Former Melrose Place star Amy Locane-Bovenizer has been in headlines recently for the fatal accident that occurred last Sunday when the actress, allegedly under the influence of alcohol, crashed into another car, killing its passenger. Most sources reported that the victim was “an art historian.” That passenger was indeed an art historian—a beloved and influential one: Helene Zucker Seeman, a 60-year-old adjunct professor at NYU’s school of continuing education, whose books were critical texts to periods in New York art, and whose work continued to be admired by others in her field.
Helene began her career in the art world working for Louis Meisel at his fine art gallery in Soho. She moved quickly from receptionist to director, and eventually co-authored a book with Meisel titled Photorealism, a complete reference work on the art of the photorealists up to 1979. Harry Abrams published it, and the book became a definitive guide to the technique, which is painting so detailed that it evokes the precision of a photograph. Helene’s previous book on the downtown Manhattan neighborhood, Soho: A Guide, was the first to focus on the burgeoning art neighborhood of the mid 1970s.
In 1980 Helene became the curator for Prudential Life Insurance Company, where she built one of the premier corporate American art collections bringing in works by such artists as Judy Pfaff, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Tom Otterness, and Lesley Dill, and commissioning pieces by other artists. During her 20-year tenure, Helene visited artists and galleries around the country, acquiring art for the collection and commissioning artists for site-specific work in Prudential’s buildings. I remember the excitement we used to feel when Helene walked through the door of the gallery. She had a keen eye and an infectious excitement when seeing an artist’s work for the first time. As her friend, Riva Blumenfeld, a private art adviser, says, “Artists and dealers alike welcomed Helene’s visits not just for her ‘good eye’ and financial support, but for her breadth of knowledge, warmth and genuine enthusiasm.” Hundreds of Helene’s friends and colleagues attended her funeral yesterday. And “integrity,” ended Blumenfeld, underscoring one of the many winning characteristics that described her friend. She will be missed.
Karin Bravin runs BravinLee programs in New York with her husband, John Lee.