Lawrence Rubin. Photo: Marina Schinz.

Lawrence Rubin (1933–2018)

Lawrence Rubin—noted dealer of Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Diebenkorn, Nancy Graves, Robert Motherwell, and Helen Frankenthaler, among others—died in Zurich on August 16 at age eighty-five. In addition to serving as president of longtime New York gallery stalwart Knoedler & Company for twenty years, Rubin is known for being an early champion of American artist Frank Stella, with whom he nurtured a lifelong friendship.

Born in Brooklyn in 1933, Rubin began his gallery career at Rome’s Galleria Schneider in 1959 after studying art history and general studies at Brown University, the Sorbonne, and Columbia University. He quickly rose through the ranks to become a partner, an auspicious beginning to a career that would see Rubin direct or own five galleries in Paris and New York. In 1961, with backing from his brother Richard—a former textile businessman and art collector—Rubin opened his own gallery in Paris, Galerie Lawrence. That same year, he presented the first European solo exhibition of Stella. He would go on to help compile a catalogue raisonné of Stella’s canvases from 1958 to 1965.

He sold the Paris venue in the mid-1960s to return to New York, where he opened a private gallery on East Ninety-First Street, continuing to represent Stella as well as artists he met through his oldest brother William, who likewise built a formidable career as an art historian and curator; in the 1970s and 80s, William also served as director of the painting and sculpture departments at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

In 1973, Armand Hammer persuaded Rubin to work at the prestigious but financially-struggling Knoedler, which Hammer had bought in 1971. Rubin quickly became its president, bolstering the gallery’s financial standing by developing its lucrative midcentury and contemporary art wing and exhibiting many of the Abstract Expressionists he had previously represented including Stella, Diebenkorn, and Rauschenberg. After a two-decade tenure, Rubin retired in 1994 and spent the rest of his years in Europe, occasionally consulting for his son James’s Milan-based gallery. He is survived by his wife, son, daughters, and brother.