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The National Museum of Art of Romania
ILEANA SONNABEND & ARTE POVERA curator: Ilaria Bernardi 26 June - 22 September 2024

ILEANA SONNABEND & ARTE POVERA curator: Ilaria Bernardi 26 June - 22 September 2024

From 26 June 2024 10:00 until 22 September 2024 10:00
Categories: Events
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The exhibition is made in collaboration with Antonio Homem of the Sonnabend Collection Foundation

The exhibition ILEANA SONNABEND AND ARTE POVERA, organized by the National Museum of Art of Romania (MNAR), in collaboration with the Italian Embassy in Romania, the Italian Institute of Culture in Bucharest and Antonio Homem of the Sonnabend Collection Foundation, is a tribute to the life and work of the Romanian gallerist Ileana Sonnabend.

Ileana Sonnabend was born on 25 October 1914 in Bucharest into one of the wealthiest families of the city's Jewish bourgeoisie, the Schapira family, and died on 21 October 2007.

Having a penchant for art and culture from an early age, she met Leo Castelli in Bucharest, one of the most important promoters of American pop art, whom she married in 1933. As World War II was about to break out, the two left for New York, where they set up an art gallery that would become one of the most important in the dissemination of American art in the mid-20th century. Ileana returns to Europe with her second husband, Michael Sonnabend, first to Rome and then to Paris. These experiences mark the itinerary that would make Ileana Sonnabend a leading representative of 20th-century art, who promoted a dialogue between American and European art through the work of the art gallery she opened in Paris in 1962 with her second husband, Michael Sonnabend, and later in New York.

In the 1960s, in parallel with her support for American artists such as Jim Dine, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, Ileana Sonnabend had deep and constant links with Italy, paying particular attention to the Arte Povera movement, theorised in 1967 by the critic Germano Celant, which is still the best-known Italian art movement in the world today.

To underline her visions and her openness to Italian art, the exhibition at MNAR focuses on the relationship between the gallery owner and the artists of the Arte Povera movement she supported: Michelangelo Pistoletto, Gilberto Zorio, Mario Merz, Giovanni Anselmo, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Giulio Paolini, Jannis Kounellis. As a premise of the focus on the Arte Povera movement, the exhibition also includes a tribute to Mario Schifano, the first Italian artist whose works have been exhibited by Ileana Sonnabend, thus anticipating the deep connection between the Sonnabend gallery and Italian art developed since the second half of the 1960s.

The exhibition is not only the first one dedicated to Ileana Sonnabend in Romania, but also the first one in the world that is not based on works currently included in her collection, the Sonnabend Collection. In order to distinguish itself from previous exhibition projects and to underline the still strong link between Ilena Sonnabend's life story and Italy through the Arte Povera movement, the exhibition at MNAR presents works that still belong to artists and their inheritors, as well as to museums, foundations, private collectors, Italian gallery owners, exhibited by Ileana Sonnabend on the occasion of exhibitions organized in her gallery, or that she organized in other spaces.

The works exhibited, mainly made in the early 1960s and early 1970s, have already become emblematic of art history. These include Pistoletto's mirror paintings Two Men in Shirts (1963) and Walking Girl (1966), Anselmo's Torsion (1968) and Paolini's Apotheosis of Homer (1970-71).

The exhibition of the works is preceded by a chronological, textual and photographic section on Ileana Sonnabend and by another textual and photographic section on her relationship with the artists of the Arte Povera movement.

The exhibition concludes with a video documentary on the gallerist and on Italian art, produced for the occasion by 3D Produzioni, which will be broadcast by Italian television.

This exhibition is of particular relevance both for Italy, allowing a better knowledge of Italian art abroad, and especially for Romania, because it is the first time that the legendary work of Ileana Sonnabend is presented in her home country.

The curator of the exhibition is Ilaria Bernardi, a contemporary art historian specialising in post-war Italian art, with a particular focus on the artists of the Arte Povera movement, to whom she has dedicated a major exhibition at the Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg in October 2023. She has collaborated, among others, with Germano Celant, who theorised the Arte Povera movement, and with Carolyn Christov Bakargiev. She has curated exhibitions for public institutions organized in important exhibition spaces in Italy and abroad, including: in Rome, National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, MAXXI; in Lombardy, Milan Triennale; Villa e Collezione Panza, Varese; in the USA: Magazzino Italian Art, Cold Spring (NY), ArtOmi (Gent, NY); South Africa, Keyes Art Mile and Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg; 6 Spin Street, Cape Town.

