Brent Sikkema, the Manhattan art dealer renowned for representing artists such as Jeffrey Gibson, Kara Walker, and Vik Muniz, met a tragic end in Rio de Janeiro, where he was found dead with knife wounds. His death leaves a void in the art world, marking the end of a career spanning over 50 years. His best-known artist, Jeffrey Gibson, is representing the United States at the Venice Biennale in April.
Brazilian authorities have arrested Alejandro Triana Trevez in connection with the brutal murder. Sikkema was discovered in his Rio de Janeiro apartment earlier this week with a staggering 18 stab wounds. Detective Alexandre Herdy, head of the city’s police homicide unit, revealed that Trevez, who was acquainted with Sikkema, is suspected of stealing cash from the crime scene before making his escape. The police believe that Sikkema brought over $40,000 to furnish a new apartment in Rio.
A bloodied knife was recovered from the crime scene, adding a gruesome dimension to the investigation. Herdy disclosed, “He staked out on the street, Trevez travelled from Sao Paulo in the morning of the killing and went straight to the place where the crime took place, the victim’s street. He Parked the car and stayed there for several hours.” The Cuban national was apprehended at a gas station between Uberaba and Uberlandia, approximately 600 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro. The details of whether he has legal representation remain unclear.
According to Herdy, Trevez attempted to elude Rio authorities after security camera footage, depicting him leaving a parked car outside the art dealer’s apartment in the early hours of Sunday morning, was circulated by news media outlets.”Images of the crime began circulating in the press,” the detective noted. “We almost lost him.”
In a puzzling twist, Herdy revealed that new information suggests that Trevez and Sikkema had been together in Rio the previous summer. However, the exact nature of their relationship remains unknown, adding an element of intrigue to an already tragic and perplexing case.
Born in 1948 in Morrison, Illinois, near the Mississippi River border with Iowa, Sikkema’s artistic journey began after graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute. His initial foray into the art scene saw him as the director of exhibitions at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York, in 1971. Later, he took the helm at Boston’s Vision Gallery from 1976 to 1980, purchasing and running it until 1989.
In 1991, Sikkema founded Wooster Gardens in New York, a precursor to Sikkema Jenkins & Co., which he established in 1996. The gallery flourished under his guidance, moving to the Chelsea arts district in 1999. Michael Jenkins, appointed director in 1996, became a partner in 2003, shaping the gallery’s trajectory alongside Sikkema.
Sikkema’s commitment to diversity and innovation in the art world was evident through the artists he represented, including Jeffrey Gibson, who was set to represent the United States at the upcoming Venice Biennale. An advocate for social issues, Sikkema’s influence extended beyond the gallery space.
In a 2021 Instagram post, Sikkema, described as a “chaos kind of guy,” expressed his affinity for places like Cuba and Brazil, where societal struggles were a daily reality. He bought a two-story townhouse in Rio de Janeiro’s Jardim Botânico neighbourhood, emphasising his love for Brazil. His body, discovered with stab wounds, adds a tragic chapter to his connection with the country he cherished.
Renowned artist Vik Muniz, reflecting on Sikkema’s legacy, stated, “Brent was my gallerist for three decades and a friend for longer than that.” Muniz highlighted Sikkema’s pivotal role in promoting artists of diverse backgrounds, acknowledging his significant contributions to the international art scene.
Sikkema’s sudden demise at 75 sends shockwaves through the art community, robbing it of a visionary figure. His gallery, known for fostering talent and pushing artistic boundaries, mourns the loss of its founder. As Sikkema Jenkins & Co. expressed, “The gallery grieves this tremendous loss and will continue in his spirit.”
Brent Sikkema’s life, characterised by a relentless pursuit of artistic excellence and a dedication to social causes, leaves an indelible mark on the art world—a legacy that will endure beyond his untimely passing.
Top Photo: Via Sikkema Jenkins & Co.