New York Times: Alexander Iolas, Gallerist Who Changed Art Forever

alexander iolas

“These days, art dealers are almost as important as the artists whose careers they cultivate. But just one — Alexander Iolas — can be credited with mounting Andy Warhol’s first and last gallery show in his lifetime, bringing Surrealism to the United States and introducing the East Coast to Ed Ruscha,” noted the New York Times for the Greek gallerist on its issue dedicated on him.

The newspaper referred to the great Greek art dealer Alexander Iolas as one of the major figures in the art market during the second half of the 20th century. “Unlike Iolas’s contemporaries — who included Ileana Sonnabend, Leo Castelli and Bruno Bischofberger — Iolas’s legacy has nearly faded into obscurity after he succumbed to AIDS in 1987 at 80, but a new exhibition may change that,” continues the article.

On March 6, the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York will launch the exhibition titled “Alexander the Great: The Iolas Gallery 1955-1987” which will last until April 26. The exhibition is expected to present fourty works by artists Iolas had worked with during his lifetime, along with catalogs and ephemera. While Kasmin was thinking of artists who had lived in Paris in the 50s, he realized that the missing link to all of them was Alexander Iolas. Thus, the idea of an exhibition in his honor of this was born.

Iolas was born in Egypt to a wealthy family trading cotton. When he was a teenager, he saw a Georgio de Chirico’s painting that, according to the exhibition’s organizers, changed his life.

The Greek Iolas studied dancing and went on a tour in Europe and the United States. After that, Iolas decided to become an art dealer. He was the director of New York’s Hugo Gallery before opening his own space in 1955. He worked with some of the most influential collectors of that time, such as John and Dominique de Menil. According to the newspaper, “Iolas followed his own instinct instead of the trends around him, working with artists who would become the biggest names in 20th-century art history: René Magritte, Joseph Cornell, Max Ernst, Yves Klein, Les Lalanne, William N. Copley, Dorothea Tanning and more.”

The exhibition’s organizers hope that in this way they will boost Iolas to the forefront of the art world. “He’s just a historical person from the 20th century “that people need to know about,” Fremont says.