Obituary of Barry Leonard Johnson
Longtime Buffalo, NY based, artist and art dealer Barry Leonard Johnson passed away peacefully in his sleep, Monday April, 25, 2022. Barry was born in Jamestown NY in 1949 to Maureen (Rolph) Johnson of London, England and Richard Johnson of Chautauqua NY. He is survived by his wife Eileen, his sister Denise, his two children Emily (nee Tucker) (Baird) and Charles (Anita), and his three grandchildren, the lights of his life, Levi and Mercer Johnson and Maury Tucker. Barry's parents and brother Bruce Johnson are already at rest. Barry graduated with a Masters in Fine Art from Buffalo State University where he served as the president of the College Gallery and the Art Association. He also rowed crew and played basketball. As part of his Master’s thesis he started Benjaman’s Art Gallery in 1970. He ran the gallery with his wife Eileen, and then with the help of his two children and their spouses, each of whom developed a passion for art and commercial gallery stewardship from observing their father’s keen collecting, artist management, and sales abilities. Barry and Eileen named their gallery after their beloved bloodhound dog and remained dedicated pet owners and lovers their whole lives. Emily and Charles joke they wish they could have been friends with their Dad when he was a younger man, as the stories of his youth were wildly entertaining.
Some highlights include: Traveling through Italy, trading his leather jacket for a guitar, trading that for a way home. Working as a high school art teacher and having his students fully submerge their almost naked bodies in paint and throw themselves against the classroom walls and floors. Interviewing actors Cheech & Chong for 8 hours for the Buffalo State College school newspaper. Flying Peter Max into Buffalo on a private Jet for a party at the gallery and then selling out the exhibition of his work. Meeting and doing projects with famous artists like Andy Warhol, Henry Moore, Salvador Dali, Phillipe Halsman, Will Barnet and many more.
While he was actively running the gallery from 1970 through 2010, Barry established himself as a major part of the regional and national art world. He brought world class commercial artists to Buffalo, NY and participated in art fairs in New York and Chicago. He ran multiple galleries throughout Western New York, New York, NY,Boca Raton, Florida, Dallas, Texas, and Niagara Falls, NY.
He was the US estate manager for world renowned Russian artist Erte (Romain de Tirtoff) and traveled to France often with his family as they were growing up. His kids remember fondly trying freshly made chocolate croissants and steak tartare and not so fondly traveling to London from Paris and getting on the wrong bus that dropped them off in a very rough Hackney neighborhood for hours.
Barry took his children to major museums with professional art supplies and taught them to sketch and appreciate the masterworks they saw at the Louvre, Monet’s Garden, and Rodin’s home.
Barry and his tireless partner and care giver, his wife Eileen, worked endlessly to create opportunities for their children and grandchildren and were so happy to have the family business carry on through Emily Tucker and Charles Johnson.
The pandemic and the threat to Barry’s compromised immune system had made the last three years particularly challenging. Luckily he was able to spend time with his children and grandchildren including on Easter, days before his passing, when everyone was able to gather with him one more meaningful time. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation, https://uaff.nyc/donate-now.