Founding River North Dealer Roy Boyd Has Died


Veteran art dealer Roy Boyd passed away this morning, according to friend and long-time gallery artist Betty Cleeland. Boyd is survived by four sisters.

Boyd's eponymous gallery, which he opened with his late wife Ann in 1972, closed in October 2014 after 42 years in business. Boyd served as president of the Chicago Art Dealers Association from 2003–2007, and the gallery participated in the original International Art Exposition at Navy Pier in the 1980s as well as Art Chicago and other international art fairs for many years.

The Boyds opened Roy Boyd Gallery first in suburban Western Springs, before moving in 1976 to downtown Chicago near the original site of the Museum of Contemporary Art (the museum opened in 1967 at 237 East Ontario). In 1979 they moved to West Superior Street to the second floor above Young Hoffman Gallery, along with Jack Lemon's Landfall Press. In a 2012 CGN interview Ann Boyd recalled, "It was a wonderful time. There was hardly any activity during the day, but people who came to see us came for a purpose. We were all feeling pressure to have higher ceilings, more space for art, more elbowroom during openings. Some artists thought we were crazy, until they saw the big spaces and recognized the sense of camraderie. Our insurance when we started was $1,500 a month because our agent thought all of our windows would be smashed." By 1983 16 galleries had opened in what would soon be known as River North. 

The gallery's ultimate home was at 739 N. Wells, where the couple lived in an apartment above the gallery. Boyd opened a second location in Los Angeles from 1981–1993. 

Ann and Roy Boyd with friend Edward Albee (left)

Roy became a personal friend during my early years working at Chicago Gallery News and the Chicago Art Dealers Association with Natalie van Straaten, and he continued to be a great supporter throughout my first years as CGN publisher. He was good company, whether he was stopping by our old lower level office on Franklin for a CADA meeeting or just a long chat.

One of my favorite memories is from one day in 2007, quite a while before the 2008 presidential election, when attention in town and around the country was growing around Barack Obama. The CGN office was still located  at 730 N. Franklin, in the lower level of the Central Arts Building and underneath Andrew Bae Gallery. One of the other tenants in the building was David Axelrod, who was advising Obama at the time. Because his profile was still low, Obama would come to the building for meetings from time to time. One day, while Roy was on my couch for one of our usual chats, we noticed a large SUV pull-up outside the building entrance and saw Obama dash in with his security detail. Others noticed too and gathered to wait in growing numbers. After waiting long enough hoping to glimpse the state senator another time, Roy decided it was time to walk back to the gallery. Wearing his own signature all-black outfit and ball cap, Boyd opened the front door of the Central Arts Building and strode outside into the crowd, which in its frenzy to snap pictures of Obama, ended up with pictures instead of a friendly, but certainly not politically famous, local art dealer, smiling at his mistaken celebrity. 

Roy was always good for a joke and a laugh. His openings promoted and honored his artists and served as gatherings for many art world friends. The post-opening dinners he and Ann threw in their apartment above the gallery were a special chance to relax and connect with new friends and old while celebrating the artist of the evening. 

Boyd's gallery roster was packed with artists who worked primarily in abstraction. Many painted in vibrant colors and used bold textures, while other artists worked in sculpture using wood, or metal. Over the years represented and exhibited artists included, to name a few, William Conger, Sarah Krepp, Betty Cleeland, Roland Ginzel, Daniel Bodner, Jay Phillips, Joan Livingston, Carlos Estrada-Vega, Jerome Powers, Anne Wilson, Mark Arctander, Teo González, Dan Ramirez, Jay Kelly, John Fraser, Mario Trejo, Brigitte Riesebrodt, Buzz Spector, Joel Perlman, Vadim Katznelson, and Markus Linnenbrink. Many area collections began at the Boyds' gallery, as visitors were drawn in as much by the friendly and knowledgeable dealers as the accessible and appealing art.

Roy and Ann kept things interesting for the gallery and for themselves until the end, as they continued to take on new artists whose art they just enjoyed and whose friendship they cherished. In 2013 to mark four decades in business, the Boyds let their artists take over the commeorative exhibition. At the time Boyd said, "We're going to just have a group show for our 40th anniversary. We're letting our artists submit their favorite old work, or they can submit something new. We just wanted to recognize the people we've worked so well with."

Ann Boyd passed away in April 2013. Roy is now greatly missed as well.


This post will be updated as we confirm more details.


Top image: Roy and Ann Boyd, 2007.