22/06/2024 9:57 PM


Adorn your Feelings

Gallery Owner And Art Dealer Peter Marcelle: A Remembrance

4 min read


It’s more likely than not that anyone who has been involved in the gallery or arts scene on the East End in recent years knew the name Peter Marcelle. But after a long health battle, Marcelle, an art dealer in Manhattan and the Hamptons, died in New York City on March 25, surrounded by family and friends. He was 65.

Born August 28, 1956, Marcelle lived in Hampton Bays. Described by those who knew him as being “larger than life” and “a scrappy kid from Queens,” in a November 1990 New York Times interview written by Tom Clavin, Marcelle reflected on how he became immersed in the world of fine art as a young man.

“I never thought to myself, ‘Hey, I’d like to get into the art business.’ I didn’t know what the art business was,” Marcelle said in the story. “Where I lived, the only thing I knew about art were these guys who would lean paintings against their vans on the side of the road on Saturday mornings, and people bought them to hang over their couches.”

But upon graduating from high school and in need of a job, Marcelle got his start in the 1970s art world by working in the shipping department at Coe Kerr gallery in Manhattan, which was owned by Frederick Woolworth.

“My family was very poor, and I thought it would be fun to meet a Woolworth,” Marcelle told Clavin. “I was supposed to work for only three months, but Fred Woolworth sort of liked me. He could see I was eager to learn, and he would sit and talk to me about art.”

The job had Marcelle delivering paintings all over Manhattan and beyond, and he began forging friendships with many elite collectors and artists. He was just a teenager, but his drive and passion — combined with his self-taught prowess — became a hallmark that would define Marcelle’s career.

He studied art history at New York University and worked regularly with major artists. His friendship with Andy Warhol led to his first Warhol portrait commission, and an interview in the Andy Warhol short film followed shortly after. In 1981, Marcelle became the director of American paintings at Hammer Gallery in New York and held that position for the remainder of the decade until he opened Marcelle Fine Art on Madison Avenue.

Throughout the late 1970s and into the 1980s, it was Marcelle’s involvement with the Wyeth family — most notably Andrew Wyeth — that defined his artistic career, and he is credited for the 1989 sale of the artist’s entire “Helga” collection.

When asked by Clavin in the 1990 Times interview what it was that attracted him to Andrew Wyeth’s work, Marcelle responded, “I’m not sure I can say. Why do you love a woman or why do you love anything else? It was my emotional reaction to the content of each painting.”

“He rarely put two figures in a painting; it was usually one in a landscape,” Marcelle added. “Most painters, I think, put too many people or information in. Wyeth just gives you enough, and you can imagine the rest.”

Other career milestones for Marcelle include co-curating the Wyeth exhibition “Autobiography” with Thomas Hoving at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City in 1985 and curating “Andrew Wyeth in Perspective” at the Palm Springs Art Museum from October 2011 to January 2012. Marcelle is also the only private dealer to have a one-man show by the Wyeth family called “New New England” in 1991.

In 2001, Marcelle transitioned to a more contemporary focus when he co-curated the show “Fresh Paint” at his Hampton Road Gallery in Southampton. From the early 2000s, Marcelle owned galleries in Bridgehampton and Southampton and served as a director with Gerald Peters Gallery in New York.

When asked by Clavin back in 1990 about strategies buyers should employ when investing in artwork, Marcelle said, “Don’t buy an artist’s painting because someone else did. If you expose yourself to art and you love a particular work, chances are it will appeal to others and be a good investment.”

Marcelle is survived by his three children, Andrew, Amanda, and Carter, his grandchildren, Charlotte and Eleanor, and his fiancée Catherine McCormick. According to those close to him, “He was a mentor to countless artists, adored for his one-of-a-kind humor, guidance and steadfast friendship.” Described by many as their best friend, he was also said to be “authentic without apology, opinionated about almost everything, passionate about art, fast cars and motorcycles, and wholly devoted to those he loved.”

Cremation was private with a celebration of life for Peter Marcelle scheduled for June 4. Details to follow.


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