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Helen Gee, at 85; her gallery helped elevate photography

NEW YORK -- Helen Gee, whose Limelight gallery in Greenwich Village in the 1950s blazed a trail for the selling of photography as art, died Sunday at a Manhattan hospice. She was 85.

Ms. Gee opened Limelight in 1954, showing work by artists as diverse as Ansel Adams and Rudolph Burckhardt and setting a standard for photography galleries.

Ms. Gee was born Helen Charlotte Wimmer in 1919 in Jersey City. At 16 she came to the Village to live with Yun Gee, a Chinese modernist painter.

They were married in 1942, but after Yun Gee was diagnosed with schizophrenia and turned violent, Ms. Gee left with their daughter, Li-lan.

After the split, Ms. Gee retouched transparencies for leading magazines and advertising agencies. She was inspired to open Limelight after seeing a photography show at the Museum of Modern Art.

The gallery closed due to financial pressures in 1961. Ms. Gee became an art consultant and revived interest in Yun Gee's work. During the 1970s, she became a photography lecturer, writer, and curator.

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