Milton Gendel Centenary

Tuesday, November 13, 2018–6:00 PM
AAR Lecture Room
Via Angelo Masina, 5
Rome, Italy
Milton Gendel Centenary

Detail of Monica Incisa, Portrait of Milton Gendel, 2018, pencil drawing on rag paper, after a photograph by Enrico Petrelli

This year marks the centenary of Milton Gendel, the American art critic, photographer, journalist, translator, cultural diplomat, and long-time resident of Rome. After studying art history with Meyer Schapiro at Columbia University, Gendel frequented the circle of exiled European Surrealists in New York before the Second World War. He spent the final years of the conflict in the China theater, where he took up photography with a borrowed camera, a pursuit that yielded over 70,000 negatives now conserved by the Fondazione Primoli in Rome. His photographic archive represents an unparalleled and often witty record of international artistic ferment in Italy and the dramatic transformation of the country from 1950 to the present day.

The Rome correspondent for both ARTnews and Art in America, Gendel reported on artistic developments and befriended key figures, including Leo Castelli, Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, Piero Dorazio, Toti Scialoja, and Tancredi Parmiggiani, among others. His article about Alberto Burri, “Burri Makes a Picture,” remains a fundamental text on the artist’s work. Gendel was also involved in the activities of the Rome New York Art Foundation on the Tiber Island, which hosted a series of groundbreaking exhibitions from 1957 to 1962. His activities often extended beyond the visual arts. He translated Bruno Zevi’s Saper vedere l’architettura into English and worked as a speechwriter for the visionary entrepreneur Adriano Olivetti. In the 1980s, he attempted to create a Tiber Island History Museum in the Palazzo Pierleoni Caetani.

An honorary member of the Society of Fellows, Gendel and his photographs have been the focus of two exhibitions at the American Academy in Rome, in 1981 and 2011. On this occasion, an international panel will pay tribute to Gendel’s work in a variety of fields. Speakers will include: Emily Braun, Distinguished Professor of Art History at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York; Marella Caracciolo Chia, writer; Barbara Drudi, art historian; Lindsay Harris, photography historian, 2014 Fellow, and the Academy’s Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge of the Humanities from 2014 to 2018; and Adachiara Zevi, architectural historian.