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Lucas Samaras, Sittings 8 x 10 (19H), 1978 © Lucas Samaras

Essays

Remembering Barbara Rose One Year After Her Passing

By Arne Glimcher

Published Thursday, Dec 23, 2021

In the following text, Pace Gallery Founder and Chairman Arne Glimcher shares his remembrances of art historian and writer Barbara Rose, who died in December 2020 at age 84. A longtime friend and supporter of Pace, Rose is known for her seminal book American Art Since 1900 and her influential essay ABC Art, which was published in 1965 and examined the emergence of the minimalist aesthetic. While working at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston in the 1980s, Rose organized a retrospective of work by Lee Krasner, one of the artists she championed during her lifetime. Below, Glimcher discusses Rose’s distinct position in the New York art world of the 1960s and 1970s, her key publications, and her other enduring contributions to the arts.

Barbara was the quintessential voice of the 60s. Her influence continued in the following decades as well. Her role in the art world has been one of strength and, with her marriage to Frank Stella, she and Frank became the power couple. She had Leo Castelli’s ear, and that gallery would not have been what it was without Barbara. The whole minimalist aesthetic, and her interest in Pop as well, defined her.

The most definitive piece that she wrote in those early years was the Oldenburg catalogue for the Museum of Modern Art retrospective. It remains the greatest book on Oldenburg. Oldenburg designed a soft cover for the book, and it continues to be one of the iconic objects of the 60s. Barbara was an integral part of the zeitgeist. She attended most of the Happenings and the exhibition openings, and she had a cocky sense of self-assurance in her decisions. Credibility for Judd and Stella’s aesthetic was fostered by Barbara as she became the fulcrum between Pop art and Minimalism.

Many people disliked the Pace Gallery and called it slick. No other gallery had existed in New York like it. Barbara was very encouraging. I met her at Leo Castelli’s before I opened the New York gallery. “All New York needs is a Boston gallery” she said. To which Leo replied, “New York doesn’t need another gallery.”

Barbara lived a life with artists as an important provocateur and counselor. She was a writer, not a critic. She was a muse—especially, to Frank Stella.

She was a friend of the critic and writer Annette Michelson, and I think I met Annette through Barbara. Annette was my hook-up with Dubuffet, and Barbara was very, very enthusiastic about Dubuffet’s work. I don’t know if she ever wrote about him, but she loved Dubuffet’s work and she encouraged me enormously.

Barbara wrote several texts for Pace catalogues—always perceptive, always from original viewpoints. I was interested in the legacy that the gallery would leave of writing, as well as art. I don’t think anybody really knows that today, but we commissioned great texts. We nurtured writers.

The fault that Barbara suffered from was friendship: she could never be really critical of good friends’ work. But that only happened later in her life. She was much tougher when she was younger. Sometimes people get nicer with age, and sometimes not. Barbara got nicer.

Barbara liked the California artists a lot, and that’s when our relationship solidified. She considered Robert Irwin to be a genius, and she liked Larry Bell very much as well. She supported my West Coast vision where other writers did not. We showed some crazy stuff, as far as people were concerned. It wasn’t art, but it was art to me. Barbara was part of the support system of the Pace Gallery and we enjoyed our friendship for most of our lives. Barbara was a valuable person.

Essays — Arne Glimcher Remembers Art Historian and Writer Barbara Rose One Year After Her Passing, Dec 23, 2021