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KLAUS KERTESS

Born: July 16, 1940
Died: October 8, 2016

On October 8, 2016, classmate Klaus Kertess died in New York after an illustrious career in art, production of exhibitions and management of galleries and as an art critic. (See New York Times obituary Oct 17, 2016, and ART News: http://www.artnews.com/2016/10/09/klaus-kertess-foresighted-art-dealer-and-curator)

With the help and backing of classmate Jeff Byers (who died 12/31/77) he founded the Bykert Gallery in 1966, which showed at the beginning of their careers a huge number of artists associated with Minimalism, Post-Minimalism and Process schools. After leaving Bykert in 1975, Kertess was a curator at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, New York from 1983 until 1989, when he became adjunct curator of drawings at the Whitney Museum of American Art. At the Parrish, he curated shows featuring Carroll Dunham, April Gornik, Albert York, Jane Freilcher, and Alfonso Ossorio. He also organized the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit's inaugural exhibition in 2007; "Willem de Kooning: Drawing Seeing/Seeing Drawing" at the Drawing Center in New York in 1998; and "John O’Reilly: Assemblies of Magic" at the Addison Gallery of American Art at the Phillips Academy - where he had attended prep school. In 2009, he received the Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly Excellence in the Field of American Art History from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.

Kertess was a widely published writer who wrote or co-wrote more than 30 books about art and artists, including monographs on Willem de Kooning, Matthew Barney, Brice Marden, Jane Freilicher, Alfonso Ossorio, Joan Mitchell, Joel Shapiro, and John Chamberlain. In addition, he contributed numerous essays for Artforum, Art in America, and other publications. He also wrote fiction, including South Brooklyn Casket Company, a volume of short stories. In 2011, Gregory R. Miller & Co. published his collected writings in the book Seen, Written.

In 1995 Klaus organized the Whitney Museum Biennial, a signal honor. For that exhibition he wrote "Art is a platform for experience, not a lesson. What is being proposed here is not a return to formalism but an art in which meaning is embedded in formal value. And acknowledgement of sensuousness is indispensable - whether as play or sheer joy or the kind of subversity that has a reaching for a rose and grabbling a thorn."

Klaus was born in New York City and grew up in Westchester County, NY. He was the son of Dr. F.A. Kertess and Kate Daasch Kertess. He attended the Hackley School and Andover. At Yale he lived in Saybrook and majored in history of art, and was on the Dean's List. After Yale he studied at the universities of Bonn and Cologne. Back at Yale in 1964 he completed an M.A. in history of art.

He is survived by his companion, the artist Billy Sullivan whom he married in 2004, his brother Hans Kertess of New York and his sister Barbara. A memorial service was held at the Whitney Museum.

by John H. Stewart




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