From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Pioneering gallery owner Leo Castelli (1907–1999) arrived in New York City in 1941 and opened a gallery 15 years later, at the age of 50. He reigned over New York's art world, with the Castelli Gallery the leading center of new American art and a lively meeting place for artists and critics including Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and James Rosenquist. In this first major biography, Cohen-Solal (Sartre: A Life
) deftly integrates European cultural history (beginning with Castelli's Jewish merchant ancestors) with Castelli's intellectual, personal, and professional evolution. Cohen-Solal writes with energy, wit, and aplomb, and though she was a friend of Castelli's, she maintains a balanced critical distance, pointing to his initial misjudgment of Andy Warhol's genius, his perpetually complicated love life (with numerous mistresses and multiple marriages), his often frustratingly high standards and constant need for reassurance. Yet Castelli emerges as a rare individual: a magnanimous lover of art. Cohen-Solal's biography fleshes out not only a fascinating portrait of Castelli but also the excitement of the developing American art world to which he was so central. 111 illus.; 4 maps. (May 19)
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*Starred Review* When New York City became the capital of the global art world, gallery owner Leo Castelli was king. Cosmopolitan and ardent, he was a “master tastemaker” and an “impresario-cum-dervish” who resoundingly elevated contemporary American art and transformed the international art market. But who was he before he opened his first gallery at age 50? What “made him tick”? Cohen-Solal, author of a major Sartre biography, is the first to track down Castelli’s fascinating and heartbreaking Jewish family history, with its long line of consummate merchants and deep roots in Hungarian shtetl life and Viennese culture. Castelli grew up in Trieste and would have perished in the Holocaust if his commanding father-in-law hadn’t engineered an escape to New York. There Castelli’s wealthy wife (later the famed gallery owner Ileana Sonnabend) supported his innovative approach to working with artists. Cohen-Solal writes with passionate intensity and poetic precision about the people and places, tragedies and good fortune that shaped Castelli and fed his hunger for life and devotion to cutting-edge art. She also establishes a remarkably vivid cultural context for the artists, beginning with Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Castelli zealously and shrewdly championed. Cohen-Solal has created an invaluable, magnificently encompassing, and compelling biography of extraordinary scope, energy, and feeling. --Donna Seaman