Modern Art Monday Presents: Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott By David Hockney

henry geldzahler and christopher scott photo by gail worley
Photos By Gail

Henry Geldzahler (July 9, 1935August 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, as New York City Commissioner of Cultural Affairs under Mayor Ed Koch, and for his social role in the art world; having enjoyed close relationships with many contemporary artists.

His time at The Met is best remembered for his landmark 1969 exhibition, New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970, which included his favorite contemporary artworks.  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.

New York Painting and Sculpture, which became the talk of the town, featured 408 works in 35 galleries, by 43 artists including Arshile GorkyJackson PollockFrank StellaDavid SmithJasper JohnsMark Rothko, Andy Warhol, and Robert Rauschenberg.  In the press release of the exhibition, Geldzahler offered that his “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.”

Among his closest friends was artist David Hockney. In 1969, Hockney painted this double portrait of Geldzahler with his then-partner, painter Christopher Scott. You can see the photograph on which the painting is based just below.

photo of henry geldzahler photo by gail worley

Geldzahler is also the subject of Peter Rosen’s documentary film Who Gets to Call It Art? (2006), which I can enthusiastically recommend. Henry Geldzahler died of liver cancer on August 16, 1994, at his home in Southampton, New York, at the age of 59.

Photos Taken at Christies Auction House in NYC.

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