While there are hundreds of commercial art galleries in New York, only a handful of them really matter. Readers will be familiar with their names through our regular gallery chronicle. These galleries are more than retail outlets for art. They are cultural institutions, serving their artists and estates through museum-quality exhibitions and the development of serious collectors. The 163-year-old Knoedler & Company is one such institution. For nearly thirty-two of those years, this institution has benefited from the stewardship of Ann Freedman, who joined the gallery in 1977 from the André Emmerich Gallery and became Knoedler’s president and director in 1994. Freedman cultivated the gallery’s institutional memory by launching exhibitions such as “The Collector as Patron in the 20th Century” (2000). She also cultivated her artists and collectors through friendship and discussion—for one, often purchasing dozens of extra copies of The New Criterion for her own distribution.
It is said that an artist’s relationship to a gallery is like a marriage without a license. Freedman managed her relationships with self-effacing humor and an impeccable eye. The artists and estates she had a hand in bringing to Knoedler include Lee Bontecou, Conrad Marca-Relli, Mimmo Rotella, Milton Avery, Jules Olitski, and Helen Frankenthaler. Through these accomplishments, it came as a surprise to everyone when, in late October, Ms. Freedman announced her resignation from Knoedler. We shall miss her. As The New Criterion goes to press with its ninth annual issue dedicated to the visual arts, we could think of no better moment to single out Ms. Freedman’s contributions to the life of art through her years at this important institution.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 28 Number 4, on page 3
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