How Brooke and Carolyn Alexander launched a 50-year print empire driven by expert connoisseurship

The Collection of Brooke and Carolyn Alexander offers a survey of the legendary New York gallery and publisher’s lasting relationships with artists and enduring legacy in graphic art

Alexander Collection

Clockwise from top left: Josef Albers (1888-1976), Structural Constellation: Duo H, 1966. Machine-engraved plastic laminate mounted to Plexiglas. Overall: 9 x 16¾ in (229 x 426 mm). Estimate: $18,000-25,000; Jasper Johns (b. 1930), Untitled, 1977. Screenprint in colours on Rives Moulin du Gué paper. Image: 9⅝ x 9⅜ in (245 x 239 mm); sheet: 23⅞ x 19 in (608 x 483 mm). Estimate: $10,000-15,000; Ken Price (1935-2012), Untitled, 1990. Watercolour and coloured pencil on paper. 18 x 22⅜ in. (45.7 x 56.8 cm.) Estimate: $15,000-20,000; Ed Ruscha (b. 1937) Lisp, 1970. Lithograph in colours on Arches paper. Sheet: 20 x 28 in (508 x 711 mm). Estimate: $12,000-18,000. All offered in Contemporary Edition: New York on 14 March 2024 at Christie’s in New York

One of the United States’ leading publishers of prints and multiples, Brooke and Carolyn Alexander collaborated with emerging and established artists on exceptional editions for over 50 years. Through their long-standing relationships with artists and devotion to the print medium, Brooke and Carolyn expanded the understanding of the field of graphic art through their many historically significant exhibitions and catalogues.

‘In 1968 we decided to strike out on our own,’ recalls Carolyn Alexander, who started the publisher and gallery Brooke Alexander Editions in New York City with her husband at the peak of the post-war print revolution. ‘Brooke knew Josef Albers very well from his time at Yale. Josef offered to collaborate with us on publishing two silkscreened editions of his iconic Homage to the Square series, one in tones of red (I-S a) and one in yellows (I-S b), each in an edition of 125. He told us that they would be sold out in a couple of weeks and that we were to use the funds for at least a year, or as Brooke would often humorously put it, “I give you two squares, you pay me back in two years.” He was right — the editions sold out in less than a month. This was our starting capital.’

Brooke Alexander by © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, 1989. Collection MOMA and MFA Houston

Carolyn Alexander by © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, 1994. Collection MOMA and MFA Houston

Brooke Alexander Editions has since published over 1,500 editions with more than 75 painters and sculptors who include some the most important names in 20th-century art: Richard Artschwager, John Baldessari, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Bruce Nauman and Raymond Pettibon, to name a few.

On 14 March Christie’s is proud to present a selection of prints and works on paper from the Collection of Brooke and Carolyn Alexander as part of Contemporary Edition: New York. The grouping includes the two of these early ’68 Albers prints alongside works by others who formed lasting bonds with the gallery. ‘These objects are emblematic of the very personal relationships Brooke and Carolyn had with artists,’ says Lindsay Griffith, Head of Prints & Multiples at Christie’s New York.

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Josef Albers (1888-1976), I-S a, 1968. Screenprint in colours, on German Etching paper, Image: 13¾ x 13¾ in (349 x 350 mm); Sheet: 21½ x 21⅜ in (545 x 543 mm). Estimate: $5,000-7,000. Offered in Contemporary Edition: New York on 14 March 2024 at Christie’s in New York

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Josef Albers (1888-1976), I-S b, 1968. Screenprint in colours, on German Etching paper. Image: 13¾ x 13¾ in (349 x 349 mm); Sheet: 21½ x 21⅜ in (546 x 544 mm). Estimate: $5,000-7,000. Offered in Contemporary Edition: New York on 14 March 2024 at Christie’s in New York

Brooke and Carolyn Alexander met in 1965 when they were both working at Marlborough Gallery in New York — Brooke established Marlborough’s print gallery and Carolyn was responsible for their image archive. It was an exciting era in the field; many galleries were moving into the print medium as another means of getting their artists’ images into the world. This became central to the mission of the Alexanders’ gallery, which also dealt in works on paper and sculpture. ‘For Brooke Alexander, prints were a vehicle for artists to explore their interesting ideas,’ Griffith notes.

Their publishing output spans the full breadth of post-war art, from painterly realism to Abstract Expressionism, Pop art and Conceptualism. What shines throughout the Alexanders’ collaborations with artists is the power and originality of prints and multiples as a medium that extends far beyond reproduction. ‘Prints created in series can recall the core of an artist’s concerns and intentions,’ Brooke told the Museum of Modern Art in 1994 on the occasion of an exhibition celebrating the 25th anniversary of Brooke Alexander Editions.

