The first art gallery in New York's SoHo, Paula Cooper Gallery opened in 1968 with an exhibition to benefit the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. The show included works by Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Robert Mangold and Robert Ryman, among others, as well as Sol LeWitt’s first wall drawing. For five decades, the gallery’s artistic agenda has remained focused on, though not limited to, conceptual and minimal art.
Over the years, the gallery has organized many shows of historical importance. Throughout the 1970s, the gallery presented the work of then unknown artists Jennifer Bartlett, Lynda Benglis, Elizabeth Murray, Joel Shapiro and Jackie Winsor. During the 1980s and 90s, the gallery presented groundbreaking shows on gender, race and identity by artists such as Robert Gober, Zoe Leonard and Cady Noland. In 1996, the gallery moved to Chelsea to occupy an award-winning 19th century building redesigned by Richard Gluckman. In 1999, Paula Cooper opened a second exhibition space on 21st Street. Notable recent shows include Rudolf Stingel’s celebrated 2005 exhibition, which transformed the gallery space into an all-white shrine for a large photorealistic portrait; a record-breaking presentation of Christian Marclay’s "The Clock,”; numerous one-person shows by Mark di Suvero that explore the artist’s expansive practice; “Things Around the House," a 2015 Claes Oldenburg exhibition providing an intimate glimpse into the artist’s studio practice; and Cecily Brown’s “A Day! Help! Help! Another Day!,” 2017, lauded as “the painter’s most impressive show ever.” In fall of 2018 the gallery temporarily relocated its primary space to 26th Street, opening with a fiftieth anniversary exhibition that recreated the inaugural 1968 show and benefitted March For Our Lives.
In May 2003, Paula Cooper and Jack Macrae opened 192 Books, a bookstore featuring key works of literature and history, art and criticism, the sciences, travel and children’s books.