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The New York gallerist who did it her way

Paula Cooper recalls SoHo back in the day and its pioneering artists at Frieze Masters

The first generation of artists to show with the pioneer New York dealer Paula Cooper (FM, F6) has been reunited at Frieze Masters. The gallerist has mounted a survey show of work made mainly in the early 1960s and late 1970s by artists who went on to become superstars, such as Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre and Donald Judd, as well as works by artists who remain less well known such as Douglas Huebler and Robert Grosvenor.

Cooper has championed Minimalism and Conceptual art since she founded her gallery in 1968 (the first in SoHo). Asked about her plans for the gallery over the next decade, Cooper says that she does not “think like that anymore”.

“I am going to leave the gallery to a couple of people and, whatever they do they’re free to do,” Cooper says. “The only thing I am concerned about now is the few artists I work with who haven’t gotten their just desserts. I want to help them so that people will recognise what they’ve done and how important they’ve been.”

This is evident at Frieze Masters. For example, a 1981 sculpture by Richard Serra (Alameda Black, $350,000) is on show alongside examples of Jennifer Bartlett’s enamel-on-steel grid paintings that were critically acclaimed in the 1970s ($20,000 to $45,000). A 1975 floor sculpture by Carl Andre (Zinc-Steel Dipole (E/W), $400,000) is on show near a 1969 hemp sculpture by Jackie Winsor (Small Double Circle, $250,000) and Robert Grosvenor’s 1975 masking-tape-and-pencil drawing (Untitled, $50,000).

Cooper says: “I am a Mom and Pop store. I don’t want 100 people working for me—I want to know what’s going on.” She reveals that she refused to learn to type as a young woman in case she was tempted to fall back upon the skill and “be someone’s secretary”.