The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association notes with sorrow the passing of Richard Gray, a CSO Life Trustee, civic leader, philanthropist and one of the nation’s most respected art dealers and collectors.
Mr. Gray, 89, died Wednesday, May 16, at his home in Chicago. Along with his service as a Life Trustee, he and his family supported many CSO projects, activities and positions, including the endowment in perpetuity of the position of vice president for artistic planning and a special gift that led to the naming of the Gray Terrace at Symphony Center. In addition, he helped to underwrite many CSO-related events, including this season’s MusicNOW concerts on May 7 at the Art Institute of Chicago and the series’ season finale on May 21 at Orchestra Hall.
“Richard Gray was a superlative human being and a dear friend,” said Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti. “I remember him with great affection and respect.”
“The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association family was deeply saddened to hear of the death of our Life Trustee Richard Gray,” said CSOA President Jeff Alexander. “Richard’s generosity and his dedication to the arts are a shining example in our city, and we are tremendously grateful for his many contributions to the CSOA and Chicago’s cultural community over so many years. We will deeply miss seeing Richard at our concerts, and his unbridled enthusiasm for symphonic music and the CSO.”
A devoted champion of the arts, Mr. Gray served on the board of trustees for many Chicago cultural organizations, including the Goodman Theatre, the Newberry Library and WFTM-FM/WTTW-Channel 11. He also was a founding board member of the Chicago Humanities Festival, served on the committee of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and was chairman of the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago.
Thanks to the family’s generosity, the Art Institute of Chicago dedicated the Richard and Mary L. Gray Wing for prints and drawings in 2008, and in 2013, the University of Chicago established the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry.
Regarded as the dean of Chicago art dealers, he opened his first gallery in 1963 and a New York City branch in 1996. Just last year, he launched a second Chicago space, the Gray Warehouse, in the city’s West Town neighborhood. The Richard Gray Gallery became known for displaying the works of many prominent American modernists, including Milton Avery, Richard Diebenkorn, Jim Dine, Philip Guston, Roy Lichtenstein, Louise Nevelson, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol, as well as works by European modernists such as Josef Albers, Fernand Léger and Pablo Picasso.
Mr. Gray served as president of the Chicago Art Dealers Association from 1967 to 1975 and also was president of the Art Dealers Association of America.
Born on Chicago’s South Side on Dec. 30, 1928, he was the son of Edward Gray, a Russian-Polish immigrant and owner of a construction services company, and Pearl Winehouse, a Chicago native. A graduate of Hyde Park High School, Mr. Gray enrolled as an engineering student at the University of Illinois’ campus on Navy Pier and later transferred to the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study architecture. Interrupting his education, he joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Europe. He married his wife, the former Mary Kay Lackritz, in March 1953.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three children: Paul Gray (Dedrea A. Gray) of Chicago; Jennifer Gray (Scott Wilkerson) of Evanston; Harry Gray (Katrine Keyes Gray) of El Sobrante, Calif.; five grandchildren, Emily (Mark Wiley), Ian, Caitlin, Asia and Vienna; one great-grandchild, Maeven, and his brothers, Robert of Jupiter, Fla., and Melvin (Sue) of Chicago.
A service is planned for family and close friends on May 18, with a public memorial service to held at a later date. Donations in his honor may be given to any of the many Chicago civic and charitable organizations supported by the Gray family.
TOP: Richard and Mary Gray at the 2016 Symphony Ball. | Photo: Robert Carl