Pace Gallery to Represent Paul Thek Estate, With Plans to Mount Vast Show of His Notebooks
January 23, 2024
The estate of Paul Thek, the unclassifiable sculptor behind famed objects resembling severed limbs encased in boxes, has joined Pace Gallery, one of the biggest galleries in the world, with spaces spread across ten cities on three continents.
Thek had previously been represented in New York by Alexander & Bonin, which closed at the end of last year following a 28-year run. The new deal will see Pace represent Thek’s estate alongside Galerie Buchholz, of Berlin and Cologne, and Mai 36, of Zurich.
Additionally, Pace will work closely with Thek’s foundation and the Watermill Center, the Long Island art space run by artist and theatre director Robert Wilson, to whom Thek bequeathed his estate.
While Thek had never before been represented by Pace, Marc Glimcher, the gallery’s CEO, described the artist as being embedded in the business’ DNA. Thek was close to Lucas Samaras and Peter Hujar, two Pace-represented artists; the latter was Thek’s lover for a period. Because of his proximity to Pace’s artists and to Glimcher’s father, Pace founder Arne Glimcher, Marc said he had personally known Thek from a young age and was able to recount playing with the artist as a child.
“Paul Thek is part of our Pace history, our legacy, our whole idea—everything we got brainwashed by our father to revere,” Marc Glimcher said in a phone interview. “Even though he was not on the Pace roster, he was in our minds, always. He was part of this whole hard-to-explain idea of what the Pace ethos always was for all these decades.”
Thek’s work of the 1960s has been considered as a crucial response to the Minimalist movement of the era. His sculptures of that period evoke altered corporeal states, with cut-off arms and thighs; some have viewed them as a reaction to the carnage of the time, which was marked by the Vietnam War. In the later stages of his career, he produced small paintings about ephemerality and the passage of time.
In the minds of many, Thek is equated with his series “Technological Reliquaries,” composed of Plexiglas containers that include beeswax objects recalling slabs of meat and bodily appendages. But in taking on the Thek estate, Pace is seeking to show that before the artist died at age 54 in 1988 of AIDS-related causes, he produced a much wider array of work than most realize. (That goal mirrors the one of the Whitney Museum’s acclaimed 2010 Thek retrospective.)
In 2025, Pace will stage an exhibition of nearly 100 of the artist’s notebooks. Contained within their pages are watercolor paintings and drawings, as well as pieces of writing. In tandem with the show, the gallery is also set to publish books about these notebooks.
“We have a long history with drawings,” Glimcher said. “We really believe, and have for many decades, that sketchbooks are a way in for understanding an artist. For him, it was a real mobile laboratory.”