The contemporary art scene in Denver is made up of scores of galleries, but until thirty years ago, there were only a handful of exhibition spaces in town. It was in the 1970s that the foundations for what we have now were first laid.
This was the time of the oil boom, which brought dozens of skyscrapers to downtown, and with them the need for art to embellish their courtyards, entrances and lobbies. So contemporary galleries started to open, and one of the most highly regarded among this early group was Carson Sapiro, a partnership of Sandy Carson and Joan Sapiro. Carson Sapiro was a legendary gallery, and many people who would go on to become major players around here as art directors, curators and art consultants were somehow associated with it.
Carson Sapiro lasted about ten years before a split between the partners led to the roughly simultaneous founding of the Sandy Carson Gallery and Joan Sapiro Art Consultants. Sandy Carson, is, of course, the flagship of the Santa Fe galleries, while Joan Sapiro Art Consultants is still going strong despite Sapiro's death last month from cancer. The firm will continue under the leadership of Kay Brouillette, who's been running it since Sapiro became ill a year or so ago.
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Sapiro (pictured) was born Joan Mechanic in Brooklyn in 1934. She attended the University of Wisconsin and married Lewis Sapiro in 1955. She briefly lived in Germany, then returned to her home town, studying art history at New York University and later working at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase.
In 1976, the couple moved to Denver. Joan worked as an assistant at the Denver Art Museum before opening Carson Sapiro. She was also among those who established the museum's Alliance for Contemporary Art (now DAM Contemporaries) and was a co-chair of the DAM's Design Council.
One of Sapiro's greatest contributions to the art world was the way she helped raise the bar for corporate art on public display in Denver. I never met Sapiro, but like so many others, I knew her name and had heard of her many accomplishments, which is how I know that she made a difference here.