Icon, doyenne, revolutionary, rebel. Fay Gold, Atlanta’s pre-eminent name in contemporary art, answers to “legend.”
She is best known for her mission to bring New York art to the South and for her discovery of Radcliffe Bailey, Rocio Rodriguez, Rana Rochat and Zoe Hersey. Gold has a bachelor’s from Adelphi University and studied painting with a protégé of Hans Hofmann’s.
She downsized from a large Buckhead home to a condo that is alive and overflowing with world-class photography, sculpture, paintings and glass: works by Andres Serrano, Vik Muniz, Yasumasa Morimura, Sandy Skoglund, Zhang Huan, Mike and Doug Starn, Dale Chihuly, and William Morris.
Gold was the commencement speaker in 2010 at the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art. She received the Big Thinker Award from the Brain Injury Association of Georgia and Miriam’s Cup from Israel Bonds for her contributions to art and Jewish life.
Jaffe: Where did your talent begin? Were you an artsy child?
Gold: Yes, as a child I had visual gifts and small motor skills. I loved to knit, cut out paper dolls and won the sewing award at PS 225 for making my own graduation dress. I began collecting pop art in the early ’60s, such as Oldenburg, Wesselmann and Lichtenstein. I used the income earned from my backyard art school in Atlanta to buy art in New York.
Jaffe: What advice would you give to folks who want to begin collecting art?
Jaffe: Buy what you don’t like?
Gold: Collect art that asks questions and that you can’t figure out easily. No one has ever solved the mystery of why the “Mona Lisa” is smiling. Art reveals itself over time. Think outside the box. Take risks.
Jaffe: You are credited with transforming Atlanta’s art scene. How did a New Yorker like you end up here?
Gold: My father owned the Piedmont Shirt Co. (Wing Shirts) in Greenville, S.C., where I was born. When I was 2, my family moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., where I grew up. My late husband, Donald, owned Nantucket Industries, which manufactured ladies underwear and hosiery and built a plant in Cartersville, Ga. In 1966, we moved to Atlanta with my three children, Ames, Jason and Gena, then 10, 6 and 2. I created Fay’s World in my backyard art studio, where I taught oil painting and drawing to 60 children, women and men each week for 15 years. I opened the Fay Gold Gallery in 1980 with an exhibition of George Segal, followed by Robert Rauschenberg, Alex Katz, Irving Penn, Cindy Sherman, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
Jaffe: What are some of most unusual pieces you have? I feel a lot of energy and excitement here. Let’s call it “art de vivre.”
Gold: My Deborah Butterfield horse, “Big Red,” 1980, made from scrap metal and old movie marquee letters. A life-size mannequin covered in jelly beans from “Shimmering Madness,” a photograph by Sandy Skoglund.
Jaffe: Your photography is stellar. What do you treasure the most?
Gold: The portraits taken of me by Robert Mapplethorpe, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton and Joyce Tenneson. Joyce included my portrait in her book “Wise Women.” Tenneson’s photograph of “Dasha,” which graces the cover of Alice Hoffman’s novel “The Dovekeepers,” hangs in my den. My large-scale “Oedipus and Sphinx” by Brazilian photographer Vik Muniz is from the exhibition “Pictures of Junk,” in which he uses garbage to create images after mythological subjects.
Jaffe: How would you describe your master bedroom?
Gold: As you enter are black-and-white photographs of famed actresses Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, a nod to my love of old movies. Over my bed hangs “Still Life With Camera,” 1995, by Sarah Charlesworth. In the corner is a George Segal sculpture, “The Lovers.” Also in my bedroom are three Robert Longos from his “Men in the Cities” series, an Eric Fischl drawing and two Jerry Uelsmann photographs.
Jaffe: Do you collect any Jewish artists?
Jaffe: Tell us something we don’t know about you.
Gold: I raised $750,000 net for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. I have a passion for cooking. I had 25 relatives and friends for Passover this year. My daughter Ames and I whipped up homemade chopped liver, brisket, stuffed cabbage, chicken fricassee and tzimmes, all from my mother Ethel’s recipes. I am an avid reader and have been a member of the H20 book club for 20 years.
Jaffe: What’s next for you?
Gold: I am seriously involved in writing my memoir and my current art consulting projects: an advanced living community, several restaurants, an art liquidation and private collectors.
Jaffe: You’ve had an amazing life. I feel a book in the making.
Gold: True. The title is “Basquiat’s Cat,” and it is nearing completion. I knew I wanted to make a difference in the cultural life of Atlanta and help artists develop their careers.
Jaffe: Last word. I think you look more beautiful now in your ninth decade than you did when Mapplethorpe photographed you in 1982.
Gold: Thanks to my boyfriend, Jack, for making me feel beautiful. I have never had any long-range plans. I trust my instincts and have grasped opportunities that have seemed right. I found myself in art. I surround myself with genius and power, great art, creative friends, and loving family like five wonderful grandchildren.
Photos by Duane Stork