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Women Art Dealers, Makers of the Modern Art Market, 1940-1990

Book is subject to contract with Bloomsbury Visual Arts, Contextualizing Art Markets Series

Preface: Véronique Chagnon-Burke

(Independent Scholar)

Women Art Dealers (1940 - 1990): Caterina Toschi 

(University for Foreigners of Siena)

The Promotion of Modern Art in the Aftermath of World War II

  • Simone Kahn Collinet: From member to promoter of surrealism

      Alice Ensabella (University of Grenoble) 

  • The Girl with the Gallery: Edith Halpert in the Mid-Twentieth Century New York Art Market

      Deirdre Robson (University of West London)

  • Peggy Guggenheim and Nelly van Doesburg. De Stijl in the United States

      Doris Wintgens (former curator in Museum De Lakenhal)

  • The Konstsalongen Samlaren of Agnes Widlund in Stockholm

      Christina Brandberg (University of Loughborough) 

  • Antonia Gmurzynska’s Gallery in the Cold War Period

      Elena Korowin (Albrecht-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

The Rise of

New Markets

  • Blurring the Boundaries between Art and Decoration. Purity and Danger in Bertha Schaefer's Gallery (New York, 1944 - 1971)

      Antonella Camarda (University of Sassari)

  • Gabriella Cardazzo and the Cavallino Gallery in Venice

      Lisa Parolo (University of Udine)

  • Constructing a Photography Market between New York and Paris: The Role of the Zabriskie Gallery (1970s-1990s)

      Isabella Seniuta (University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) 

  • Linda Givon, the Goodman Gallery, and the Politics of the Contemporary Art Market in South Africa

    Federico Freschi (Design and Architecture Otago Polytechnic) 

      Lara Koseff (University of Johannesburg)

  • City of Women: Mapping the Role of Women Art Dealers in Los Angeles,

      Claire Copley, Margo Leavin and Riko Mizuno

      Pietro Rigolo (Getty Research Institute)

  • Mary Boone in SoHo

      Carlotta Castellani

Latin Galleries between Italy

and Portugal

  • From Irene Brin, the Obelisco Gallery and the promotion of Young Italian Art Abroad

      Ilaria Schiaffini (Sapienza University of Rome) 

  • Topazia Alliata and the Formal Zeroing

      Carlotta Sylos Calò (University of Rome Tor Vergata) 

  • Mara Coccia a Gallery Owner in Rome

      Francesca Gallo (Sapienza University of Rome) 

  • Dealing with Contemporary Art: Etheline Rosas between São Paulo and Porto

      Sofia Ponte (University of Lisbon) 

  • Dulce D’Agro and Quadrum: A Love Story for Modern Art in Lisbon

      Adelaide Duarte (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa) 

  • Lia Rumma. Art as Conviviality

      Luigia Lonardelli (MAXXI of Rome)

Chapter by Chapter Synopsis


Véronique Chagnon-Burke and Caterina Toschi introduce the volume with two texts that explain the historiographical urgency of examining the women gallerists’ contribution to the birth of the contemporary art market.


The aim is to gather the scientific results of the 2018 Christie’s Education Conference Celebrating Female Agency in the Arts and of the 2019 Christie’s Education Symposium Women Art Dealers (1940 - 1990) and to contribute with the book to the ongoing project of the Women Art Dealers Digital Archive (WADDA) – all projects curated by the two editors.

The Promotion of

Modern Art

in the Aftermath


World War II

- Simone Kahn. From Member to Promoter of Surrealism

Mostly known to have been the first wife of André Breton, Simone Kahn’s (1897-1980) importance in Surrealist movement and Surrealist art promotion lies largely unstudied. Even if she published just one automatic text on La Révolution Surréaliste, the recent publication (2016) of the letters Breton sent to her from 1920 to 1960 reveals the influence and the active role Simone played all over the twenties in the definition and in the activities of the Surrealist group (managing, for example, the Bureau de recherche surréaliste).

- The Girl with the Gallery: Edith Halpert in the Mid-Twentieth Century New York Art Market
Edith Gregor Halpert was undoubtedly a ‘pioneer’ when she opened her Downtown Gallery in autumn 1926 to "present interesting exhibitions chosen from the work of the best artists representing the best tendencies in contemporary American art". She claimed that when the Downtown Gallery opened there were only seven galleries showing modern and American art, including two specialising in American modernism. This rather over-stated the facts, but not by much - all told there were about twelve galleries showing European modernism and new American artists.

