Ed Gilbert, the owner-director of Anglim Gilbert Gallery, formerly Gallery Paule Anglim, passed away on July 19, 2020 in San Francisco. The cause was cancer. Ed grew up mostly in Europe as a so-called army brat. His father was in military intelligence, his mother was from the Philippines. He was born in Austria, grew up in Munich, and spent his teen years at a Swiss boarding school, then Paris for several years. He moved to London in 1975 on the advice of his friend, Shay Cunliffe, who suggested that he attend Sussex University and arranged for him to move in to her father’s basement flat in Brighton. He studied art history and French, and spent a year abroad in Paris with his friend Briony Fer, where he was designing clothes and considering a career in fashion.
According to Fer, “He just stood out, a bit older, very cosmopolitan and sophisticated, fluent in many languages. He opened the whole world up. He knew about contemporary art and film – food – fashion – he knew about everything we wanted to know about.” In his final year at school, Ed and his roommate Vanessa Nicolson spent a lot of time in London at her father’s flat . “Ed liked being in London and would often stay on his own—he spent more time going to galleries than pouring over academic books, and that I think meant he developed a fresh and original response to art”, says Nicolson. “Nothing was out of his comfort zone and he liked keeping up with what was out there. He had a fantastic curiosity for seeing new things and meeting new people but at the same time was also a great ‘nester’—he loved nothing better than cooking up a delicious meal, pouring a glass of wine and staying in to gossip.”
After a brief “reorientation” to America in New York, as he described it in an essay, “Slow Art”, in The Brooklyn Rail in 2017, Ed landed in San Francisco in 1980 with his partner Alexis. His younger sister, singer Pearl Harbour, had been living in San Francisco since 1973. He lived first in Mill Valley with Flora Gaspar, a childhood friend from Germany, whose North Beach restaurant Da Flora was a favorite.
After a year or two of mining the treasures of Bay Area flea markets and occasionally selling something that did not quite fit in his rapidly expanding personal collections, Ed went to work for Muldoon Elder at Vorpal Gallery on Grove Street, coincidentally now the site of M.A.C. Modern Appealing Clothing, owned by his dear friends Ben and Chris Ospital. In March 1997 Kern Shin entered Ed’s life; they were married at Da Flora on August 6, 2015.
Ed began working as gallery manager at Gallery Paule Anglim in 1988, and was soon director. In a 1996 interview in SF Gate, Paule Anglim attributed much of the success of the gallery to Ed, who was responsible for bringing in many of the new, younger artists. With 45 years of historically important exhibitions, Anglim Gilbert Gallery initially forged its identity with the California Beat artists and the Bay Area Conceptualists, and has continued to present vital experimental artists from California and beyond. It currently represents 66 artists, many of whom have been with the gallery for over 40 years.
Ed was a great supporter and mentor to artists—far beyond those represented by the gallery—and a much beloved leader in the Bay Area art community. He served on the board of the Headlands Center for the Arts, as Board President of Southern Exposure Gallery, on the board of the American Art Dealers Association, and on numerous advisory committees.
In his “Slow Art” essay, Ed concluded with the following thought: “I wonder if, with ready access for almost everyone to a wide range of information, a global cultural perspective comes too easily. I hear more often that artists and their support communities want to return to that, a community, and the kinds of work that flourish in a smaller, even provincial, atmosphere.”
He is survived by his husband, Kern Shin; sons Adrian and Julian Shin; and siblings Steve Gilbert, Mila Javier, and Pearl Gates. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a private service will be held at San Francisco Columbarium. Memorial donations may be made to the Headlands Center For the Arts or Southern Exposure.
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Enrique Chagoya Remembers Ed
The last time I saw Ed was during a visit to my studio last fall to check my work in progress for an exhibition this year at the gallery, and also to see my solo exhibition at the Coulter Gallery at Stanford. During the lunch we had together in a cafe next to my studio, we had a nice long conversation. Among other things, I mentioned to him my idea for working with found paintings. He got excited and offered me several thrift store paintings from his own collection. Kern kindly delivered them to my home, right after I had my last conversation on the phone with Ed during which we both hoped he might recover.
I now hold those paintings dear. One of those humble works hangs in our house. I think of Ed every time I see it. It triggers my memory of the man: unpretentious, magic, magnificent. The painting is of a full moon at the end of the day, casting light in the darkness of a peaceful landscape, created by an unknown artist who had the dignity to frame it with an equally humble piece of wood.
Ed left his light with us and it will stay with all who knew him, especially the many artists he supported so for many years.
It seems like only yesterday when I watched Ed deliver an eloquent and heartfelt eulogy for Paule Anglim at SFAI. The year was 2015. Which may be why his death, coming so soon after hers, hits so hard. What other SF gallery can claim such a roster of historically important conceptualists? Here’s hoping Ed’s and Paule’s legacy — and that of the artists they represented — will be carried forward. — David M. Roth