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Werner “Wynn” Kramarsky in 1982.
Werner “Wynn” Kramarsky in 1982.

Werner Kramarsky (1926–2019)

Collector, public health official, and arts patron Werner Kramarsky—who was a trustee of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Andy Warhol Foundation in Pittsburgh, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Morgan Library, and the Drawing Center in New York—has died at the age of ninety-three.

Werner “Wynn” Kramarsky was born in Amsterdam in 1926; his father was a banker and an art collector whose estate included Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet, 1890. The family emigrated to the United States in 1939. Over the course of sixty years, Kramarsky and his wife Sarah-Ann amassed one of the largest private collections of works on paper, with more than four thousand Minimalist and Conceptual works. They have donated more than two thousand works to institutions including MoMA, the Harvard Art Museums in Massachusetts, the Yale University Art Gallery in Connecticut, the Seattle Art Museum, the Menil Collection in Houston, and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon.

From 1991 to 2006, the couple ran a noncommercial art space, Fifth Floor Foundation, in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, where they showcased the works of young artists alongside that of Mel Bochner, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, and Richard Serra, among others.

“I collect because I am interested in certain things happening: certain things on paper happening, certain things in an artist’s relationship with his or her medium,” Kramarsky told the poet William Corbett in an interview with the Brooklyn Rail. “I learned mostly from artists. . . . Artists see differently, thank God.” 

In another |“no-work-of-art-of-any-interest-stands-in-time-by-itself”-an-interview-with-wynn-kramarsky/4/|interview|, he described the motive behind sharing his collection with the public: “Art lives every time someone looks at it. . . . It’s not going to last forever. Nothing lasts forever. So let it be where people will see it, so that it can live its life in a productive way.”