Henry Geldzahler

Henry Geldzahler (July 9, 1935 – August 16, 1994) was a Belgian-born American curator of contemporary art in the late 20th century, as well as a historian and critic of modern art. He is best known for his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and as New York City Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, and for his social role in the art world with a close relationship with contemporary artists.

Henry Geldzahler
Born(1935-07-09)July 9, 1935
DiedAugust 16, 1994(1994-08-16) (aged 59)
Resting placeGreen River Cemetery
Alma materYale University
Harvard University
OccupationCurator, art historian, art critic

He has been described as "the most powerful and controversial art curator alive" and the art critic of The New Yorker magazine Calvin Tomkins said ‘If you were involved in any way in the [cultural] world, you met Henry.’ [1]

Early lifeEdit

Born in Antwerp, Belgium, Geldzahler's Jewish family emigrated to the United States in 1940.[2] He graduated from Yale University in 1957, where he was a member of Manuscript Society.[3] After graduating from Yale, he began work on a doctorate in art history at Harvard University, but he left graduate school in 1960.[4]

CareerEdit

In 1960, he joined the staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He became the Curator for American Art there, and later the first Curator for 20th Century Art.

Among his closest friends were Andy Warhol and David Hockney.[1][5]

His time at the Met is most known for his landmark 1969 exhibition, New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970,[6] which included his favorite contemporary work and became the talk of the town.[7][4][8] It was the Museum's first exhibition of contemporary American art, and marked both the inauguration of the newly established department of Contemporary Arts and the 100th anniversary of the Museum.[9]

The exhibition featured 408 works in 35 galleries, by 43 artists including Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Franck Stella, David Smith, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.[10] "My guiding principles in deciding which artists to include in the exhibition have been the extent to which their work has commanded critical attention or significantly deflected the course of recent art" said Geldzahler in the press release of the exhibition.[1]

In 1966, he was the United States commissioner to the Venice Biennale, for which he selected the American artists to be exhibited.[4]

In 1966 he took a temporary leave from the Met to become the first director of the visual-arts program of the National Endowment for the Arts, where he initiated a program of museum grants for the purchase of art made by living American artists.

In 1978 Geldzhaler left the MET and was succeeded in his role there by Thomas B. Hess.[11] He was appointed then appointed the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for New York City by Mayor Edward I. Koch. As an openly gay man who was part of the Koch administration and the conservative Metropolitan Museum of Art, Geldzahler contributed significant time and effort into AIDS-related causes.

After leaving his New York City government cultural post, he continued to write on art, and acted as an independent curator, working at the alternative space P.S. 1 and the austere high modernist Dia Art Foundation.

WritingsEdit

Geldzhaler wrote among other works:

  • Catalog of New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970 in 1969
  • American Painting in the 20th Century (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1965),
  • Charles Bell: The Complete Works, 1970-1990 (Abrams, 1991), and
  • Making It New: Essays, Interviews, and Talks (Harvest Books, 1996) with an introduction by Mr. Hockney.
  • He co-wrote Art in Transit: Subway Drawings by Keith Haring (1984),
  • Andy Warhol: Portraits of the Seventies and Eighties (Thames and Hudson, 1993)

DeathEdit

On August 16, 1994, Geldzahler died at his home in Southampton, New York of liver cancer at the age of 59.[4][12][13]

He is buried in Green River Cemetery in Springs, New York.[14]

In popular cultureEdit

  • Geldzahler is the subject of a documentary film called Who Gets to Call It Art? (2006) by Peter Rosen.
  • He is depicted in portraits by several of his artist friends, including a famous 1969 double portrait by David Hockney of Geldzahler with his then partner, painter Christopher Scott.[15] Other artists made his portrait such as Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Alice Neel and the sculptor George Segal "There are lots of pictures of Henry. He didn’t have many mirrors in his home. He knew what he looked like just by asking people to make portraits of him.’ Hockney said.[1]
  • Geldzahler is depicted in an Andy Warhol movie, Henry Geldzahler (1964), filmed silent and in black-and-white the first week of July 1964. The film consists of Geldzahler smoking a cigar and becoming increasingly uncomfortable for 97 minutes.[16]
  • He appeared, as himself, in the 1974 David Hockney biopic, A Bigger Splash.

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d "Henry Geldzahler: Curator, influencer, cultural svengali | Christie's". www.christies.com. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  2. ^ "Geldzahler, Henry". arthistorians.info. Retrieved October 1, 2009.
  3. ^ Ed. Parks, Steven; Cooper, Henry S. F. Jr.; Wallace, Thomas C. (2002). Manuscript Society (1953-2002). New Haven, CT: Phoenix Press).
  4. ^ a b c d Goldberger, Paul (August 17, 1994). "Henry Geldzahler, 59, Critic, Public Official And Contemporary Art's Champion, Is Dead". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved October 1, 2009.
  5. ^ Scherman, Tony (2009). Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol.
  6. ^ Schjeldahl, Peter (2009). "Let It Bleed: "1969" at P.S. 1". The New Yorker. Condé Nast (23 November): 124–125. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  7. ^ "At the Met New York Painting and Sculpture 1940-1970 at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art until February 1. | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  8. ^ Goldberger, Paul (August 17, 1994). "Henry Geldzahler, 59, Critic, Public Official And Contemporary Art's Champion, Is Dead". The New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved October 1, 2009.
  9. ^ Finding aid for the George Trescher records related to The Metropolitan Museum of Art Centennial, 1949, 1960-1971 (bulk 1967-1970). The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  10. ^ "At the Met New York Painting and Sculpture 1940-1970 at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art until February 1. | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  11. ^ https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/01/25/the-met-and-the-now
  12. ^ Hogrefe, Jeffery (April 26, 1999). "Schnabel in Reruns; Geldzahler Revisits the Met". Observer. observer.com. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  13. ^ Goldberger, Paul (August 17, 1994). "Henry Geldzahler, 59, Critic, Public Official And Contemporary Art's Champion, Is Dead". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  14. ^ "A Who's Who in Art At Island Cemetery". The New York Times. nytimes.com. September 15, 1996. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  15. ^ Melia, Paul (1995). David Hockney: Volume 1 of Critical Introductions To Art. Manchester University Press ND. p. 82. ISBN 0-7190-4405-7.
  16. ^ "Henry Geldzahler (1964)". warholstars.org. Retrieved October 1, 2009.

ReferencesEdit

  • Tomkins, Calvin. "Profiles: Henry Geldzahler." New Yorker November 6, 1971: 58-60.
  • "Henry Geldzahler interview, 1970 Jan. 27" Sound recordings: 2 sound tape reels; 7 in. Transcript: 76 p. (microfilm reel 3197) Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

External linksEdit