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Max Protetch on why he quit

The longtime Chelsea dealer tells us why he sold his gallery

new york. Longtime gallerist Max Protetch has sold his Chelsea based business to a Dutch-born businessman Edwin Meulensteen. “There is a recession, and while I am quite adept at getting through it, I don’t enjoy it,” said Protetch. “We cut back our staff tremendously, and you are working harder for less.”

Protetch, 63, took the unusual step of selling his business rather than shutting his doors. Some of the motivation for selling the business was to avoid abandoning his staff and artists. “I was very concerned that I would have set loose a really great staff and incredible group of artists at a time when they wouldn’t be in a good position to get jobs. I wanted to give the artists as much cover as possible,” said Protetch. “The reason for keeping it going was more altruistic. I’m here for a year without pay.”

Few dealers devise succession plans. Notable examples include dealers who sell to auction companies, including Haunch of Venison and Christie’s, and Noortman Master Paintings, Andre Emmerich and Deitch Projects, who all cut deals with Sotheby’s. The Dutch-born Meulensteen, 37, acquired the right to use Protetch’s name, as well as assume the lease on the 22nd street gallery. No inventory was included in the deal. Protetch will remain in the gallery as an adviser through October. An exhibit, celebrating Protetch’s 40th anniversary as a dealer, opens in September featuring works by Vito Acconci, Alfred Jensen, Isamu Noguchi and Lawrence Weiner.

This is Meulensteen’s first gallery job. His parents are collectors and founded a contemporary art museum in Slovakia.

Protetch launched into the gallery business in 1969 in Washington, D.C., representing Andy Warhol and other Pop artists. He re-located to Manhattan’s 57th street in 1978 year and pioneered the field of architects drawings and artifacts. In the wake of the 9/11 attack, he organized a show of design proposals for a new World Trade Center. The Library of Congress acquired the exhibition. Protetch was also the first U.S. gallerist to open in China. He began exporting Chinese works to American views in the mid-1990s. The gallery represents Chinese artists, Yue Minjun, Hai Bo and Fun Lijun as well as an eclectic list of others including ceramic artist Betty Woodman, Oliver Herring, Ann Pibal and Mike Cloud. “I’ve been very fortunate,” said Protetch. “Andy Warhol said each of us would have 15 minutes of fame. I’ve had at least two or three 15 minutes.”

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Comments

10 May 10
17:33 CET

NONE, QUEENS

I feel as though there is a huge difference in the way Dietch and Protetch are portrayed. Dietch is a known business owner that capitalizes on social subcultures using art as his catalyst while Protetch seems to be a business man that works with art and people. There is definitely a shift, and those two owners are on opposite sides of the business formula.

7 May 10
16:46 CET

RANDY S, NYC

The article is a little bit misleading. Deitch sold part of his gallery to Sothebys in 1997. His decision is far removed from the current climate.

5 May 10
20:42 CET

CAT WEAVE, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Interesting that most dealers that want out are cutting deals with the auction houses... I see, not a market failure, but a shift. Am I off?

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