The Dealer as Co-Conspirator: Selections from the Richard Bellamy Papers in the MoMA Archives


Uniformly praised by friends and colleagues for his “towering modesty,” his sensitivity to art, and his commitment to those who make it, Richard Bellamy (1927–1998) worked for over forty years as a gallerist and art dealer in New York. He began his career at the Hansa Gallery, a downtown artist cooperative. From 1955 to 1965, through the peak seasons of the Hansa and as a director of the uptown , Bellamy emerged at the center of an expanding, changing New York art world. Artists he found and represented promoted new styles of realism and abstraction; from his galleries sprang leaders of the new movements of Pop Art, Minimalism, and Op Art, and The Museum of Modern Art and other major collectors purchased artworks he exhibited. Yet Bellamy gave priority to his artists’ careers over his own. He was quick to suggest that artists show with other, more suitable galleries, and it was commonplace for artists that Bellamy first exhibited to reach the height of their careers elsewhere. After 1965, as an independent dealer and, later, as proprietor of the Oil & Steel Gallery, Bellamy spent more time supporting his long-standing associates than showcasing new artists. In the last decade of his career he devoted his time almost wholly to the sculptor Mark di Suvero.

This exhibition marks the tenth anniversary of Bellamy’s death and the opening of his papers in the Museum Archives. The papers, and this exhibit, offer evidence more of his activities on behalf of artists than of Bellamy himself, who vanishes into his work as an artist’s dealer and co-conspirator. His unique eye for new and innovative art and his selflessness and generosity in promoting it are Bellamy’s lasting contribution to the art world.

All items in this exhibition are from the Richard Bellamy Papers in The Museum of Modern Art Archives, unless otherwise noted. Numbers in brackets identify the folders in which the documents reside.

The Hansa Gallery 1952–1954

The Hansa Gallery was founded in 1952 by a group of young artists from the Hans Hofmann School who were unable to show at the small number of established galleries uptown. The name of the Hansa Gallery honored Hofmann as an artist and teacher and also referred to the Hanseatic League, a medieval cooperative organization of German mercantile cities. Founding members included Richard Stankiewicz, Wolf Kahn, Miles Forst, Jan Müller, and Jacques Beckwith. When the Hansa Gallery opened on East Twelfth Street, it was the second cooperative gallery in New York, and it helped establish the growing Tenth Street art scene. Richard Bellamy, a constant presence in the downtown art community, was a friend of many of these artists.

Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts Student Card
undated [II.A.6]

Drafts of the gallery’s mission statement and policies
1952 [II.A.6]
These drafts are likely by the artist Miles Forst, Bellamy’s close friend. The tentative name Dodeca Gallery may have been inspired by the number of founding members—twelve.

Sketch of an invitation to the gallery's inaugural exhibition Sketch of an invitation to the gallery’s inaugural exhibition
1952 [II.A.6]
The name Hansa was apparently a last-minute decision.

Announcement for the inaugural exhibition Paintings, Sculpture
1952 [II.A.1]

Sketch for the announcement of the exhibition Drawings
1954 [II.A.5]

The Hansa Gallery 1955–1959

By 1955, the Hansa Gallery’s success enabled it to move uptown for greater visibility and to hire Bellamy as director (albeit at a salary of only ten dollars a week, plus commissions). Collectors and museum curators began frequenting the gallery and making purchases. The gallery also attracted new members, such as George Segal and Myron Stout, and Allan Kaprow staged his first environments and Happenings there. Founding members Jan Müller and Richard Stankiewicz emerged as the greatest commercial successes. Despite the Hansa Gallery’s achievements, financial pressures, personal disagreements, the loss of founding members to other galleries, and the death of Müller led the Hansa to close in 1959.

Artist Jan Müller at the opening of his solo exhibition at the Hansa Gallery
Photograph by Robert Frank
1957 [III.J.2]
Müller (facing the camera) is standing in front of his painting Faust, II. MoMA purchased the similar painting Faust, I from this exhibition for $1,500, at that time the Hansa’s largest sale.
Artist Jan Müller at the opening of his solo exhibition at the Hansa Gallery

List of sales at the Hansa for 1956–1958
ca. 1958 [III.J.3]
Müller and Stankiewicz are the artists listed most frequently. Purchasers include Philip Johnson, Richard Brown Baker, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Elaine de Kooning, Michael Sonnabend, and the writer Samuel Spewack

Announcement of Jan Müller’s memorial exhibition
1958 [Library, Jan Müller Artist File]
Müller died of a heart condition in 1958, at age thirty-six. In 1962 he was honored with a retrospective exhibition of his painting at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, capping the achievement of the Hansa Gallery and its members.

