Christie’s Laura Paulson adds to the pile of art coming to the block with these works from Ileana Sonnabend’s original collection that is now being sold by Nina Castelli Sundell’s estate:
JASPER JOHNS (B. 1930)
Do it Yourself (Target)
Executed in 1960
Sonnabend’s gallery in Paris opened in November 1962, with a show of paintings by Jasper Johns. “Ileana was wonderful. She was bright, mysterious, and curious, enjoying ideas and objects. She loved art and she loved artists, even when she thought them crazy. I don’t know why she found them so interesting. I met her in the spring of 1957 in Bob Rauschenberg’s Pearl Street studio, just before she and Leo visited mine, which was downstairs from Bob’s.
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG (1925-2008)
Executed in 1961
Rauschenberg’s exhibition was the second show at the Gallery in Paris early 1963. It was Sonnabend who had helped discover the artist back in New York, and brought Robert Rauschenberg to Leo Castelli’s gallery before starting her own. Their relationship remained extremely close: Rauschenberg once claimed never to have finished a painting “without wondering what Ileana would think of it.”
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato)
Executed in 1962
Estimate : $6,000,000-9,000,000
Sonnabend acquired an impressive collection of work directly from the Warhol studio at the time of its making. She was an early and fervent supporter of Warhol, and prior to signing with Leo Castelli’s gallery, Sonnabend exhibited Warhol in 1963 in a group show called “Pop Art Américain.” She later held three important exhibitions of his work at her Paris gallery, including the series Death and Disasters (1964), Flowers (1965), and Thirteen Most Wanted Men (1967).
From their first consignment in 1962, Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato) was painted at the dawn of the Pop age.
MICHELANGELO PISTOLETTO (B. 1933)
La Stufa di Oldenburg (Oldenburg’s Stove)
Executed in 1965
The gallery in Paris also exhibited the work of several young Italians, including Michelangelo Pistoletto, in 1964. The mirror paintings were first exhibited in a solo show at Galleria Galatea in Turin in 1963. A few days after the opening the artist went to Paris. “[T]here I met Beppe Romagnoni who told me about a gallery where strange and interesting paintings were being shown. So I dropped by the Sonnabend Gallery and asked to see these paintings. In this way I first saw Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Rosenquist and Lichtenstein’s paintings, and Segal and Chamberlain’s sculptures. They asked me if I was a critic and I said, no, I’m an artist. When asked what I did, I showed them the Galatea catalogue and a painting. They were struck by the work and came to Turin where they bought up the whole Galatea show. They took over the contract with Tazzoli and a situation developed that was extremely important for me: from my isolation in Turin, I was catapulted into an international dimension” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, interview with Germano Celant).
JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
Executed in 1985. This work is number two from an edition of three plus one artist’s proof.
Ileana Sonnabend was one of the first to embrace Koons’s work in 1986, and helped him gain exposure on an international scale. His first show at the gallery in 1986, the so-called “Neo-Geo” show, was with three other artists. In 1991, works from the provocative “Made in Heaven” series, which blurred the lines between fine art and pornography, attracted so many curious art views that long lines formed in front of the gallery.