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Obituaries

Burnett Miller, 45; Gallery Owner

December 13, 2001|SUZANNE MUCHNIC | TIMES ART WRITER

Burnett Miller, an adventurous Los Angeles art dealer known for presenting critically acclaimed exhibitions of an international array of contemporary art, died Monday at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 45. His family declined to release the cause of his death.

An energetic and insightful entrepreneur who had an eye for quality and a finger on the pulse of contemporary art, Miller is credited with introducing the work of young artists who later achieved international renown. Sculptor Charles Ray--whose traveling retrospective exhibition appeared at Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art in 1998--made a breakthrough at Miller's gallery in 1987 with "Ink Box," a giant black-lacquered metal cube filled with 200 gallons of black printer's ink.

"The quivering meniscus of ink that is the top plane of this menacing black cube forms a threatening surface just begging to be touched, even in the face of disaster," Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote in 1990, when the piece was shown at the Newport Harbor Art Museum.

Miller also brought a cosmopolitan flair to Los Angeles' gallery scene by presenting the work of German artists Wolfgang Laib and Sigmar Polke and British sculptor Antony Gormley, along with that of leading New York artists including Leon Golub and Richard Artschwager.

"He made an enormous contribution," said dealer Patricia Faure, a longtime professional colleague and friend. "It took a lot of courage to do some of those shows."

Another Los Angeles dealer, Louis Stern, said Miller was "a wonderful connoisseur who really understood art and knew the history of art. He was one of the most capable and knowledgeable dealers in Southern California."

Born in Sacramento on March 8, 1956, Miller spent his youth in Northern California and moved to Los Angeles to attend college. He earned a master of arts degree in art at USC in 1981.

Miller began his career at the Marilyn Pearl Gallery in New York, then worked as a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (then the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art) before launching his own business in Los Angeles. He opened his first gallery in 1985, in the Westlake district, with an exhibition of big, bold solid-color paintings by Leon Polk Smith. Later that year, Miller moved his gallery to La Brea Avenue, where he presented an ambitious exhibition program for nearly a decade.

In 1994, he was among the first dealers to move to Bergamot Station, a gallery complex in Santa Monica. During the mid-1990s, he also became a partner in Miller-Nordenhake, a contemporary art gallery in Cologne, Germany. Miller closed his Bergamot Station showcase in 1997 and helped launch Campagne Premiere, a cooperative art venture in Paris that represents several leading artists.

Miller is survived by his wife, Tara Guizot.

Memorial services are pending.

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