Viewing page 5 of 38

Eng. Arts Image
Holiday June 1965 (Scrapbook momento [[memento)!)

The Antic Arts

Leo Castelli: The Artful Entrepreneur
by Marvin Elkoff  


He has become a success not by following the mercurial trends of modern art, but by helping to start them

Last year, for the first time in history of the sixty-four-year-old art festival known as the Venice Biennale, an American won its major award, the International Painting Prize.  Whistler had won a special prize in 1895, Mark Tobey and Alexander Calder had won secondary prizes more recently.  But Robert Rauschenberg's victory, the big prize had evaded even such famous Americans as Willem de Kooning and the late Franz Kline.

It was considered a great, if belated, success for American culture; a great personal success for Rauschenberg; and a somehow notorious success for his American dealer, Leo Castelli.  Castelli was seen in Europe and America as a manipulator of spectacular proportions.  His cleverness, power and money had allegedly inflicted Rauschenberg's victory on the world - especially on France, the deposed ruler of the art world.

The prize was awarded on June 17, 1964.  Early last July, at East Hampton, New York, where Leo Castelli had long had a house and many friends, I was to hear my first rumors about that year's Biennale.  There were even absurd tales of Castelli and his ex-wife (Ileana Sonnabend, whose gallery in Paris handles Rauschenberg) trying to influence jurors.  There was talk of Rauschenberg paintings being sneaked by gondola under cover of darkness through the canals.  Actually, photographs show that this took place by daylight.  And the reason was a matter of bureaucratic form: because of the smallness of America's Biennale pavilion, the paintings were exhibited at the spacious and then empty U.S. Consulate; but the judges, after they decided for Rauschenberg, felt that tradition and possible future criticism made it necessary that at least four of his paintings appear at the pavilion itself.  Only one painting had been there previously; just before the announcement of the award, three more paintings were hurried from the Consulate by gondola.

Rumor portrayed the American Biennale commissioner Dr. Alan R. Solomon, who arranged the American exhibit, as a man helplessly dominated by the "international syndicate" headed by Castelli and Sonnabend.  Solomon, a close friend of Castelli's had chosen four

[[image - photograph]]
A selection of his stable's front-runners-Lichtenstein, Bontecou, Rosenquist, Stella and (above them) Johns - back up Castelli, his wife and son.

Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact