Whitehot Magazine

May 2011, Ileana Sonnabend. An Italian Portrait @ the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

ANDY WARHOL, Ileana Sonnabend,1973
Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas; Each: 101.9 x 101.5 cm
The Sonnabend Collection
Copyright Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, by SIAE 2011


Ileana Sonnabend: An Italian Portrait
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni
Dorsoduro 701
I-30123 Venezia
May 29 through October 2, 2011

Strong connections emerge between Peggy Guggenheim and Ileana Sonnabend in this Venetian presentation. They were first both successful gallerists, then collectors; both were Jewish and conducted their career between the Old and the New World, in close contact with the artists whose work they promoted. But a significant difference can be found: Ileana had a particular eye and made her choices on her own, always showing huge confidence in her intuition and curiosity.

The show, organized by Antonio Homem (adopted son of Ileana) and Philip Rylands (director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection), emphasises - as suggested by the subtitle - Ileana’s promotion of Italian art by literally exporting it to France, and to America where her first husband (Leo Castelli) ran a leading gallery. Fourteen of the almost fifty artists represented here are italians: Piero Manzoni, Mario Schifano, Mimmo Rotella, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mario Merz and Giovanni Anselmo, just to quote few of them. References to Italy are frequent, and not only made via ‘national’ artists, as is the case with Robert Rasuschenberg’s Rome Wall (III), (1953) a gelatin silver print in which can be read “Stalin é morto” (Stalin is dead), or with the Pop artists and their addiction to the Delicatessen field in pieces such as Vitello Tonnato (1962) by Claes Oldenburg or Sliced Bologna (1968) by James Rosenquist.

Even within the catalogue this Italian presence is tangible, with essays written by the two most important art critics of the Postwar art scene: Achille Bonito Oliva and Germano Celant. Both refer to the legendary eye of Ileana. Also included is a list of artworks by Mario Codognato, the son of a very important collector, Attilio Codognato, who acquired many works from Ileana and Leo.

Despite displaying loyalty to the title in its demonstration of Ileana's strongly European-rooted taste, and of her fascination for Italy in particular, the show is without any particular energy and does not seem to follow any particular criterion, starting with a curiuosly baroque sculpture by Philp Haas, Winter (After Arcimboldo), that was created in 2010 three years after Ileana’s death. But this is probably due to the fact that from the beginning, Ileana’s Collection had not been articulated by any particular plan, as Antonio Homem underlined during the press conference, but was more the result of a great many very lucky meetings. Nonetheless, the legacy of Ileana persists in the museums and in other collections she has inspired.


JAMES ROSENQUIST, Sliced Bologna,1968
Oil on slit Mylar; 259.1 x 266.7 cm
The Sonnabend Collection. On loan to MART (Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto), Rovereto, Italy
Copyright James Rosenquist, by SIAE 2011

PHILIP HAAS, Winter (After Arcimboldo), 2010
Painted fiberglass; 91.4 x 56 x 73.7 cm
The Sonnabend Collection


Eleonora Charans

Eleonora Charans is a Ph.D candidate in Theories and History of Arts at the School of Advanced Studies in Venice. Her research is about the E. Marzona Collection.   eleonora.charans@gmail.com

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