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Max Protetch opened his first gallery in 1969 at the age of 23 while pursuing a graduate degree in Political Science at Georgetown University and spending weekends in New York looking at art. The Gallery has had a 37-year evolution from its beginnings in Minimal and Conceptual art, with a base in Pop art and a strong interest in architecture through the 70s and 80s. A constant during all these stages has been an emphasis on the question of what is appropriate to be seen in a gallery outside of the traditional fine arts. During his years in Washington, Protetch represented Andy Warhol and other Pop artists. He gave Vito Acconci his first one-person show and was showing conceptual artists such as Sol LeWitt, Joseph Kosuth, On Kawara, Robert Berry, and Doug Hubler as early as 1970. Kosuth and Art Language Press Group also had one person shows during those years. Early performance art by Dan Graham and Dennis Oppenheim was presented at the Gallery. Through the 70s, artists such as Don Judd, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Joel Shapiro, Jo Baer, Lawrence Weiner and Carl Andre exhibited and the gallery mounted several political shows. Some of the above-mentioned artists were included in a group show called "Political Art" with Dorthea Rockburne, Daniel Buren, Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, and Robert Morris. This show was the only one of its kind to deal with the Marxist and political/economic involvements of Minimal and conceptual art.

In 1978 the gallery moved to New York and began showing architectural drawings. Over the course of the last three decades it has shown many of architecture’s contemporary masters, including Aldo Rossi, Robert Venturi, John Hejduk, Michael Graves, Peter Eisenmann, Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Daniel Libeskind, and Samuel Mockbee. Max Protetch represents the estates of Frank Lloyd Wright and Eric Gunnar Asplund, has holdings of Louis Kahn, Buckminster Fuller and Mies van der Rohe, and has sold the entire estates of Luis Barragan and Aldo Rossi. The Gallery has also shown and represented artists with a unique involvement with public sculpture. Scott Burton is the artist who, more than any other, has been the proponent of functional sculpture.

The Gallery currently represents artists Mike Cloud, Oliver Herring, Tim Hyde, David Reed, Byron Kim, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Marjetica Potrc and artists Betty Woodman and Richard DeVore, whose work comes out of the history of the vessel and shares many concerns with painting and sculpture. The Gallery has taken a pioneering role in contemporary Chinese art, and represents Chen Qiulin, Fang Lijun, Hai Bo, Yin Zhaoyang, and Zhang Xiaogang.

The Gallery organized the landmark exhibition A New World Trade Center: Design Proposals in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001. The show featured proposals for Lower Manhattan from an international group of 60 invited architects, including some of the most influential minds in contemporary architecture. Widely regarded as the most highly attended private gallery exhibition in New York history, the show subsequently became a book published by Harper Collins, and was chosen by the State Department to represent the United States in the American Pavilion at the 8th International Biennale of Architecture in Venice.

In 2003, Max Protetch Gallery expanded its operations to the rapidly-growing arts community of Beacon, in upstate New York. Max Protetch: Sculpture Beacon is a five-acre site for the exhibition of new and existing works of outdoor sculpture. The grounds feature an ongoing exhibition — Sol Lewitt: Concrete Block and Brick, as well as works by Buckminster Fuller, Scott Burton, Marcel Breuer, Mel Chin, Tobias Putrih, and others.

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