Presented in the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Ileana and Michael Sonnabend's collection is an important testimony to twenty-five years of artistic activity in the United States and Europe. Many of the works in this collection are key to understanding the art of our times; it encompasses many of the predominant art movements, such as Pop Art, Minimal Art, Arte Povera, Antiform, Conceptual Art, American and German Expressionism, Neo-minimalism, Neo-conceptualism and multimedia practices.
Ileana Sonnabend, of Romanian origin and married for some years to Leo Castelli, lives in Paris during the final years of the war, where she frequents scenes inhabited by Surrealist artists, architects and avant-garde designers. Leo Castelli, meanwhile, opens a gallery with René Drouin and in 1957 begins to collect artworks by Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Cy Twombly. His circle of friends also includes artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning and art critics such as Clement Greenberg.
After marrying Michael Sonnabend, Ileana moves to Rome in 1960 where she attempts to rekindle an interest in new American art between dealers, critics and collectors. Originally only supposed to be a temporary venture, in 1962 she opens a gallery in Paris that becomes an eighteen-year project and is followed by others in New York and Geneva.
This extensive exhibition, made up of almost one hundred and seventy works, looks at the most significant movements in the second half of the twentieth century and has been organised in chronological order, providing each movement with its own space. The first includes paintings by Johns, Rauschenberg, Twombly and Mario Schifano, the forerunners of Pop Art, quickly followed by the most representative pieces by a series of artists that include Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann, displaying some of their most iconic works.
The exhibit continues with a presentation of the Paris and New York assemblists and their work between 1958 and 1962. This room demonstrates how waste materials are transformed for artists ends, exemplified by the work of Arman, Christo, Daniel Spoerri, Piero Manzoni, Marcel Broodthaers and Michelangelo Pistoletto.
A pertinent summary of Minimalist ideas takes place in the space that joins the works of Donald Judd, John MacCraken, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Mel Bochner and Barry LeVa, followed by experimentations by Robert Morris, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, Sarkis and Keith Sonnier.
The preeminent figures of Arte Povera come together under the title Environmental Art and Arte Abitabile (Live-in Art), with outstanding pieces by Giovanni Anselmo, Gilberto Zorio, Mario Merz, Pier Paolo Calzolari and Janis Kounellis. These are accompanied by a (European) reflection on memory of Giulio Paolini, Anne et Patrick Poitier and Christian Boltanski. As a matter of fact, one of Ileana Sonnabend's greatest achievements was bringing Europe and America closer together and raising awareness of the output of artists outside their original continent, as is the case with the work of John Baldessari, Gilbert and George, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Vito Acconci and William Wegman, who at the time used photography as a new medium of expression.
German expressionist painting also plays an important role in this pivotal collection as it features works by Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz and Albert Oehlen, among others.
Finally, and proof that the Sonnabend Collection has moved with the times, works by the leading figures in art movements during and after the Eighties are displayed here; therefore, this exhibition, constituting one of the most symbolic collections of art in the second half of the twentieth century, is brought to a close by artists such as Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Peter Halley, Terry Winters, Jiri Georg Dokoupil and Jeff Koons.
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