In the late 1950s, Robert Elkon was living in New York, already immersed in the Modern and Contemporary landscape, first through his own family’s collection, and second, as a burgeoning dealer with a sharp eye for emerging talent. A close friend of Elkon's—the famed dealer Leo Castelli—recognized Elkon's connoisseurial eye and urged him to open his own gallery. Though Elkon was not entirely convinced, Castelli promised to help establish Elkon's program by connecting him to his first artist: Agnes Martin. This chance encounter proved to be the start of a lifelong friendship and partnership between Robert, his wife Dorothea, and Martin. Elkon opened his eponymous gallery in 1961 and in November 1962, held the first of many solo exhibitions of Martin's work at his 1063 Madison Avenue space. As described by Barbara Rose, “the work [Elkon showed] was selected on a single criterion: Robert Elkon himself liked it. His gifts are a trained and selective eye and an enthusiasm for art that he willingly, indeed effusively, communicates…Elkon’s tenacity in continuing to operate his gallery as a contemporary art showcase for living artists…To serve the living artist, to listen sympathetically to the daily tales of woe, to show only what one likes oneself before the certificate of value has been attached—that is courage: The courage of an eye that believes in itself and in the enduring quality of art (Barbara Rose in Exh. Cat., New York, Robert Elkon: Two Decades, 1981, n.p.).
A testament to the mutual adoration between Martin and the Elkons, the artist presented Elkon with this exceptional work on paper in 1965, and it has remained in the Elkon Collection ever since. Untitled also bears the distinction of having toured with Martin's three most prestigious exhibitions in the last half-century: to the Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia in 1973, the three-year international traveling retrospective exhibition that originated at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1992-1994 and, most recently, the four-venue retrospective assembled by the Tate Modern in London from 2015 to 2017.
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