The Roko Gallery records measure six linear feet and date from 1929-1982, with the bulk of the records dating from 1970-1978. Founded by Michael Leon Freilich in 1946, the records of this New York contemporary art gallery consist primarily of artists files. Also found are scattered correspondence, business and financial records, a subject file, exhibition files, seven scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs of Frielich, friends, and of artwork.
Scope and Content Note:
The Roko Gallery records measure six linear feet and date from 1929-1982, with the bulk of the records from 1970-1978. Founded by Michael Leon Freilich in 1946, the records of this New York gallery consist primarily of artists' files. Also found are scattered correspondence, business and financial records, a subject file, exhibition files, disassembled scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs.
The bulk of the correspondence is from the early to mid-1970s and concerns general gallery operations, sales of artwork, artists interested in exhibiting at the gallery, letters to Ann Freilich Schutz regarding Michael Freilich's death, and a handful of personal postcards from Freilich to his niece, 1952-1955. Scattered correspondence from artists Lambro Ahlas, Mike Cook, Hermann Dahl, Salvatore Del Deo, Raymond Dowden, Charles Kaiman, Peggy Muray (Mrs. Nicholas Muray), Raphael Soyer, George Sugarman, Anne Parker, Jan Wunderman, and Hank Virgona is also found. General business and financial records include calendars, address books, mailing lists, visitors' registers, receipt books, consignment agreements, invoices and receipts.
Measuring 3.5 linear feet, Artists Files comprise the bulk of the collection and contain correspondence, exhibition catalogs, clippings, original artwork, receipts, price lists, photographs, and slides of work. Among the nearly 200 artists are Murat Brierre, Faith Bromberg, Clare Burch, Lawrence Calcagno, Victor Candell, Arthur Cohen, Giuseppe Di Lieto, Edward Eichel, Ann Freilich, Dennis Fritz, Mary Heisig, Herbert Kallem, Doris Klein, Elizabeth Korn, Randall Morgan, Anne Parker, Dorothy Robbins, May Stevens, Hank Virgona, Walter Williams, and Jan Wunderman.
There is one subject file containing a proposal by the Rainbow Art Foundation. Exhibitions and Event files date from 1956-1978 and contain printed material, press releases, notes, correspondence, agreements, and a disassembled notebook containing prices and lists of works exhibited at the Roko Gallery from 1967-1978. Also found is typed and signed poetry by poet John Tagliabue. Disassembled scrapbooks contain additional printed materials regarding the gallery's solo and group exhibitions from 1947-1966. Among the many artists represented in the scrapbooks are Claude Clark, Beauford Delaney, Paul England, Peter Heinemann, Herbert Kallem, Herschel Levit, Si Lewen, Howard Mandel, Rose Piper, Sadie Rosenblum, Herbert Scheffel, Erika Weihs, Walter Williams, and Jan Wunderman.
Additional printed material includes mostly newspaper clippings, exhibition announcements, and catalogs. Material found in the collection that pre-dates the founding of the gallery consists primarily of printed material collected by Freilich.
Photographs, slides, and negatives date mostly from the 1970s and depict gallery directors Michael Leon Freilich, Cynthia Bernadini and Manu Sassoonian, and artwork.
The Roko Gallery records are arranged into eight series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1936, 1952-circa late 1970s (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 2: Business and Financial Records, circa 1956-1980 (Box 1; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 3: Artist Files, circa 1948-1979 (Box 2-5; 3.5 linear feet)
Series 4: Subject Files, undated (Box 5; 1 folder)
Series 5: Exhibition and Event Files, circa 1956-1978 (Box 5; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 6: Scrapbook, circa 1947-1966 (Box 5-6; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1929-1982 (Box 6; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 8: Photographic Material, 1946-circa 1970s (Box 6; 0.3 linear feet)
Michael Leon Freilich (1912-1975) established the Roko Gallery in 1946 at 51 Greenwich Avenue where it remained until the mid-1950s. Over its 32 year history, the gallery featured the paintings and sculptures of young, new artists, most living in New York City, through solo exhibitions, group shows, and sales. The gallery then made a series of moves, first to 925 Madison Avenue, then to 867 Madison Avenue, and finally back to Greenwich Village at 90 East 10st Street in 1970. In 1974, Michael Freilich became ill and the daily gallery operations were taken over by artist Lloyd Lózes Goff. Freilich passed away in February 1975; Cynthia Bernardi and Manu Sassoonian bought the gallery and became co-directors in the spring of 1975. The gallery closed in 1978, leaving open an annex on 816 Broadway.
The Roko Gallery records were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1975-1988 by Ann Freilich, sister of Michael Freilich, and Cynthia Bernardi, former director of the gallery.
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An interview of Phillip A. Bruno conducted 2009 January 13-21, by James McElhinney, for the Archives of American Art, at the Archives of American Art, in New York, New York.
Bruno speaks of some his earliest impressions of art while growing up in New York and Paris; attending Columbia University, where he majored in the history of painting and architecture and studied under Meyer Schapiro; his first job at the Weyhe Gallery as a gallery assistant; helping create the Grace Borgenicht Gallery, where he served as director for five years; traveling to Mexico, meeting Jose Cuevas and exhibiting his work at the Edward Loeb Gallery in Paris; traveling to Brazil and meeting a family of naturalist painters who emphasized the importance of painting outdoors, unlike many painters from the New York school; working with Henry Clews and the La Napoule Art Foundation; selling a piece of Salvador Dali jewelry made by Carlos Alamanni to Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy Magazine; working as director of The World House Gallery and selling works by Fancis Bacon and Max Ernst to clients such as Joseph Hirshhorn and Roy Neuberger; organizing a exhibition of artists shown at the Brussels World Fair in 1958 at World House and meeting George Staempfli through the artist Joan Brown; moving from World House to the Staempfli Gallery in 1960 to work as co-director; the Staempfli Gallery's role in the international art world; an original drawing by Leonard Baskin inscribed to Phillip in 1954; selling the work of artists such as Harry Bertoia, Fritz Koening, and David Park; meeting Henri Matisse in Paris at the age of 21; visiting the studios of Alexander Calder and Mark Rothko; the difference between galleries that can spot new talent and galleries that sell certain artists well; the art market becoming less idealistic and more commercial; the rising importance of auction houses and the possibility of their taking the place of traditional art galleries; the move of the Staempfli Gallery to the SoHo neighborhood and soon after, leaving Staempfli for Marlborough, where he was one of the New York directors for 18 years; his appreciation for the creativity of others, retirement and current plans to write his memoirs. Bruno also recalls Milton Avery, Gabor Peterdi, Hans Muller, Ralston Crawford, Randall Morgan, Charlotte Willard, Dorthy Satterlee, Masayuki Nagare, Claude Bemardin, Kubach-Wilmsen, Louise Nevelson, Cladio Bravo, Lopez Garcia, Alberto Giacometti, The Barnes Foundation, Richard Estes, Alex Katz, and Neil Wlliver.
Biographical / Historical:
Phillip A. Bruno (1930- ) is an art collector and director of Marlborough Gallery, New York, New York.
Originally recorded on 2 sound discs. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 45 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Gallery directors -- New York (State) -- New York Search this
Collectors and collecting -- New York (State) -- New York Search this
Funding for this interview was provided by the Widgeon Point Charitable Foundation.
Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.