To Mary Ryan, the
world is one big curiosity waiting to be discovered, and art is no different.
She started out as a chemistry major in college with the goal of becoming a
pediatrician. But during her second year, she took an introductory art history
course, “And that changed my life,” Ryan says. “I was smitten and switched my
For over three
decades since she first opened her eponymous Manhattan gallery in 1981, Ryan,
who concentrates on contemporary drawings and prints, has mounted hundreds of
shows, worked on numerous museum exhibitions, and published several catalogs.
Now she deals works by such modern titans as Sol LeWitt
, Kiki Smith
, and Donald Judd
—just part of an impressive line-up that only continues to
develop. “I began with an interest in early-20th-century American and
British art and continue those areas of expertise today, although I have
expanded my interests through the years,” she says. Ryan’s latest evolution is a venture she started
earlier this spring, a new gallery committed to pushing artistic innovation and
a platform for a roster of international artists, many represented in New York
for the first time. Called Ryan Lee, it was established with Jeffrey Lee—a
former intern who quickly worked his way up to director at Mary Ryan Gallery.
Discovering Meret Oppenheim’s Object
from 1936—a fur-lined tea cup, saucer, and spoon—proved a significant early
encounter with modern art that
opened Ryan’s eyes to the field. But something of her early
interest in pediatrics wasn’t completely abandoned. “I believe that the best of
children’s book illustration is a fine art,” she says, “and it deserves a place
in major private and public collections.” For this year’s The Salon: Art + Design fair
New York’s Park Avenue Armory, Mary
will offer what is sure to be an absorbing survey of
for the Babar books
, a series of classic picture books about
a king elephant. Illustrated by Jean de Brunhoff
and Laurent de Brunhoff
1935 through 2011, Ryan will exhibit sketches, ink drawings, and published
watercolor illustrations of the Babar characters.
“We are thrilled,” says Ryan.
“It is the first time since they were made in 1935 that they will be on view
and for sale.” This kind of personal passion to support artists whose work
speaks directly to her makes the Mary Ryan Gallery