BY ROBERT CHISHOLM AND SUZANNE CHISHOLM | Gail Borden Chisholm, a longtime gallery owner and collector / dealer of vintage original posters in the Village and Chelsea, died July 5 after a three-month illness. The cause of death was lung cancer. She was 62.
Gail chose to spend her final days at home surrounded by loved ones.
For the last 15 years, she lived in a nearly 200-year-old 1827 Federal landmark building at 145 Eighth Ave., above a gallery owned by her brother Robert Chisholm and his partner, Lars Larsson. Gail and Robert co-owned the building.
She also had an apartment in Paris that she spent time in as often as possible for 20 years.
Gail Borden Chisholm was born to Raymond Nelson Chisholm and Martha Belle Borden on Oct. 14, 1954, in Richmond, Virginia. She grew up on a farm with cows, ponies, and a hay barn. She was the youngest and only girl with three older brothers.
Her mother and three of her sisters became nurses during World War II. Her father was a schools superintendent.
When Gail was starting high school, she and her family moved to El Tigre, Venezuela, a small oil company town in the middle of nowhere, for two years before returning to Virginia.
Gail went on to attend Mary Baldwin, a small women’s college, for a couple of years, but felt confined and restricted. In 1975, her brother, Robert Chisholm, asked if she wanted to come to New York City to run his small gallery at 277 W. Fourth St., between Perry and W. 11th Sts., after he had opened another gallery in Soho on Thompson St.
“She was 20,” Robert recalled. “I think she was here the next weekend.”
Early on, the siblings supplemented their gallery income by waiting on tables during the graveyard shift at the newly opened Empire Diner on 10th Ave.
Gail soon fell in love with vintage poster art and in 1980 opened her own business, Chisholm Gallery, on Greenwich Ave., where for 13 years she had many devoted customers.
“In the beginning, we were selling paintings and vintage paper,” Robert recalled. “After a short time, she switched over to just selling original vintage posters. This unusual career choice continues now with her lovely gallery at 325 W. 16th St. just steps away from Chelsea Market.”
The Greenwich Ave. gallery ran until the end of 1992. That was followed by the gallery’s move to lower Fifth Ave. in a fourth-floor space for a short period. Next, her gallery was on W. 17th St. and Sixth Ave. in a spacious fifth-floor space.
Another 10 years passed followed by another move — this time to W. 22nd St. and Sixth Ave. In 2010, Gail relocated to her final gallery space at 325½ W. 16th St.
Gail Chisholm served as the inaugural president of the International Vintage Poster Dealers Association, starting at the nonprofit’s inception in 1996.
She was also an avid traveler.
“Gail’s life was an adventure. … It’s hard to imagine a part of the world Gail didn’t visit from India to Bali to South America,” her brother Robert said. “Her love of scuba diving and the sea or water of any sort often directed her travels.
“The water romance led her also to a small rustic cottage on a lake in northern New Jersey near Dover. Each year when the community around the lake would take a vote on whether or not to allow electricity, Gail would vote No.”
Her niece Suzanne Chisholm recalled Gail as a veritable Renaissance woman.
“A bright star, Gail spread her light, love, laughter, generosity, and enthusiasm wherever she went,” Suzanne said. “A successful woman in many ventures, she was a groundbreaking entrepreneur, passionate world traveler, avid reader, amazing gardener, cat lover, ocean and fish enthusiast, and an engaging conversationalist — both in English and in French.
“Gail was steadfast in her opinions and likewise supported many organizations with both her time and her generosity,” Suzanne continued. “She unwaveringly fought for what she believed in and encouraged others to do the same.
“Her Southern roots afforded her a special flair for dinner parties and entertaining, especially at a moment’s notice. She loved her Virginia country ham! Gail was an exuberant, lively woman, who loved life, friends and family dearly. She has left an indelible mark on many lives.”
Surviving are her brothers, Robert Chisholm and his husband Lars Larsson of Chelsea; James Chisholm of Richmond, VA; Raymond Chisholm of Uganda; her niece Suzanne Chisholm of the Village; her nephews Andrew Chisholm and his wife Jennifer of Richmond, VA, Matthew Chisholm and his wife Ashley of Nashville, TN, and Allen Chisholm of Knoxville, TN; her sister-in-law Terryee Lynn Chisholm of Blacksburg, VA, and four great-nieces and great-nephews, Hailey, Carter, Nora, and Henry.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in Gail Chisholm’s name to Planned Parenthood or Doctors Without Borders (Medicine Sans Frontier).
Memorial celebrations will be private. Stories, condolences, and memories of Gail can be expressed via e-mail to her brother Robert at [email protected] or on her Facebook page.