When I worked at the Phillips Collection in the late 80’s, I had the chance to be introduced to a number of major american artists. One of those was Jacob Lawrence. I became familiar with this work as a staff docent as well as museum guard. He was pleasant to all of the staff when the museum hosted a retrospective of his work.
He came back into my radar recently when I downloaded an e-book called “Girl with a Gallery, Edith Gregor Halpert, and the Making of the American Art Market” by Lindsay Pollack. Edith opened the Downtown Gallery in Greenwich Village in 1926 and kept it through the great depression through the 60’s.
Edith Gregor Halpert championed and represented many early 20th century American Artists including Jacob Lawrence. She kept many of them going during the great depression and brought them to the attention of art patrons like Mrs. John D. Rockfeller.
If you are at all interested in American History and American Art check out this book. She started her small business and ran it successfully with hard work, resilience, guts and brains.
Before opening the gallery she held an early “corporate” career as an efficiency expert. She also had a keen knack for diversification. During the depth of the great depression, she acquired and marketed early American Folk Art and Artist when it was difficult to find buyers for pool of current artists. She lived above her gallery location and also rented apartments in order to pay the bills.
Every aspiring small business woman ( Artsy or not) should check out this book.
I found her life story inspiring and moving.
Thanks to Lindsay Pollock and the Smithsonian American Museum of Art for pulling her out of obsurity.