Issue #250  5/13/2019
Photo and Art Dealer Virginia Zabriskie Dies at 91 after a Long Illness
An early portrait of gallerist Virginia Zabriskie that was acquired by the National Gallery, part of a series of art dealers that was published in The Arts Yearbook in 1959. (Courtesy National Gallery of Art and Keith de Lellis Gallery)
An early portrait of gallerist Virginia Zabriskie that was acquired by the National Gallery, part of a series of art dealers that was published in The Arts Yearbook in 1959. (Courtesy National Gallery of Art and Keith de Lellis Gallery)

Virginia Marshall Zabriskie died in her Manhattan home aged 91 on May 7, after a long illness. Born in New York City, she graduated from the high school of Music and Art, and NYU. Through her galleries in New York and Paris, she contributed substantially to the knowledge and appreciation of American art, including photography. She received awards from the Art Dealers Association of America and the Medaille d'Honeur de la Ville de Paris. She was considered one of a handful of women pioneering in the early art and photography marketplace.

Much of this information came from her gallery website.

In 1954, Zabriskie paid exactly one dollar to assume the lease of a small gallery space on the second floor of 835 Madison Avenue that had originally been established by Marvin Korman, a fellow graduate student at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

Aided by a $1,000 inheritance from her grandmother, she began Zabriskie Gallery, showing several young artists including Pat Adams, Clinton Hill, and Lester Johnson. During its first year, the business grossed $6,000.

In 1966, the gallery relocated to 699 Madison Avenue, and after five years to 29 West 57th Street. By the early eighties, Zabriskie Gallery had expanded into three spaces, two in New York, and one in Paris. The space at 724 Fifth Avenue specialized in painting, while sculpture was highlighted at the 521 West 57th Street location. In addition to featuring contemporary and modernist American painters, Zabriskie exhibited the sculpture of Mary Frank, Saul Baizerman, George Rickey, Kenneth Snelson, Theodore Roszak and Richard Stankiewicz.

In 1977, Galerie Zabriskie opened in Paris at 29 rue Aubry le Boucher. It was the first gallery of its kind, joining an exhibition space for photographic works with a bookstore devoted to selling photo-related literature. Zabriskie not only presented individual American and French photographers, but also organized numerous landmark group shows.

She was a pioneering champion of 19th-century artists such as Felice Beato, Edouard Baldus, and Eadweard Muybridge, and held the first public exhibition in France of Eugene Atget's photographs of Paris. Through this trans-Atlantic exchange, Zabriskie introduced many modern and contemporary European photographers to America, and brought American photography to Europe, creating a wider audience for Harry Callahan, Alfred Stieglitz, Weegee, Paul Strand, Lee Friedlander, Walker Evans, Brassai, Man Ray, Charles Sheeler, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Claude Cahun, Aaron Siskind, Richard Pousette-Dart, Robert Frank, and Nicholas Nixon.

Her international roster also included Constantin Brancusi, Joan Fontcuberta, Ben Vautier, Patrick Tosani, and Jorge Ribalta. Via Zabriskie Editions, the gallery published over 20 posters of photographic work by Ansel Adams, Eugene Atget, Harry Callahan, Paul Strand, and others.

The Paris space closed in 1998 with Au Revoir Paris, a group show highlighting all the American photographers whose first European exposure came at Galerie Zabriskie. For her cultural contributions, Virginia Zabriskie received the Médaille de la Ville de Paris in 1999, presented at the Hotel de Ville in Paris. The International Association of Art Critics (AICA) recognized Zabriskie Gallery with a Second Place award for "Best Show at an Art Gallery" in 1998 for The Hansa Gallery, and a Third Place award in the same category in 1995 for the exhibit Man Ray: Conspiratorial Laughter.

Virginia Zabriskie closed her last public exhibition space, in the Fuller Building, in December 2010, but continued to work as a private art dealer.

She is survived by her nieces and nephews, Patricia, Jeannie, Arthur Jr. Jimmy, Laura, Stacy, and Michael, by Peter Maechting, and her friends and caregivers.

A memorial and celebration of Virginia Zabriskie's life is planned for later in the year. For further information, contact Deborah at: deb.eigen@icloud.com, and Gary at: ggraifman@kgglaw.com.