In April 1965, Nicholas Wilder (1937-1989) founded his contemporary art gallery at 814 North La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. His interest in art started at Amherst College where he worked for the art department as a slide technician. While in graduate school at Stanford University, he worked at the Lanyon Gallery in Palo Alto, California. An initial offer of financial backing to open a gallery inspired a move to Los Angeles. Although that offer fell through, Wilder remained determined. In late 1964, Wilder sold shares of his future gallery to friends in order to secure funds. He bought the shares back shortly after opening.
The Nicholas Wilder Gallery's first show featured Edward Avedisian. The gallery expanded and featured artists from New York and California, including: Joe Goode, John McCracken, Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski, Cy Twombly, Ed Moses, Ken Price, Agnes Martin, John Altoon, Sam Francis, Billy Al Bengston, and Hans Hofmann. The gallery helped start the careers of American artists such as Robert Graham, Tom Holland, Ron Davis, and Bruce Nauman. In 1970, the gallery moved to 8225 ½ Santa Monica Boulevard. Through its fourteen years of operation, the gallery held a new show every month. Wilder's openings represented a large source of pride and he ensured that every opening reception included a stocked bar for his clients.
Initially, the gallery succeeded through Wilder's talents and passion for art. At its peak, the Nicholas Wilder Gallery sold two million dollars worth of art per year. However, in the mid-1970s a change in attitude within the art world affected sales. According to Wilder, many artists no longer painted for expression but as a viable business venture. Furthermore, he claimed that buyers would not risk collecting works from a younger or less well-known artist. In addition to these factors, Wilder attributed the decline of his gallery to his extravagance and lack of business sensibilities. Eventually, the gallery faced financial problems and Wilder recognized the need to leave the business.
The Nicholas Wilder Gallery closed on December 31, 1979. Wilder informed his employees that he would close a year in advance and ensured that all of his artists found a new gallery for representation. He moved to New York after leaving his gallery and became an artist. Nicholas Wilder passed away in 1989 from AIDS-related causes.