Jan Baum in 2007. Photo: Carlos Chavez for the Los Angeles Times.

Jan Baum (1928–2017)

Los Angeles dealer for Jan Baum" rel="nofollow" >Jan Baum, who helped bring the gallery scene to La Brea Avenue, died on December 25, 2017, after suffering a cerebral edema, Carolina A. Miranda of the Los Angeles Times reports. Baum opened the first gallery on La Brea in 1981, and within five years dozens more followed. She also operated Baum-Silverman Gallery in West Hollywood, which launched in 1977. While the arts space was open only three years, Baum and Iris Silverman, the late private dealer who specialized in African and Oceanic art, exhibited artists such as Betye Saar, a pioneer of the Black Arts Movement, who continued to show with Baum until the late 1990s.

“She was open to women artists, to the political thing too,” Saar said. “She had the knack to mix contemporary art with ethnic art and it felt right . . . It was very open and friendly—like showing your work with friends.” Peter Plagens, the New York–based artist and critic, who has written for Artforum, added that she was “a steady rudder for the LA art world.”

Over the course of her career, Baum organized shows by a variety of artists, including Jim Morphesis and Mel Ruben, as well as Saar’s daughters, Alison Saar and Lezley Saar. Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1928, Baum studied medicine at the University of Wisconsin before she switched to art history. While attending school, she met her husband, Richard Baum, and in 1952, they moved to Los Angeles. When asked about opening up her first venue with her friend Silverman, Baum said that it was “destiny.”