Robert Miller, R.I.P.

Longtime New York art dealer and gallerist Robert Miller, who retired in 2001, died at age 72 on Wednesday in Miami. Mr. Miller opened his eponymous gallery in 1977 on Fifth Avenue. It was subsequently located on 57th Street, in the Fuller Building, then moved to its current location on 26th Street, in the Chelsea art district.

Over the years, Mr. Miller made his reputation working with artists like Alex Katz and Larry Rivers. For decades, his name was one of those that was practically synonymous with the art business in New York. In a 1991 profile of Larry Gagosian, who is now widely considered to be the world’s most powerful art dealer, the writer notes that “Fifteen years ago, Larry Gagosian was selling posters for a living. Now he is one of the most powerful dealers in New York, in the company of Mary Boone, Robert Miller, Pace’s Arnold Glimcher and [Leo] Castelli.”

That Mr. Miller’s name still carries heft, and still signifies the art dealer’s trade, is evidenced by the fact that he is one of the few dealers to be identified by name in comedian Steve Martin’s 2010 novel, An Object of Beauty. Mr. Martin’s novel is set in the art world of the mid to late 1990s. He channels Mr. Miller in a scene in which his protagonist, a young auction house employee by the name of Lacey, stops by the Robert Miller Gallery to check on a Warhol she has just agreed to purchase:

Robert Miller came in to congratulate her and meet this unknown new collector. “It’s a lovely piece,” he said.
“Yes,” said Lacey, “it reached out and snagged me.”
“I like these rich blacks, and how defined the stems are in the background. It’s a wonderful example,” said Miller, “and it’s got great wall power.”

Robert Miller, R.I.P.