Perry Rubenstein, a socially connected dealer in New York and Los Angeles whose career was cut short by a grand theft conviction, has died at 68. His ex-wife, public relations executive Sara Fitzmaurice, confirmed Rubenstein’s death and said he was deceased. from natural causes.
“Perry has had a few twists and turns on his journey, but his true north has always been his unconditional love for his daughters and his legacy will live on with them,” Fitzmaurice wrote in an email. “He will be truly missed.”
Before spending six months in prison several years ago, Rubenstein was esteemed on the New York and Los Angeles stages, thanks to his eponymous gallery, which filed for bankruptcy in 2014.
Rubenstein had worked with artists such as Mike Kelley, Sturtevant, James Lee Byars, Diana Al-Hadid, Iwan Baan, Jesper Just, Kamrooz Aram and Robin Rhode. First opening on Prince Street in SoHo in 1989, Rubenstein opened two spaces in Chelsea in 2004, then moved its entire operation to Los Angeles in 2011, at a time when few New York galleries had it. had done.
But his grand theft charge, which stemmed from allegations involving two Los Angeles collectors, tarnished his reputation. While he continued to work as an artistic adviser, his gallery never reopened.
Born in 1954, Rubenstein got his start as a model. He claimed he was first noticed by designer Gianni Versace in the 70s when he was in Milan.
“Versace threw several sweaters at me, photographed me, then said, ‘You’re the best model in town,'” Rubenstein Told Artillery in 2013. “Of course, I was the only 6-foot-tall male model, because it was off season. At the end of the day, he gave me $1,000 in cash. Soon, I worked with Versace, Armani, Valentino and other top designers, modeling for French and Italian voguetraveling throughout Europe and Africa.
While in Europe, he purchased works by burgeoning Italian artists such as Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi and Sandro Chia, building up a collection that Artillery described as “small but significant”. Several years later, he quit modeling and moved to New York.
In this city, he met a crowd that included Andy Warhol, Larry Gagosian, Tony Shafrazi and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In one of the many Medium articles that Rubenstein has written over the years, he describes his friendship with Basquiatcalling himself a “facilitator” of the artist’s drug-using habits early in Basquiat’s short career.
“Our relationship was based on my passion for his work and our shared passion for some of the same recreational drugs that became quite dangerous for both of us as we went from ganja to fine wine to the queen of drugs, cocaine,” he said. writes Rubenstein.
Although Rubenstein did not begin his career with serious ambitions in the art world, his gallery eventually became a success. He said Artillery that he had been able to gain a foothold in the New York art world because “the barriers to entry into that world were significantly less structured than they are today”.
Much later, Rubenstein’s decision to open for Chelsea in 2004 was seen as significant. He became an early adopter of the neighborhood, which is now considered one of New York’s central gallery districts. “If you go to Berlin and tell an artist you’ll only show him on 57th Street and not Chelsea, he won’t show with you,” he said. say it New York Times in 2007.
His tune changed in 2011, when he moved to Los Angeles and told the Los Angeles Times that there were “very limited possibilities in terms of what you can do with gallery space” in New York. He said Los Angeles was “no longer the sideshow; it is no longer second only to New York as the capital of the arts.
Things started to change when, in 2013, Michael Ovitz, a collector and co-founder of the Creative Artists Agency, sued Rubenstein over the sale of two works by Richard Prince worth nearly $1 million. Ovitz claimed that Rubenstein withheld proceeds from the sale of one piece and peddled another at a lower price than they had agreed on. That same year, collector Michael Salke also alleged that Rubenstein defrauded him when selling a piece by Takashi Murakami. Rubenstein denied Ovitz and Salke’s allegations.
A year later, in 2014, the Perry Rubenstein Gallery filed for bankruptcy in Los Angeles. In the bankruptcy filing, the gallery reportedly listed $1.2 million in assets, much of it in the form of artwork, but said it owed $5.4 million. Also in 2014, Rubenstein and Fitzmaurice divorced.
In 2017, Rubenstein did not contest grand theft embezzlement charges and was sentenced to six months in prison.
In a Average position, Rubenstein described the “injustice” he witnessed during his time behind bars. He recounted various instances of racism towards other inmates around him, many of whom were black or brown, and he pledged to make himself a better person.
“Through the fog of my own misery,” he wrote, “I began to see more clearly.”