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Fixture in L.A. art world

OBITUARIES : PATRICIA FAURE, 1928 - 2008

October 24, 2008|Suzanne Muchnic | Muchnic is a Times staff writer.

Patricia Faure -- a prominent Los Angeles art dealer and glamorous personality whose teenage dreams of movie stardom gave way to careers in modeling, fashion photography and, finally, the art business -- has died. She was 80.

Faure died in her sleep of natural causes early Tuesday at Kingsley Manor, a retirement community in Hollywood, said her daughter, designer Zazu Faure.

A distinctive fixture in the L.A. art world for more than three decades, Faure established herself as director of the prestigious Nicholas Wilder Gallery in 1972. She partnered with Betty Asher in the Asher/Faure Gallery from 1979 to 1990, then opened the Patricia Faure Gallery at the Bergamot Station arts complex in Santa Monica. Failing health eventually caused Faure to bow out of the gallery, which has evolved into the Samuel Freeman Gallery.

In her professional life, Faure maintained an elegant style on a limited budget, getting by on charm, wicked wit and passion when money ran short. Escorting visitors through her exhibitions, she would ask, "Isn't that good?" as she paused in front of a favorite piece and broke into a captivating smile.

More interested in art than bookkeeping, she often said that there is no such thing as an art market.

"You can't sell art. It sells itself," she said. "All you can do is keep the place kind of tidy and get the information out. People come in. If they like it, they buy it."

Her daughter said that Faure was "a terrible business woman, but that made her gallery interesting."

Faure's pristine showcases revealed her taste for fine workmanship, radiant beauty and eccentric sensibilities.

Through the years, she championed dozens of established artists, including sculptors Richard Artschwager, Craig Kauffman, Gwynn Murrill and Joel Shapiro, and painters Llyn Foulkes, Sam Francis, John M. Miller and Margaret Nielsen. She also helped to launch the careers of the Rev. Ethan Acres, Mark Bradford and Salomon Huerta.

At her 75th birthday party, held by Elsa Longhauser, director of the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and fellow Bergamot dealers, Longhauser had a short explanation of why such a large crowd had gathered: "It's Patty."

"Do you know anyone else in the contemporary art world about whom no bad word is spoken?" Longhauser asked. "She's a fusion of art and fashion and humor -- all the best qualities, all the essentials."

Margo Leavin, a longtime contemporary art dealer and friend of Faure, said that she was deeply engaged with the arts in many forms, and was as passionate about literature as the visual arts. "In every aspect of her life, she tried for the best she could possibly do," Leavin said.

Faure was born April 8, 1928, in Milwaukee, the youngest of three girls in a German Catholic family. Her father died when she was age 5 and she was raised by her mother. They moved to Los Angeles when Patricia was 15, apparently propelled by hopes that the remarkably beautiful youngster would break into show business.

She attended Hollywood High School, then transferred to Hollywood Professional School, where she began to make connections with people involved in the arts. In a favorite story about her youth, she talked about working on Saturdays in a short-lived art museum in Beverly Hills operated by actor Vincent Price.

Faure also began modeling while still in high school and continued after graduation, first working for department stores and later for the Ford Agency in New York. But while living in New York in the late 1940s and early '50s, she recreated herself as a fashion photographer and went to work for Francesco Scavullo, known for his work in fashion and portraiture.

"She had no formal training in the arts, but she had strong friends and strong tastes," Zazu Faure said of her mother.

Faure was married to drummer Phil Peyton during her New York sojourn, but the marriage fell apart and she returned to Los Angeles in 1955.

While getting acquainted with the art scene and pursuing her career in photography, she met Jacques Faure, a native of Lyon, France, who would become art director of Conde Nast publications. They were married in 1959 and moved to Paris.

Faure shot fashion photographs for Elle, Jardin de Mode, Marie Claire and Vogue magazines, freelanced for the New York Times and took pictures of Rudi Gernreich's clothes. Zazu was born in Paris in 1965.

The Faures returned to Los Angeles in 1970 and divorced soon afterward. Then came Patricia Faure's third career, as a contemporary art dealer. Characteristically, she started at the top, working with Nicholas Wilder, a well-connected figure whose gallery presented must-see exhibitions.

In 2005, as Faure began to phase out of business, she exhibited photographs of artists, writers, musicians and models that she had taken from the mid-1950s to 1972 at Leavin's gallery. In March 2007, when she became too frail to stay at home, she moved into Kingsley Manor.

In addition to her daughter and son-in-law, Kevin Sullivan, who reside in Los Angeles, Faure is survived by a sister, Marjorie Romagnino of San Clemente; and three nieces, Kimberly Kipp of Simi Valley, Robyn Romagnino of New York and Wendy Romagnino of Dana Point.

Plans for a memorial service were pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to a fund established in Faure's honor at Kingsley Manor. Inquiries should be directed to Jeannie Weber at (323) 661-1128.

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suzanne.muchnic@latimes.com

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