Mimi Kilgore, patron of the arts and Kooning’s muse, dies at the age of 87

The two met at a party at the Bridgehampton home of Iranian painter Manoucher Yektai in August 1970. “I was kind of in a daze,” Ms. Kilgore recalled in an interview with Mr. Stevens. “I don’t think he was aware of anything else going on. And we just talked, looking straight at each other for a long, long time. Then he’d walk away and say, ‘Am I ever going to see you again?’

It would, often for decades. She visited him until his death in 1997, even after he fell into dementia in the 1980s. While the two were never a couple in the formal sense (Ms. Kilgore lived mostly in Texas), they attended art fairs, such as the Venice Biennale, and mingled with other New York artists at the Max’s Kansas City nightclub and Fanelli Cafe, a venerable SoHo pub.

In the bohemian art world of post-war New York, desires for self-indulgence tend to be large and sexual mores loose, with relationships and romantic partners ever-changing.

For de Kooning, the relationship with Ms. Kilgore proved transformative. Prone to melancholy and given to epic stunts, he was in a difficult period of life when he met her, Mr. Stevens said in a telephone interview. To begin with, he became embroiled in strained relationships with both his wife, the artist Elaine de Kooning, and Joan Ward, the mother of his daughter, Lisa.

Ms. Kilgore offered an escape. “He loved show songs,” he said in an interview with Mr. Stevens. “We sang songs together. I liked to dance, so I would dance. And do cartwheels outside the studio near a gazebo. ” She tried to teach him to tango, she said, but “his feet were too big.”

His joie de vivre mesmerized Kooning. “I love you wherever you are forever,” he wrote in a letter to Ms. Kilgore. “You got me through… You’re with me all the time, even when you’re not with me.”

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