William B. Adair



Golden doorWilliam B. Adair is a visual artist best known for his work as a frame maker, conservator and historian. He began his career in frame conservation at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in the early 1970s, where he became fascinated with frames, their history, and the connections they bridge between fine art and the surrounding environments. He has since built a renowned career as a master framer and gilder, operating under his Washington, DC company Gold Leaf Studios since 1982.

He is also an accomplished visual artist. Adair has artwork in numerous private collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and was most recently honored with a major exhibition in 2011 at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Takoma Park, Maryland. In 1991, he received the prestigious Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome.

With his unique background which engrained in him a deep knowledge of visual history, Adair sees not just into a work of art from the outside, but out from the artwork into the world it reflects.

Most recently, this has led Adair to produce a series of watercolors documenting a conceptual installation piece that explores the inherent bias of historical context and interpretation.

“As individuals, our social and historical filters are interpersonal,” he says. “For instance, why do memorials exist? We traditionally can learn everything we need to know about historic events from a book, although all we need to know is never enough. The reason these memorials exist is to shape history so that we can put ourselves inside of it to better understand it—not the facts and information of an event, but what it felt like. That’s how it becomes a part of us, and that’s what my artwork represents. We all need our own sense of context, our own parameters, our own vision to interpret history.”

He is represented by Govinda Gallery in Washington, DC.


Washington Post 2011