Biographical / Historical
Braunstein/Quay Gallery was a contemporary art gallery founded in 1961 in San Francisco, California, by Ruth Braunstein. An early proponent of sculptural clay, fiber art, art furniture, glass, and ceramic work as fine art, the gallery dealt with contemporary art in various mediums. Some of Braunstein/Quay's most well-known artists include Peter Voulkos, Richard Shaw, Robert Brady, John Altoon, Bruce Conner, and Mary Snowden.
Ruth Braunstein and Verna Are began renting a gallery space in Tiburon, California, in July 1961 under the name Gallery 32. Verna Are's expertise was in furniture and interior design items, while Braunstein's was contemporary fine art. Later in the summer of 1961, Braunstein changed the name to The Quay Gallery. She credited architect Raphael Soriano as having come up with the name. In the early 60s, Braunstein developed relationships with others in the California art community, namely David Stuart, Jackie Anhalt, Felix Landau, and Rolf Nelson. Early artists at the gallery included Hal Riegger, Doris Aller, Igor Medvedev, Win NG, Jim Melchert, and Elton Bennet.
In May 1965, Braunstein moved the gallery to San Francisco. After fellow gallerist Jim Newman closed his gallery near Braunstein's in 1968, Braunstein began showing several of Newman's artists, including Richard Shaw, Bruce Conner, Jeremy Anderson, and Sidney Gordon. In 1968, the gallery had its first show of Peter Voulkos's work after agreeing to pay him a stipend for one year. Voulkos and Braunstein's relationship continued into the 2000s.
In 1970, Braunstein went into business with collector Rena Bransten to start Quay Ceramics Gallery. Silvia Brown was involved with the business for one year, and later, Bransten's daughter, Trish, became partners with Braunstein after her mother left. Ruth Braunstein still operated her art gallery, then named Braunstein Gallery, which had moved from its original location on Jerome Street to Sutter Street in San Francisco. Quay Ceramics Gallery was located next door. Several administrative changes and name variations occurred over the next few decades, but Braunstein kept its gallery space on Sutter Street until 1999.
In 1975, Ruth Braunstein joined gallerists Phyllis Kind from Chicago, Carl Solway from Cincinnati, and Ed Thorp from Santa Barbara to establish a gallery in New York called 139 Spring Street, Inc. They opened with a show of Peter Voulkos and Sam Tchakalian. Only Voulkos artwork sold; bought by fellow art dealer Grace Borgenicht. The partners dismantled the gallery coop four years later.
Braunstein/Quay promoted the San Francisco art scene and the careers of many artists for 50 years. In addition to the artists mentioned above, other artists influenced by Braunstein/Quay include Dominic DiMare, Gyongy Laky, Myra Block, Elin Elisofon, Robilee Frederick, Bean Finneran, David Anderson, Kimberly Austin, Arthur Okamura, Dennis Oppenheim, and Kyle Reicher. Braunstein/Quay, known to represent Braunstein's perspective on what she connotated as 'fine art,' exhibited works in the 1990s by tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy, and held a group show exhibiting works by tattoo artists, Out of Skin: Work by Tattooers (1996). Other unique shows included a group exhibition dedicated to dog imagery, The Dog Show, A Group Exhibition (1988); a group exhibition of book art, Redefining the Book (1994); and an exhibition of photographs of actress and Andy Warhol associate, Candy Darling, Candy Darling, Always a Lady (1997). In 2010, Cabrillo Gallery held a retrospective of Braunstein's career as a gallerist, Ruth Braunstein and the Braunstein Quay Gallery, 1961-Present.
Ruth Braunstein was born in Minneapolis in 1923. She pursued a career in modern dance, dancing professionally in Washington D.C. and at the Minneapolis Dance Center. She married Theodore Braunstein in 1943. They moved to San Francisco, California, in 1960 and had two children, born two years apart. Aside from her career as a gallerist, Braunstein gave lectures, juried art competitions, participated in workshops, and was involved in various professional art organizations. In the early 1970s, Ruth Braunstein, along with a group that included Michael Wallace, Jim Willis, Buzz Sawyer, and Helen Henninger, founded the San Francisco Art Dealers' Association. The association put on a series of Introductions exhibitions every July for artists who had never shown in San Francisco; these exhibitions ran until 2002. Braunstein was also a committee member for ArtTable and on the board of Fiberworks. She passed away in September, 2016.