Gallery owner Gloria Luria, whose legacy in Miami led to Art Basel, dies at 97

The Luria name has been a South Florida fixture for more than 60 years.

On Friday, matriarch Gloria Luria, who ran her namesake gallery, Gloria Luria Gallery, from 1966 to 1992, died in Coral Gables, her son Peter Luria said. She was 97.

Luria was instrumental in bringing Art Miami to the Miami Beach Convention Center, which led to Art Basel in 2002, her son said.

Luria was married to philanthropist Leonard Luria, namesake owner of a 53-store jewelry and retail chain, L. Luria & Son, that opened in South Florida in 1961 and ran to 1996. The chain thrived in the 1970s as a leading catalog-showroom retailer of jewelry and discounted home furnishings.

Gloria and Leonard Luria were wed from 1949 until his death at 89 in September 2012. They had moved to Miami in 1961.

Gloria’s galleries

Gloria Luria opened her first gallery in downtown Miami in 1966 in close proximity to the first L. Luria & Son store that was on 980 SW First St.

Her gallery’s inaugural exhibition included paintings from her collection and introduced works by artists George Segal, Pat Steir, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Larry Rivers to Miami’s fledgling art scene, her son wrote for an obituary he sent to the Herald.

In 1975, she moved the Gloria Luria Gallery to Bay Harbor Islands’ 1033 Kane Concourse.

She chose the area at the time because of its location near the Atlantic and its proximity to other galleries in the mid-1970s.

“We really were making this a gallery area,” Luria told the Herald in 1992. “I think we really were instrumental at exposing people to very good art.”

A visual arts writer for the former The Miami News wrote of Luria in 1986, “Luria has worked long and hard to expose Miami to the best being done elsewhere, as well as showing the most professional local artists.”

At the time, Luria was presenting a show featuring some of her favorite artists, including Rauschenberg, who was represented by “a fine solvent transfer collage that would grace any museum collection.”

In June 1992, Luria closed her gallery. She told the Herald at the time that she wanted to coordinate museum and traveling shows.

“I’m ready to do less restrictive things,” she said. “There are a lot of creative things I want to do.”

Honored for contributions to art

Gloria Luria of her namesake Gloria Luria Gallery on Kane Concourse for nearly 30 years through 1992, loaned to the Center For the Fine Arts a Charles Ginnever 1979 sculpture called the “Forth Bridge” and is seen in this Oct. 7, 1996, file photo.
Gloria Luria of her namesake Gloria Luria Gallery on Kane Concourse for nearly 30 years through 1992, loaned to the Center For the Fine Arts a Charles Ginnever 1979 sculpture called the “Forth Bridge” and is seen in this Oct. 7, 1996, file photo.

In February 2019, The Pérez Art Museum Miami honored Luria for her contributions to art. Braman Motors CEO and philanthropist Norman Braman and Marty Margulies of Margulies Warehouse of Contemporary Art — both of whom collected art purchased from Luria — emailed congratulatory notes to her son.

He shared their messages with the Herald.

“Gloria was the first to recognize the Abstract and Pop Art movements. Her openings were happenings in Miami,” Braman wrote.

“Gloria Luria had one of the earliest galleries in Miami. She was ahead of her time, a pioneer. You could walk in and see [the artists] George Segal and Bob Rauschenberg and were always treated with importance,” Margulies wrote.

Exposure to art

“My parents, Gloria and Leonard, traveled the world and when we were young dragged my brother, sister and me to every museum and art gallery along the way,” Peter Luria told the Miami Herald Saturday.

“When we grew up and had families of our own, they took all of us on family vacations and exposed our children to some of the world’s most famous art including the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. It had such a profound effect on the grandchildren that two of them work with museums and many of the kids have become art collectors in their own right,” said Luria, 71, who traded acting — he played a Roman general in the 1973 film version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” — for the presidency of L. Luria & Son.

Born Oct. 5, 1925, and raised in Brooklyn, Gloria Luria graduated from Skidmore College in 1947 as a fine arts major. She continued post-graduate work at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute and studied at The Art Students League of New York.

“I’ve loved working with the artists and the arts,” she told the Herald in 1992. “It’s been an important part of my life.”

Survivors, services

Luria’s survivors include her three children, Peter Luria, Henry Luria and Nancy Luria Cohen, and 10 grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, May 29, at Riverside Gordon Memorial Chapels at Mount Nebo, 5900 SW 77th Ave., Kendall.

Memorial donations in Luria’s honor may be made to the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and The Pérez Art Museum Miami.