Ms. Zabriskie was born Virginia Marshall on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on July 15, 1927, the oldest child of Arthur A. Marshall Sr., a restaurateur, and Agnes Ione (Walters) Zabriskie, who acted in silent movies before her marriage. Her younger brother, Arthur Jr., became a state’s attorney in Maryland. Her marriages to George Zabriskie (1952) and Arthur Cohen (1970) ended in divorce. No immediate family members survive.
She attended the High School of Music and Art and studied art history at New York University. After graduating in 1949, she began graduate school at the university’s Institute of Fine Arts.
In 1948, a chance encounter in a museum gained her a mentor: Walter Pach, one of the organizers of the 1913 Armory Show, a controversial exhibition that introduced European modernism to the United States. Her art-world education began.
Mr. Pach asked her to pose for him — which she did, bringing her mother. He introduced her to the artists of his circle, among them John Sloan, Edward Hopper and Marcel Duchamp.
She wrote her senior thesis on the Duchamp brothers (Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon). A postgraduate scholarship took her to Paris, where she studied both art history and French at the École du Louvre. She also passed the docent’s exam, becoming the first American to lecture in English in the museum’s department of paintings.
Ms. Zabriskie became one of the youngest dealers in New York in 1954, at age 27, when, with no major backer, she bought the Korman Gallery on Madison Avenue for $1 from its owner, Marvin Korman, whom she knew from graduate school.
She ran the gallery on a shoestring, working by herself for the first three years and using Korman Gallery stationery until it ran out. The stationery, and the gallery, soon had a new name: Zabriskie.