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Leo Castelli Gallery records, circa 1880-2000, bulk 1957-1999

Leo Castelli Gallery records, circa 1880-2000, bulk 1957-1999

Leo Castelli Gallery

Representative image for Leo Castelli Gallery records, circa 1880-2000, bulk 1957-1999

This site provides access to the records of the Leo Castelli Gallery in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2015. The bulk of the Exhibition Files and the Photographs Series (Series 3 and 10) have been scanned and total 23,409 images.

Collection Information

Size: 217.7 linear feet

7 rolled docs

3 artifacts

Summary: The Leo Castelli Gallery records measure 217.7 linear feet and date from circa 1880-2000, with the bulk of the materials dating from the gallery's founding in 1957 through Leo Castelli's death in 1999. The major influence of dealer Leo Castelli and his gallery on the development of mid-to-late twentieth century modern art in America is well-documented through business and scattered personal correspondence, administrative files, exhibition files, extensive artists' files and printed materials, posters, awards and recognitions, photographs, and audio and video recordings. Also included are records for the subsidiary firms of Castelli Graphics and Castelli/Sonnabend Tapes and Films.

The records document the gallery's daily business operations, exhibitions, spaces/buildings, collaborations and joint ventures with other galleries and museums, and its relationship with many artists, dealers, and clients. Artists particularly well-represented throughout the collection include Hanne Darboven, Dan Flavin, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, and Lawrence Weiner.

Records pre-dating the gallery's establishment in 1957 are primarily newspaper and magazine clippings related to artists, personal photographs and photographs of works of art, and scattered personal business records of Leo Castelli.

General Correspondence is extensive at circa 25 linear feet and consists primarily of the gallery's and Leo Castelli's named and subject correspondence files concerning the gallery's daily operations, exhibitions, artwork installation and fabrication, appraisals, inquiries, loans, sales, consignments, personal and business relationships with artists, and other topics. The general correspondence is arranged either by name of correspondent or topic, and is with museums and galleries, collectors, business associates, artists, employees, and friends. Notes, scattered photographs and slides, and printed materials are often found as enclosures. Leo Castelli's personal correspondence is also found here and consists primarily of solicitations, requests for advice, notes of thanks, congratulations, and invitations.

Letters written by artists in the gallery's stable are somewhat limited. There are scattered letters from artists Christo, Chryssa, Nassos Daphnis, Hanne Darboven, Marisol, Dan Flavin, Jasper Johns, Frederick Kiesler, Robert Morris, Hans Namuth, Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik, Ray Parker, James Rosenquist, Edward Ruscha, Salvatore Scarpitta, Frank Stella, Cy Twombly, and Jack Tworkov. There are also letters about artists in this series filed under the artists' name.

Collectors and dealers represented within the correspondence include the De Menil family, Mrs. Henry Epstein, Ben Heller, Giuseppe Panza, Alan Power, John and Kimiko Powers, Robert and Carolyn Rowan, Robert and Ethel Scull, and Burton and Emily Tremaine. Museums and galleries for which there is considerable correspondence includes the Dwan Gallery, Ferus Gallery, the Jewish Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Sidney Janis Gallery, Stedelijk Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Ileana Sonnabend Galerie.

The materials arranged in General Correspondence were originally marked by the gallery as "correspondence" files upon accessioning, and, are thus arranged into their own series. However, in some cases, there appears to be little difference between the General Correspondence and the Administrative Files. Thus, researchers are encouraged to reference both series.

Administrative Files document a wide variety of the gallery's activities and business. Essentially, these are files that were arranged by the gallery according to subject or topic and cover almost all activities except specific exhibitions. These files include records and correspondence about buildings and space, advertising, appraisals, auctions, consignments, loans, miscellaneous business correspondence, index cards, business arrangements with artists, information about artists, interviews with artists (transcripts), history of the gallery, mailings, photograph requests, shipping, and other topics. There are staff notebooks and files and Leo Castelli's notebooks and notes from the late 1950s through the early 1990s. Extensive outgoing chronological correspondence filed in this series dates from 1964-1977. Also found are transcripts of interviews with Leo Castelli, biographical material, and scattered photographs.

