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Dealer, Actress, Pop Icon: Homage to Holly Solomon

A new Chelsea exhibition celebrates the achievements and all-around fabulousness of the art-world superstar


Andy Warhol, Untitled (photo booth strip—Holly Solomon), 1963-4, sequence of four photo booth snapshots.


“I’m Holly Solomon and I would like to make an exhibition in this room,” Chelsea gallerist Pavel Zoubok recalls the flamboyant art dealer announcing to a waiter in La Maison du Chocolat’s cocoa-colored tearoom. It was 2001 and Solomon’s health had begun to decline, but she was still sharp-witted and imaginative. Inspired by the Upper East Side café’s chocolate-covered décor and swirling upholstery, the dealer, then in her late 60s, envisioned the space filled with works by artists she represented such as Julia Jacquette and Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt. “No matter where she went,” says Zoubok, “she could see the art woven into the environment.”

It is this spirit of adventurousness and ingenuity that Zoubok evokes in the upcoming exhibition “Hooray for Hollywood!” The show, which will feature works by such figures as Laurie Anderson, Robert Mapplethorpe, Izhar Patkin, Andy Warhol, and William Wegman, will pay homage to Solomon’s achievements as both a gallerist and Pop icon, as well as the enduring friendships she fostered with her artists. “Hollywood,” which is co-curated by Steven Sergiovanni and Heather Bhandari, opens Thursday at Pavel Zoubok Gallery and Mixed Greens gallery in New York.

Solomon’s dynamic personality is captured in the portrait section of the exhibition. The dealer, who studied acting with Lee Strasberg, reveals her theatrical side in works by Mapplethorpe and Wegman. Mapplethorpe’s black-and-white triptych from 1976 presents Solomon puffing on a cigarette in a bed. In the final image, she reclines fully with eyes closed and dramatically leans her head back, as though she’s reached a state of peace. In Wegman’s cinematic diptych, Solomon plays with props and comically poses with one of the artist’s gray Weimaraners.

She appears charismatic and alluring in a 1963–4 photo booth strip by Andy Warhol. In the four candid images, the photogenic dealer coifs her blond hair, pouts her lips, and smiles for the camera with grace and ease.

Other works highlight the relationships that Solomon formed with young and emerging artists, many of whom she offered maternal advice and guidance. Among this group of artists was Barbara Pollack, a contributing editor of ARTnews. Pollack, who recalls being anxious before a 1997 exhibition of her work at Solomon’s gallery, says the dealer insisted on taking her to a Korean spa in Wayne, New Jersey, to calm her nerves. “Next thing I know,” says Pollack “we’re naked together getting scrubbed in the bath house.” Pollack’s photograph Simon, which was part of that exhibition, will be included this show. Works by Judy Pfaff, Valerie Jaudon, Gordon Matta-Clark, Kim MacConnel, Mary Heilmann, and many others will also be on view.

This collection of works not only embodies Solomon’s professional accomplishments, but her personal successes, friendships, and passions as well. “If you had to sum up her life, you would do that through the work she supported and collected and was involved with,” says artist Izhar Patkin, who was represented by Solomon for many years and currently has a retrospective at Mass MoCA. “That became the fabric of Holly Solomon.”

Click through the slideshow below for more images:

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