“Who is Daniel Weinberg?” I asked a colleague this question upon relocating A&R to Los Angeles via Seattle. I had leased Dan’s former gallery space, his last brick and mortar location. After nearly forty years in the business he had decided to focus his energies on private dealing. I was embarrassed when my colleague began to list some of Dan’s accomplishments, an illustrious career that spanned four decades in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, hosting exhibitions with many of the latter 20th century’s most important artists. “Everyone knew he was the king of the west coast dealers” my colleague remarked, “we were all in awe of the guy, he was untouchable.”
I soon learned that Dan gave Peter Cain, Carroll Dunham, and Robert Gober their first solo exhibitions. In addition, he provided seminal and numerous solo shows to Richard Tuttle, Sol LeWitt, John McLaughlin, Richard Artschwager, Dan Flavin, Robert Mangold, Lee Bontecou, John Wesley, Bruce Nauman, and Jeff Koons. In total he worked with over 150 artists. Visitors to my gallery shared stories about Dan, some more far-fetched than others. He was described as uncompromising, deeply committed to his artists, an aesthete, and a dealer consistently ahead of the curve. He was also described as a curmudgeon, even arrogant; one person went as far as to call him an a#sh*le. People reminisced about shows they’d seen and the artists he had introduced them to. Visits to view the treasures in Dan’s backroom were described as if they were scenes from Indiana Jones.
Dan became a sort of mythological character in my mind. I began to fret about whether or not he would like our program or if he would hate the renovations we made to the gallery. A couple of months later I contacted his assistant about mail we had been putting aside for him. To my surprise days later an impeccably dressed gentleman walked through the door. It was Dan and he proceeded to wax nostalgic about the space. He even remarked on how much he liked our lighting, going as far as to ask for the name of our electrician.
It was a generous exchange and I felt a sense of relief. Around a year later I approached him at the Expo Chicago, an art fair in which we both participated, and suggested the idea of hosting a group show in tribute to his career. Dan agreed immediately. Initially I envisioned a collaborative endeavor but I slowly realized that this was going to be his show. I came to terms with relinquishing control of the gallery to Dan so he could organize this anniversary show the same way he had on occasions in the past. The project was exhilarating and at times terrifying, but who better to reflect the arc of his legacy than the man himself.
The Daniel Weinberg Gallery was not just a gallery in Los Angeles or San Francisco; it was a pivotal space in an art network in cities around the world that provided a prominent stage for important artists and emerging talent. In fact, Dan never considered himself a West Coast dealer. In his words he simply “worked with the best artists," and this exhibition pays tribute to a career any young dealer could aspire to.
AMBACH & RICE / Principal