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Eleanor Ward

In November of 1962 at her Stable Gallery, Eleanor Ward (1911-1984) provided the art world with what was at the time, the largest solo Andy Warhol show. It boasted an incredibly wide-ranging set from Warhol, showing everything from his Coke Bottle, Dollar Bills, and Baseball series to his equally lauded and despised Campbell Soup Cans, to the debut of his iconic Marilyn Diptych. It may not be surprising that Ward and Warhol would cross paths eventually. Both had a history in the commercial advertising world, with Ward working for Christian Dior for a number of years before transitioning into the art world at the recommendation of Dior himself. After a tenure in Paris, Ward would lease a livery stable–hence, the name The Stable Gallery–in 1952 and begin exhibitions the following year after remodeling.

Ward was introduced to Warhol by filmmaker Emile de Antonio (most people might recognize a still from his movie, In the Year of the Pig, as the cover of The Smiths’ album, Meat is Murder), who was a lifelong friend of his. Warhol’s 1962 show was the result of some slight serendipity: it was only after Ward’s falling out with artist Alex Katz, that she decided to give Warhol a showing instead. Unlike Warhol’s previous solo shows in New York (The Loft, hosted by Vito Giallo) and Los Angeles (Ferus Gallery, hosted by Irving Blum), the one at the Stable was met with considerably more praise from art patrons, critics, and celebrities alike, and poised him for greater stardom. It should also be noted that Warhol would feature at Stable once again two years later with his sculptures, including his Brillo and Heinz ketchup boxes. 

Eleanor Ward maintained a high reputation amongst the art crowd of New York, Stable Gallery being one of the more acclaimed spaces for the typical cast of Abstract Expressionist artists of the time. However, she is also frequently cited for her willingness to engage in more risky curatorial ventures, such as giving space for art by then-custodian of Stable, Robert Rauschenberg, and being an early recognizer of photography as high art. She closed Stable in 1970, choosing to travel and deal art in a private capacity before settling into New York’s Volney Hotel (now Volney Residences). She died on January 6, 1984.

 

Eleanor Ward and Robert Indiana in 1963, at the Americans exhibition at the MoMa.
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