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The Downtown Gallery

Lawrence Bush
November 6, 2017
Edith Gregor Halpert (Edith Fivisovitch) opened her Downtown Gallery in Greenwich Village on this date in 1926, at age 26. Born in Odessa, Russia, Halpert was an artist and a highly successful American businesswoman and investment banker who had spent the previous year in Paris and was determined to give modern American artists an opportunity to showcase and sell their work. Among those she championed (and fought with; she was an irascible, possessive and paranoid person) were Georgia O’Keefe, Alfred Stieglitz, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, Stuart Davis, Ben Shahn, and Jacob Lawrence. In 1931 Halpert opened the American Folk Art Gallery as a wing of the Downtown Gallery. With the help of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, it became an immensely popular gallery that greatly raised public appreciation of folk art. Halpert was discouraged from pursuing Jewish studies by what she called “this female-male thing in prayers . . . that was an utter injustice.” In the decade before her death in 1970, she became active with New York’s Jewish Museum. “Modern art is here, and it is here to stay . . . There are, in my estimation, only two kinds of art, good art and bad art.” —Edith Gregor Halpert

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.