An in-depth biography of influential art gallery dealer Richard Bellamy (1927-1998).
Journalist, curator, and former NPR arts reviewer Stein has been working on this book since the mid-1990s. Her extensive research and numerous interviews provide a scintillating, detailed portrait of one of the “most influential and enigmatic American art dealers of the sixties.” The author calls her subject “legendary” and says “the remarkable talent he unearthed was jaw-dropping.” The Cincinnati native inherited his Chinese mother’s “epicanthic eyelids,” which gave him a tired look. An odd, aloof, enigmatic man who made little money, he was frequently homeless or lived in his galleries, where he would “artfully dodge posterity.” After one semester at the University of Ohio in 1948, he went to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he lived a bohemian life surrounded by artists. Bellamy now knew what he wanted to do: live fully in the art world, show art, and talk about it. The small Hansa Gallery in New York City hired him as their director; it gave him the opportunity to provide little-known artists with a place to show their works, maybe even sell some—not one of Bellamy’s best skills. He was pure in the belief that it was the art for the art’s sake, not the money, which often disappointed his clients. With the financial help of collector Bob Scull, he opened his Green Gallery in 1960. It quickly became an “extraordinary forum for any young artist.” Besides popular “happenings,” Bellamy featured the works of Marco Polo di Suvero, George Segal, Claes Oldenburg, Larry Poons, Donald Judd, and a then-unknown Andy Warhol. A few years later, at his Oil & Steel Gallery, he championed the work of Yoko Ono. Heavy drinking, drugs, and three packs of unfiltered cigarettes per day did him in. A man of shrewd and impeccable taste, Bellamy’s role in promoting the often misunderstood art of abstract expressionism, pop, and minimalism was profound. This is an endearing and illuminating work of biography.
A shadowy figure of the 1960s art world is gloriously revealed.