"Ileana Sonnabend's eye has been able to perceive the creative essence of European and American artistic research in the second half of the 20th century, discovering artists and works that have had a particular influence on the history of international art. Among them were certainly the Italian artists whom she supported; in particular, those of the Arte Povera movement, whose artistic quality and the power of their works she immediately

understood, allowing for their successful diffusion in Europe and the United States. The exhibition in Bucharest is intended to be a tribute to that prompt gaze, but also to the importance of the Arte Povera movement in the international artistic context" (Ilaria Bernardi, curator of the exhibition).

"We propose to the Romanian public this exhibition dedicated to Ileana Sonnabend, the first one organized in a museum space after the one at MOMA New York, which is extremely relevant, through the documentary material and the exceptional works of art included, for the role she played in the establishment of avant-garde art in the second part of the 20th century. This exhibition is part of the MNAR's ongoing efforts this year to include in its program projects carried out in collaboration with partners from abroad" (Călin Stegerean, MNAR Director General).

The exhibition is made possible with the indispensable help of Antonio Homem, the heir of Ileana and Michael Sonnabend, in the development of the project and in the research necessary for its realisation. We would also like to thank all the artists, their archives and those who have made their works available.

ILEANA SONNABEND'S BIOGRAPHY

Ileana Sonnabend's (née Schapira) life in the art world began in 1935, when she moved to Paris with her Triestine husband Leo Castelli (Trieste, 4 September 1907 - New York, 21 August 1999), who opened a gallery in the French capital with the financial support of his wife's father, a Romanian industrialist. When war broke out, the couple moved to New York where, in 1957, Leo Castelli opened a gallery and his wife began to take an interest in and collect the works of artists supported by her husband, particularly exponents of the American neo-avant-garde.

After her divorce from Castelli and marriage to Michael Sonnabend, whose name she took, she moved to Rome in the early 1960s with her new husband, who was passionate about Dante and Michelangelo and an enthusiastic mentor of young American artists. Together they begin to show Italian art dealers and critics the documentation of the American Pop Art artists in their collection, but face many difficulties.

In 1962 they decided to open their first gallery in Paris, named Ileana Sonnabend, with the intention of bringing American and European art into dialogue and demonstrating their affinities.

However, the most successful relations turn out to be with Italy, as Italy itself becomes the cradle of two important responses to both Pop Art and Minimal Art in the United States, thanks to the birth of the Italian Pop Art movement, first, and then the Arte Povera movement.

For this reason, in 1963, the Sonnabend Gallery dedicated a solo exhibition to Mario Schifano and included Michelangelo Pistoletto in its group exhibition Dessins, to whom it would later dedicate a solo exhibition in 1967, the year in which it also opened a solo exhibition of another Italian artist, Piero Gilardi. In the second half of the 1960s, they began a close collaboration with the Italian gallery owner Gian Enzo Sperone and the critic Germano Celant, who saw Sperone's Turin gallery itself as an ally in promoting the artists of the Arte Povera movement, theorized by Celant himself in 1967. In 1969, the close relationship between Ileana Sonnabend, Sperone and Celant led to the solo exhibitions of Gilberto Zorio, Mario Merz and Giovanni Anselmo.

Although the Paris office remained active until 1980, Ileana Sonnabend and her husband opened a second office in New York in 1970. In 1970, the solo exhibitions of Giorgio Griffa, Mario Merz, Pier Paolo Calzolari were held there; in 1971, those of Pier Paolo Calzolari and Mario Merz; in 1972, those of Piero Manzoni, Giulio Paolini and Jannis Kounellis.

In addition to other solo exhibitions of Italian artists already mentioned, Vincenzo Agnetti, in 1975, and Luigi Ontani, in 1976, entered the Sonnabend Gallery. But Kounellis was the artist with whom Ileana Sonnabend had the closest collaboration, which resulted in seven other solo exhibitions until 1987.

At the end of the 1990s, the Sonnabend Gallery moved to Chelsea and remained active for several years even after the death of its founder in 2007.

Sponsors: Mastercard, UniCredit Bank, Pirelli Romania, Generali Asigurări, Official Ferrari Dealer: Forza Rossa, Aqua Carpatica, Domeniile Sâmburești

Partner: "Friends of the National Museum of Art of Romania" Association

Media partners: TVR, Radio România Actualități, Radio România Cultural, Radio România București FM, Trinitas TV, Radio Trinitas, Radio France International, Sensoarte.ro, Modernism, Observator Cultural, Zeppelin, Revista Arhitectura, Igloo

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