Werner Kramarsky, Rights Official and Arts Patron, Dies at 93


In 1990 Mr. Kramarsky, as a trustee of his parents’ estate, sold Vincent van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet,” which his parents had acquired shortly before the family escaped Amsterdam. Ryoei Saito, the honorary chairman of Daishowa Paper Manufacturing of Japan, bought the painting at auction for $82.5 million (the equivalent of about $166 million today), a record at the time.

The Kramarskys supported artists through their modestly named Fifth Floor Foundation. From 1991 to 2006 they showcased artists at their noncommercial exhibition space at 560 Broadway in SoHo — a roster that included celebrated names like Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin and Richard Serra as well as newcomers.

Werner Hans Kramarsky was born on March 5, 1926, in Amsterdam. His father, Siegfried, was an art collector and the director of the Amsterdam branch of a bank with headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. His mother, Violet Ingeborg (Popper) Kramarsky (known as Lola), later became president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

The family fled the Netherlands in 1939 as Nazi Germany prepared to invade, first going to Canada and then to New York. Werner, who was known as Wynn, arrived in the United States when he was 13.

He served in the Navy as a radio operator from 1944 to 1946 and became manager of the overseas department of the investment firm Bache & Company. He attended the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1962, and got involved in local Democratic politics.

Mr. Kramarsky met Sarah-Ann Backer during a successful insurgent campaign to unseat Carmine De Sapio, the Democratic boss of Greenwich Village and the last of the Tammany Hall kingpins. They married in 1959. Ms. Backer’s parents, Dorothy Schiff and George Backer, were publishers of The New York Post; Ms. Schiff succeeded her husband in 1942.

Mr. Kramarsky was attending the New York University School of Law when he dropped out to ally himself with Lindsay, a charismatic liberal Republican congressman from New York who was running for mayor in 1965. Mr. Kramarsky and his wife headed a grass-roots group called Democrats for Lindsay.

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