Obituary: Holly Solomon ; New York Art Collector and Dealer
Dannatt, Adrian, The Independent (London, England)
HOLLY SOLOMON was a beloved figure in the Manhattan art world long after anyone ever went to her gallery, or indeed knew if she had one or not. There were many, too, who loathed the art she promoted, which tended to the very bright, colourful and often frankly kitsch, yet adored her own persona, a small, elegant pixie with regal bearing and veritable twinkle.
She was originally Hollis Dworken of Bridgeport, Connecticut, where her father, born in Russia, owned a grocery and liquor store. Studying at Vassar, she saw her first collection of modern art, an assembly of works by Alexander Calder and Jean Arp at the apartment of one of her female professors, as a key revelation.
After graduating from Sarah Lawrence the young Hollis was soon married to Horace Solomon, the Yale-educated son of a highly successful manufacturer of hairpins and nets. They were living together in Manhattan and the young wife was enrolled at Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio whilst actively auditioning.
In 1961 she made her first purchase, a lamp by the minimalist sculptor Dan Flavin, followed by a Brillo box by Andy Warhol. It was this purchase, installed at home as a coffee table, that first intrigued her husband. Horace Solomon's fascination with this strange new object led him to go and visit some galleries himself:
He went to the Roy Lichtenstein show at Castelli in 1962 and bought The Anxious Girl. That was when we began collecting together, not expensive things but beautiful things.
The Solomons were soon well-known Pop Art collectors. As an actress however things were less dynamic for her, although (as Hollis Belmont) she did play a prostitute, in the 1969 underground film The Plot Against Harry.
The high-point of their career as Pop collectors came with the ritual Warhol portrait, which before he started pumping them out for any socialite who could pay, was actually a significant aesthetic statement:
In 1963 for our 10th wedding anniversary I told my husband, Horace, I wanted a portrait by Andy Warhol. He agreed, and
I met Andy at a photo booth on 42nd Street. I must have had $10- worth of quarters and he left me in the booth to do the photographs by myself. When I was done I had hundreds of pictures. I gave them to Andy but didn't hear from him for a long time. Finally Andy called one day to say he had done several portraits and Horace and I should come over to choose which three panels we would like to acquire. When we got to the studio nine paintings were spread over the floor. Finally Horace asked if they were dry. When Andy said they were, Horace exclaimed, "I'll take all of them." We were stunned.
Equally stunning was the nine-panel portrait's auction price of $2m at Christie's last year, a price that reflects the legend of its sitter as much as that of its artist. Solomon's portrait was captured not only by Warhol but also by Lichtenstein, Christo, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Artschwager and Robert Mapplethorpe, of whom she was an early patron.
In 1969 the Solomons decided to spend their "collecting money" on an active arts space rather than inanimate objects and they opened the 98 Greene Street Loft, in the still relatively savage terrain of SoHo. …