Cà Pesaro in Venice presents a selection of artwork from Ileana Sonnabend Collection. A legendary  figure in the art history of the 20th century, the first wife  of  The art dealer Leo Castelli. Ileana and Leo Castelli became the most powerful art dealers in the 1960’s and 70’s. When Castelli proposed to her he gave her a painting of Matisse instead of an engagement diamond ring. They traveled from Paris to NYC escaping WW2 followed by a surrealist  artist clique. Through Peggy Guggenheim, they met Marcel Duchamp and Jackson Pollock; in 1950, the couple curated a show of young American and European painters which included both Jean Dubuffet and Mark Rothko.

In 1957, the Castellis opened their first Manhattan gallery in their drawing room at East 77th Street, showing the work of artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. They worked and discovered  the likes of Jasper Jhones, Rotchko, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Franz Kline, and Ad Reinhardt. They Basically gravitated among all the central figures of the art world of the last century. The couple divorced,  she opened a gallery of her own in Paris spreading Pop Art throughout Europe. She took Warhol to Europe in a ground-breaking exhibition called “Pop Art Américaine” at her Paris gallery in January 1964.

Just over a year before Warhol had had his first solo show in New York; while Sonnabend alerted the French of his existence, he was busy opening his first Factory at 231 East 47th Street. She bravely Paired him with more established artists such as James Rosenquist and Lee Bontecou.

She then moved  her headquartes back to NYC, where she became queen of the SoHo art world.

Ileana Sonnabend Gallery introduced new figures like Jeff Koons and  european artist  Gilbert & George, Jannis Kounellis, Christo, Baselitz, Vito Acconci.

At the Sonnabend Gallery Vito Acconci performed the notorious piece Seedbed where the artist masturbated in her gallery for two weeks. (1972)

in 1991 she exhibited Made in Heaven by Jeff Koons, most likely one of his most celebrated exhibitions. It consisted of a series of paintings and sculptures that show the artist having sex with  his wife Ilona Staller .

Ileana Sonnabend loved Venice and Venice pays homage to her with this exhibition, The Sonnabend Collection. That is a sort of self-portrait, an autobiography of Ileana, and her ideosincrasyes.

Here part of her collection displaying works by Jasper Johns’ Figure 8 of 1959, and Interior (Combine painting) of 1956, Payload (1962) and Kite (1963) by Robert Rauschenberg, whom Ileana, together with Leo Castelli and Alan Solomon, helped to bring to the Biennale di Venezia in 1964, where he won the Grand Prix for Painting.

Alongside these masters, there will also be the great exponents of the various forms of Pop Art, which Ileana Sonnabend helped discover: Jim Dine will be on show with two fine works, together with Claes Oldenburg and his amusing Roast Beef of 1961, as will be the current associated with the media culture, with Roy Lichtenstein, whose Little Aloha(1962) will also be on display. And there will be James Rosenquist with Balcony of 1961, Tom Wesselman with Still life #45 and Seascape #14 and, above all, Andy Warhol, with an incredible group of eight works, including Nine Jackies (1964), Triple Rauschenberg and Campbell’s Soup Can (Turkey Noodle), both of 1962. It ends with minimalist masters like Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris

During the same time at the Moma in NYC, the show Ileana Sonnabend, Ambassador of the New is on display.

check here , to view another part of her collection, including the most famous painting she owned — Mr. Rauschenberg’s 1959  Canyonand read more about her collection.

by Fiammetta De Michele


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