Life and career
Anthony d'Offay, who was born in Sheffield to a French father, began dealing in art in the late 1960s. With the closure of the Robert Fraser and John Kasmin galleries he became one of the pre-eminent art dealers in the world operating from premises in Dering Street off the top of New Bond Street in London. He closed the gallery in 2001 and founded ARTIST ROOMS in 2008. He has been the recipient of the UK Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award (2009), The Prince of Wales Medal for Arts Philanthropy (2011) and the Paolozzi Medal (2011). He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates by The University of Edinburgh, De Montfort University, Leicester and Sheffield Hallam University.
Anthony d'Offay Gallery (1965 - 2001)
In 1965, at the age of 25, he opened his first gallery in London and for 15 years organised mostly historical exhibitions of early 20th century British art including Abstract Art in England 1913-1915 (1969) which critically reassessed the importance of the Vorticist movement in the UK. In the seventies he started to show contemporary art, exhibiting Lucian Freud, Michael Andrews, Eduardo Paolozzi, Frank Auerbach and William Coldstream.
In 1980 he opened an exhibition space for contemporary art on the first floor at 23 Dering Street, a uniquely large space for London at that time. The gallery was run by Anthony d'Offay with Anne Seymour, formerly a curator at Tate and curator of the important exhibition The New Art at the Hayward Gallery (1972), and Marie-Louise Laband who masterminded every aspect of the gallery including the exhibition programme. Together they inaugurated a programme of international contemporary art, starting with an exhibition by Joseph Beuys in August of that year. Beuys' large installation from that show Stripes from the House of the Shaman was sold to the National Museum of Australia, Canberra.
The gallery in London made many distinguished exhibitions by some of the greatest artists of our time including Willem de Kooning, Carl Andre, Maurizio Cattelan, Lawrence Weiner, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Gerhard Richter, Jannis Kounellis, Anselm Kiefer, Richard Long, Bruce Nauman, Gilbert & George, Richard Hamilton, Brice Marden, James Turrell, Rachel Whiteread, Sigmar Polke, Cy Twombly, Ron Mueck and Andy Warhol, who he commissioned to make the celebrated 'Fright Wig' Self Portraits.
The gallery also organised and funded a number of highly acclaimed special events, publications, performances and lectures. Many of the shows travelled to major public institutions in Britain and abroad. In addition to the shows made for the spaces in London, the gallery was involved in organising important exhibitions for galleries and public institutions around the world, particularly in Asia and Australia. The real aim of the London gallery was to bring to the UK exhibitions of the world’s greatest contemporary artists, and to make their work available to museums worldwide.
Over the years, many important works of art have found museum homes through the gallery. Some notable examples include: Joseph Beuys, a major group of sculptures and drawings to the Guggenheim Museum, New York, The End of the Twentieth Century (1983-5) to Tate, London, Lightning with Stag in Its Glare (1958–85) to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Guggenheim Bilbao, Terremoto (1981) to the Guggenheim Museum, New York and PLIGHT (1985) to the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Ellsworth Kelly The Documenta Room (1992) to Lenbachhaus, Munich; Gerhard Richter 18 Oktober, 1977, (1988) to the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Anselm Kiefer, a group of over 50 works on paper spanning his entire career to the Metropolitan Museum, New York; Cy Twombly The Four Seasons (1993-5) to Tate, London and Jeff Koons PUPPY (1992) to the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.
The last exhibition at the Anthony d'Offay Gallery, of Bill Viola, had 70,000 visitors. The major installation from that exhibition Five Angels for the Millennium (2001) was sold jointly to Tate (London), Centre Pompidou (Paris) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York).
Amongst those who have worked at the gallery at earlier moments in their careers are Matthew Marks, Jim Cohan, Lorcan O'Neill, Sadie Coles, Tanya Bonakdar, Gavin Brown, Tom Campbell, Damien Hirst and Martin Creed.
Anthony d’Offay closed the gallery in 2001 and worked on building a collection of over 1000 works from Beuys and Warhol to Koons and Hirst. The collection, then valued in excess of £100 million, was donated jointly to the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate in 2008 with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Art Fund and the Scottish and British Governments.
Since 2009 there have been more than 120 ARTIST ROOMS exhibitions in museums and galleries across the United Kingdom. These free shows have been seen by some 29 million visitors. 55,000 young people are in Artist Rooms education programmes and a 10-fold surge in attendance has been recorded at many venues participating in the programme. 93% of visitors said that the experience of ARTIST ROOMS had changed their ideas about art. The Art Fund charity was one of the original principal supporters of ARTIST ROOMS. It continues to sponsor the Touring Programme of exhibitions from the collection and facilitates dynamic education projects in each venue.