Ruth Braunstein (1923 – 2016), was a gallerist and committed advocate for artists. The Ruth Braunstein Trust ensures that artworks from her collection will, through sales and donations, be thoughtfully dispersed to allow the the general public to learn more about the artists she championed. Please read on about Ruth’s remarkable life
Ruth Braunstein, Prominent San Francisco Gallerist, Dies at 93
By Charles Desmarais, SFGate, Thursday, September 8, 2016
Ruth Braunstein, one of San Francisco’s most prominent art dealers for 50 years and a recognized leader among the region’s top gallerists [...] was a purveyor of contemporary art when there was little market for it in the Bay Area, and an early champion of such artists as Bruce Conner, John Altoon and Mary Snowden. She was particularly supportive of artists who worked in clay, taking the so-called “craft” medium of ceramics seriously and building an audience for the work of Peter Voulkos, Richard Shaw and Robert Brady, among others.
Born Ruth Gershkow in Minneapolis in 1923, the daughter of Russian immigrant furriers, Mrs. Braunstein came to San Francisco with her husband, Theodore “Tod” Braunstein, in 1960. She started her first gallery at the waterside (on the “quay,” spawning a name that was to stick with the business wherever it moved) in Tiburon in 1961 with $500 provided by her husband. Her influential Braunstein/Quay Gallery opened in San Francisco in 1970. Her last gallery closed in 2011.
Mrs. Braunstein is credited with co-founding the San Francisco Art Dealers Association in 1972. Wendi Norris, current president of the asssociation and owner of Gallery Wendi Norris, called her “a leader in the community. ... She was the original — the one who recognized we need to work together and learn from one another, to teach each other. She was a force,” Norris said, echoing many others who knew her. “She was opinionated, and I liked that. She was a straight talker.”
Shaw first met Mrs. Braunstein in the late 1960s, just after Newman’s pioneering Dilexi Gallery had closed. He was living on a farm in Stinson Beach. “She came out, and to get to my studio there was a fence. And she literally lifted up her dress and vaulted over the fence. I didn’t realize she’d been a dancer when she was younger.”
Mrs. Braunstein set a standard for art that put excellence and excitement before collectibility. Along with Bransten, Jim Newman and the late Paule Anglim, she helped make out of whole cloth an art gallery scene that became known internationally for its intellectual heft and formal innovation. Brady, who showed with her from 1975 until 2011, called her “loyal to the point of bad business.”
All who worked with her remember that her first priority was to show interesting and important art. Sales were a secondary consideration, at best, and Shaw claims to have a warehouse full of unsold experiments shown at the gallery.
“She just said, ‘Sure.’ She let me show whatever I wanted to show. ... She was real supportive, even if it was really wacky,” he said.
Jody Gottfried Arnhold is a New York dance educator and longtime friend who was introduced to Mrs. Braunstein as a child, in the audience of the Erika Thimey Dance Theater, where Mrs. Braunstein was a dancer. She said the company brought “cutting-edge work” to young audiences in Washington, D.C., and toured across the U.S. That spirit of innovation stayed with the gallerist thoughout her career, Arnhold explained. “She started whole neighborhoods, and when they started to gentrify, she started another one.”