Mary Boone Gallery:
A History in Art Ephemera

Mary Boone’s decision to close her galleries as she gets ready to begin serving a 30-month jail sentence for tax evasion, brings to a halt the storied reign of one of New York’s most public and successful dealers. Boone rose rapidly from gallery girl at the Bykert Gallery in the 1970s to being heralded in 1982 as “The New Queen of the Art Scene” on the cover of New York magazine. During the years that Soho was the art center, her gallery was one of the most prominent. She later expanded into new spaces on Fifth Avenue (1996) and then to Chelsea (2000).

Boone was strategic, persuasive, and she had an eye for talent. All three of these qualities came into play when in late 1977 she launched her gallery in a tiny ground-floor space in Soho’s most prestigious building, 420 West Broadway. Her gallery was small but it was close to some of the art world’s top dealers and she was soon collaborating with her upstairs neighbor, the legendary Leo Castelli.

Julian Schnabel’s  two gallery exhibition at the Boone Gallery and Leo Castelli Gallery in 1981 was a major event that not only launched Schnabel’s career, but also brought attention to Boone’s gallery and helped publicize “neo-expressionism” as the most prominent new art style of the 80’s. A year later in 1982 Boone and Castelli successfully coordinated exhibitions again, this time with David Salle.

The Boone Gallery would secure its place in the art world when it  moved across the street from 420 to 417 West Broadway transforming a large garage space into an elegant minimalist gallery. Here she continued to represent Schnabel and Salle along with others like Eric Fischl, Ross Bleckner, and for a brief period Jean-Michel Basquiat. She also had strong European connections through her then husband Michael Werner, a prominent German art dealer whose name appeared alongside Boone’s on the gallery door in the mid-80s. Neo-expressionism as an international style was enlarged by exhibitions of German artists Sigmar Polke, Jörg Immendorf and the Italian artist Francesco Clemente.

Gallery 98 has dug deep into its inventory of announcement cards, posters and art publications from the 1980s and 90s to assemble this online exhibition spotlighting some of the most important moments in the history of the Mary Boone Gallery. While most of the artists she is associated with will continue exhibiting elsewhere (Ross Bleckner is currently showing at the Petzel Gallery), it is hard to imagine a Chelsea art stroll without a stop at her gallery.

From the Collection