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Leading Art Dealer Robert Miller, Founder of Robert Miller Gallery, Dies at 72
Robert Miller, Courtesy of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.
NEW YORK, NY.- Robert Miller Gallery regretfully announces the death on Wednesday, June 22, 2011, of its founder Robert Miller (1939-2011). Miller, one of the world’s leading art dealers of the 1980s and 90s, died in Miami, FL. He was 72.

In his time a powerful force in the art world, Miller encouraged the reappraisal of underrepresented voices in contemporary art and provided a platform for a critical re-thinking of the 20th century canon. He was a pioneering representative of women and gay artists in particular and established an international reputation by working directly with some of the most important and influential artists of our time such as Louise Bourgeois, Gilbert & George, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff, Lee Krasner, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joan Mitchell, Alice Neel, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and with the estates of Diane Arbus, Eva Hesse and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

In the early 1960s shortly after earning a MFA degree in painting from Rutgers University, Miller moved to Manhattan at the urging of Roy Lichtenstein, for whom he had been a teaching assistant, and Lee Krasner, for whom he had been a studio assistant, intending to pursue a career as a painter. During this period he had two exhibitions at Martha Jackson Gallery, however, these were not commercially successful and he became focused on promoting the work of other artists. By 1966 he was a director at Andre Emmerich Gallery working with such artists as his friend David Hockney and eventually became a partner there.

In 1977 he and his wife, Betsy Wittenborn Miller, opened the Robert Miller Gallery at 724 Fifth Avenue in 1977. Within a few years the gallery moved to the second floor at 41 East 57th Street where the corner windows commanded attention from the street. During these years he developed enduring friendships as well as working relationships with Robert Mapplethorpe, Rodrigo Moynihan, Alex Katz, Bruce Weber, Al Held, and Milton Resnick. He was passionate about the work of Diane Arbus, Eva Hesse and Jean Michel Basquiat and worked closely with those estates. Perhaps his most important contribution to the arts was his support of women artists. Lee Krasner, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Mitchell, Alice Neel, and Patti Smith all benefited from his focus. “Robert Miller was my advocate and mentor”, Patti Smith said in a statement issued yesterday. “He never gave up on me. I think of him always when I exhibit my work. And I will continue to think of him and thank him for believing in me, long before I believed in myself.”

He was a man of eclectic tastes; he loved to find unusual objects at flea markets as well collect what he believed to be important art. Over the years Miller became increasingly disenchanted with the changing art world and speculation in art which he thought made it difficult for young artists to maintain their integrity. He said, “One of the things that people equate with art’s being of interest is that it so expensive….Perception and possession have so little to do with each other. You cannot possess much of the great art of the world, but you can perceive it, particularly through reading. With all the increased art activity, people are reading less and that opportunity to perceive is slipping away. So what people do is they seize the art, in order to THINK they have it.”

In 2001, a year after the gallery’s relocation to 524 West 26th Street, Miller retired, leaving the gallery to his wife Betsy Wittenborn Miller who has been the Owner and President since then with their son Robert Peter Miller Jr. as Director. Throughout the past decade the gallery has continued evolving Miller’s unique vision organizing important exhibitions by Ai Wei Wei, Yayoi Kusama, Pierre Soulages, and Tom Wesselmann among many others. In a statement issued today Charles C. Bergman, Chaiman and CEO of The Pollock-Krasner Foundation says “Bob Miller was an exceptional art dealer with a fine eye for artistic quality. The Robert Miller Gallery, under Betsy Miller’s leadership, is a fitting legacy to his career.”

Miller painted throughout his life. He showed his work at Martha Jackson Gallery 1965, Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, 1999, Dorothy Blau Gallery, Miami, 2000, Dorsch Gallery, Miami, 2001 and J.Johnson Gallery, Jacksonville, 2002-3.

Robert Peter Miller was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey on April 17, 1939. He is survived by his children, Robert Peter Miller, Jr., Sarah Elizabeth Miller, Christopher Richard Miller, and a grandson, Alden Miller Gaussoin all of Manhattan and Pottersville, NJ and two brothers, Alfred Peter Miller III and Paul Joseph Miller. A memorial service is being planned for the fall.

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