven on why galleries still matter.

Dorsey Waxter, Director of Van Doren Waxter and President of ADAA, Art Dealers Association of America.

Dorsey Waxter’s coveted career in the art world spans from her beginnings at Nancy Hoffman Gallery in 1974 to her current directorship of Van Doren Waxter Gallery and presidency of the 180-galleries strong Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA). Van Doren Waxter, the gallery she runs with John Van Doren, represents the estates of Richard Diebenkorn, James Brooks, Alan Shields, and Al Held, and works by artists Ed Ruscha, Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Mangold, and Ellsworth Kelly.

The gallery’s current exhibition, Joe Goode: There’s Always Tomorrow, opened on Wednesday and runs through May 1. This coming week, Van Doren Waxter will also be presenting Al Held and Michael DeLucia at ADAA: The Art Show, which is organized by ADAA and runs March 4–8.

Waxter chatted by email with artnet News about her booth (D 26) at ADAA: The Art Show, her personal admiration of Abstract Expressionist artist Al Held, and the future of galleries.

You began working at André Emmerich Gallery in 1977. At that point, the gallery had been representing artist Al Held for over 10 years. As a result, the artist has been a staple figure in your career. Do you remember your first encounter with his work?
I remember his black and white paintings because they were so powerful in simple palette and complex composition. No one liked them. Now they are considered one of his most important series.

What can you tell us about the forthcoming “Al Held: Particular Paradox” exhibit opening at your gallery in May?
It was a hard decision about where to begin with Al’s watercolors but I knew I wanted to show a tight group of works, and this series greatly appealed to me. They are from 1999–2000. This group is relatively late in Al’s life. He had a home in Camerata, Italy, beginning in 1987. That’s where he made watercolors exclusively. He was greatly influenced by Italian cathedrals and 15th-century fresco painting.

Al Held,

Al Held, A 25 (1972–1973), one of the marker drawings that will be on view at ADAA: The Art Show from March 4–8.
Photo: Courtesy of Van Doren Waxter.

Is there any thematic significance to your upcoming booth at ADAA: The Art Show? Do you find that there is a synergy between Al Held’s and Michael DeLucia’s work?
Both DeLucia and Held have been involved with the marriage of geometric forms and perspective but they conceive of their work in very different ways. We liked seeing how each artist constructs space. Their materials are radically different, each novel for their time. Michael uses plywood, industrial paint, and a router to make his paintings. Al used heavy stock paper and felt-tipped marker pens, which were relatively new in the ’70s.

Can you give us a taste of what’s in store next week at ADAA?
What I love about The Art Show is that one can see superb historical material along with the newest work by living artists. There will be 34 one-person shows and 38 booths that will exhibit two or more artists or a particular theme. The artists are from all around the globe.

Last year, you wrote an opinion piece on why galleries still matter. In this changing landscape of art fairs, auctions, and biennials, what are some new ways that galleries will continue to be relevant?
I think that galleries need to remain flexible, as the landscape is very complex. By that, I mean thinking about and responding to different ways to be seen and heard. Also galleries that work in partnership will have a stronger voice—for example, doing joint shows or creating events within their communities.

If you could buy any piece of modern or contemporary art, what would you buy?
I have been smitten by an early watercolor by Alan Shields that is being offered in The Bronx Museum benefit auction.

There’s Always Tomorrow” will be on view at Van Doren Waxter, 23 East 73rd Street, New York, through May 1. “Al Held: Particular Paradox” will be on view at the gallery from May 6–July 2. See more artnet News fair coverage: Inside the ADAA Gala Preview, Where Peter Brant, Alberto Mugrabi and Other VIPs Toast Armory Week and What Top Galleries Are Bringing to the ADAA Art Show.

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