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From Rauschenberg to Jeff Koons: The eye of Ileana Sonnabend on view in Venice
Roy Lichtenstein, Wall Explosion II, 1965. Enamel on steel, 195x212.73 cm © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, by SIAE 2014© Sonnabend Collection, New York.

VENICE.- Following the great success of the exhibition dedicated to her this spring by the MoMA of New York , the extraordinary “eye” of a person dubbed the “ambassador” of contemporary art, Ileana Sonnabend (1914 – 2007) – together with Peggy Guggenheim perhaps the greatest talent scout of the late 20th century –are taking centre stage in Venice in a new show.

Granted in 2013 as a long-term loan to the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, the Sonnabend Collection has its “European home” in the Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna di Ca’ Pesaro. Here, the collection is displayed periodically, although a selection of the finest works is always present in the permanent displays on the museum’s first floor, and represents a holding of inestimable cultural value for the city.

The collection includes approximately a hundred works by artists discovered and promoted by Ileana herself in the memorable exhibitions hosted by her galleries, which provided visibility for the most ground-breaking artistic movements: from Neo Dada to Pop Art, Minimal Art to Arte Povera, Conceptual art to Neo Expressionism and contemporary photographic art. Some of the great names of 20th-century art stand out: Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine, Tom Wesselmann, together with Robert Morris, Sol Lewitt, Anselm Kiefer and Jeff Koons.

After a pause of six months – during which the museum hosted the exhibition dedicated to Giuseppe Panza di Biumo – the second floor of Ca’ Pesaro will present around seventy works from the deposit between 31 st May 2014 and 4th January 2015, starting from the point in which there was a break in the museum’s own acquisitions and an interruption in its rapport with the Biennale. The exhibition will include some interesting works that have never before been put on display in Venice, including N o n e S i n g / N e o n S i g n (1970) and E a t D e a t h (1972) by Bruce Nauman and I n f l a t a b l e F l o w e r ( Y e ll o w ), 2011 by Jeff Koons.

The exhibition, curated by Antonio Homem and Gabriella Belli , and with the ever valuable collaboration of the Sonnabend Collection Foundation , and with an exhibition project by Daniela Ferretti , also presents a group of Italian Arte Povera works , a movement that is well represented in the collection by artists who are now famous and who, as is commonly known, experimented with “poor” (natural, organic, industrial) materials, adopted for their primary expressiveness and sensorial immediacy, as can be seen in the extraordinary works of Gilberto Zorio, Mario Merz, Giovanni Anselmo, Pier Paolo Calzolari and Jannis Kounellis.

Thanks to her passion and magnificent partnership with her first husband, Leo Castelli, and with her second one, Michael Sonnabend, the pioneering Ileana Schapira – born in Bucharest in 1914 , collector, gallery owner, mentor of many artists – supported and gave visibility to American art in Europe and European art.

The galleries opened with Leo Castelli in Paris in 1939 and in New York in 1957, where she began exhibiting the works of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, and those opened in later years with Michael Sonnabend in Paris in 1962 and in New York in 1970, made a name for themselves as fundamental benchmarks for the latest artistic trends, and soon became absolute outposts of modernity.

With this exhibition, therefore, the public is offered a virtual, extraordinary completion of the journey through the history of 20th-century art that the museum aims to present with the recent conclusion of the major restyling it has undergone.

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