Over the course of his life, diamond magnate Sylvio Perlstein has built up one of the most ambitious collections of contemporary art in the world, spanning the full history of the avant-garde from Dada and Surrealism to Abstraction, Land Art to Minimalism, Arte Povera, Nouveau Réalisme, and more, all united by his unwavering eye for strong pieces and equally strong concepts. Shining throughout the collector’s holdings, however, is his passion for the work, a fascination with the artist’s practice that shines well above and beyond any single work on view.
Unfolding across all three floors of Hauser & Wirth’s 22nd Street location, A Luta Continua is the first US presentation of this very collection, exploring the deep recesses and wings of the collector’s holdings that traces both his eye for compelling pieces, and for personal connections with the pieces that he has united here. Perlstein’s collecting is paralleled with something of a reputation as a legendary scene-maker, popping up in the close confidence of Man Ray, or showing up at the now-infamous session when Keith Haring painted Grace Jones for a shoot with Robert Mapplethorpe. This passion not only for great work, but equally for the communities that create them, is at the center of this exhibition, and at the center of Perlstein’s collecting habits.
All told, it’s a fascinating body of works, 380 in all, spread across the space, and spanning a range of artistic visions. Throughout, unique conversations on the body and its forces oscillate with delicate investigations of space and light, media and the earth itself. Works by Dan Flavin and Donald Judd play off against sculptures by Alexander Calder and Nam June Paik, paintings by Josef Albers are posed against pieces by Haring or photos by Ray. In one particularly striking dialogue, a sculpture by Duane Hanson stands by a series of wall works by Bruce Nauman, each offering their own intriguing plays on the state of the human body, and the wide-reaching social and political orientations. On another floor, one can peruse a range of 1960’s sculptures from a broad body of artists that showcases the range of voices and perspectives working throughout the era. It’s almost as if Perlstein’s wide-ranging interest in modern practice has made possible an endlessly shifting series of conversations extended over decades and generations, all united through the eyes of a single man.
In an era of increasingly consolidated power in the contemporary art world, Perlstein’s collection is something of a look back while looking for new ways forward, drawing on the spirit of the artist and their ability to build communities as a way to make possible new ways of living in the world.
The show closes July 27th.
— D. Creahan
A Luta Continua at Hauser & Wirth [Exhibition Site]
A Collector Follows His Nose Through the Maze of Modern Art [NYT’]
Sylvio Perlstein Collection at Hauser & Wirth — an extravaganza of weirdness [Financial Times]