After Albers’s inaugural prints with Brooke Alexander, the artist became a touchstone for the gallery, whose penchant for purity of form and colour led to projects with many of the foremost figures of Minimalism such as Donald Judd.

Donald Judd (1928-1994), Untitled: One Print, 1968-1969. Woodcut in cadmium red on wove paper. Framed Sheet (irregular): 26 x 16½ in (660 x 419 mm). Estimate: $50,000-70,000. Offered in Contemporary Edition: New York on 14 March 2024 at Christie’s in New York

Judd’s Untitled is an important early woodcut acquired by the Alexanders. It features a sharp-edged parallelogram form and was printed by Judd’s father, Roy C. Judd. According to a 2007 interview with Brooke conducted by the Judd Foundation, the work was one of the reasons the publisher jumped at the chance to make prints with the artist. He published 20 sets of prints by Judd and presented four solo exhibitions of his prints from 1988 until the artist’s death in 1994.

The collection also includes two hard-edge large-format etchings by Barnett Newman, as well an iconic early print by Jasper Johns: Flags II. The 1973 screenprint features Johns’s most well-known motif rendered in dark expressive strokes, highlighting the flatness of the work’s surface. Brooke Alexander had a lasting collaboration with Johns, having collected, published and sold many prints by him.

Jasper Johns (b. 1930), Flags II, 1973. Screenprint on J.B. Green paper. Framed image: 26¾ x 33¼ in (680 x 845 mm); sheet: 27⅜ x 35⅜ in (695 x 899 mm). Estimate: $20,000-30,000. Offered in Contemporary Edition: New York on 14 March 2024 at Christie’s in New York

In the 1977, the gallery put on an important exhibition, which included a comprehensive catalogue of Johns’s screenprints with a print by the artist on the cover. It was one of many catalogues raisonnés for prints and multiples published by the Alexanders, who also worked to place prints by the artists they collaborated with in prominent institutions and collections.

With a commitment to quality that transcends genre, the gallery often drew thought-provoking connections between artists of different styles and generations, such as in the 2010 exhibition Josef Albers/Kenneth Price — both artists are represented in the offered collection.

alexander collection

Josef Albers/Kenneth Price, Brooke Alexander Gallery, 2010. Artwork: © 2024 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © Estate of Ken Price, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

The Alexanders also published ambitious projects with a wide range of Conceptual artists, from Bruce Naumann to Richard Artschwager and Lorna Simpson. Starting in the late 1960s, they worked extensively with Artschwager on his legendary multiples executed in idiosyncratic materials including horsehair, mirror and cow hide. In 1991, they published the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s multiples. The offered Zeno’s Paradox, a set of four etchings and aquatints produced by Brooke Alexander Editions in 2004, comes in its original box made of rubberised horsehair.

Brooke Alexander was an early and active supporter of Raymond Pettibon, who rose out of the California punk scene in the 1980s and became part of the gallery’s next generation of artists. The upcoming auction presents several works on paper by Pettibon, including the ink drawing Untitled (4 years without...), a personal favourite of Brooke’s.

Raymond Pettibon (B. 1957), Untitled (4 years without...), 1984. Ink and coloured pencil on paper. 10 x 13¼ in (25.4 x 33.7 cm). Executed in 1984. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. Offered in Contemporary Edition: New York on 14 March 2024 at Christie’s in New York

Not only were Brooke and Carolyn Alexander devoted collaborators of many of the 20th century’s most eminent painters and sculptors, they were also pillars of the industry, whose discernment and dedication to object-based training have raised the standard of connoisseurship in the field of printed art. Many art-world figures, including dealer-publishers like Carolina Nitsch and David Zwirner, worked at Brooke Alexander early in their careers. In honour of Brooke, who passed in 2022, the Museum of Modern Art established a named fellowship in the department of drawings and prints to support emerging professionals in the field.

Brooke Alexander Editions’ output since 1968 offers an expansive survey of the innovation and ingenuity of American printmaking. The upcoming collection is ‘a great representation not only of the diversity of works Brooke Alexander championed but also the gallery’s rigorous preference for a clear and concise visual language in the print medium,’ says Griffith. From their very first Albers squares to the cutting edge of contemporary art, the collection attests to Brooke and Carolyn Alexander’s impact on the field of prints and multiples: enabling artists to explore their most pressing aesthetic and thematic questions from a new perspective.

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