Art dealer Margo Leavin, champion of L.A. and international talent, dies at 85

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Margo Leavin, a prominent fixture of the Los Angeles art world whose West Hollywood gallery hosted major international artists and promoted the city’s burgeoning roster of artists for more than four decades, has died.

Leavin had been in ill health for some time. The cause of death, confirmed by longtime business partner Wendy Brandow, was not identified. She was 85.

Born in New York and educated in Mexico and at UCLA, Leavin began as an art dealer by selling prints from her apartment after moving west in the late 1960s. She opened her Robertson Boulevard gallery in 1970, transforming the former studio of designer Tony Duquette into a compact exhibition space. Over the years the gallery expanded, eventually filling nearly the entire half-city-block to Hilldale Avenue.

The Hilldale entrance led to a large space dedicated to exhibitions of sculpture. It was identifiable from the street by a large knife blade that seemed to be slicing the building in two, the handiwork of sculptor Claes Oldenburg.

Until her retirement in 2013, Leavin represented many important Los Angeles artists, including John Baldessari, Alexis Smith, Roy Dowell, Allen Ruppersberg and William Leavitt. Among more than 400 exhibitions, the gallery also mounted major solo shows of work by Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Ad Reinhardt, Sol LeWitt and other New York artists.

In 2015, the gallery’s archive was acquired by the Getty Research Institute. Four years later, UCLA unveiled the new Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios in Culver City, a state-of-the-art facility for the nation’s No. 2-ranked art school made possible by a $20-million gift from the art dealer. Leavin’s donation is the largest ever made by an alumna to the arts within the UC system.

A full obituary will follow.

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