Meet the New Innovators: 8 Pioneering Art Dealers Who Predicted the Future of the Art Industry—and Then Made It Happen

Melissa Smith, Artnet News, October 21, 2020

These eight veteran gallerists blazed a trail that the rest of the industry is only now, decades later, catching on to.


In the final installment of our New Innovators list, meet the veteran gallerists who blazed a trail that the rest of the industry is only now catching on to.


Karen Jenkins-Johnson, 60, Founder of Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco


Karen Jenkins-Johnson has dedicated her career to advocating for emerging and under-recognized artists of color—a mission that often involves refusing to back down when the industry’s gatekeepers reject what she has to offer. Last year, after the selection committee for Frieze New York turned her down, Jenkins-Johnson arranged to have the work of Black photographer Ming Smith included in a special section—and went on to receive the Frieze Stand Prize for the presentation. With that momentum, Jenkins-Johnson then mounted a campaign to put “Ming back on the map,” she says, negotiating a solo booth for her at Frieze Masters that fall, after again being initially passed over.


At this point in her career, Jenkins-Johnson is focused on reinvesting in the Black arts community. Three years ago, she opened Jenkins Johnson Projects, a community-oriented venue in Brooklyn that hosts projects by guest curators of color “so that they can go out, and be hired by these institutions, and have a seat at the table to affect change.”

Melissa Smith