His certainty of judgment is what came across in the architecture: the right treatment for that window, the right way to put the door in the walls, the right colors; the opposition to the gaudy. The architecture not being the thing championed, but the purpose whether it was a loft or a gallery or a museum. It always felt so good being in his spaces.
- Agnes Gund, president emerita, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

New York – A new book, Architect for Art: Max Gordon
(Marquand Books, 146 pp, hardcover, $40, ISBN: 978-0-615-39579-1) presents a rare opportunity to enter the art world of the 1970s and 1980s and witness firsthand how a master of architectural simplicity set the standard for the relationship between art and architecture. Max Gordon (1931–1990) became the go-to architect for spaces for contemporary art following the opening of his first major commission in 1985 – the Saatchi Gallery at 98a Boundary Road. Architect for Art: Max Gordon will be published on May 1, 2011.

The book is authored by Max Gordon’s brother David Gordon, the former director of the Milwaukee Art Museum and secretary (director) of the Royal Academy of Arts in London; Nicholas Serota, director of Tate; Kenneth Frampton, Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University; Jonathan Marvel, an architect and friend of Max Gordon;as well as an excerpt from a text by Max Gordon entitled New Museum Architecture and Contemporary Art.

Seven of Max Gordon’s major works are featured including the Saatchi Gallery and the Fisher Landau Center for Art, the homes of several art collectors, as well as Gordon’s own home at 120 Mount Street in London. Gordon’s sketches and professional drawings illustrate his major plans; and lavish photographs of the completed works provide an excellent record of his accomplishment. The projects are introduced by statements from clients: Doris Lockhart Saatchi, Charles Saatchi, Emily Fisher Landau, Lewis and Susan Manilow, Keith and Kathy Sachs, Jackie Brody and David Juda. Gordon’s own apartment is described by Doris Lockhart Saatchi. A detailed chronology incorporates quotations from friends and collaborators: Richard Serra, Carmen Gimenez, Alanna Heiss, Lawrence Luhring, Bob Holman, Jasper Johns, Jennifer Bartlett, and Richard Gluckman.

Architect for Art: Max Gordon is the first book on this master of architectural simplicity in the service of contemporary art. Gordon was an art collector himself, a friend of the most influential artists of the 1970s and 1980s, a champion of the art of the times, and the inventor of Tate’s famed Turner Prize. He created an architectural legacy in New York and London that remains an ever-present influence on the display of contemporary art.

Gordon’s architectural maxim can be best summed up by the phrase “no trim.” Make everything as simple and functional as possible; highlight the art not the architecture; use light to create space.


Gordon studied architecture at Cambridge University, the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, and Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He worked under Gordon Bunshaft in the New York office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and was a partner in two architectural practices in England. He was the design partner for New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of London’s Metropolitan Police Service.

In 1981, he set up his own firm, Max Gordon Associates. Following the opening of the Saatchi Gallery, he became a sought after architect for spaces for contemporary art, including museums, galleries, collectors’ homes, and artists’ lofts. He died prematurely at age 59 in 1990.

Nicholas Serota has written a special essay for the book that traces a direct link between the Saatchi Gallery and the hugely successful Tate Modern of 2000, and, in assessing Gordon’s role in the art world, credits him for the suggestion for an annual art prize to be awarded by Tate that became the Turner Prize. Kenneth Frampton has written about Gordon’s architecture. Jonathan Marvel analyzes Gordon’s particular stylistic vocabulary. Gordon’s brother David has written a biographical essay.

Gordon had an enormous circle of friends, admirers and acquaintances in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Europe who sought his advice, came to his famous parties, and were encouraged to get things to happen. He was a founding member of Tate’s Patrons of New Art. He was on the Museum of Modern Art’s prestigious International Council and was the only non-American to serve on the Museum’s trustee committee on architecture and design.

As David Gordon notes, “Max was a creator of beautiful and functional spaces and an inspiration to artists, designers, museum curators, and lovers of contemporary art. This is a personal book that includes Max’s sketches and humorous cartoons. He was a much-loved figure, and this is reflected in the warmth with which he is written about and described.”

The Authors

Nicholas Serota has been director of Tate since 1988. He was previously director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery and of the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford. As a curator, his most recent exhibitions have been Donald Judd and Cy Twombly at Tate Modern and Howard Hodgkin at Tate Britain. Serota has been a trustee of the Architecture Foundation and a commissioner on the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. He is currently a member of the Olympic Delivery Authority, which is responsible for building sporting and cultural facilities for the 2012 London Olympics.

Kenneth Frampton was trained as an architect at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. He has taught at a number of leading institutions including the Royal College of Art, ETH Zurich, EPFL Lansanne, the Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio, and the Berlage Institute in The Netherlands. He is currently Ware Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University, New York. He is the author of Modern Architecture and the Critical Present (1980), Studies in Tectonic Culture (1995), American Masterworks (1995), Le Corbusier (2001), Labour, Work & Architecture (2005), and an updated fourth edition of Modern Architecture: A Critical History (2007).

David Gordon is Max Gordon’s youngest brother. His firm, Gordon Advisory, consults on strategy to nonprofits in culture, the arts, and publishing. He was director of the Milwaukee Art Museum after the opening of its Santiago Calatrava-designed addition following a period as secretary of London’s Royal Academy of Arts. He started his career as a journalist at The Economist and subsequently became its chief executive. He has served on boards in England of the Contemporary Arts Society, Southbank Centre, Architecture Foundation, British Film Institute, and Tate, and in the U.S. of the Association of Art Museum Directors. He lives in New York.

Jonathan Marvel, AIA, is a principal at Rogers Marvel Architects in New York. He has taught for over 19 years at schools including Columbia University, Harvard University, and Parsons, and was recently a visiting critic at Syracuse University. He is a former board member of the New York Chapter of the AIA, and currently serves on committees for the Municipal Art Society and the Art Commission of the City of New York, and the boards of the Van Alen Institute and Buckminster Fuller Institute. He has been a member of the New York State Council on the Arts’ Architecture, Planning and Design panel since 2006.

Architect for Art: Max Gordon is published by Marquand Books and distributed in the United States by Distributed Art Publishers (DAP). The hardcover book is fully illustrated and will be available in e-book form. The project editor is Holly LaDue and the designer is Matthew Egan.