- Peggy Guggenheim and Nelly van Doesburg. De Stijl in the United States
Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979) and Nelly van Doesburg (1899-1975), the widow of Theo van Doesburg, made a crucial contribution to the international reputation of De Stijl. At a time when hardly anyone appreciated geometric-abstract art, they promoted the work of Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian and many others by exhibiting and buying and selling it. Their joint efforts helped establish the movement internationally as one of the most important art movements ever produced by the Netherlands.

- The Konstsalongen Samlaren of Agnes Widlund in Stockholm
The female art dealer Agnes Widlund opened her gallery Konstsalongen Samlaren in Stockholm in 1943. According to art critics and collectors in the present time Widlund did more for the introduction of  ‘French modern art’ in Sweden than most other people and that with galleries such as Konstsalongen Samlaren one did not have to miss a museum of modern art in Stockholm.

- Antonia Gmurzynska’s Gallery in the Cold War Period
Today Gallery Gmurzynska is one of the prestigious art dealers of Switzerland, with locations in Zurich, Zug and St. Moritz. Antonina Gmurzynska emigrated from Poland to Germany and in 1965 she opened the Gallery in Cologne together with her former business partner Kenda Bar- Gera. The city of Cologne was strategically the best place to settle in that time, since it was the center of a rising scene of contemporary art and a popular destination for international politicians and representatives of economy, because of the vicinity to Bonn, the former West German capital. The program of the gallery focused early on the Russian avant-garde, especially the constructivists and contributed a great deal to the rediscovery and canonization of many Russian artists in the West.

The Rise




- Blurring the Boundaries between Art and Decoration. Purity and Danger in

 Bertha Schaefer’s Gallery (New York, 1944 - 1971)
The essay examines Bertha Schaefer’s activity, who ran her unorthodox New York gallery since 1944, exhibiting furniture, craft, decorative and ethnic arts along with paintings and sculptures. Widely recognized as one of the most influential taste-makers of her time, her fame in life pairs with her post mortem oblivion. In years during which artists swung from the lure of a renewed synthesis among the arts and the need for absolute autonomy and the specificity of each medium, Bertha Schaefer's approach challenged both the rising white cube ideology and the tendency toward a decontextualized display of applied arts.


- Gabriella Cardazzo and the Cavallino Gallery in Venice
Gabriella Cardazzo played an important role in the Cavallino Gallery known till now primarily for its first founder (1942), her father Carlo Cardazzo, also director of the Naviglio Gallery in Milan (1946-1963). The Cavallino Gallery in Venice was also a video-art production center from 1970-1980 run by Gabriella who co-directed with her brother Paolo the gallery (1966-1987). In particular, knowing English contrary to her brother, she kept a strong connection with Anglo-Saxons countries. Her interest, as well as her brother’s, was to bring to the gallery films-makers, photographers, painters, performers and video-artists.

- The Construction of a Photography Market between Paris, London and New York:

Helen Gee, Zabriskie Gallery and Agathe Gaillard
Helen Gee was a pioneer because she launched herself into a career in photography with the creation of a business: a photography gallery and a coffee-house. She opened her gallery in 1954 and exhibited 19th century photographers like Julia Margaret Cameron and Eugene Atget. She also showed living photographers like: Edward Weston, Brassaï, Robert Doisneau, Minor White and Robert Frank. In 1954, Virginia Marshall Zabriskie paid one dollar to assume the lease of a small gallery space on the second floor of 835 Madison Avenue. In its first years, the business grossed and it expanded into three spaces: two in New York and one in Paris. The Gallery Zabriskie in Paris officially opened in January 1977 and it was focused on photography. It allowed for transatlantic exchanges between contemporary French photographers such as John Batho or Bruno Réquillart. In 1975, Agathe Gaillard was the first to open a fine art photography gallery in Paris. Located on 3 rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, she started with the help of her husband, the photographer Jean-Philippe Charbonnier, and their common network of photographers such as Ralph Gibson. She helped photography to be a collectible art form by showing: Lucien Clergue, Gisèle Freund and André Kertesz.

- Linda Givon, the Goodman Gallery, and the Politics of the

Contemporary Art Market in South Africa
Founded by Linda Givon (formerly Goodman) in 1966, the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg has since the outset been at the forefront of advancing contemporary art in South Africa. Given the fraught socio-political context in which the gallery was established, this meant more than an active commitment to promoting ‘difficult’ work to a largely conservative audience: rather, it was in effect a championing of the notion of contemporary art as an active agent of social comment and political activism.

