Fay Gold, promoting art in Atlanta for 50 years, to be honored at gala

Charity auction to aid in fighting respiratory disease



We haven’t seen Fay Gold’s shimmery, auriferous floor-length dress yet, but we already know how it will look when she is honored at a Woodruff Arts Center gala on Sept. 19.

“No one is going to be as well-dressed as Fay Gold,” said her friend and former employee Veronica Kessenich. “She is a very chic and savvy shopper.”

Credit: Annie Leibovitz

Credit: Annie Leibovitz

And economical. “It cost $340,” said Gold, 91, speaking from her condo near Brookwood Hills. “It fits great! My daughter found it online.”

An eye for a bargain helped her score big when Gold started buying pop art in the 1960s. Her sense of style propelled her success as a gallerist. And her canny marketing skills helped turn her gallery into an attention-grabber.

“Fay has been a tremendous force in the Atlanta arts community ever since she arrived on the scene,” said Kessenich, who was Gold’s head of sales from 2004 to 2010. Kessenich went on to become executive director of the Atlanta Contemporary.

Credit: David Clifton-Strawn

Credit: David Clifton-Strawn

Gold arrived in 1966, moving to Atlanta from Brooklyn with three children and her husband Donald, who built a factory for his lingerie company in Cartersville.

Mrs. Gold found Atlanta to be slightly less worldly than Manhattan. “There were 700,000 people here and I couldn’t get a piece of good bread!” she laments. “Robert Hughes once said there’s only two things people know about modern art. One is Picasso and the other is ‘I don’t like it.’ That’s how I found Atlanta when I moved here in 1966.”

But Gold liked modern art, and was determined to share her enthusiasm. She began taking art lessons, then teaching art in her back yard, and making trips to New York to buy art from Leo Castelli and others. She opened a tiny 24-by-24-foot art gallery on Cain’s Hill Place in 1980. “The air conditioner dripped on my head.”

With ongoing success she moved to an 8,000 square-foot gallery with seven employees.

Credit: Robert Mapplethorpe

Credit: Robert Mapplethorpe

She boldly brought national stars to town, introducing such artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louise Nevelson, Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe. She also introduced such regional artists as Radcliffe Bailey, Rana Rochat and Zoe Hersey to the world, bringing their work to art fairs in Basel, London, New York and Chicago and promoting them locally.

“She has really been a leader in challenging the Atlanta arts scene to become more engaged in a national conversation since the day she arrived,” said Kessenich.

Cultivating corporate customers, she helped Coca-Cola, the Buckhead Life restaurant group and the home-builder John Wieland build corporate collections.

“One of the great things about Fay is her patience,” said Wieland, speaking for a documentary about Gold. “She will try to move you in a certain direction, but she won’t insist that you go that way. But by the time that you spend an hour (talking to her) you just want to spend money.”

She closed her Miami Circle gallery in 2009, amid the the financial crisis, but reopened another gallery in 2013, selling off her private collection of 11 Basquiat drawings to help pay for it.



Gold’s husband died in 2010, and she has been simplifying her life since then. She sold the house on West Paces Ferry and the house in Highlands, North Carolina. Her art collection was too big for her condo and for her children’s houses, so she sold off much of that as well.

She no longer runs a gallery, but continues to consult for businesses and individuals who want to buy art. “I just came back from an installation at (the famous steak restaurant) Chops. I’m still doing private consultations,” she said. “It makes me happy.”

“I’m so excited about this celebration because of what Fay has done for Atlanta,” said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center, who has acquired a Nevelson, a Mapplethorpe and some other work through Gold’s gallery.

Of her own collection, she said “Almost every piece of art that we have came from Fay’s gallery. She was able to point us in the direction of things that we loved that would potentially have value for our children in years to come.”

The $500-a-ticket gala at the Woodruff in Gold’s honor will also serve as a fundraiser for National Jewish Health, a Denver hospital that is a leading treatment center for respiratory illnesses. It’s a cause Gold supported long ago, chairing a fund-raiser when she was a young woman in Brooklyn. Artists she has represented have donated 30 paintings to be auctioned, both silent and live. (The highest-priced is a suggested $30,000.)

And even though she doesn’t have room for any more art, she has her eye on those paintings going on the block: “Some of them are so fabulous, I’m thinking in the back of mind if some of them don’t sell at a very low price I’m going to buy them.”


“Art is Gold: A Tribute to Fay Gold”

An art auction to benefit National Jewish Health. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19. $500. Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. For information about participating in auction: Marc Krause, 646-373-1744; A. Brown-Olmstead Associates, 404-659-0919, nationaljewish.org.