Mary Boone, the veteran art dealer, said in an interview on Monday that after a great deal of deliberation with family, friends, lawyers and people who work with her, she has decided to close her two Manhattan galleries while she is in prison serving up to 2½ years for filing false tax returns.
“I wanted to be fair to the artists and I wanted to be fair to my staff,” she said by telephone. “Hopefully I’ll be able to come out a better person and rejoin the art world.”
The decision to close the galleries on Fifth Avenue in Midtown and in Chelsea was first reported by Art News.
The final shows — paintings by Derrick Adams in the Fifth Avenue space and by Julia Wachtel in the Chelsea space — are scheduled to open in early March and will run through April 27. Ms. Boone said both spaces would close around the end of that month, about two weeks before she is scheduled to report to prison.
Works that have not been sold by the time of the closings will return to artists, Ms. Boone said.
The closings mark the end of a significant chapter for Ms. Boone, who first opened a gallery in SoHo in the late 1970s and quickly rose to prominence. In 1982 New York magazine called her “the New Queen of the Art Scene.”
Ms. Boone’s gallery on West Broadway was seen by many as being at, or close to, the white-hot center of the ’80s art boom while showing works by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Eric Fischl and Ross Bleckner.
Ms. Boone eventually closed that space and opened the two that exist today. Over the years some of the gallery’s best-known names departed and now it does not represent quite the constellation of art stars it maintained in its heyday. Still, Ms. Boone continued to mount well-received shows.
Prosecutors have said that Ms. Boone, who pleaded guilty, had cost the government some $3 million in revenues through activities that included reporting false business losses and falsely claiming personal expenses as business deductions.
The closing of the gallery was in some ways forecast by Ms. Boone’s lawyers, who had asked that she be spared prison time because of her remorse, early-life trauma and what they described as her indispensable role at the gallery.
“Ultimately if Mary is sent to prison the galleries will be forced to close,” they wrote in a letter sent to Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan. “Simply put, Mary is the heart and soul of the Mary Boone Galleries and without her the galleries cannot exist.”
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