John McWhinnie, 1968-2012

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John McWhinnie, a rare-book and art dealer in New York, was killed in a snorkeling accident on Jan. 6 in the British Virgin Islands. The 43-year-old and his wife, Maria Beaulieu, were caught in a riptide and pulled out to sea. She was rescued.

A Fulbright scholar pursuing a doctorate in philosophy, McWhinnie met Glenn Horowitz, an established rare-book dealer, at a book fair. In the late 1990s, he became manager of Glenn Horowitz Bookseller in East Hampton, N.Y., and began showing contemporary artists’ books and projects as John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller. The two opened a gallery bookstore on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 2005 and published artists’ books and exhibition catalogues under the imprint JMc & GHB Editions. Among the artists they worked with are Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Holton Rower and David Levinthal.

McWhinnie’s affinity for irreverent materials was evident in his collecting of books and ephemera from such figures as the Beats and Jimi Hendrix, as well as punk manifestos. As he once told artist Peter Sutherland in an interview, “Because I don’t have anything that I can’t feel passionate about, my sales pitch is usually sincere, sort of ‘Hey, check this out, I think this is cool shit and here’s why. Maybe you’ll agree and we’ll have a conversation, maybe you’ll even buy it’.”

Photo by Olivier Zahm