an artful life

M Magazine Kansas City 3/3/15

By Grace Suh

Crossroads gallery owner Byron Cohen and his daughter Toma Wolff (left) will be closing the gallery at 2020 Baltimore and continuing the business online with their new partner Charlotte Matthews (right).

The Byron C. Cohen Gallery, a Crossroads fixture for more than 15 years, is going space-less at the end of the year. Founder Byron Cohen and daughter Toma Wolff, the assistant director, plan to run the gallery as an online venture and have taken on a new partner, manager Charlotte Matthews. "I really think this is the future," Wolff said in a recent interview. One indication that she might be right is the launch of a new VIP Art Fair in January. Spearheaded by New York dealer James Cohan, it will take place entirely online and has already attracted top galleries from around the world. The decision to go virtual was prompted by a desire for freedom and flexibility, Wolff says, and not financial considerations.

"This has been our best year," her father said. In the years of running the gallery, he added, "I've never lost a penny." Cohen, who turns 70 in January, began collecting art while in college. "My mother (Dorothy Cohen) collected Art Institute artists, including Ken Ferguson and other locals. My brother was a major collector. He had a fabulous (Richard) Diebenkorn and a couple of Henry Moores. He also had the best Larry Rivers painting I've ever seen," he said. Cohen credits the late Ted Coe, former Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art director, with teaching Cohen and his wife, Eileen Cohen, the ins and outs of collecting. Over 40 years, the two built a sizable collection of local, national and international artists. 

In 1994 Cohen decided to turn his hobby into a business and teamed with ceramics dealer Lennie Berkowitz to open the Cohen/Berkowitz Gallery at 2000 Baltimore Ave. When Berkowitz decided to retire in 1997,the space became the Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art. Wolff joined the staff, and the gallery moved to its location at 2020 Baltimore Ave. Wolff, the mother of two middle-school students, regretted missing their Saturday soccer and was ready to try something different when the gallery's five-year lease ran out several months ago. Over the last year, Cohen battled some serious medical problem, but he said he is feeling much better now. And with his wife's fervent blessing,he has no plans to retire.


Several weeks ago they notified their artists that they will close the space. For their online business they plan to start by representing ·10 artists, including Grant Miller, Barry Anderson, Linnea Spransy and Amy Myers from Kansas City and Roger Shimomura from Lawrence. Due to exorbitant shipping costs, Cohen says, they decided to get out of the business of representing contemporary artists from China, an area that has proved lucrative. At the 2008 Art Basel Miami Beach art fair, Cohen sold more than $1 million in new art from China. The gallery will continue to represent California-based Chinese artist Hung Liu and four other out-of-towners.

Going forward, Cohen, Wolff and Matthews plan to do virtual shows and will notify patron and museum about them by e-mail. Although the gallery will close its doors to the public on Dec. 31, the partners plan to have a small space in the building for showing work by appointment. To reach Alice Thorson, art critic, call 816-234-4763 or send e-mail to

For more on the Byron C.Cohen Gallery go to