Eugenia Butler; Art Collector and Dealer

Eugenia Butler, 79, art collector and dealer whose innovative galleries helped legitimize edgy contemporary art in the 1960s. Born in Bakersfield, Eugenia Louise Jefferson Butler attended Scripps College in Claremont and was a master sergeant in the Marines during World War II. In 1963, she established Galleria Del Deposito where she introduced Los Angeles to the functional art of European artists Victor Vasserely, Jesus Rafael Soto and Lucio Fontana. From 1966 to 1968, Butler and partner Riko Mizuno operated Gallery 669 on La Cienega Boulevard, and in 1968 she founded her own nearby Eugenia Butler Gallery. Until the gallery closed in 1971, Butler exhibited and represented such conceptual artists as Joseph Kosuth, Larry Witner, John Baldessari and her daughter, Eugenia P. Butler. Applauded by a Times art writer as "adventuresome," the gallery owner once staged an exhibit with Icelandic artist Dieter Rot, consisting of 20 suitcases filled with cheese. The 30-day summer exhibition ended dramatically after the cheese swelled and the Los Angeles Health Department closed it down. In another striking exhibit, "Walling Off Jeannie," the gallery owner had her office literally separated from her gallery by a wall constructed by artist James Lee Byars. On Dec. 21 in Calabasas.

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