Key Points:

* Denis Cohn, art dealer. Died aged 73.

Denis Cohn was an elegant and charming man with a wry wit and impeccable manners. He had the knack of making the person he was speaking to feel like the most interesting person he had met that day, a facility he put to great use when he became an art dealer in 1979.

Born in Hale, England, at 14 he had what amounted to a cultural epiphany at the Manchester Art Gallery, at an exhibition which included Picasso and Matisse.


Three years later he moved to London where he met the English modernist Michael Ayrton, from whom he purchased his first work of art.

He met his lifetime partner Bil Vernon in 1968. They moved to New Zealand six years later and Cohn acquired his first New Zealand work of art, a Colin McCahon.

He not only had a fine eye for art, but also a keen appreciation for a bargain. He saw New Zealand art as undervalued at a time when Auckland had a mere handful of struggling galleries mainly dealing in established names. In 1979 he opened the Denis Cohn Gallery on Darby St.

His first show was of Christine Mathieson. Initially he specialised in young and unknown artists. He persuaded into his stable Tony Fomison, Philip Clairmont and Alan Maddox and took on the problems associated with their hard drinking, bohemian lifestyle. Of his acquisition of the three he said that answered prayers usually ended in tears.

After the gallery closed he dealt from home and worked with Bil Vernon developing museum and gallery software.

He never lost his belief that artwork should be treasured for itself as much as for an artist's reputation or what critics might write about it. He had a very catholic eye and was horrified at the notion of art as investment.

He died in Fiji on December 14 and was cremated at Wailoaloa Beach, Nadi. A memorial service will be held at St. Mathew-in-the-City, Auckland, on January 20 at 11am.