For the past 26 years, the gallery has occupied the fourth floor of a small building on West 57th Street. As the art world migrated downtown, first to SoHo and then to Chelsea, Goodman and her artists resisted. She was afraid of acquiring what she viewed as the art mall’s mob mentality, and she says the artists “were worried that it became hard to remember which show you saw where, and just the sense of people hurrying through.” But with her lease up next June, Goodman began to cave and spent a year looking for a Chelsea space. She came close to taking over Dia’s former space, a somewhat “irrational” move, she says, because it was in need of several million dollars’ worth of repairs. In the end she decided to stay put, taking an additional half floor in the building. (But this is a woman who, save for the first seven years of her life spent on the Upper East Side, has always lived within a one-mile radius.) On opening nights a queue for the tiny elevators inevitably forms out the lobby doors. Upstairs, where the crowds can get thick and the narrow hall connecting the two biggest showplaces nearly impassable, it’s not unusual for guests to feel the need to go back down for some air. At 8:30, she typically hosts a dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant that’s anything but flashy, or at her cozy penthouse on Central Park West, where, after eating, old friends hang out on the banquettelike sofa. (Goodman, who has never remarried, lives alone, though her guest apartment is sometimes occupied by artists.)
All an utter contrast to the gala she threw in September to celebrate her 30 years in business. Struth, Wall, Baldessari, Dijkstra, Orozco, Baumgarten, Dan Graham and Dara Birnbaum were among more than 20 of her artists who came to the first of two shows commemorating the gallery’s beginnings. At the festive dinner that followed at the Four Seasons, museum directors who had flown in from around the country stood shoulder to shoulder with megacollectors Michael Ovitz, Mitchell Rales and Agnes Gund when hundreds rose to pay homage to Goodman with a standing ovation. The tribute begs the question: Does she think about retiring?