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In Profile


by Sarah Schmerler

Rachel Smith isn’t your typical young photography dealer; the 31 year old isn’t keen to open up a whitewashed space on the Lower East Side with a stable of new names in contemporary photography, her own name stenciled on the window. Rather, she has been given the mantle of a more delicate task: running the gallery of her mentor and personal friend, Bonni Benrubi, out of the same well-respected and established midtown space where she’d worked for eight years, before Benrubi’s untimely passing last year at the age of 59. It was a seamless transition. The gallery’s lights didn’t dim for even a day, a work ethic of which (Smith felt) Benrubi would have approved. “It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around it,” Smith says with some emotion. She is sitting at the gallery’s oval meeting-room table, surrounded by mid-career Benrubi-gallery stalwarts, mid-20th-century material, and photographs by new practitioners whom Smith has recently introduced. “It’s tricky,” she says. ”I’m coming out of this great legacy, and I also know that I have to tweak it and change it so that it can move forward. But this is a business that I really know how to do.”

Smith — petite, vibrant, sweetly loquacious — was born in New York City and raised in Fort Lee, N.J., taking frequent trips with her parents to New York galleries and museums. “I would look at photographs and I would just consume them. I never thought of doing anything else,” she says. Riverdale’s storied Horace Mann School, which Smith attended through high school, further stoked her passion for images. There was a state-of-the-art darkroom, an art history program, and rigorous practical courses in photography, but Smith learned quickly where she belonged. “I enjoyed learning the mechanics,” she says, “but it was other people’s photos I was interested in.” At George Washington University she majored in art history, then interned with the Howard Greenberg Gallery every summer, and upon graduation worked at Christie’s, as a junior specialist in their prints and multiples department. Contemporary photography was her passion, and Benrubi saw that. In 2006, Benrubi hired her as assistant director. “I was 24, and I was so lucky,” she says. “I would sit and sell with her and learn from her. Soon I had my own clients and my own relationships. With Bonni, if you showed you had a talent for something, she let you run with it.”

 In the last year, Smith has brought a number of new photographers to the fold, maintaining and expanding the gallery’s mission with just the right touch on the wheel. New names include Erik Cahan, who shoots sunrises and sunsets through a resin filter, reducing them to abstract bands of color, and Jacqueline Hassink, who takes photographs of corporate boardrooms for her Tables of Power series. Even Jed Devine, 70, a longtime gallery artist known for his delicate platinum prints, is experiencing a debut of sorts. Through April 12, his large still lifes, shot in a riot of color, are on view. Smith is all too happy to support this major transition in his work. “People have always come to the Bonni Benrubi Gallery to see something they don’t expect,” says Smith, “and I’m going to continue that.”

archives

2014

March - April 2014
Rachel Smith

January - February 2014
Peter Fetterman

2013

November - December 2013
Margy Dudley

September - October 2013
Howard Greenberg

July - August 2013
Keith de Lellis

May - June 2013
Paul Kopeikin

March - April 2013
L. Parker Stephenson

January - February 2013
Scott Nichols

2012

November - December 2012
Martin Weinstein

September - October 2012
Steven Kasher

July - August 2012
Joseph Carroll

May - June 2012
Robert Anderson

March - April 2012
Andrea Meislin

January - February 2012
Etheleen Staley and Takouhy (“Taki”) Wise

2011

November - December 2011
Bryce Wolkowitz

September - October 2011
Julie Saul

July - August 2011
Mary Virginia Swanson

May - June 2011
Gus Kayafas

March - April 2011
Peter MacGill

January - February 2011
David Moore

2010

November - December 2010
Bonni Benrubi

September - October 2010
Rick Wester

July - August 2010
Jay and Rose Deutsch

May - June 2010
Robert Mann

March - April 2010
Catherine Edelman

January - February 2010
Pamela Schoenberg

2009

January - February 2009
Karen Jenkins-Johnson

March - April 2009
Deborah Bell

May - June 2009
Jeffrey Fraenkel

July - August 2009
Mark Pinsukanjana, Bryan Yedinak

September - October 2009
Yancey Richardson

November - December 2009
Hans P. Kraus, Jr.

2008

March - April 2008
Nailya Alexander

May - June 2008
Stephen Bulger

July - August 2008
Sidney Monroe

September - October 2008
Amy Miller

November - December 2008
Sasha Wolf

2007

November - December 2007
Bruce Silverstein

September - October 2007
Candace Dwan

July - August 2007
Ariel Shanberg

March - April 2007
Ellen Harris

January - February 2007
Paul Amador

2006

January - February 2006
Martin McNamara

March - April 2006
Michael Foley

May - June 2006
Dan Cooney

July - August 2006
Wilson Scanlan

September - October 2006
Daniel Power

November - December 2006
Sharon Tanenbaum

2005

January - February 2005
Tom Gitterman

March - April 2005
Yossi Milo

May - June 2005
Arlette Kayafas

September - October 2005
Brian Clamp

November - December 2005
Sarah Hasted

2004

September - October 2004
Ariel Meyerowitz

November - December 2004
Anna Walker Skillman