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Saltz: Why New York Will Miss Jeffrey Deitch

January 27, 2010

Vanessa Beecroft's work.

Vanessa Beecroft’s work.

Jeffrey Deitch is the Jeff Koons of art dealers. Not because he’s the biggest, best, or the richest of his kind. But because in some ways he’s the weirdest (which is saying a lot when you’re talking about the wonderful, wicked, lovable, and annoying creatures known as art dealers). For the twenty years I’ve known him professionally, Deitch has always worn the same happy expression. He’s donned the same snappy suits; is perpetually cheerful; is always ready with a sound bite; has few discouraging words to say about anyone; has his own unique point of view; and always finds a way to bring the conversation back to himself. I’ve called his gallery late at night on weekends in the middle of summer looking to leave a message. These are times when all other spaces are shut down. On more than one occasion, he’s actually picked up the phone with a chipper, “Deitch Projects.” After a pause, I’d say, “Jeffrey? Is that you?” And without missing a beat he’d say, “Hi, Jerry. Yes, yes, I’m working. What can I do for you?” And then he’d start talking about a show that he’s seen that he’s been thinking about.

I remember walking down to Canal and West Broadway on September 11, 2001, to where the police had put up barricades. I saw Deitch there looking at the hole in the sky and the smoke with tears in his eyes. It was the only time I’ve ever seen him break that strange, shiny façade. Whether you like the art that this one-of-a-kind party girl and mover-shaker showed in his galleries, now that he’s closing them down to become the new director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, L.A.’s gain is New York’s loss.

Deitch has always reveled in the idea that there’s no difference between art, pop culture, life, fun, and high production. Over the years he’s shown high art, low art, a fair share of pure crap, graffiti, and a certain amount of borderline porn. He’s staged fashion shows, produced music, and rebuilt whole buildings inside his usually immense plain exhibition spaces. When he’s made money and when he hasn’t, he’s always run his galleries as if they were Kunsthalle carnivals.

Read more: Saltz: Why New York Will Miss Jeffrey Deitch — Vulture

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