Researchers should note that the Administrative Files often overlap and complement the General Correspondence. However, they focus slightly more distinctly on gallery business activities and are arranged mostly by subject or topic, except for the chronological business correspondence. Researchers are encouraged to reference both series. For example, correspondence with and about Jasper Johns may be found in both series, but the administrative files most likely focus on a specific loan, consignment, or business activity or transaction.

Exhibition files provide a thorough history of the gallery's exhibitions, as well as the fabrication and installation of artwork for exhibitions. These files include correspondence, exhibition catalogs, guest books, lists of exhibitions by artist and by year, press releases, sketches and notes, and scattered financial records. Photographs document over 650 exhibitions at Leo Castelli Gallery, including The Ninth Street Show organized by Castelli in 1951, and over 200 exhibitions at other galleries.

Extensive artists' files comprise approximately 40% of the records and are a rich resource of printed and compiled information about the careers of over 120 artists and their relationship with Leo Castelli and the gallery. There are exhibition announcements and catalogs, flyers, invitations, magazine articles and clippings, newspaper clippings, posters, press releases, photographs, and a handful of books. Nearly half of the series is comprised of black and white photographs of artwork, presumably handled by the Leo Castelli Gallery.

Additional printed materials include exhibition announcements, flyers, invitations, magazine articles and clippings, newspaper clippings, press releases, and exhibition posters. Exhibition catalogs are filed with the exhibitions files. The general archives files provide a chronological history of the gallery and its exhibitions. There are also files concerning Leo Castelli and numerous art-related topics. Exhibition posters are found here as well.

Artwork is limited and includes a few works of art and signed posters. Artists represented here include photographer Gianfranco Gorgoni, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra and Andy Warhol, as well as others.

The records of the subsidiary Castelli Graphics New York consist of correspondence and administrative files relating to general operations and the sale and loan of prints. Also found are exhibition files, sales records, and scattered financial records. The series provides a wealth of information about Castelli Graphics collaborations with Multiples Inc. in the 1970s.

Also found in the collection are records of Castelli/Sonnabend Tapes and Films, a joint business venture between Leo Castelli Gallery and Sonnabend Gallery from 1974-1985. Records include correspondence, administrative files, exhibition files, artists' files, printed materials, sales and rental records, photographs, and financial records.

The importance and stature of Leo Castelli and the Leo Castelli Gallery to the arts community in New York City and beyond is documented by numerous awards and recognitions, such as framed and unframed certificates, plaques, statues, medals, and scattered photographs.

Nearly seven linear feet of photographs include professional black and white original prints, scattered color photographs, color transparencies, slides and negatives, a

Biographical/Historical Note

Leo Castelli Gallery (established 1957) art gallery, New York, N.Y. Leo Castelli (1907-1999), founder of Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, N.Y. He established the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1957, recognizing that important cultural changes were occurring in America and that a new form of art would derive from Abstract Expressionism which was in its heyday. The first two artists he signed up were Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, both transitional figures in the move from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. Castelli became known as one of the greatest salesmen in the art market and an avid supporter of contemporary art movements.


