New York’s Julien Levy & Surrealism

Through promotion of the Surrealists, at the height of their influence in the decade of the 1930s, gallerist Julien Levy shifted the locus of the art world from Paris to New York. The ground-breaking exhibit was his 1932 Surréalisme, which featured art by DalÍ, Picasso, Duchamp, Cocteau, Kahlo, Ray, and Ernst.


Julien Levy (Courtesy:

An excellent essay on Levy and the influence of his gallery appears in the Winter 2016 issue of The Missouri Review.

It was Levy who changed gallery walls from red to white, who turned the vernissage into an evening of cocktails, who utilized promotional posters and press releases, and hung paintings on a curved wall, “so that the viewer could move along a line of paintings, seeing each individually,” even as each image “dissolv[ed] into the next.” He has also had impeccable taste, as one of his first acquisitions was Salvador Dalí’s 1931 The Persistence of Memory, a work that keeps interposing itself into my own.

Salvador Dalí: The Persistence of Memory

Salvador Dalí: The Persistence of Memory

Levy, the article notes, was known for not “function[ing] well under authority. He wanted to run the show.” Which is an attribute of temperament I am closely acquainted with.



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