Thursday, June 24, 2010


Why start a blog today? To write a long book (four to five years as a whole) is like entering a tunnel without knowing exactly how the text will be received on the other end. Sure, there are many contacts along the way, witnesses who check the interviews, academic friends who read a chapter or two, the editors, the agent who read the whole, but still, it was a challenge. What I found so daunting in this project, and so different from the Sartre project, is that, first, Castelli launched most of his achievements through networking and that, second, I had to build the field almost from scratch. There is very little bibliography about the period, and I had to insert Castelli's trajectory both with the tools of the cultural historian and those of the sociologist, as well as keep the scope of the intercultural twist and of the "histoire de la longue durée", which, for some people in the US is somewhat problematic, especially in my decision to go back to Leo's Tuscan roots in the 16th and 17th centuries. Already, in 1941, Claude Lévi-Strauss who was teaching at the New School for Social Research, had noted the reluctance of some of his colleagues to deal with History the way we do in Europe.

The French reception of the Castelli book was certainly unexpected, especially because some had criticized him for destroying French art or for being a CIA spy or who knows what. But the articles emphasized his Italian ancestors, his Francophilia and even the wide press devoted pages and pages to the story of family in Tuscany.

The reception that "Leo & His Circle" has been receiving in the US is no less surprising. Contemplating all the reviews that 'Leo & His Circle' received since it has been published, a month ago, it is funny to note that it inspired the most distinguished scholars of Art History (such as the Society of Contemporary Art Historians, as well as a much wider audience, looking for "condensed beach reading pleasure" ("Ten Juicy Tales from the Leo Castelli biography"

"Did Castelli really have an eye?", I am often asked. I am tempted to answer that this is not the right question. More than an eye, he had a sense of the value of the artist as a citizen, and Castelli did anchor the artist in American society, by creating a "locus", so his impact was more in terms of social status, I think; furthermore, as he had a sense of global culture, he overcame the insularity of American art and gave it a legitimacy that it did not have before; he inserted the career of his artists in the continuity of art history and of European art history ("The single artist I never showed but who was always mentioned was Marcel Duchamp", he said), giving it an intercultural scope. But there is so much more to it, and that will appear little by little, over the next months, over the course of the reading; I consider the book as an open product, whose text is not fully closed; the questions, the suggestions, the critics enrich it and I am, most of the time, grateful for the new insights that I am offered for the second edition.

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