New York gallery owner Frederieke Taylor, acclaimed for her eclectic tastes, dies at 77

Frederieke Taylor (left) with artist Mel Chin. Taylor, 77, died on Feb 7 in Manhattan.
Frederieke Taylor (left) with artist Mel Chin. Taylor, 77, died on Feb 7 in Manhattan.PHOTO: TWITTER/ FREDERIEKEART

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Frederieke Taylor, a collector, curator and administrator who exhibited her eclectic taste in contemporary art and architecture at the gallery she co-founded in Soho in 1993, died Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 77.

Her daughter Martien Halvorson-Taylor said the cause was cancer.

A Dutch immigrant who arrived in the United States in the early 1960s, Taylor held a series of jobs that allowed her to help artists thrive. In Manhattan, she was the administrative and development director at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, a think tank and studio, and executive director of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, which provides support and resources for artists.

In Peterborough, New Hampshire, she was director of the MacDowell Colony, a prestigious artists' retreat, and in Madison, Maine, she directed the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture. Back in New York City, she was a board member and chairman of the composer, singer and interdisciplinary artist Meredith Monk's House Foundation for the Arts.

"She was a very centred person who used her discriminating intelligence to solve problems," Monk said in an interview. "Her fearlessness was helpful when there were difficult times financially. A lesser woman wouldn't have been so steady." Taylor also curated and organised exhibitions and coordinated Deconstructivist Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art in 1988. The exhibition, which was overseen by architect Philip Johnson, showed work by Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Coop Himmelblau and Bernard Tschumi.

"It was a very trendy show but it was totally prescient because everybody who participated in the show became who they are today," Taylor said in an unpublished interview conducted last month with Solange Fabiao, an artist and design architect.

Reviewing the exhibition for The New York Times, Paul Goldberger wrote that it was "visually spectacular, densely packed with models that seem intended as much to startle the eye as to engage it." In 1993, Taylor opened TZ'Art, a gallery in Soho, with a partner, Tom Zollner, who left after five years. It then became the Frederieke Taylor Gallery, which has moved a few times and is now on East 29th Street in Manhattan.

"Her gallery is a window into a very adventuresome, exploratory presentation of the intersection between art and architecture," said Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. "She had a really fresh eye and a real talent for cultivating interesting people. You could count on the gallery to show the unexpected." Among the artists, sculptors and architects whose work Taylor exhibited were Lisa Sigal, Thomas Zummer, Mel Chin, Raimund Abraham, Long-Bin Chen and Monk. "In 2015," Monk said, "when I got the National Medal of Arts from President Obama, I brought only three people, and one of them was Frederieke."

Frederieke Sanders Taylor was born on May 3, 1940, in Schiedam, the Netherlands. Her father, Pieter Sanders, was a lawyer who was a principal drafter of the United Nations' rules on international commercial arbitration awards, and her mother, the former Ida Sanders, was a social worker. Both collected art; her father's best friend was Dutch modernist architect Jaap Bakema.

At age 10, Frederieke used birthday money from her great-grandfather to buy her first piece of art: an original print by M.C. Escher.

For a time during World War II, her father was held in a Nazi prison camp for notable people, though he was not Jewish, and after his release, he hid in a crawl space behind a bookshelf in the family's home. Her mother wore a yellow star to signify that she was Jewish.

Martien Halvorson-Taylor said in a telephone interview that when Dutch collaborators came searching for Sanders and peeked inside the piano at their home, young Frederieke "giggled because 'they think that Papie is in the piano.'" After Taylor's junior year at Leiden University, the Netherlands, where she studied Chinese literature and language, she met her future husband, Willard Taylor, at a French language school in Besancon, France. She transferred in 1962 to Yale University, where Taylor was studying law. She earned a master's degree, also in Chinese literature and language.

She thought her education might lead to a career as a diplomat. But her personal interest in art turned into her vocation.

In addition to Halvorson-Taylor, Taylor is survived by another daughter, Severn Taylor; five grandchildren; and her brothers, Pieter and Martijn. Her marriage to Taylor ended in divorce.

At a fundraiser in 1971, Taylor paid US$600 (S$795.90) for a wall painting by the modern artist Sol LeWitt that depicted interlocking circles. The organisers subsequently wanted her to relinquish her winning bid - in the hope that someone would pay more - but she would not.

She held onto the painting until last year, when she sold it and other works to bankroll a foundation, FST StudioProjects Fund, to help young artists pay their studio rent.