Solid Gold

Fay Gold celebrates 25 years as Atlanta's leading lady of modern art

It's hard to believe a force of nature like Atlanta gallery owner Fay Gold fell so serendipitously into her life's work. In 1966, as a recently arrived transplant to Atlanta from Riverdale, N.Y., Gold conveyed her love of art by teaching painting to neighborhood children in her back yard. She also began traveling with the childrens' mothers on art tours of New York and started collecting work back in the day when you could get a Robert Rauschenberg for $150, a Claes Oldenburg for $350, a Tom Wesselmann oil for $800.

From the seeds of those early forays into contemporary art, Gold has grown one of Atlanta's most prominent galleries. Since Fay Gold Gallery opened in 1980, she has brought some of contemporary art's most famous names to the city, including Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano.

In preparation for her 25th anniversary, Gold is framing some of her exhibition invitations, including a 1982 Mapplethorpe photograph of a curly headed Gold looking like a sultry disco queen. She has begun work on a book about life and art and manages, at 73, to still balance her tough-as-nails business side with her domestic life as a doting grandmother and fashion-conscious grand dame, trading kisses with her Yorkshire terrier, Murray.

Age: 73.

Education: B.A. from Adelphi University in drama and art history.

Neighborhood: Buckhead, in "a white box with black concrete floors."

Family: Husband of 50 years, Donald, a retired lingerie manufacturer; children Amy, Jason, Gena; four grandchildren.

Advice for other businesswomen: There's a book that Gail Evans wrote that said for a woman to be in business, she has to think like a man. I think it's partly true that you have to take the emotion out of your voice, you have to control anger, spiteful vindictiveness, bitchiness. You have to maintain calm and think everything through for the right reasons. It's a very complicated business. So you need to be a woman for the empathy, but you need to be a man for the figures, the bottom line of making a profit.

Traits artists have in common: Being an artist is a very lonely role. It's you alone in the studio with a canvas or a lump of clay or a camera. And they have to dig deep into themselves to have anything original to say, and spend hours at it. So every artist needs your approval. When they send in work, they want a phone call to say, "I like it." They are giving you their creations and they want them taken care of.

Most influential person: I'm mainly influenced by myself, because I trust my eye and my taste.

Scent memory of childhood: Chicken soup.

Favorite designers: Moschino, Prada, Gaultier.

Last meal: A meal she had in France recently: escargot, foie gras, leg of lamb, mille feuille.

Magazine subscriptions: Time, Newsweek, New York, The New Yorker, Organic Style, Bon Appetit.

Hobby: Cooking.

Favorite thing to cook: I cook all the Jewish dinners. [On the eve of Yom Kippur,] I made briskets and noodle kugels for friends, actually. One brisket for me and one for her. I make all of the traditional dinners.

Favorite restaurant: I like a few. I like Aria, Bacchanalia and Pano's. Of course, our favorite is Houston's. We eat there the most.

Vice: For a woman on a salt-restricted diet, anything with salt.

Spend the day with any artist living or dead: I would say Mapplethorpe.

If anyone could do your portrait: Avedon. That would have been very cool. And I would love to have Chuck Close do a painting of me.

Social issue you worry the most about: Terrorism and the Republicans in power. Bush, that's who I worry about the most.

Proudest accomplishment: My family. My grandkids.

How do you relax?: I read. I read an enormous amount. I belong to a book club, that's my only luxury. It's called the H2O because they serve only water. There's no competition. You can't put out a bowl of almonds. It's just water: no lunches, no husbands. It's a mixed group. Mixed religions, mixed races.

Ever star-struck?: One time I met Robert Redford and couldn't speak.

Key to being a great artist beyond talent: Several traits: productivity, dependability. Being trustworthy and loyal to your dealer. Another is being able to let your art grow and change and move on after you've exhausted one thought. Understanding that they're not the only artist in the gallery. Be pleasant and friendly and easy to work with. Being willing to do commissions.

Favorite vacation: I do love Pesaro, Italy. It's on the Adriatic near Bologna, and it's only about 90,000 people and it's beautiful.

Dream destination: I would love to go to India.

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