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

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Kim Dixon and Sarah Haug
Scope and Contents
The Leo Castelli Gallery records measure 215.9 linear feet and 0.001 GB 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. Few items are in digital format. 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, some of it in digital format, 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, and disassembled photo albums. The photographs primarily depict social and art events and functions; family and friends of Leo Castelli; and portraits of Leo Castelli and artists and of Leo Castelli with artists, including Richard Artschwager, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Salvatore Scarpitta, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol. Photographs of exhibitions and exhibition installations are filed with the exhibition files.
Sound and video recordings include sound and video art, performances, interviews with artists and Leo Castelli, recordings from and of exhibitions, and television publicity recorded on sound cassettes, phonograph records (vinyl and lacquer), videocassettes (U-matic, VHS, Betamax), and videocartridges. Artists represented include Vito Acconci, Robert Barry, Barbara Bloom, Hannah Collins, Hanne Darboven, Dan Flavin, Laura Grisi, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, Salvatore Scarpitta, Doug and Mike Starn, and Lawrence Weiner, among others.
Leo Castelli loaned printed material for microfilming in 1968. Leo Castelli's wife, Barbara Bortuzzo Castelli, and his children, Nina Castelli Sundell and Jean-Christophe Castelli, donated the Leo Castelli Gallery records to the Archives of American Art in 2007.
Separated Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds items lent for microfilming (reel N68) including printed material. Lent material was returned to the lender and is not described in the collection container inventory.
Related Material
Available in the Archives of America Art are three oral history interviews with Leo Castelli. Paul Cummings interviewed Castelli between May 14, 1969 and June 8, 1973; Barbara Rose in July, 1969; and Andrew Decker on May 22, 1997.
Funding for the partial digitization of this collection was provided by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
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. Born-digital material was processed by Kirsi Ritosalmi-Kisner in 2020 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collection Care and Preservation Fund.