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Art Perception Through Reading: Robert Miller, Gallery Owner

While reading the paid NY Times obits yesterday I read Robert Miller’s with interest. He was a gallery owner before the somewhat egregious term, gallerist, was coined. He tried being a painter but discovered he perhaps wasn’t as good at it as others whom he admired. By 1966 he was a director at Andre Emmerich Gallery; and in 1977, ┬áhe opened Robert Miller Gallery at 724 Fifth Avenue, with his wife, Sarah Wittenborn Miller. Within a few years the gallery moved upstairs at 41 East 57th Street where anyone who has ever taken a Madison Avenue bus or walked north up Madison can picture the neat serif letters spelled across the south and west windows. He showed Robert Mapplethorpe, Alex Katz, Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, Gilbert and George, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff, as well as Alice Neel, Patti Smith and the estates of Diane Arbus, Eva Hesse and Jean-Michel Basquiat. And many others too.

Here’s the part of his obit that really caught me:

One of the things that people equate with art’s being of intereset is that it is so expensive. . . . Perception and possession have so little to do with each other. You cannot possess much of the great art in the world, but you can perceive it, particularly through reading.”

He bemoaned that the increased “art activity” found people reading less and therefore, less perceptive.
Again a quote, “Over the years, Mr. Miller became increasingly disenchanted with the changing art world and the speculation in art that he thought made it difficult for young artists to maintain their integrity and brought many older artists bitterness.”

Robert Miller died in Miami, Florida on June 22, age 72.

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