Issue #230  2/26/2017
Early NYC Photo Gallerist Marjorie Neikrug Passes Away

By Alex Novak

Photograph of Marjorie Neikrug at the opening of her 1990 "Rated X Show". Photo by John A. Mozzer.
Photograph of Marjorie Neikrug at the opening of her 1990 "Rated X Show". Photo by John A. Mozzer.

Marjorie "Marge" Neikrug passed away in Palm Beach, FL, where she had retired. She was 103. After meeting Cornell Capa on a beach in Mexico, Neikrug launched her photography gallery in 1971, switching from pre-Columbian art in the same space, which was designed by Charles Gwathmey. At the time she lived upstairs in that townhouse, which she owned.

Personally, I remember visiting her gallery in the 1970s, and later even attending one of her lecture series, which was given by Grant Romer on the nude and daguerreotypes.

New York gallerist, Keith De Lellis, emailed me, "She was a real character, an original! She outlived at least five husbands. We had a decades long friendship; and I visited her in Palm Beach last year, and she was feisty as ever."

Swann VP and Photography Department Director, Daile Kaplan, sent this email: "Marge was a powerhouse, a force, and one sharp cookie. As one of the first dealers to open a photo gallery, she was decisive and adventurous. Her annual X-Rated Show, which continued well into the 1990s--and tickled her to no end--was extraordinarily popular. But for those of us who knew Marge personally, she was a deep, full-speed-ahead kind of person. A dealer, collector and appraiser, she brought a passion to photography that drew from many sources. She was so very proud when Gene Ostroff at the Smithsonian acknowledged her pioneering contributions to the field (John Singleton Copley Medal, from the Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian, 1988).

"I had occasion to socialize with Marge and some of the old timers at their Circle of Confusion meetings. About 1993, when I was already at Swann, her friend Carol Lazar hosted a photo dinner party. I remember Marge in her party outfit--a black leather miniskirt and matching top. Her husband at the time, Abe Raskin, had had a stroke and was not able to vocalize. Nevertheless, their abiding love was openly communicated and shared.

"I adored her boldness, her fearless heart. Marge was truly one-of-a-kind and will be missed."

Another fellow New York gallerist, Julie Saul told us, "I curated a show in 1983 on the history of American Photography and borrowed a number of FSA photographs from Marge, as she was called. She had a townhouse on 68th St. and had many treasures. She was a smart, no-nonsense lady and deserves a lot of credit for her early vision."

Neikrug was one of the founding members of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) and some of the first meetings of the group were held in her small gallery. She was also a past president and treasurer of AIPAD.

Just a few of the photographers who were shown in her gallery—many for the first time—included: Dan Werner, Werner Bischof, Chim (David Seymour), Micha Bar-Am, Ben Rose, Tom Millea, Sam Haskins, Dorothy Bohm, Herlinde Koelbl, Paul Caponigro, Nat Finkelstein, George Obremski, Tetsu Okuhara, Jill Freedman, Clarence John Laughlin, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Scott Sothern, Roman Vishniac and Douglas Faulkner.

Some of the other artists who were shown in her gallery (again, many for the first time) included Pierre Cordier, Inge Morath, Pepe Deniz, Jack Delano, Andreas Feininger, Arnold Genthe, Milton Greene, Arthur Rothstein, Ester Bubley, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Philippe Halsman, Horst P Horst, Andre Kertesz, Dorothea Lang, Russell Lee, Baron DeMeyer, Lisette Model, Arnold Newman, Martin Parr, Eliot Porter, W. Eugene Smith, Rosalind Solomon, Arthur Tress, Louis Stettner, John Vachon, James Van Der Zee and Bob Willoughby.

Neikrug gave Josef Sudek his first U.S. gallery show in March 1972, and encouraged by collector Sam Wagstaff, she showed one of Robert Mapplethorpe's pieces in her "Rated X" show in 1978. The "Rated X" shows were a popular annual affair that drew big crowds. Photographers in these shows, included not only Mapplethorpe, but Lynn Davis, Charles Gatewood, Barbara Alper, Les Krims, Cynthia MacAdams, Eva Rubinstein, Bill Brandt, Dieter Appelt, George Platt Lynes, Ruth Bernard, Joel-Peter Witkin, Eric Krull, Jean Ferro and Spider Webb.

The gallery also exhibited 19th-century photography, including images by William Henry Jackson, Felix Bonfils, Matthew Brady, Francis Frith, Edward Muybridge, Timothy O’Sullivan, Julia Margaret Cameron, Carleton Watkins and others. In 1974 she exhibited over a thousand cartes-de-visite and Civil War images in co-operation with William G. Gladstone.

Diane Arbus visited her to show her portfolio just before she committed suicide. Neikrug said of the visit: "She was very charming, but seemed tormented in some way. I couldn’t figure out why. Something profound was bothering her. She talked very fast, all in a rush, as if she was thinking too fast, and sometimes after she’d say something, she’d contradict herself totally, but it was still a marvelous conversation."

Neikrug gave up her gallery, but continued to do photo appraisals. She was a long-time member and officer of both the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) and the Appraisers Association of America (AAA). Beside photography she had earlier expertise in antiquities, particularly pre-Columbian art.

She was a founding member and officer of PAI (Photographic Administration, Inc.

She also was a member of the Daguerreian Society, the International Institute of Valuers, the Photographic Historical Society of New York, etc.

Despite her often-gruff exterior, she supported many institutions with her charitable gifts of photographs and money. Impeccably coiffed she (along with Virginia Zabriski)—more than even Helen Gee--was the example of a professional woman photography gallerist to all those women in the field who followed.