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Virginia Zabriskie, Gallerist Was 91

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 22:20
July 15, 192 - May 27, 2019

Virginia Zabriskie, the founder of the Zabriskie Gallery on East 57th Street in Manhattan, died on May 7 at her home in the city. The part-time resident of East Hampton was 91.

Born on July 15, 1927, in New York City to the former Virginia Watters and Arthur Marshall, she was a graduate of the High School of Music and Art and New York University. After a year of study in Paris, she earned a graduate degree in art history at N.Y.U., and later started an art research service. 

In 1954, she assumed the lease of a small second-floor gallery on Madison Avenue for $1, and used the space to launch her namesake gallery, aided by a $1,000 inheritance from a grandmother. After starting out with a stable of unknown artists, she began to showcase the work of early-20th-century American artists including Joseph Stella, William Zorach, and Elie Nadelman. Among younger artists she introduced were Richard Stankiewicz, Mary Frank, Pat Adams, and Robert De Niro Sr. 

A group exhibition called “The City 1900-1930” helped establish the gallery as a critical and financial success. Joseph Hirshhorn, the founder of the Hirshhorn Museum, was a client.

The Zabriskie Gallery was one of the first to embrace photography as a major art form, starting with Alfred Stieglitz’s photogravures. In 1977, Ms. Zabriskie opened the Galerie Zabriskie in Paris, with photography the focus and a bookstore selling photography-related works. In her venues on the two continents, she sought to expand trans-Atlantic cultural knowledge by introducing American artists to the French and vice versa. 

A year after closing the Paris space in 1998 with “Au Revoir Paris,” a group show of all the American photographers whose first European exposure had come through the gallery, she received the Medaille de la Ville de Paris. She also held top awards from the Art Dealers Association of America and the Archives of American Art. 

Ms. Zabriskie was married twice, to George Zabriskie and Arthur Cohen. Both marriages ended in divorce.

She closed her New York gallery in 2010 and became a private art dealer. All that she did throughout her life was accomplished despite suffering from dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that prevented her from speaking above a hoarse whisper, and gradually caused her to lose mobility in her hands.