It is with sadness that the College shares the news of the death of Marcuse “Cusie” Pfeifer, a key figure in the recognition of photography as a fine art, founding member and art exhibition director of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center in Kingston, New York, and a generous supporter and friend of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.
Marcuse Pfeifer was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1936, and resided in Kingston, New York, for many years before her death on July 17, 2020.
She was an instrumental figure in the promotion of photography as an art form in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, a founding member and president of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers, and one of the first gallery dealers in New York City to exclusively show photographs.
Pfeifer helped launch the careers of many contemporary photographers, including Sally Mann, Peter Hujar and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Keenly aware during her career of the art world’s tendency to overlook important women photographers, she also played an important role helping restore to prominence artists including Carlotta Corpron, Nell Dorr and Lois Connor.
“Cusie Pfeifer’s pioneering spirit and her willingness to take chances were decisive factors in helping to elevate photography to the art form it is today,” said Wayne Lempka, interim director and art collections manager at the Dorsky Museum. “Cusie knew the value of photography as an art form way before most other people did. She was not one to sit on the sidelines and watch photography languish as a poor cousin of the art world. Rather, she was a strong voice for the medium at a time when it had few cheerleaders.”
An impassioned supporter and friend of the Dorsky Museum, Pfeifer donated more than 90 works by highly regarded photographers to the Museum’s permanent collection, including a single gift of 67 photographs by 19th and 20th century masters in 2018.
“Cusie knew that the Dorsky Museum would use her collection wisely, sharing it with the College and surrounding community, and with her gift, she set an example for future donors to the Museum,” said Ward Mintz, Chair of the Dorsky Museum Advisory Board.
Many of these important works, including photographs by Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2001), Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (1952- ), Peter Hujar (1934-1987) and George Platt Lynes (1907-1955), were showcased in an exhibition, “In Celebration: A Recent Gift from the Photography Collection of Marcuse Pfeifer,” curated by Lempka the following spring.
At one of her final public appearances, Pfeifer was the Special Honored Guest at The Dorsky’s October 2019 Art Uncorked auction at The Rubin Museum of Art in New York, where she gathered with more than 100 friends and colleagues from all areas of the art world for a lively evening celebration.
Read more about Pfeifer’s life and career in The Brooklyn Rail.