Art dealer Pavel Zoubok remembers an outing at the Metropolitan Museum with his mom several years ago. He had loved a particular drawing. After, he called gallery that had loaned it to see if the piece was available for sale. It wasn’t. His mother, a social worker and therapist, noticed his disappointment.
She asked, “Why can’t you just enjoy it in the moment? Why do you feel the need to possess it?”
Pavel said it wasn’t about ownership. His mother raised an eyebrow of doubt.
In college at Sarah Lawrence in the late 1980s, Pavel had focused on art history. He’d earned an M.A. in art history at Hunter College and had discovered Czech poet and collagist Jiri Kolar.
“I made it my mission to learn everything there was to learn” about collage. He collected books and articles and started meeting the artists featured. But his first jobs were in fashion and music.
Some of the collage artists he met encouraged him to curate an exhibit. Though intrigued by the idea, he worried that he couldn’t afford it. He was working full time In New York for a classical music organization.
“And besides,” he said, “I’m not a dealer.”
Then (Godsign alert) fate intervened. Pavel “happened to mention” the idea to his friend and former college professor, the late Mary Delahoyd. Aside from a long teaching career, she had a loft and gallery on Broome St. in SoHo. She was suffering from Lyme Disease, and her gallery space lay empty. She offered it to Pavel.
He was off and running.
In fall of 1997, Pavel sent out invitations to a 4-person show with no set hours. Word spread. 400+ showed up for the opening. Over the next 3 years, Pavel organized 4-5 shows annually in the same space. Still working full time, he opened the gallery on weekends and saw clients by appointment during the week.
The income from those shows freed Pavel to open his first gallery on Madison Avenue in 2001. He concentrated on collage and related forms, the only gallery to do so. But right before the gallery’s first fall season, the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, struck.
“Everything stopped. The market went dormant. For 5 or 6 months, I struggled to keep up my nerve. When people realized the world wasn’t coming to an end, they jumped back in.” Sales remained strong until 2008 when the economy slumped and the art market nosedived again.
Pavel hung in there and ended up experiencing “a polite downturn.” The market has since revived. (A Picasso just sold at Christie’s for $179 million. Say WHAT!!!)
Two years ago Pavel moved into sprawling new space on W. 26th St. in Chelsea. The Pavel Zoubok Gallery handles not only current artists like Judy Pfaff, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt and Vanessa German but also estates and works by artists including Cornell, Man Ray and Christo.
I met Pavel recently in NYC at the SoHo studio of Lisa Hoke. Lisa is “delighted” to have Pavel represent her. “We speak the same language,” she says. Lisa’s first show with Pavel, Attention Shoppers, opened May 28th. Lisa makes amazing constructions from recycled consumer goods packaging. Last year she created one such installation for the Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA).
Pavel’s house in central Pennsylvania is filled with a wide range of objects. Collage, portraiture, 18th & 19th c. French and German porcelain, modernist furniture. Pavel has figured out the answer to his mother’s question that day at the Met. “Some people express themselves through writing. Some through music. I surround myself with things I love. I express myself through collecting.”