The Green Gallery 1960–1962

After the Hansa Gallery closed, Bellamy met Robert Scull, a taxi mogul and art collector who wanted to fund a new gallery. With Scull’s support the Green Gallery opened in October 1960, at 15 West Fifty-seventh Street. Starting with his first exhibition, Bellamy began a practice of giving new artists their first solo exhibitions or their first uptown shows. The Green Gallery soon became known for its eclecticism and spirit of excitement; art historian and critic Barbara Rose described it in 1970 as an “open house for the disinherited.” In 1961 and 1962 Bellamy gave solo exhibitions to Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselmann, Lucas Samaras, and James Rosenquist, artists soon grouped under the rubric of Pop art.

Transcript of defense testimony by Richard Bellamy
Early 1980s [II.E.5]
In 1981 Ethel Scull initiated a lawsuit against her ex-husband Robert for a greater share of the art collection amassed during their marriage. The defense argued that Robert had collected art without Ethel’s involvement and with his own money. Bellamy notes here that he and Robert Scull first met at MoMA’s Member’s penthouse restaurant.

Letter from Richard Bellamy to Marie Dickson
1961 [III.J.3]
Bellamy describes the handling of various expenses with his administrative assistant, three months after the gallery’s opening.

Poster for the Green Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Mark di Suvero: Sculpture
1960 [Library, Green Gallery Subject File]
Bellamy and di Suvero met in 1960, and the sculptor’s first solo exhibition began their forty-year friendship and professional relationship. The exhibition received enthusiastic reviews, most notably from artist/critic Donald Judd and critic Sydney Geist writing in Arts Magazine.

Poster for the Green Gallery’s first group show Poster for the Green Gallery’s first group show
1960 [II.B.28]
The name of the gallery came from a brainstorming session by Bellamy and fellow art dealer Ivan Karp. For Bellamy the word green suggested fecundity, newness, and, possibly, money. At the same session they came up with the names O.K. Harris, which Scull rejected, and Oil & Steel, which Bellamy would use twenty years later.

Installation view of the Green Gallery Installation view of the Green Gallery
Photograph by Rudy Burckhardt
c. 1961 [II.B.30]
Pictured are works by Claes Oldenburg, Philip Wofford, Richard Smith, and Yayoi Kusama.

Poster for Claes Oldenburg [Pat]
1962 [II.B.28]
This was Oldenburg’s first solo exhibition uptown and the first time he exhibited his soft sculpture. As many as four pieces from the show entered MoMA’s collection, including Floor Cone and Floor Cake, both made in 1962.

The Green Gallery 1963–1964

Pop art gained wide public exposure beginning in 1963. But despite the immense cultural impact of the movement, there were only a few serious collectors who regularly purchased larger works. Robert Scull was becoming one of the best known, though his support of the Green Gallery was not widely advertised. George Segal’s first show at the Green Gallery immediately followed Mark di Suvero’s debut. Scull disliked his work so much that he wanted Bellamy to fire Segal from the gallery. Bellamy urged patience, and Scull later became a collector and even a subject of Segal’s work.

Poster for the 1964 exhibition George Segal, featuring an image of Gas Station (1963)
1964 [II.B.35]
Atmospheric photographs of Segal’s sculptures were used on numerous posters for Green Gallery group shows and for his solo exhibitions.

Time magazine
February 21, 1964 [II.B.32*]
The Segal work pictured is Farm Worker (1963) and was likely shown in the 1964 Segal exhibition.

Summary of Segal sales
1963–64 [II.B.18]

Receipt for Bus Driver (1962)
1963 [II.B.18]
The Museum of Modern Art was a major collector of Pop art, among a few other museums, but Bus Driver was the only one of Segal’s sculptures the Museum purchased from the Green Gallery.

The Green Gallery 1964–1965

In 1964 Robert Scull withdrew his financing of the Green Gallery. The gallery had never been profitable, and it could not sustain the growing practice of paying artists advances on sales or otherwise financially supporting them. The last season of the Green Gallery featured solo exhibitions by Lucas Samaras, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, and Tom Wesselmann, but few, if any, of the works sold. By the spring of 1965, the gallery was forced to close. For many the closure came as a surprise. In 1966 critic Amy Goldin wrote that the art world felt that “Bellamy had to be either incompetent or the victim of high-powered machinations.”

Poster for the exhibition L. Poons Poster for the exhibition L. Poons
1963 [II.B.35]
This was Larry Poons’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.

Receipt for fluorescent lights
1964 [II.B.9]

Receipt for steel fabrication
1964 [II.B.10]
In 1986 Bellamy said that the Green Gallery had closed because “I finally couldn’t afford new materials and supplies for [the artists], especially someone like Judd, who had started to work in metal rather than wood.”

Exhibition announcement Exhibition announcement
1964 [II.B.29]

Installation view of group show Installation view of group show
Photograph by Rudy Burckhardt
1964 [III.A.25]
This was the last group show staged at the Green Gallery before it closed.

