Leo Castelli Gallery Records

By the Archives
January 6, 2011

Now Open to Researchers

Lee Bontecou show at the Castelli Gallery
Installation view of Lee Bontecou show at the Castelli Gallery, 1960, Rudy Burckhardt, photographer, Leo Castelli Gallery records, circa 1880-2000, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The Archives of American Art is ringing in 2011 by making available to researchers the Leo Castelli Gallery records. Measuring over 200 linear feet, the collection provides a glimpse into the evolving New York gallery scene and the works of some of the most prominent artists in modern American art throughout the last half of the twentieth century.

The Leo Castelli Gallery opened in 1957 and quickly made its mark as the place to see works by new artists. The Gallery was at the forefront of Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptualism, and represented many artists of those movements, including Dan Flavin, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Lawrence Weiner to name a few.

Covering nearly fourty years of the Leo Castelli Gallery’s operation, the records include correspondence, administrative files, exhibition files, extensive artists’ files and printed materials, some artwork, awards and recognitions, photographs, and sound and video recordings. The collection also includes records from Castelli’s other business ventures, namely Castelli Graphics and Castelli/Sonnabend Tapes + Films.

Leo Castelli's notebook
Notebook of Leo Castelli, 1979-1980, Leo Castelli Gallery records, circa 1880-2000, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Letter to Leo Castelli from Ileana Sonnabend
Ileana Sonnabend letter to Leo Castelli, 1963 June 6, Leo Castelli Gallery records, circa 1880-2000, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The extensive collection contains many treasures that will keep researchers busy for years to come. As one of the processing archivists, highlights I enjoyed spending additional time with include:

  • Leo Castelli’s notebooks from 1974–1988 are filled with Castelli’s daily to-dos, contacts, phone numbers, and other notes written in his easily-identifiable handwriting using sharp capital letters angled to the right. Patience will be necessary in deciphering his notes and determining the dates of each entry, but I have a sense that researchers may find these notebooks fascinating.
  • A handful of letters from Leo Castelli’s first wife and business partner, Ileana Sonnabend, from the 1960s: These letters show the close working relationship that the two maintained and their interests in the artists they represented. It’s a small glimpse into their honest opinions and concerns, seldom seen elsewhere in the collection.
  • The Gallery understood the importance of documentation and maintained photographs of all exhibition installations, as well as many exhibitions of the artists they represented that were held elsewhere. The collection contains photographs from over 650 installations at the Leo Castelli Gallery from 1957–1999.
  • A browse through the exhibition guest books from 1957–1966 provide a who’s who of the art world during the first decade of the Leo Castelli Gallery. Although few people tended to write comments about the exhibitions, the comments elicited by Robert Rauschenberg’s first exhibition in 1958 make me smile: “strange!,” “crazy, man!,” “lovely – or shocking...,” “I can't explain it!,” and humorously, “almost as good as J.J.”

The Archives of American Art also has three oral history interviews with Leo Castelli, the transcripts of which are available online. In addition, oral history interviews with many of the artists represented in this collection are also available at the Archives of American Art.

Explore more:

Sarah Haug is a contract processing archivist at the Archives of American Art.


Good blog Sarah! =] I'll bet it feels good that Castelli's finally all finished. I miss you!

It's interesting to see the content of Leo Castelli's notebook.
I guess I'm a nosy person ;)

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Hello, Good blog to read about The Leo Castelli Gallery, Thank you so much for the priceless information

Thank you so much for the information. Keep posting, i'll follow.

Thanks for the read Sarah, the pictures i liked a lot.

Reminds me of art in 3D. A very unique style.

Interesting information. Great blog.

Very interesting, great information.

Thanks Sarah, I found the exhibition guest book to be the most fascinating part, did you dig up any more interesting stuff?

I enjoy most forms of art. But I haven't gotten into this so called "Modern American Art". I see it in large scale sizes in state parks, government buildings, etc.

Bravo! Great article. The power of blogging is really changing the landscape of the world!

Those who saw the collection of Casteeli's business ventures are fortune enough. The notebooks and the letters exchanged with the business partner will provide a treasure of information in successfully conducting a field one belongs to.

Thanks Sarah good

In October 2007 Castelli's heirs announced the donation of the gallery's archives from 1957 through 1999 to the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art, just to add something to this article.

Hello Sarah, excellent Blog. Thank you!!!

Thanks for the nice little read Sarah!

Restore the art of blog.
very cool idea.

those works in first picyure are amazing!

great post i agree with him that man should never lose his hope there are many opportiunities knocking at your door but the thing is to realiza at right time.

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I loved the article! I'm always interested in art and culture and this blog has it all, thank you for pasting this!

I follow you constantly. This kind of hope that you continue to the shares. good luck.

The notebooks are ancient. I pretty much frequent exhibitions and this is really interesting.

Outstanding blog, can't wait to see the rest of your posts here. Thanks.

It's interesting to see the content of Leo Castelli's notebook.
I guess I'm a nosy person. Bravo! Great article. The power of blogging is really changing the landscape of the world!

This is really interesting. I hope more will be restored and uncovered.

nice post sarah. love the original notebook photos - thanks

Thanks awsem
Thanks very interesting

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Fantastic blog post.. I never thought that you could show us the real notebook of Castelli's..Anyway where did you get that? One thing is i definitely love that first picture that you showed to your blog. That looks so amazing...

Thanks for your article. Good job !

The Leo Castelli Gallery continues to operate at 18 East 77th Street in New York under the direction of his last wife showing many of the same artists from the gallery's past.

I love your blog, so I've gone back. Pretty way back with this post, but you do have it in the menu so it sticks out :) Reading this and thinking how has web development changed over the years. All the stuff in this post still holds true, albeit that you posted this in 2005. You need to understand and want a web site for a reason. Some people just think they need it when they really may not.

Really looks like a nice gallery to store and place records, I think I like it, just on my point of view.

Excellent blog post. Where else could I find article written in such inciteful ways. I definitely love every bit fof it especially the points that you expresssed. And I would love to come back in a regular basis so I'm hoping to come back in a regular basis...

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this article was thorough and very informative I really enjoyed it thanks for sharing I have always loved to learn about art and culture...

Thanks for the information, very cool idea, I will follow up.

the gallery records have to always be perform for the audience...maybe the can give some appreciate for Leo

Great post Sarah thanks again

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Love this article - great info, excellent pics. Thanks for sharing.

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