The Leo Castelli Gallery records were donated to the Archives of American Art by Leo Castelli's wife, Barbara Bertozzi Castelli, and his children, Nina Castelli Sundell and Jean-Christophe Castelli in 2007.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Leo Castelli Gallery Records,
circa 1880-2000
bulk 1957-1999
, in the Archives of American Art
Historical Note
Leo Castelli (1907-1999) was one of America's most noted contemporary art dealers and opened the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City in 1957. The gallery showcased cutting edge American contemporary art, including Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Neo-Dada, Pop Art, Op Art, Color Field painting, Hard-edge painting, Lyrical Abstraction, Minimal Art, Conceptual Art, and Neo-expressionism, among other movements.
Leo Castelli was born as Leo Krauss on September 4, 1907 in Trieste, of Italian and Austro-Hungarian Jewish origin. He married art dealer Ileana Sonnabend in 1932 and the couple lived in Paris up until World War II. They had a daughter, Nina Castelli Sundell. In Paris, Castelli opened his first gallery in 1939. At that time, he was interested in the European Surrealists.
For years after Castelli moved to New York, he worked in his father-in-law's garment business. However, he organized his first American exhibition in 1951, the famous Ninth Street Show of 1951, a seminal event of Abstract Expressionism.
In 1957, he opened the Leo Castelli Gallery in his townhome on E. 77th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues in New York City. Castelli initially featured European Surrealism, but also curated exhibitions of American Abstract painters, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly, Friedel Dzubas, and Norman Bluhm.
In 1958, Castelli discovered Pop artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and forged a life-long nurturing relationship with both artists. The gallery then began focusing more on Pop Art, Minimalism and Conceptual Art. Beginning in the early 1960s, Castelli's stable included Richard Artschwager, Lee Bontecou, Chryssa, John Chamberlain, Ronald Davis, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Kosuth, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Larry Poons, James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, Salvatore Scarpitta, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, and Lawrence Weiner.
Leo and Ileana divorced in 1959, and Ileana returned to Europe. She later moved back to New York and opened a gallery close to Castelli's. The two remained close and together they established the joint venture of Castelli-Sonnabend Films and Tapes to accommodate artists interested in new media.
In the 1970s Leo Castelli opened a downtown SoHo branch of the Leo Castelli Gallery at 420 West Broadway. In the 1980s he opened a second larger downtown exhibition space on Greene Street also in SoHo.
Leo Castelli's second wife was Antoinette Castelli, with whom he also opened Castelli Graphics, an art gallery devoted to prints and photographs, mostly those by Castelli artists. The couple also had a son together, Jean-Christophe Castelli. In 1995 Leo Castelli married Italian art historian Barbara Bertozzi Castelli. She directs the Leo Castelli Gallery today, showing many of the same artists of the gallery's past.
Leo Castelli's unparalleled eye for quality, combined with his extraordinary skill for nurturing and promoting new art and artists, secured his position as one of the most respected and influential advocates of contemporary art for nearly five decades.
The collection is arranged as 11 series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1948-1999, bulk 1957-1997 (24.4 linear feet; Boxes 1-23, 191, OVs 233-236)
Series 2: Administrative Files, 1941-1999, bulk 1970s-1990s (17.3 linear feet; Boxes 24-39, 192-193, OVs 237-238)
Series 3: Exhibition Files, 1951-1999, bulk 1957-1998 (18.7 linear feet; Boxes 40-56, 192, 194-196, 308-309, OVs 239-241, 280)
Series 4: Artists Files, 1913-1999, bulk 1960s-1990s (80.8 linear feet; Boxes 57-133, 197-208, OVs 242-243)
Series 5: Printed Materials, 1949-1998 (23.5 linear feet; Boxes 134-153, 209-211, OVs 244-274, 276, 300, RDs 301-306)
Series 6: Artwork, circa 1960s-1990s (1.8 linear feet; Boxes 153, 212-213, OVs 275, 277-278, RD 307)
Series 7: Castelli Graphics, circa 1950-1999, bulk mid 1970s-early 1990s (16 linear feet; Boxes 154-169)
Series 8: Castelli/Sonnabend Tapes + Films, 1969-1998 (5.6 linear feet; Boxes 170-174, 214, OVs 279-281)
Series 9: Awards and Recognition, 1962-1998 (6.9 linear feet; Boxes 175-176, 215-228, OVs 282)
Series 10: Photographs, circa 1880-1997, bulk 1960s-1990s (6.6 linear feet; Boxes 177-180, 229-231, OVs 283-299)
Series 11: Sound and Video Recordings, 1959-2000 (9.7 linear feet; Boxes 181-190, 232)
The Leo Castelli Gallery records were donated to the Archives of American Art by Leo Castelli's wife, Barbara Bertozzi Castelli, and his children, Nina Castelli Sundell and Jean-Christophe Castelli in 2007.
Processing Information
In 1968 small portions of the records were loaned for microfilming in increments. These loans were later included as part of the 2007 gift of the gallery archive. Between 2008-2010, the records were arranged and described to an intermediate level by Kim Dixon and Sarah Haug. The digitized portions of the Exhibition Files and Photographs Series were re-processed by Judy Ng in 2015, with funding provided by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original records requires an appointment.

How to Cite This Collection

Leo Castelli Gallery records, circa 1880-2000, bulk 1957-1999. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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