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Art and money. Value and worth. How does art get from studio to museum? Journey back to the early sixties, to the beginning of the market for contemporary art, when the art dealer and tastemaker Dick Bellamy (1927-1998) made history but chose not to make money. At the fabled Green Gallery on Fifty-Seventh Street, Bellamy launched the careers of Pop, Op and conceptual artists, as well as mavericks and minimalists, artists such as Claes Oldenburg and James Rosenquist, Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, Mark di Suvero and Lucas Samaras, and Robert Morris and Larry Poons. The story of Dick Bellamy, a beatnik with a legendary eye, unfolds as postmodernism elbowed the past aside.
A Midwesterner whose mother was Chinese, Dick Bellamy opened the Green with the covert support of America’s first celebrity art collectors, Robert and Ethel Scull, two of Warhol’s earliest supporters. “There was nobody like Bellamy. I certainly consider myself his pupil,” art dealer Leo Castelli would later say. For decades after the Green, Bellamy preferred to be out of the limelight, becoming an éminence grise whose opinion mattered to savvy collectors, curators and fellow dealers.
Based on decades of research and on hundreds of interviews with Bellamy’s artists, friends, colleagues, and lovers, Judith E. Stein’s Eye of the Sixties recovers the lost history of the elusive art dealer.
July 2016 from Farrar Straus and Giroux
Praise for Eye of the Sixties -
"In Eye of the Sixties, Judith Stein pulled together years of research and interviews with the late Bellamy’s closest friends and associates, as well as the artists who adorned his walls. Through this biography, Stein traces the outward reach of the counterculture through one of its most important arbiters."
— The New Yorker, July 11 & 18, 2016
"Ms. Stein’s evocative portrait of Bellamy recreates in stunning, touching and often humorous detail the chaotic, creative, still bohemian art scenes of Provincetown, Mass., in the ‘50s, and New York in the ‘60s . . . the secretive spirit of the ‘60s becomes at last a concrete and real person with a permanent place in art history. The character that emerges is of an impossible, improbable, irresponsible, irresistibly innocent sophisticate who many found to be the hero of the masterpiece that was his life.
— Barbara Rose, The New York Times, July 24, 2016
"Eye of the Sixties doubles as a smart primer to the action-packed postwar art world. It tells new stories about stars and highlights the contributions of people who have been long forgotten. It is an essential piece of scholarship."
— Andrew Russeth, Artnews, July 27, 2016
"In rescuing Bellamy from obscurity, Stein constructs an alternative history of New York’s mid-century art . . . Her descriptions are fresh enough to cast new light on works that have already been critiqued to death . . . She anchors Eye of the Sixties in a deep understanding of the connections between artists, movements and even art forms."
— Judy Berman, The Guardian, July 28, 2016
"Stein’s compellingly intimate portrait of a creative, passionate, and essential advocate for pop art, minimalism, and conceptual art doubles as a fresh and dynamic chronicle of a historic artistic revolution."
— Donna Seaman, starred review, Booklist
"This is a must for anyone interested in the creative revolution of the Sixties."
— starred review, The Library Journal
"Eye of the Sixties is indispensable reading for lovers of art from an era that changed everything. Stein’s ability to capture the changes in this world, and the cast of characters who brought them about, is remarkable."
— Jedd Beaudoin, Spectrum Culture
“We all owe a debt to Judith E. Stein. Her biography of Richard Bellamy, Eye of the Sixties, retells the story many of us know and reminds us why we set out on our journey in the first place. The book is not academic, but a readable, worldly narrative of the art world by someone who knows and loves it.”
— Dave Hickey, author of Air Guitar
“In this colorful, meticulously researched, and captivating volume, Judith E. Stein perfectly captures the circus that was the art world of the sixties, in which Richard Bellamy was an inadvertent but essential ringmaster. He was a poet dreamer, an iconoclastic hipster who was as short on business acumen as he was long on vision. Unburdened by art history, his legendary galleries were arenas of possibility; in silence, with intuition and innocence of eye, his guileless ability to identify authentic artists—from Di Suvero to Oldenburg and from Rosenquist to Judd—was uncanny, matched only by the strategies of the great Leo Castelli.”
— Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director, Whitney Museum of American Art
“Richard Bellamy was one of a kind: a legendary art dealer who was contrary, impractical, and self-effacing, with a keen eye for the artistically vital and unexpected. The artists he showed at his transformative Green Gallery define the canonical American art movements of the sixties. In Judith E. Stein’s meticulously researched and magnetically animated biography, we see this formative moment in American art through Bellamy’s eyes. Here, it looks boundless, like some unstable nomadic family in which great artists commingled in a wildly generative swarm.”
— Michael Brenson, author of Acts of Engagement
"An intricate biography of New York art dealer Richard Bellamy (1927–1998), written with a striking level of detail . . . Stein outlines Bellamy's life and career, and then fills that outline in—painstakingly and with plenty of color—using direct quotes and anecdotes woven seamlessly into her narrative. This engrossing story immerses the reader in Bellamy's world—the 'creative chaos' of the early 1960s New York contemporary art scene."
— Publishers Weekly
"This is an endearing and illuminating work of biography.... A shadowy figure of the 1960s art world is gloriously revealed."
"It was a great pleasure to read Eye of the Sixties. I was in the downtown art world in the late 50's-early 60's and knew many of the people in this book, but only heard about Bellamy. It is fascinating to read his amazing story, and Judith Stein wonderfully depicts the excitement, hilarity and stupendous artistic activities of the times."
— Maxine Groffsky, Literary Agent and former editor, The Paris Review
"Eye of the Sixties is a page turner. I am particularly appreciative of Judith Stein’s research - art historically sound but addressing much that is humanly painful. . . her reconstitution of the painfully lunar, deeply haunted, uniquely ethical Dick Bellamy catches him to a tee, right down to his masking taped worn tennis shoes. . . it’s terrific reportage on a rich and cruel life."
— Robert Pincus-Witten, Critic, Curator and Professor Emeritus, Art History, Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York