Friday, April 12, 2024

Mystery: Lisa DeKooning, Only Child of Famed Artist, Dies at Age 56 in Virgin Islands


I was surprised and saddened to read of the death of Lisa deKooning tonight– in the paid obit section of the New York Times. The 56 year old only child of great Dutch born American artist Willem deKooning was listed in the Times as “Johanna” when everyone everywhere knew her as Lisa. She was a resident and regular of the Hamptons where she maintained her father’s studio. She also lived in the Virgin Islands, and that’s where she died on Friday.

Her death, according to reports, followed a fall, and is something of a mystery. It was only a little over a year ago that Lisa had an altercation with police in the Bahamas, and was arrested. She had already had a wild life, especially in the mid 1980s when she was associated with drug dealers and the Hell’s Angels.

Lisa deKooning’s mother was not Elaine deKooning, wife of the artist for 46 years until her death. Her mother was Joan Ward, with whom Willem deKooning had a separate relationship in the 1950s and 60s. Lisa was his only child. When Elaine died and then her father, Lisa became the sole heir to the great artist’s estate. She did a lot important work for her father’s legacy. With the help of attorney John Eastman (brother of the late Linda McCartney), Lisa set up a Foundation in her father’s memory. (He died in 1991.) She also helped organize his estate and art works.

In a newspaper clip from the Times long ago, one deKooning lawyer described Lisa as “free spirit.” She was certainly a unique individual, and someone who was a force and a character in the small town world of the Hamptons. She was always fun to run into at parties or events, and she was always inviting new people over to see her father’s work and her own work. She died way too young at age 56, and leaves three children.

(Lisa deKooning is the third person I knew who has died in the last few days. Getting older is not so much fun when these things happen.)

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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