Rebeccah Blum, a curator, translator, editor, and mother, died in Berlin on July 22. She was murdered by her former partner, British-born photographer Saul Fletcher, who subsequently committed suicide at Blum’s country home. Blum was 53 years old.
Born in 1967, Blum grew up outside of Philadelphia. In 1985 she headed to American University in Washington, DC, to study art history under feminist luminaries like Norma Broude and Mary Garrard, who cemented her interest in gender parity in the art world. After completing her studies, Blum worked at an art gallery and various restaurants in San Francisco.
In 1992, she relocated to Düsseldorf. Three years later, she moved to Berlin where she co-founded and chaired arts non-profit art Base e.V., a rhizomatic entity that held online exhibitions as early as 1995. In 1997, Blum played an integral role in the formation of txt.de, a marketing platform for independent publishers. The ethos of these projects reflected her belief in non-hierarchical collaboration and her penchant for curatorial experimentation and play, not to mention her prescience.
Blum became a director at Berlin-based gallery Aurel Scheiblerin 2007. At the gallery’s ScheiblerMitte outpost, she curated and co-curated several exhibitions, including a show of work by French-American video artist Michel Auder in 2009. She went on to co-found and direct SATELLITE BERLIN, a nonprofit platform committed to forging fruitful connections between artists and scientists, and launched her own eponymous art management firm, Blum Fine Art Management. Blum, who was fully bilingual in German and English, simultaneously built a career as a freelance editor and translator. She worked on monographs, exhibition catalogues, magazines, and more for Anton Kern Gallery, David Noland Gallery, and Hatje Cantz, among other clients. Blum returned to school in 2017 for a Master’s in Management of Cultural and Nonprofit Organizations at University of Kaiserslautern. She graduated this June and was gearing up for a new chapter professionally. Blum was also in the process of writing a book about the art world, her 22-year-old daughter Emma told Hyperallergic.
“She was the most animated person,” Emma continued. “When she told a story, she would get up from the table to gesture with her hands — she told it with her whole body.” Emma described an exuberant woman, someone who laughed easily, made jar after jar of chutney and marmalade, packed her house with art, and was surrounded by friends. Fletcher, Emma explained, was her mother’s on-and-off partner for eight years before he killed Blum and himself.
Posts commemorating Blum have been circulating on Instagram — an effort that is imperative in light of the coverage of her death, pieces that have glossed over her personhood to instead laud Fletcher’s art career or sensationalize his personal connections.
Berlin-based gallery ChertLüdde captioned an image of a beaming Blum, “She was a beautiful person who dearly deserves to be remembered as such, a Woman with a name, a profession, a rich life and a precious smile that we want to share with everyone.” The caption went on to express that the gallery “firmly condemn[ed] the brutality that took her life away, a too well known violence that needs to stop.”
Jane Rosenzweig, a close friend of Blum’s since their freshman year of college, portrayed Blum as someone who loved beautiful things, the type of person to pack a picnic on a whim. “Everyone felt this magnetic pull toward her because she was so special, so loving, so curious. She wanted to understand everything; that’s how she was in every interaction,” she told Hyperallergic. “We can’t measure what we’ve lost.”