SONNABEND | PARIS - NEW YORK, MUSEU VIEIRA DA SILVA
A selection of fifty works, from painting to sculpture and drawing, all part of the highly regarded Sonnabend collection, are going to be exhibited in Museu Arpad Szenes - Vieira da Silva until the third of May, 2015. This show, composed by works from the pop and minimal movements and by distinguished artists like Roy Liechtenstein, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, George Segal and Andy Warhol, have all been shown in the Parisian Sonnabend gallery, in a timeframe from 1962 to 1967. And yes, we’ve all strolled along the Warhol's in this love for the art, but seeing Ileana’s portrait in a collection that belonged to her, in a Lisbon exhibition that portuguese António Homem conceived from such rich and historic pieces is more than any other show. It makes perfect sense.
THE ART LEGACY
After all, when he started working at the Ileana Sonnabend gallery in Paris, little did António Homem know about the role he would eventually have in the prestigious, and undoubtedly famous, collection. Like Leo Castelli, who only started working exclusively on art when he opened his first gallery – by then we was 50 years old – Antonio Homem was still studying in Zurich when the invitation came from Ileana Sonnabend for him to start working with the iconic family.
After that came a summer in Venice and Antonio Homem would never depart from the Sonnabends again.
When Michael and Ileana Sonnabend passed away, he was one of the main beneficiaries of the lifelong collection that his friends – or family – had managed to achieve. Due to tax fees – the Sonnabend only became a foundation after their passing – a large chunk of the legacy had to be sold. Twenty pieces were sold for fifty percent of the total value. They lost some bangers, but managed to keep the charm and essence of the legacy.
The rest is history, but it is history that we can now see live, commissioned and curated by Mr. Homem himself.
FROM NEW YORK TO PARIS TO LISBON
When António Homem presented the collection last Tuesday, he was the first to tell us how much the show meant to him, to his portuguese past and to his north-american present.
The Sonnabends came from the United States to Paris so they could work as art agents, but ultimately decided to open the Paris gallery in 1962. The clear focus was to bring works from emerging and confirmed American talent to the European art world. The show on Vieira da Silva is focused on this period.
He met them in a gallery that is utmost popular now, Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich. At the time he knew Ileana by name, from her parisienne gallery, but didn’t recognize Roy Liechtenstein sitting alongside her at dinner. She introduced him in several conversations. This relationship would be based in a big sensibility towards culture and communication. In a less formal way to say it, they got along superbly.
His big part in the Sonnabend world would come in 1971, after Michael returned to New York to open a new gallery due to Ileana’s prominent role in Paris. With a bigger curating role, he was involved in the choice of Gilbert & George for the grand opening of the Soho location.
It had limited success, but the opposite focus from the Paris gallery opened doors to the Arte Povera that was trending in Europe and to several Californian artists that were unknown in New York.
They made the dramatic option of investing in what they liked and believed. That was the main force behind the iconic exhibitions. For example, Jeff Koons was a choice for Ileana and António Homen due to the intrinsic mix of pop elements and conceptual thinking. They did what they liked and believed in.
António believes, like Michael did, that art is the continuous repetition of the new in itself. And that’s not just art, that’s life and that’s lovely. Now he returns to Portugal, where a new and excited crowd awaits to see what the legacy is made of.
Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, Mario Schifano, Roy Lichtenstein, George Segal, Andy Warhol, Michelangelo Pistoletto, John Chamberlain, James Rosenquist, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Watts, Tom Wesselmann, Arman, Larry Bell - Sonnabend | Paris - New York
Museu Vieira da Silva, February 5 - May 3