An Independent Dealer 1965–1980

With the closure of the Green Gallery, Bellamy worked hard to place his artists with Leo Castelli, Sydney Janis, and other prominent galleries. He moved into a small office in the Noah Goldowsky Gallery and began a new career as an independent dealer. But Bellamy remained close even with artists he no longer represented. He also sought out new artists and became Richard Serra’s first dealer after meeting him in Europe. For Bellamy the fifteen years between the closing of the Green Gallery and the opening of his new gallery, Oil & Steel, were occupied mainly by private sales and shared commissions on sales and exhibitions at other galleries.

Letter from Dan Flavin to Richard Bellamy
August 24, 1965 [III.A.22]
Flavin discusses his Guggenheim grant proposal, describing new ideas for artwork as well as his precarious financial position. He writes, “Besides logically bringing my use of fluorescent light further into the range of environmental ‘sculpture,’ I would like to be after a more advanced technological sense of artificial light.” He adds, “P.S. Dick, Don wrote to me that you are concerned about helping me find gallery representation. . . . Certainly, I can use help.”

Letter from James Rosenquist to Richard Bellamy
September 16, 1965 [III.A.52]
Rosenquist writes from Nevada, “I heard about the timeless closing of the Green Gallery and want to elect you to D. Miller’s job at the Museum of Mod. Art where I think you might have been all the time except for reality.”

Richard Serra’s remembrance of Richard Bellamy, read at his memorial service
May 13, 1998 [IV.3]

Installation view of the Noah Goldowsky Gallery
Photograph by Geoffrey Clements
undated [II.C.28]
Bellamy recollected, “Sometimes, willy-nilly, I would hang a show from what Noah had in stock, but often there would be nothing on the walls. I was trying to operate as a private dealer, which is what the space and my own inclinations were suited to.”

Investment Piece, by Lee Lozano
August 14, 1969 [III.A.55]

Postcard from artist Lee Lozano to Richard Bellamy
September 23, 1969 [III.A.55]
Lozano had appeared in group shows at the Green Gallery but later declined regular gallery representation as her artwork grew more conceptual. In the instructions for a similar work, Withdrawal Piece of February 8, 1969, she wrote, “Pull out of a show at Dick Bellamy’s to avoid hanging with work that brings you down.”


The Oil & Steel Gallery 1980–1998

In 1980 Bellamy awoke from what he termed a “seven-year lethargy” and founded the Oil & Steel Gallery, at 157 Chambers Street. He devoted exhibitions to many of his friends from previous decades, but he considered himself the personal dealer of only Myron Stout, Mark di Suvero, and David Rabinowitch. In 1983 he gave di Suvero his first exhibition in New York since a 1975 show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1985 Bellamy moved the Oil & Steel Gallery out of Manhattan to Hallet’s Cove, in Long Island City, Queens, and into the compound housing di Suvero’s studio. There he stopped having regular exhibitions and increasingly devoted his time to supporting di Suvero’s career. He also honed his photography of di Suvero’s sculpture, a skill that became a unique source of artistic output. Bellamy maintained Oil & Steel Gallery until his death, in 1998.

Copy of lease for gallery and office space at 30–40 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City
1985 [I.A.492]

Mark di Suvero artist’s statement
c. 1984 [III.N.58]
This statement was written for di Suvero’s 1985 exhibition at Storm King Art Center, in Mountainville, New York. Bellamy played a significant role in organizing exhibitions of the sculptor’s work around the world.

Views of the gallery and office space at Oil & Steel Gallery Views of the gallery and office space at Oil & Steel Gallery
Views of the gallery and office space at Oil & Steel Gallery
Photographs by Jerry L. Thompson
April 3, 1998 [II.D.118]
Bellamy covered the walls with his photographs of di Suvero’s sculptures and intended to eventually write a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work. In 2006 many of the photographs were exhibited at Storm King Art Center along with di Suvero’s sculpture. These images were taken six days after Bellamy’s death.

Announcement of Richard Bellamy’s memorial service
May 13, 1998 [IV.2]
The memorial was held at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, in Long Island City, an institution Bellamy had helped found, near where he last resided. Speakers included Agnes Gund, Richard Serra, Mark di Suvero, Alfred Leslie, Ivan Karp, and James Rosenquist.


This exhibition is supported by The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

The Richard Bellamy Papers were processed with the generous support of The Henry Luce Foundation.

Additionally, this exhibition would not have been possible without the help of numerous individuals within The Museum of Modern Art. I relied heavily on the expertise and judgment of Michelle Elligott and Michelle Harvey in conceiving and installing the exhibition. Tom Grischkowsky, Roberto Rivera and James Kuo helped in securing images; Jennifer Tobias graciously lent items from the Museum Library; Julianna Goodman, Rebecca Roberts, Allegra Burnette and Lotte Meijer edited and designed the wall text labels, video monitor images, and Web site; and Sarah Ganz coordinated the entire process. Thank you all.

Finally, I wish to thank Miles Bellamy for safeguarding his father's papers. This exhibition is testament to Miles's continuing stewardship of Richard Bellamy's legacy.