Art Dealer Gavin Brown Is Donating His Gallery Archive to Bard’s Curatorial Center

The gift tracks the 26-year history of Gavin Brown's enterprise (GBE) gallery.

Man in suit stands in between paintings
Gavin Brown is donating the archive of his eponymous gallery. J. Grassi/PMC/©Patrick McMullan

Gavin Brown, the art dealer behind the trailblazing gallery Gavin Brown’s enterprise (GBE), is donating the institution’s archival collection to Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies (CCS Bard). Consisting of artist files, exhibition histories, catalogs and other documentation, the gift tracks key moments in New York City’s art scene throughout the past two decades. A selection of works from the archive will go on view this June during a CCS Bard exhibition dedicated to the influence of art communities.

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Open from 1994 to 2020, GBE boosted the careers of artists like Peter Doig and Rirkrit Tiravanija with its dynamic shows. “The donation of Gavin Brown’s archival holdings deepens our collections to provide unprecedented insight into the workings of the iconic gallery and broader contemporary art world during a critical period of inflection and growth,” said Ann Butler, director of library and archives at CCS Bard, in a statement.

Brown, a U.K.-born gallerist who is also an artist, first opened Gavin Brown’s enterprise in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood and later relocated the gallery first to the Meatpacking District, then the West Village and eventually Harlem. The archival materials track this journey, according to CCS Bard, and trace pivotal moments like Brown’s 1999 opening of the bar Passerby alongside a disco floor designed by Piotr Uklański and his 2016 premiere of Arthur Jafa’s video Love is the Message, The Message is Death. 

GBE’s history of bold exhibitions

The gallery gained a reputation for its rebellious streak—one of its notable group exhibitions, “Drunk vs. Stoned,” explored different substances through artwork and other initiatives. But it shut its doors in 2020 due to struggles related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Brown joined Gladstone Gallery as a partner, bringing Gavin Brown’s enterprise artists like Joan Jonas, Ed Atkins, LaToya Ruby Frazier and Alex Katz with him.

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Highlighted works from the gallery archive will be shown in “Start Making Sense,” which will draw upon CCS Bard’s archival and art holdings to highlight critical cultural moments with an emphasis on the 1990s and onwards. Artwork by Chris Ofili, Catherine Opie, Christopher Wool and Ida Applebroog will also be shown.

Brown’s gift will join a trove of important archival materials documenting various artistic institutions at CCS Bard. In addition to the recently acquired holdings of curator Robert Storr and art historian Eddie Chambers, CCS Bard holds the archives of dealers like Colin De Land and Pat Hearn.

“Gavin Brown’s enterprise was as much a social space as an influential pillar of the commercial gallery world, and it remains a key touchstone for independent representation within the arts community,” said Tom Eccles, executive director of CCS Bard, in a statement. “The archives preserve and make public a dynamic history of a space known for challenging convention and for dynamic exhibition making.”

Art Dealer Gavin Brown Is Donating His Gallery Archive to Bard’s Curatorial Center