Spencer Helfen, California Art Dealer, Remembered

  • December 06, 2020 12:21

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Portrait of Spencer Helfen, “Spencer in the Gallery,” 2011, by Jeffrey Kirby (b. 1954), oil on panel, 16 x 12 in. Courtesy Spencer Helfen Fine Arts.
Spencer Helfen. Courtesy Spencer Helfen Fine Arts.

Spencer Helfen, a specialist in California and American Modernist art, died on November 22 at age 59. He was the founder and director of Spencer Helfen Fine Arts in Beverly Hills, California.

Born in 1961, Spencer grew up “in a home filled with art and art books,” he wrote on the gallery’s website. “It therefore is no surprise that I would choose to live my life surrounded by artworks that inspire, educate, excite, comfort — by art that feeds the mind and spirit.”

After earning multiple academic degrees, two in history from UCLA and one in law from UC Berkeley, Spencer became a successful business transactional attorney. During his law career, Spencer developed a collection of California Modernist art that increasingly grew as a passion that transformed into a new career as a gallerist. 

Spencer Helfen Fine Arts was established to bring California Modernist art to the public’s attention — including many artists whose outstanding reputations have become obscured by the passage of time. “I have brought the gallery’s works of art to life by linking them to the artist’s life history and the life and times of the people of California who so often inspired those works,” Spencer wrote.

Spencer organized many scholarly exhibitions including, The Magical Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, California Women Artists of the Modern Period, Rare Lithographs by Henrietta Shore, and more.

His final exhibition (which debuted in Nov. 2020), Artists on Artists, was created to showcase artists revealing themselves and others in personal portraiture. 

Condolences may be left at OBITUARIES AND SERVICES - Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries (mountsinaiparks.org).

Please consider donating to one of the following institutions to honor his memory:

Donate Marrow or Blood Stem Cells | Be The Match

Cedars-Sinai

The American Kidney Fund (AKF) 

Treasure Island Museum

Tags: american art

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