Doris Ammann, a Swiss art dealer who has led Zurich’s storied Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG gallery since 1993, has died. A representative for the gallery confirmed Ammann’s death in an email, saying that she was born in 1944, making her either 76 or 77. The spokesperson said that Ammann’s death was “sudden and unexpected,” but declined to confirm an exact cause or age.
In 1977, she founded Thomas Ammann Fine Art Gallery AG with her brother Thomas, who got his start at Galerie Bruno Bischofberger at age 18 and went on to form his own enterprise with the backing of a Swiss investor. In the coming two decades, Thomas and Doris worked together to turn the gallery into a bona fide destination for the world’s top collectors, with Stavros Niarchos, David Geffen, Ronald Lauder, Ronald Perelman, and many others among their clients.
Their gallery had become known for its offerings featuring top-tier works by Impressionists, modernists, and postwar artists ranging from Francis Bacon to Andy Warhol, whose catalogue raisonné Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG helped oversee. The gallery also supported stars of the 1980s and ’90s early in their careers, with Eric Fischl, Ross Bleckner, and Philip Taaffe getting early solo shows there, and in 1989, it brokered the Museum of Modern Art’s acquisition a Vincent van Gogh painting for $50 million—a particularly hefty sum at the time.
When Thomas died in 1993 of AIDS-related causes, Doris took the reins at the gallery. In 1996, Doris became vice president of the Swiss Art Trading Association, and in 2003, she became a trustee of the estate of Willem de Kooning’s daughter, Johanna Liesbeth de Kooning Trust.
“She led the legacy that Thomas left behind too early with the same intelligence, wisdom, discretion and elegance so that Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG did not lose its international nimbus,” Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG said in a statement. “Doris will be missed by everybody who knew her.”
On at least a few occasions, Ammann made significant purchases at auction. At a 2018 sale of works from Barney Ebsworth’s collection, Ammann was the winning bidder on a $55.4 million Jackson Pollock painting titled Composition with Red Strokes (1950). She also bought a $8.4 million Alexander Calder sculpture of a hen at that same auction. Meanwhile, at a 2008 sale, Ammann paid $39.2 million for a Fernand Léger painting, making the work the most expensive one by the French artist ever to sell at auction at the time.
“To me she was far more than one of the world’s greatest art dealers—she was a devoted friend and confidante,” Sandy Heller, an art adviser and a friend of Ammann, said. “She was kind, strong, wise, beautiful, and so much fun. I will miss her for the rest of my life. Doris will remain an inspiration to me and I will do my best to honor her memory.”
Sarah Douglas contributed reporting.