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Pop Star

Remembering Holly Solomon, art dealer extraordinaire.

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Holly Solomon liked to think of herself as a "Pop Princess," and rightly so. The fashion-loving art dealer with the permanently peroxided hair owned a cartoon portrait of herself by Roy Lichtenstein, along with a nine-panel Warhol painting she commissioned in 1964 -- and unloaded at auction last fall for $2 million. As a collector, she had eccentric taste and absolute confidence. As a dealer, she took on artists who were as playful as she was: Robert Mapplethorpe, Gordon Matta-Clark, Nam June Paik.

She encouraged Laurie Anderson to make her first record, and pushed her on Steve Ross, the late Warner Bros. president, at a bridge game. One summer, in the seventies, she drove with William Wegman and her two sons from Paris to Saint-Tropez. "She said we would find Brigitte Bardot," Wegman recalled, "and we did find her in a little button store, but Holly was too awestruck to talk to her."

That would have been a rare occasion. Fifteen years ago, Solomon took Jean Nathan, a writer, to lunch at Michael's. They hardly knew each other. But before they even ordered, Solomon looked up from her menu and said, "Freeze your eggs." Nathan was speechless. "They last for a long time, and then you can have a career first. It's the one thing that keeps women from being complete equals to men." Brutal? Perhaps. Prescient? Definitely.

Well, Solomon had something to say about everything, from art ("We all need a little beauty in our lives, don't we?") to plastic surgery ("So many people I know have had their faces done that I can't tell them apart anymore"). Regarding her demise, which came June 6 at age 68 as a result of complications from pneumonia, she once declared, "I don't want a memorial service because I don't want people passing out business cards on the occasion of my death."

There was none of that at the small graveside service outside her hometown of Bridgeport, attended by her sons, Thomas and John; her brother, Donald; and a handful of other mourners: Christo, Ronald and Evelyn Lauder, Sam Peabody. There was, however, a sense of loss for a feisty, flirty woman who was generous of spirit, with an abiding love of beauty.

The rabbi summed her up aptly by quoting Ecclesiastes. "The eye can never have enough of seeing," he said. Moments later, she was lowered into the ground, never to be seen again.


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