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Robert William Burke Jr.
Robert William Burke Jr.

Robert William Burke Jr. (1948–2020)

Robert William Burke Jr., a distinguished gallerist and collector, died on January 3 at his home in Paris at seventy-one years old. Known by his middle name, Burke was the adopted son of Robert William and Sarah Evelyn Burke of Marianna, Arkansas, where he grew up and went to high school. He went on to study literature and history at Hendrix College in nearby Conway and, after earning his degree in 1971, lived alternately in New York and Paris.

Burke’s career began at the Gotham Book Mart in New York in the late 1960s. Fascinated with the new French literature, he eventually relocated to Paris, where he attended the lectures of Roland Barthes at the Collège de France—the two later became friends—and shifted his focus to the visual arts after joining the city’s Sonnabend Gallery. He eventually opened La Remise du Parc gallery in the French capital with Samia Saouma. The gallery’s offerings ranged from rare nineteenth-century photographs to the first European solo exhibitions of Robert Mapplethorpe and Peter Hujar, in 1978 and 1980, respectively. Burke maintained a longtime association with Bénédicte Pesle, the Paris-based arts impresario who promoted Lucinda Childs, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Wilson, among others.

During his years in New York, Burke worked for a time with Andy Warhol at the Factory and collaborated with artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and Gilbert & George. While La Remise du Parc closed in 1983, Burke continued to deal privately—mainly in New York, Paris, and London—until the deterioration of his health in recent years, when he effectively retired. Donations in Burke’s memory can be sent to the American Cathedral in Paris.