When she began her enterprise in 1977, Marian Goodman challenged the somewhat provincial tastes of an American market dominated by Abstract Expressionism and nationalism. Over more than 40 years, her namesake gallery has broadened the art world’s tastes with European exports like works by Gerhard Richter and Pierre Huyghe.
Now in her nineties, the dealer has made decisions about the Marian Goodman Gallery, which has a presence in New York, Paris and London: Five employees have received promotions, becoming partners, while Goodman has given herself a new title, chief executive. She has also installed an advisory committee of five longtime staff members to support the partners.
“This announcement really is a formalization of what has already been happening on the ground,” Goodman said in an email. “I will continue in my same capacity overseeing strategy, planning and operations.”
The five partners are the directors Emily-Jane Kirwan, Rose Lord, Leslie Nolen, Junette Teng and Philipp Kaiser. Kaiser, a veteran museum director and curator who joined the gallery in 2019, will also become president. He described his new roles, in a phone interview, as helping to manage the gallery’s operations while “fighting for the integrity that Marian represents.”
“She wanted a solid structure for the artists so that they felt confident about the gallery going forward,” Kaiser said. “Artists approached us and asked for the doors to remain open because this is such a special place.”
How a generation of women gallerists approach their legacies has been discussed in the art world. Metro Pictures Gallery, founded by Helene Winer and Janelle Reiring, announced its closure in March after four decades championing artists like Cindy Sherman and Sherrie Levine. Winer and Reiring told The New York Times that they had said all they wanted to say through the dealership. The next month, Paula Cooper named four new partners to her gallery as she stepped away from some of the aspects of the business, to focus on artists and installing shows.
Changes in the slimmed down field of midsize galleries factored into the restructuring at Marian Goodman, said Kaiser, especially as mega-dealerships like Hauser & Wirth continue to flirt with the luxury industry and woo artists away from more traditional galleries.
Speaking with The Times in 2016, Goodman described her disdain for a ballooning art market and the people who purchase works, only to sell them soon after at auction for quick profits. “There are people who buy and sell art as if it were shares in ranches,” she said. But the gallerist has always had an affinity for collectors who pledged to donate their works to museums, and she has excelled at championing artists like Marcel Broodthaers and Nan Goldin, who have staying power.
“At a gallery like Marian Goodman, there is never any hard selling. There isn’t somebody who accosts you at the elevator,” said the gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, who has collaborated with Goodman on past exhibitions and regards her as an inspiration. “She defined the model of the contemporary gallery as having the same standards of a great museum.”
It’s that type of discerning taste that some of Goodman’s new partners hope will keep the lights on.
“Ours is an old-fashioned value system,” Kaiser said, “that I believe is what’s going to survive in the very end.”