Douglas Chrismas is the founder Ace Gallery and a former art director.
History of Ace Gallery
Chrismas opened his own frame shop and gallery in Vancouver at the age of 17.
His gallery became known as a venue where Vancouver artists could show alongside major New Yorkers, and get the feeling of belonging to a bigger scene.
[-1] In the 60s and early 70s he brought artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Carl Andre, Sol Le Witt, Bruce Nauman, and Donald Judd to Vancouver, Canada. [-1] The gallery expanded to Los Angeles in 1967 and then further expanded to New York in 1994. The galleries were noted for doing museum-level exhibitions by up and coming and world-renowned artists. While in New York the gallery’s presence was amplified by doing exhibitions with such cultural institutions as the Guggenheim Museum and the Cartier Foundation (Paris). Under Chrismas' directorship, Ace Gallery has had either offices or galleries in art centers outside of the United States, such as Mexico City, Paris, Berlin and Beijing. [-1]
In 1972, Chrismas mounted Robert Irwin’s critically acclaimed installation Room Angle Light Volume at the first Ace/Venice, which opened at 72 Market Street in 1971.
In 1977, Ace mounted acclaimed exhibitions of work by Frank Stella and Robert Motherwell, along with Michael Heizer’s Displaced/Replaced Mass. Installed at Ace/Venice, the Heizer piece required that huge chunks be gouged out of the gallery floor to create recessed areas able to accommodate imposing boulders; the work was considered a triumph for both the artist and dealer. [-1]
Ace Gallery has made history of installing ambitious exhibitions, showing work from artists such as Richard Serra, Donald Judd, Robert Irwin, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, and Carl Andre. More recently, the gallery has exhibited work by the artists Tara Donovan, Tim Hawkinson, Melanie Pullen, Martin Schoeller, Dennis Hopper, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Wilson.
In a 1983 lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court, Rauschenberg sought $500,000 from Chrismas' Flow Ace Gallery; the artist won a $140,000 judgment in the suit in 1984. [-1] Eventually the two reconciled their differences and in 1997 Robert Rauschenberg insisted that Ace Gallery New York (in conjunction with the Guggenheim Museum) host his Retrospective. [-1]
In 1986, Chrismas pleaded no contest after Canadian real estate developer C. Frederick Stimpson alleged that he had improperly sold work belonging to the collector, among them pieces by Andy Warhol and Rauschenberg. Under the terms of the settlement, Chrismas agreed to pay Stimpson $650,000 over a period of five years. [-1] He continues to work with the Stimpson family in handling their art interests.
In 1989, Ace Gallery wanted to borrow a work by Judd along with Carl Andre's 1968 Fall, both owned by Count Giuseppe Panza, for an exhibition devoted to minimal art called The Innovators Entering into the Sculpture. Rather than shipping the two large scale works from Italy, Panza authorized Ace Gallery to refabricate the pieces in Los Angeles. In Panza's collection archives, there is a series of signed certificates signed by Judd that granted Panza broad authority over the works by Judd in his collection. [-1] These certificates "authorized Panza and followers to reconstruct work for a variety of reasons," as long as instructions and documentation provided by Judd were followed and either he or his estate was notified. This even included the right to make "temporary exhibition copies, as long as the temporary copy was destroyed after the exhibition; and the right to recreate the work to save expense and difficulty in transportation as long as the original was then destroyed." [-1] Miwon Kwon, in her account of site specificity: "One Place After Another," presents the account of Ace Gallery recreating artworks by Donald Judd and Carl Andre without the artist's permission. Andre and Judd both publicly denounced these recreations as "a gross falsification" and a "forgery," in letters to *Art in America *, [-1] however, the fabrication of the pieces were permitted by Panza Collection in Italy, the owner of the works. Despite the confusion surrounding the Panza refabrications, both Carl Andre and Donald Judd maintained a professional relationship with Douglas Chrismas and Ace Gallery. Andre showcased works at Ace Gallery in 1997, 2002, 2007, 2011 and present day. In 2007, Carl Andre's show entitled "Zinc" was exhibited at Ace Gallery in Beverly Hills. [-1] Donald Judd paid a visit to The Innovators Entering into the Sculpture exhibition at Ace Gallery and agreed to keep his sculpture in the exhibition. After the exhibition was over, Chrismas planned to sell the metal used for the re-fabrication of Judd's work for scrap metal but Judd wanted to own the re-fabrication for himself. Ace Gallery then sold the re-fabrication of Donald Judd's work to Donald Judd. [-1]
After having consigned more than $4 million worth of art to Ace Gallery to sell in 1997 and 1998, the sculptor Jannis Kounellis filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2006, accusing Chrismas of keeping most of the profits of artworks and refusing to return the pieces that did not sell. According to the lawsuit, the primary agreement between Kounellis and Chrismas was oral. Chrismas returned all of Kouenllis' artwork, and did a full accounting of the proceeds from Kounellis' work—minus the expense of exhibiting it. [-1] The matter was resolved between the two of them and Ace Gallery still sells and exhibits Kounellis' work today. [-1]
By 2006, Chrismas had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at least six times since 1982, [-1] barring most of his creditors from collecting the money immediately owed to them. [-1] Chrismas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to protect the gallery's extensive real estate holdings from the problematic landlord. The landlord of the Wilshire Boulevard space, Wilshire Dunsmuir Company, claimed that Ace owed back rent and penalties however, the claim was disputed by Douglas Chrismas. In court papers, Chrismas Fine Art claimed that it would cure "the pre-petition" debt by Feb. 1, 2000, and was asking the court to protect its right to remain in the property. A declaration filed by Douglas Chrismas characterized this leasehold as the business' primary asset. [-1]
Nancy Wandlass a San Francisco art dealer, made a deal with Barral, a New York art dealer, to sell a Lichtenstein and Basquiat that had been smuggled into the country by Edemar Cid Ferreira, the former head of Brazil's Banco Santos.
In turn, according to a January 2007 consignment agreement, they agreed to have Doug Chrismas, owner of ACE Gallery in Los Angeles, sell the Lichtenstein.
Chrismas sold it for $1.3 million to L.A.-area collector Seth Landsberg, who appraised it at $3.5 million for resale at Sotheby's. ACE Gallery then ran the painting's name through a database of stolen artworks. Days later, a federal agent contacted the gallery to warn Chrismas that the Lichtenstein was subject to seizure and forfeiture, court papers say. [-1] In 2008, federal agents seized Modern Painting With Yellow Interweave (1967) by Roy Lichtenstein from the Los Angeles home of collector Seth Landsberg [-1] (The painting was returned in 2010 to the Museum of Contemporary Art, University of São Paulo.) [-1]
Bankruptcy and Termination from Ace Gallery
Chrismas was born in 1944 to a middle-class Vancouver family with no ties to the art world.
When asked about his parents, Chrismas struggles to reveal any personal information, “My father was an interesting man who designed airplanes,” he explains, “but I haven’t seen him for years and don’t know if he’s still alive.
I have a brother who got a doctorate in geology, then became a photographer.”
Chrismas' "partner in crime" is Jennifer Kellen, a director of the Ace Gallery.