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Betty Asher papers, 1860-1999

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Asher (Betty) Papers

Biographical/Historical Note

Betty Asher (née Michael) was born in Chicago on May 4, 1914, to James and Rayna Michael, proprietors of a pharmacy. While training as a nurse, she met Leonard Asher, who was then a medical intern. The two married in 1939, and after two years in Boston, where Leonard had a residency, the couple moved permanently to Los Angeles. Daughter Rayna (1942-1990) was followed by son Michael (1943-2012). Though marriage put an end to Asher's nursing career, it also stimulated her interest in art and art collecting. With her husband she began acquiring lithographs from Associated American Artists in New York. As she gained more experience and knowledge, she progressed from lithographs to original pieces by American, Mexican, and Haitian artists. By the late fifties, her growing familiarity with artists and galleries in Los Angeles spurred her move into contemporary art. Due to her early interest, she managed to acquire major pieces from Rauschenberg, Ruscha, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and many other artists. In 1966, shortly after Maurice Tuchman became curator of modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Asher was hired to assist him in the curatorial department, having already served on the museum's Contemporary Art Council. As prices for contemporary art rose, and especially after Asher's divorce in the mid 1970s, she began to concentrate on art pottery in her acquisitions, amassing an impressive collection of contemporary and traditional art cups and saucers. She resigned from the museum in August 1978 in order to work full time as a dealer, teaming up with Patricia Faure to open the Asher/Faure Gallery the following year. The gallery mixed exhibitions of younger local artists (such as Gwynn Murrill and Michael McMillen) with better-known names represented by established galleries in New York (such as Morris Louis, Joel Shapiro, Kenneth Noland, and Sam Francis). Asher retired from the gallery in 1990. She died at her home in Beverly Hills in 1994.

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