In 1969, as a twenty-three-year-old graduate student studying political science at Georgetown University, Max Protetch opened his first art gallery in Washington, DC. Inspired by the conceptual art he was seeing in New York and a desire to inject new ideas into the prevailing, largely provincial, conversations about art in Washington, DC, the gallery began as a partnership with his roommate, Harold Rifkin, each putting up $1,000. Neither Protetch nor Rivkin had any experience running a business, let alone being art dealers, but that is, perhaps, what made it work. They had nothing to lose as they created a platform for provocative art and ideas—all seemingly unsellable at first—that challenged the status quo. Three years later, after Protetch and Rivkin parted ways and Protetch opened his eponymous gallery, he was showing some of the most significant artists of the post-war era, including Sol LeWitt, Andy Warhol, Joseph Kosuth, Dan Graham, Carl Andre, Robert Morris, and On Kawara, among many others.
Still in his mid-20s, Protetch was already creating a name for himself in DC as a bold and outspoken proponent of art that pushed boundaries and often defied categorization. In 1977, Jo Ann Lewis, writing for the Washington Post, characterized Protetch as DC’s “purist purveyor of the avant-garde.” While he would soon leave DC for New York City, his start in the nation’s capital, at a tumultuous time in the country’s history, would shape his progressive worldview and establish a vision marked by fearlessness, persistence, and purpose. From the beginning, Max Protetch has been an advocate for new art and provocative ideas and was always seeking to define and redefine what might be shown in a contemporary art gallery.
Having sold the gallery in 2009 after a forty-year run, today Max Protetch lives in Santa Fe, NM where he consults for collectors and deals privately. This website features highlights from the Max Protetch Gallery archive, news about currently available works, and an overview of the publication Max Protetch Gallery: 1969-2009 that chronicles the gallery's history.