Anita Besson, Swiss-born British art dealer, Died at 82


Anita Besson was born on September 18, 1933, and died on October 20, 2015.

She was a Swiss-born British art dealer and Founder of the innovative Galerie Besson in London which was devoted to studio ceramics.

The gallery was superbly situated on the first floor at one end of the ornately Victorian Royal Arcade.

Lofty and flooded with light, this intimate space was ideal for the generally domestic scale of ceramics, both pots and more sculptural pieces.

Anita was born and raised in Switzerland (with her first three years spent in Majorca), and her background was cosmopolitan but peripatetic, her parents, Paul Besson and Erna (nee Bollag) having separated when Anita and her sister, Miette, were very young.

In 1948 Anita began paying regular visits to London, finally settling here in 1956.

Four years later Anita secured a job as registrar at Marlborough Fine Art, by which time she was living in the large household of her friends Walter and Dora Raeburn.

Anita had contact with some of Britain’s leading artists, Francis Bacon, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, and often visited Moore in his Hertfordshire studio.

The friendship with Moore continued when Fischer left Marlborough in 1972 to establish Fischer Fine Art, just across Piccadilly, taking Anita with him as a director.

It was at Fischer’s that she began to organise ceramics exhibitions, notably of Rie and Hans Coper, whose pots surrounded her in the Raeburns’ Hampstead home, but also showing Elizabeth Fritsch, Ewen Henderson and Claudi Casanovas, a young Catalan.

Anita Besson set up on her own at a time when auction houses were showing an increasing interest in studio ceramics.

Though there had been significant gallery owners in London and beyond who had done much to promote clay, for example, Henry Rothschild, Pan Henry and, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Peter Dingley, Anita’s platform in Mayfair gave it a much deserved glamour.

Anita passed away at age 82 in October 2015.