IT’S NEARLY UNHEARD OF for a white-owned art gallery to offer a stake in the business to a Black dealer. Courtney Willis Blair was in rare company in January 2021 when she was named partner and senior director at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York.

Willis Blair is continuing to break new ground in the gallery world with her latest appointment. White Cube named her U.S. senior director earlier this month.

The announcement accompanied news that the London-based gallery will open its first public space in New York in fall 2023. Willis Blair will lead a New York team, guide a nationwide curatorial program and branding, serve on White Cube’s global board of directors led by founder and CEO Jay Jopling, and help shape the gallery’s international strategy.

 


Courtney Willis Blair will lead White Cube in New York. | Photo by Myesha Evon Gardner

 

“I am delighted to welcome Courtney to the team as we embark on the next exciting chapter of White Cube’s near 30-year history,” White Cube Global Artistic Director Susan May said in a statement. “Her extensive knowledge of the U.S. market and art ecosystem, as well as her sensitivity to art and artists, makes her a perfect candidate to not only lead our New York gallery, but act as a key contributor to our global strategy, shaping the future of White Cube.”

White Cube has gallery locations in London, Hong Kong, Paris, and West Palm Beach, in addition to its forthcoming space in New York. Its international roster of nearly 60 artists includes Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Michael Armitage, Theaster Gates, Ibrahim Mahama, and Julie Mehretu,

“[Courtney] extensive knowledge of the U.S. market and art ecosystem, as well as her sensitivity to art and artists, makes her a perfect candidate to not only lead our New York gallery, but act as a key contributor to our global strategy, shaping the future of White Cube.”
— Susan May, White Cube Global Artistic Director

In 2016, Willis Blair joined New York gallery Mitchell-Innes & Nash as an artist liaison, rising to director, and eventually partner and senior director last year. Before stepping down in October, she was one of the few Black people to hold such rank at a white-owned gallery.

Canonically focused, Willis Blair is particularly adept at museum acquisitions and artist development. During her tenure at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, she worked with artists Pope.L and Keltie Ferris and brought on Jacolby Satterwhite and Gideon Appah. Previously, Willis Blair was an assistant director at Ryan Lee Gallery, where she worked with Emma Amos.

Willis Blair began her career as a journalist, profiling prominent artists and curators, including Melissa Chiu, David Hammons, Nari Ward, and architect David Adjaye. In 2016, she founded Entre Nous, a collective of Black women art dealers that has become both a sisterhood and an invaluable source of support and networking. She is also a board member at The Kitchen, Triple Canopy, and the International Studio & Curatorial Program.

In January, Willis Blair officially begins at White Cube. The gallery already has an office in New York housing a director of artist’s estates and a New York director. The new gallery will be located at 1002 Madison Avenue with exhibition space and viewing rooms spread across three floors.

“It’s an incredibly exciting but complicated time for the art industry, so I’m thrilled to be at the U.S. helm of a leading gallery with such an exquisite program and distinct mission,” Willis Blair said in a statement. “I’ve long admired what Jay and the team at White Cube have built and sustained, and I look forward to our New York debut.” CT

 

READ MORE Courtney Willis Blair talks with Culture Type about Emma Amos joining Ryan Lee Gallery

READ MORE Paula Cooper Gallery announces succession plan, including two African American partners

 

BOOKSHELF
Courtney Willis Blair is editor of “Pope.L: My Kingdom for a Title” (2021), a collection of writings, and co-editor of “Keltie Ferris: A Decade” (2019), the artist’s first major monograph. Also consider, “Emma Amos: Color Odyssey,” the catalog published to accompany a major museum exhibition of the artist.

 

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