It was a mantle she did not wear lightly. Boone gained a reputation as aggressive, manipulative and combative. When the crash finally hit, in 1990, she was vilified for tackily hyping her artists in the media, turning them into commodities with stratospheric prices and waiting lists for their work. Whatever her role in overheating the market, she stuck by her suddenly struggling artists during the Nineties chill. “When the art market crashed, and my prices, which had been at an all-time high for me, almost overnight were cut in half and then in half again,” Fischl says, “she made sure I had the money I needed to continue to work and support the life I had. She did it by the sheer will to sell whatever she could sell and take just a small portion.” Other dealers, he contends, “would have expected you to feel the same pain.”
In retrospect, Boone admits, her artists’ prices were inflated in the Eighties, and she wishes their work hadn’t been quite so in demand. “I found, a lot of times, artists that get hot, hot, hot—it’s the opposite from being good,” she says. “I think artists are able to develop better when they’re not at their marketing peak.” Boone can’t resist taking a swipe at rival Gagosian, who has lured many of the best-selling artists in the world, most recently Richard Prince from Gladstone Gallery, with seemingly bottomless coffers. “I think Larry is a great dealer; I love Larry,” she says. “But he’s not very good when the artist isn’t in play. And every artist goes through slumps.” Gagosian did not respond to requests for comment.
Most of her early core group of artists have remained steadfast (even Salle, who defected to Gagosian, eventually returned). “What can I say? The devil you know is better than the one you don’t,” Bleckner says with a wicked peal of laughter.
The younger generation has been trickier. Artists both interesting (Tom Sachs, Inka Essenhigh) and not (Damian Loeb) have cycled in and out of Boone’s gallery, which, though still a contender, has never regained quite the same luster it had in the Eighties. It’s not an unusual circumstance for a dealer, particularly the kind who prides herself on being a talent scout. “Very, very few dealers transcend that one generation,” Close says, “and are able to identify qualities in the next generation and do it again.”
Last year Boone hired her old boss, Kertess, who had become a curator and writer, as an adviser to the gallery. And having collaborated with her ex-husband on numerous shows over the years, she has initiated a series of projects with gallerists representing promising emerging artists, particularly those who work outside of her comfort zone of painting, including Terence Koh and Patty Chang. “At this point in my life, I’m not interested in stealing artists from anybody,” she says.