- City of Women: Mapping the Role of Women Art Dealers in Los Angeles:

Claire Copley, Margo Leavin and Riko Mizuno
One of the gallery which was among the most successful in Los Angeles art market was the Margo Leavin Gallery, which has been also one of the most long-running, operating between 1970 to 2012. A milestone in the history of this enterprise is the 1971 Oldenburg show, for which Leavin produced the first catalogue raisonné of the artist. Though Oldenburg, Leavin attracted other New York artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Jim Dine, Dan Flavin. Within its first three years, the gallery had established its key strategy, alternating shows of these celebrated NY artists with show of local artists, such as Billy Al Bengston, Joe Goode, Jud Fine, and Sam Francis. Born in Tokyo in 1932, in 1966, Riko Mizuno took over the space formerly occupied by the Rolf Nelson Gallery and opened Gallery 669 briefly directed together with Eugenia Butler, later renamed Mizuno Gallery, and active until 1984. Claire Copley was only 25 when she opened her small gallery in Los Angeles, few feet away from Riko Mizuno, Nicholas Wilder, and Morgan Thomas. From the start, the profile of the Claire Copley gallery was strongly geared towards Conceptual practices. 

- Mary Boone in SoHo
By the end of the seventies a whole new art world was ready to replace the old one. In New York, Punk and New Wave culture combined with different hybridizations of visual art such as Graffiti and Neo-Expressionism. The shift taken in art coincided in the United States with the development of a new pool of collectors interested in Contemporary Art. Thanks to the early intuitions of gallerists like Mary Boone the new art market matched with these new artistic expressions.

Latin Galleries between Italy and Portugal

- From Irene Brin, the Obelisco Gallery and the promotion of Young Italian Art Abroad
Irene Brin (1911-1969), renowned journalist and one of the first promoters of the “made in Italy” in the 1950s, was co-director together with her husband, Gaspero del Corso, of the Obelisco, the most international Roman gallery of the post-war period. From 1946 until the end of the 1950s the del Corso couple exhibited for the first time in Italy Surrealist artists such as Dalí, Magritte, Tanguy, and a group of American artists, such as Calder, and a very young Rauschenberg. 

- Topazia Alliata and the Formal Zeroing
Topazia Alliata  (1913-2015) was a painter, art dealer and writer. She worked as a patron and gallery owner in the fifties and sixties, highlighting her sensitivity and entrepreneurial spirit. Alliata was a supporter of Italian and international art, especially the one aimed at overcoming the informal art and abstract expressionism.

- Mara Coccia a Gallery Owner in Rome
This work reconstructs the Mara Coccia's activity (Rome, 1925-2014). She was an Italian gallerist almost continuously active in the Roman art scene between the sixties and the eighties, through both the direction and management of galleries. The research is based on the gallerist's archive, available in the Fondi Storici of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome, and inventoried by Carinci and Taffoni. The work aims to highlight innovations and limitations of a prominent female figure in the Roman art scene.

- Dealing with Contemporary Art: Etheline Rosas
Etheline Rosas, née Ethelvina Isaac Chamis (1924-2012), is among the few women who contributed to the development of an international contemporary art framework in Portugal. Born in Brazil, Rosas worked for Ciccillo Matarazzo while setting up the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art and the São Paulo Biennial.

- Dulce D’Agro and Quadrum: A Love Story for Modern Art in Lisbon
Dulce D’Agro (1915-2011) was an audacious art dealer who founded Quadrum, a leading contemporary art gallery in Lisbon (Portugal), active between 1973 and 1995. Focused on Portuguese and international contemporary art, Quadrum opened its door a year before the Portuguese Revolution (1974), in a time of deep political and economic uncertainties. Despite the commercial failure (the majority of art galleries had closed in this period), this context gave her the freedom to invest her personal fortune in a project for “the love of modern art”.

- Lia Rumma. Art as Conviviality
Thanks to her galleries in Naples and Milan, Lia Rumma has been able to passionately develop an art market and system that was far from being mature in Italy when she timidly started to carry out her first dealings at the beginning of the 19070s. How could a young widowed woman, born in a small Lombard town from a family of solid humanistic tradition, establish herself in the international scene, shape the career of many artists, and establish institutional relationships that have sometimes led to the very emergence of museums and foundations?

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