A PIONEERING PRESENCE in the New York gallery scene, Paula Cooper founded her eponymous gallery in 1968. A half century later she’s formed a partnership “ensuring continuity for years to come.” Cooper named four new partners, led by her son Lucas Cooper. The team also includes Steve Henry, Anthony Allen, and Alexis Johnson. Cooper, 83, told The New York Times she is “stepping back but not retiring.”

Two of the new partners are African American. Henry, a senior partner, joined Paula Cooper Gallery as a director in 1998. Johnson returned earlier this year, having previously worked as an associate director at the gallery from 2010 to 2016.

 


From left: Steve Henry, Lucas Cooper, Paula Cooper, Alexis Johnson, and Anthony Allen. | Photo courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery

 

“It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome these four remarkable individuals as my partners. Their dedication and that of the staff, community of professionals, and collectors with whom we collaborate has made clear that there is a place for a focused, artist-driven gallery like ours—even in an art world that has continued to change dramatically since we opened our doors in 1968,” Cooper said in a statement.

“Lucas, Steve, Anthony, and Alexis understand what has made this gallery possible for fifty years. They not only understand the culture, but also how to evolve in the next chapter. I look forward to continuing our work together on behalf of the gallery’s artists.”

“Lucas, Steve, Anthony, and Alexis understand what has made this gallery possible for fifty years. They not only understand the culture, but also how to evolve in the next chapter.” — Paula Cooper

Lucas Cooper, a former record executive, joined the gallery in 2013. A scholar and writer, Allen has been with the gallery since 2000.

Between stints at Paula Cooper, Johnson was a director and artist liaison at Lévy Gorvy in New York, where she organized shows featuring works by Terry Adkins, Diane Arbus, and David Hammons, among other artists (2016-20). Previously, Johnson held director positions at Sikkema Jenkins in New York, and Blum & Poe and 1301PE gallery in Los Angeles. She was also a studio manager for artist Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Prior to joining Paula Cooper more than 20 years ago, Henry was a director at the Margo Leavin Gallery in Los Angeles. He has also held positions at the New Museum in New York and the Dallas Museum of Art.

Given representation of Black dealers at mainstream galleries is woefully lacking, Henry described his and Johnson’s partner status as “quite significant.” He told the Times “there were, like, five Black people in the art world when I started.”

Henry added: “I think it’s changed remarkably since then. There’s a much more powerful presence of people of color in the art world now.”

COOPER OPENED the first art gallery in Soho and was an early presence in Chelsea where she relocated in 1996. In addition to operating two permanent spaces on West 21st Street, the gallery introduced a pop-up gallery in Palm Beach, Fla., with programming scheduled from December 2020 to May 2021. The partner announcement included news that the Palm Beach space would continue in the coming seasons.

For more than 50 years, the gallery has focused on conceptual and minimalist art. Cooper’s first show was an anti-Vietnam War benefit featuring works by Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Robert Mangold, Robert Ryman, Sol LeWitt, and others.

Today, the gallery’s roster includes an intergenerational slate of 40 artists, Andre and the estate of LeWitt among them, as well as Tauba Auerbach, Jennifer Bartlett, Cecily Brown, Sophie Calle, Sam Durant, Mark di Suvero, Christian Marclay, and Walid Raad. Two Black women have recently joined the gallery—filmmaker Ja’Tovia Gary in 2019 and British artist Veronica Ryan last month.

Henry oversaw the inauguration of the new Palm Beach space and, over the years, has brought new artists into the gallery, including Gary.

Steve Henry oversaw the inauguration of the new Palm Beach space and, over the years, has brought new artists into the gallery, including Ja’Tovia Gary.

Cooper was first introduced to Gary’s work when Henry took her to see “An Ecstatic Experience,” a six-minute short featuring Ruby Dee at David Zwirner Gallery where it was part of “God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin,” a group show organized by Hilton Als.

Both were profoundly moved by the film installation and almost immediately committed to working with Gary, an uncharacteristically swift pace for Cooper. Last year, “flesh that needs to be loved,” her first-ever solo gallery exhibition was presented at Paula Cooper.

“Ja’Tovia demonstrates a remarkable and incisive ability to explore ways in which place and time define our bodies and self,” Henry said in a statement when the gallery announced its representation of Gary.

“Using a broad range of techniques including animation, documentary, and narration, she creates potent, and often unsettling collages of images and sound. We are ecstatic to be working with her.” CT

 

FIND MORE about Ja’Tovia Gary on her website

 

FIND MORE In December, Courtney Willis Blair was named partner at Mitchell Innes and Nash gallery in New York

 

SUPPORT CULTURE TYPE
Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent art history project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for Your Support.