Leo and His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli

by: Annie Cohen-Solal (0)

Leo Castelli reigned for decades as America’s most influential art dealer. Now Annie Cohen-Solal, author of the hugely acclaimed Sartre: A Life (“an intimate portrait of the man that possesses all the detail and resonance of fiction”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times), recounts his incalculably influential and astonishing life in Leo and His Circle.

After emigrating to New York in 1941, Castelli would not open a gallery for sixteen years, when he had reached the age of fifty. But as the first to exhibit the then-unknown Jasper Johns, Castelli emerged as a tastemaker overnight and fast came to champion a virtual Who’s Who of twentieth-century masters: Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Twombly, to name a few. The secret of Leo’s success? Personal devotion to the artists, his “heroes”: by putting young talents on stipend and seeking placement in the ideal collection rather than with the top bidder, he transformed the way business was done, multiplying the capital, both cultural and financial, of those he represented. His enterprise, which by 1980 had expanded to an impressive network of satellite galleries in Europe and three locations in New York, thus became the unrivaled commercial institution in American art, producing a generation of acolytes, among them Mary Boone, Jeffrey Deitch, Larry Gagosian, and Tony Shafrazi.

Leo and His Circle
brilliantly narrates the course of one man’s power and influence. But Castelli had another secret, too: his life as an Italian Jew. Annie Cohen-Solal traces a family whose fortunes rose and fell for centuries before the Castellis fled European fascism. Never hidden but also never discussed, this experience would form the core of a guarded but magnetic character possessed of unfailing old-world charm and a refusal to look backward—traits that ensured Castelli’s visionary precedence in every major new movement from Pop to Conceptual and by which he fostered the worldwide enthusiasm for American contemporary art that is his greatest legacy.

Drawing on her friendship with the subject, as well as an uncanny knack for archival excavation, Annie Cohen-Solal gives us in full the elegant, shrewd, irresistible, and enigmatic figure at the very center of postwar American art, bringing an utterly new understanding of its evolution.

The Reviews

Whatever may be the faults any particular reader may find with this book, it is almost certainly the best biography that will be written on the Life and Work of one of the most significant figures in the achievement of world dominance for New York City and American Art in the second half of the Twentieth Century. Not only did the author have the full and close cooperation of the subject for an extended period but, of equal importance, the full cooperation of his family, in the United States and Europe. No doubt this work will take its rightful place as a standard biography of its subject, particularly with regard to his 'prehistory" in Europe and the United States, that is, of the fifty years of his life in which he had no official role in the art world.Is there justification for the emphasis on the subject's early roots? Depends on the questions which you, the individual reader, pose to the author. If your set of questions includes, how did a person come onto the scene as art dealer who had the personality and skills of Leo Castelli, then her approach is justified. Only with some understanding of the distinctive experiences imposed on the Jewish community, Jewish banking and commercial leaders, and this particular Jewish boy and man, can one get some clues as to how this novice of 50, with almost no Capital in his own name, could nurture and achieve recognition for a group of artists who, in previous periods, would have been only peripheral to art history.It is my acceptance of this premise that underlies my judgment that this is an essential book for any amateur or professional art historian interested in twentieth century Art. A coincidence of various interests of mine made the approach particularly apt; however, some may find the earlier years over-stressed. They may want only Leo Castelli, owner of a NYC gallery. For them, the earlier years may seem to be over-emphasized. So be it.Still, there is no other source for the NYC Leo Castelli, so this book is essential for them, too.How about the reader who has no particularly interest in the art world but is rather a devotee of biography itself (as many are). I am less certain in my advice for them. On the whole, however, I should think most of its elements will be of general interest. As I say, I can only be tentative in such advice.

An informative book on the post-World War II emergence of New York City as the center of the art world. It will also be appreciated by those wishing to better understand the stressful experiences, prior to World War II, of certain Jewish families in the Old World's Monte San Savino, Trieste, and Bucharest---business families that produced Leo Castelli, the naturalized American, and his first wife and life-long friend, Ileana.As Annie Cohnen-Solal relates, the ever polite, urbane Mr. Castelli, during the last half of the twentieth century, was a vital bridge between Europe and American cultures, who possessed a wonderous eye for discovering the "new" in art.I personally found the rich family history at the start of this biography more rewarding than the often hagiological text at its end.People who are interested in Leo Castelli and the challenging art that he promoted, I would think might also enjoy reading James Rosenquist's "Painting Below Zero" (2009) and Giuseppe Panza's "Memories of a Collector" (2007).

This was an enormous history of 20th century art seen through the life of one of the most important people and his unique circle responsible for the recognition of the art and the connections that made it all happen transporting the world to American art and the art he rest of the world. The life of Leo Castelli and his work reads like one of the great mysteries of the world revealing a little known path of this art in large part due to .his eye and genius.

As promised and on time.

Interesting, gossip-y, behind-the-scenes look at the workings of one of the most famous art dealers. As with any business, personal relationships are all, and if you have the charm and connections, the doors fly open.

Great deal

Book jacket so dirty as to inhibit reading the book though the pages are in good condition

Same thing: she is a great art writer.

Leo and His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli
⭐ 4.1 💛 21
kindle: $24.99
hardcover: $10.58
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