Renato Danese, a New York dealer who passionately supported the artists with whom he worked, has died at 76 after a short battle with cancer. Carol Corey, who has run a New York gallery with Danese called Danese/Corey for more than two decades, confirmed his death.
Danese’s career path was unusual for a gallerist, in that he had spent years in the museum world before moving into the market. Having held various positions at notable museums across the United States, Danese had a no-frills approach to working in galleries.
In an interview with the Art Dealers Association of America, a consortium of galleries, he was asked what advice he might have for fellow gallerists. He responded, “Have an ethical compass. Make sure the artists are paid first. Work with them as partners and honor your commitment to them. Don’t use the term ‘stable.’ It’s demeaning.”
Danese got his foot in the door of the museum world early on. After getting a graduate degree in art history from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., he took a curatorial position at the Washington Gallery of Art, where Walter Hopps, a former gallerist who was at the time one of the nation’s most well-respected curators, saw potential in him. (The museum closed in 1968.) After that, Danese became a curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
In 1978, Danese departed the institutional sphere for the market and didn’t look back. He briefly operated a branch of Light Gallery in Los Angeles, and two years later, he became a director at Pace Gallery, which is now one of the biggest enterprises of its kind in the world. From 1980 until 1995, he worked at that gallery, and then he was briefly a senior partner at C & M Arts.
Danese carried with him an old-school mentality that artists and art mattered more than sales. In a 1999 article written on the occasion of Leo Castelli’s death, Danese praised the dealer for taking such a sustained interest in his artists. “Today there’s so much emphasis on competition and sales and the bottom line and the cost and overhead of running a gallery that those qualities sometimes can get lost,” he told the Baltimore Sun.
In 1996, Danese formed his own eponymous gallery, which was at first located in New York’s Midtown neighborhood. In 2008, it moved to 24th Street in Chelsea and then, in 2013, relocated to its current location on 22nd Street, becoming Danese/Corey in recognition of the gallery’s director, Carol Corey, a partner in the business. (Danese had hired Corey away from the now-closed Knoedler Gallery, where she had been a vice president, in 1998, two years after his gallery’s founding.)
Danese focused primarily on secondary-market work at first, but the gallery currently maintains a roster of living artists, among them Roz Chast and Deborah Butterfield.
“Our job is to help develop the market,” Danese once said, speaking of his gallery’s work, “to do everything possible through the exhibition program to ensure that museums, collectors, and [the] press have an opportunity to recognize an artist’s achievements.”