Dealer, Critic and Mentor Paul Klein Has Died

Paul Klein, by Carol Pylant, oil on panel, 2016


Paul Klein, a long time art dealer, critic and artist mentor in Chicago, died October 11, 2020. 

In the fall of 2014, Klein was diagnosed with Stage IV esophageal cancer that had metastasized to his liver. Klein's doctors gave him 6 months to live, but his family helped him to have a full and active life until the end.

His wife Amy Crum shared on Facebook this week, "He had a tremendous six-year journey with cancer – a magnificent battle he fought so he could continue to grow those around him, shape the art world, and radiate love."

In the early 1980s Klein founded Klein Art Works, one of the "original 16" galleries in the neighborhood that became known as River North. The gallery was one of the first to appear in the inaugural issue of the Superior/Huron Gallery News (eventually Chicago Gallery News) in 1982/83. Following the River North district fire in 1989 the gallery soon relocated to what's now the West Loop. 

Klein was also the Art Consultant/Curator for the 2.3 million square foot expansion of McCormick Place completed in 2008. According to Klein's old ArtLetter site, it was his vision to use solely Chicago and Illinois artists at the new convention center, where all the content of the permanently installed art is Chicago and Illinois specific. The works range from a 100 foot wide painting by artist Dzine, to a steel and bronze sculpture by Preston Jackson.

Klein's next chapter focused on mentoring artists, when he founded Klein Artist Works and shared his knowledge with artists looking to hone their practice as well as market their own work and practice in order to operate independently of a dealer if desired. Klein was also the editor of ArtLetter, a personal round up of art he liked that was on view around Chicago. 


Klein's circle of friends and colleagues was large and ever growing. On his Artist Works site he said, 

"I believe in people. I particularly believe in creative people; people who have the ability to challenge me and make my world more dynamic and a whole lot better. I want to see more artists have a bigger impact—and make my world even brighter than the one artists have already given me.

The world is a troubled place. Artists can make that world better for us and better for themselves, and I want to contribute to that success."


A Zoom memorial service is planned for October 15 at CST.