Sunday, April 29, 2007
Keen eye of Leo Castelli
You have to have a good eye, but also a good ear. There's no other way if you want to make a good choice. You hear things, feel vibrations, gauge reactions. You spot movements emerging, and you try to pick the best practitioners.
It is one of nice mind sparkle of one mostt amazing man in history of modern art, Leo Castelli. this great man never wanted to work with fartist that were already known. He is icon of Europe smelling american art and opposite.
Leo Castelli was born on September 4, 1907, in Trieste, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was a successful banker, and the family lived well, spending the years of World War I in Vienna before returning to Trieste, now an Italian city, in 1919. Leo, fluent in several languages, attended law school in Milan and, guided by his father, began a career in the insurance business. His company sent him to the office in Bucharest in 1932, and there he met and fell in love with Ileana Schapira, the daughter of one of Romania's richest men. They married and moved to Paris in 1935, where Leo and Ileana quickly discovered and entered the world of art. Leo Castelli's first gallery, in partnership with an architect friend, combined modern furniture and decoration with Surrealist and neo-Romantic paintings.
The gallery had hardly opened when World War II began, and the Castellis left Paris for New York. They arrived in 1941, and Leo soon joined the United States Army, which trained him as an intelligence operative. He served in France and after that country was liberated, was sent to Bucharest as an interpreter for the Allies. Because of his military service, Castelli was granted American citizenship.
After the war, Leo Castelli returned to the New York art world. He befriended many American and European artists, but he never wanted to work with artists who were already known. Therefore, he did not open a gallery in New York until he could embrace new work, work that made Castelli feel what he called "pure enthusiasm."
Leo Castelli saw Robert Rauschenberg's work for the first time in 1954. Shortly thereafter, while visiting Rauschenberg's studio, he was taken to call on Jasper Johns, who lived in the same building. Castelli's gallery, the first to exhibit Rauschenberg and Johns, soon added Frank Stella, Cy Twombly, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and James Rosenquist. Each in turn was discovered and celebrated by an art world hungry for recognizable imagery and anxious for a new aesthetic to embrace after a decade of Abstract Expressionism.
Leo Castelli's gallery continued to pave the way for contemporary art by exhibiting more new artists, including Ellsworth Kelly, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra and Joseph Kosuth.
As a dealer, Leo Castelli broke ground by putting the artists he championed on a stipend, paying them on a regular basis. As an art patron, he made many important gifts to museums and public collections. Among these is one of the icons of postwar American Art, Robert Rauschenberg's 1955 Bed to the Museum of Modern Art in 1988. At the time, this work, which Castelli had bought in 1958 for a little over one thousand dollars, was valued at about $10 million, and tax deductions for gifts of art to museums were very limited.
Leo Castelli moved his gallery from uptown to Soho in 1971, initiating a major art business migration. He rarely proposed selling a painting to a collector. Interviewed in 1994 by Suzi Gablik, he said, "I just give my shows and try to make everybody aware that they are there, through publications and so on. But then if people don't come, well, it's too bad. I can't really be on the phone all the time to find clients. Sometimes I feel very frustrated about it, but it's not in my nature to be someone who runs after people." Neither a gifted salesman nor a trained art historian, Leo Castelli was nevertheless a great art dealer. He had an unmatched instinct for the new and important in art, and total confidence in his own ability to spot it. This made it possible for him to exhibit his artists with complete conviction. "I am in the category, myself, of having always dealt with art because of its groundbreaking importance. As far as the selling of that art is concerned, the devil can take the hindmost."