This text was published in the "A Celebration of the Life of Emily Harvey" catalogue published for the memorial performance gathering which took place in her gallery in New York, on January 6, 2005
Emily Harvey was born in Middletown, Connecticut, September 2nd, 1941.
Her father was Henry Kreis, a sculptor from Essen, Germany, who worked for the Paul Manship studio. Her mother, Patricia Glazier Kreis, was a painter.
She was raised in Essex, Connecticut, an 18th century town on the Connecticut River. She was well known in Essex as a strong individualistic child, an instigator, always ready for adventure and backtalk to the dismay of her elders, and frequently in trouble. In her teen years she was also known as a very fast driver (a habit she never outgrew), taking her father's Mercury Station Wagon to speeds well over a hundred miles an hour on unfinished portions of the Connecticut Turnpike at night. She attended public school in Essex, and the MacDuffie School for Girls, in Springfield, Mass., and graduated from the University of Connecticut at Storrs in 1964. In summers she worked as a waitress at the Ferry Tavern in Old Lyme, a job she always remembered fondly.
She went to Europe the summer she graduated, where she visited Greece and Venice, and renewed her friendship with Angelo Colombo, a sculptor who had also worked at the Paul Manship Studio and had been her father's best friend. It was a family friendship she cherished and would maintain.
She moved to New York in the fall of 1964 and worked at a variety of jobs - The American Field Service, Design Research, Look Magazine (where she ran the test kitchen and wrote recipes), and the New York City Public School system, where she taught 4th grade in the Twin Bridges area of Manhattan. She married architect John Harvey in 1968 and built a house with him in Essex. They were divorced in 1973.
In 1977, working at Poster Originals, she met and married artist Christian Xatrec, and was introduced through him to a circle of artists in New York associated with Fluxus, an international artists' group started in the early 60s. By 1981 Emily began to develop a business as an art consultant, providing paintings and prints to corporate clients. She rented space from artist Jean Dupuy, a friend of Christian's, at 537 Broadway.
In 1982 Emily, with Dupuy and Xatrec, was operating the Broadway space as the Grommet Gallery, showing the work of New York Fluxus and other avant-garde artists.
In 1985 she bought the space outright from Dupuy,
renamed it the Emily Harvey Gallery, and began showing exclusively Fluxus, concept art, mail art, and performance art.
Olga Adorno, Eric Andersen, Ay-o, Brian Buczak, Philip Corner, Jean Dupuy, Henry Flynt, Robert Filliou, Ken Friedman, Albert Fine, Geoffrey Hendricks, Christer Hennix, Dick Higgins, Ray Johnson, Joe Jones, Milan Knizak, Alison Knowles, George Maciunas, Jackson Mac Low, Larry Miller, Alain Arias-Misson, Charlotte Moorman, Nam June Paik, Ben Patterson, Takako Saito, Carolee Schneemann, Taketo Shimada, Joao Simoes, Daniel Spoerri, Berty Skuber, Anne Tardos, Ben Vautier, Yoshi Wada, Bob Watts, Emmett Williams, Christian Xatrec, LaMonte Young, Marian Zazeela, and many others exhibited there.
Emily had personal relationships with her artists. In her view, they were friends she was supporting and helping with her considerable administrative and marketing skills.
She bought their work for her own collection, and sold their work taking smaller than normal commissions. She provided space and opportunities for their performances and gatherings and gave dinner parties for them. She advised them on their lives and their careers, sometimes actively intervening in benevolent ways. And they responded to her with more love and admiration than New York gallerists usually get.
In 1985 Emily and Christian bought a small house in Vieux Pierrefeu, a village perche' in the mountains behind Nice. It was an artists' village, discovered by Jean Dupuy, and Emily and Christian began spending summers there with many of their artist friends, a practice they continued until their separation in 1990.
In 1992 she married, Angelo Colombo, her Venetian friend, Her marriage to Angelo brought her to Venice for increasing lengths of time. Under Angelo's tutelage she began to learn Venetian Italian and to understand Venice, and the customs of its people. Out of this grew a commitment to Venice that never faded. Venice is a maze of canals, narrow streets and bridges, connecting a vast network of open campos large and small. Most visitors confine themselves to the big shopping streets, the huge piazza at San Marco, the Ponte Rialto and the Grand Canal. But Emily soon knew every little byway and every tiny campiello, and could navigate her way to any point in the city along dark narrow alleys known only to Venetians. She had a kayak, and learned the canals like a Venetian waterman, who called her "Treccia", pigtails, for the way she wore her hair.
Angelo had no children, and when he died in 1998 he left Emily his considerable Venice properties. Emily learned every nuance of Italian tax and real estate law, and began the daunting task of administering Angelo's estate. But it was in 1997 that she discovered a lump in her right breast, and opened her battle with cancer.
She had a mastectomy in New York at Sloan Kettering, and came back to Italy, where she did chemo, took Novadex, and worked on Angelo's estate, making it her own. As she recovered from her breast cancer, she began a building program of renovating Venetian apartments as they became empty. She maintained an exhibition schedule at her New York gallery, and started a new gallery in Venice, the Archivio Emily Harvey, where she showed the work of John Roloff and Gordon Matta-Clark.
She also returned to Pierrefeu, where she bought a house with Davidson Gigliotti, an old friend from 537 Broadway, whom she married in 2001, and spent summers playing boule de petanque (she was an excellent player) and swimming in the Esteron with Christian, Evelyne Noviant, Davidson, Jean Dupuy and other friends.
In the spring of 2003, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she knew that she would not survive. But she determined to live as long as she could, to get what joy she could still get out of life, and to make certain that her considerable resources would be used for the continued benefit of the artists that she loved.
The result was the Emily Harvey Foundation, which she set up for her friends, for international community of avant-garde artists, for the care of her collection, and the furtherance of the art to which she had devoted her life.
Remember Emily for the people, places, and things she loved. She loved New York, where she came of age as a strong and resourceful woman; she loved Venice, that ancient mysterious city which gave up its secrets to her; she loved Pierrefeu for its mountains, its Scotch Broom, and its wonderful company. She loved cats and pigeons both. She loved men, sex, and her husbands and lovers, and she loved them even when they parted. She loved wine and food, and a good time. She loved being the center of attention. She loved boats, and she loved old cars, particularly Renaults, which she could fix herself. She loved Fluxus, because it was daring and honest. She loved Essex and her life there, and the people she knew and grew up with. She loved building and she loved builders; carpenters, masons plumbers, electricians, and architects. She loved overalls, and wore them all the time. She loved courage and bravery, and a good fight sometimes.
She loved life on Earth, and when she learned that she must leave it, she gritted her teeth and continued loving, making sure her love would not end with her death. Her life was too short, but it was very, very full.