It seems a strange thing to say about someone who has just died, but Bruce Wolmer was a survivor. He fought tooth and nail for two decades to preserve the magazine that was, and is, him -- Art & Auction -- from Marshall and Maureen Cogan, through various dubious and forgotten speculators, to its current owner Louise MacBain, a process that often found him in hotel lobbies operating on nothing more than a smile and a shoeshine.
He also fought with unfathomable humor and resilience against complications from diabetes over this same period of time, which led to dialysis, painful operations and long hospitalizations, culminating in a short coma and peaceful death last Friday night. Bruce could not help genuflecting to the specialized brand of the rich and powerful who inhabit the art world, just as he could not help but fight with and iron will against years of physical pain and deprivation.
The aspects of Bruce were woven in a fine cocoon of the finest things: lover of auction action, coveter of taste from a journalistic distance, philosemite, a joyful liberator of the senses concealing a hardheaded political conservatism. He was by no means a revolutionary, but he knew what he wanted and battled to preserve it as he battled to preserve himself. Thanks to Bruce, Art & Auction could be found on the desks and living-room tables of those that styled themselves the very best, as rarefied as Clichy paperweights in fin-de-siècle French salons.
Yet, in his essence, Bruce did not cultivate objects, he cultivated writers and the writers who grew under him were what branded Art & Auction as a special place to luxuriate in art. These writers and that magazine are his memorial.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).