Copley William N. - Belgium Flag
William N. Copley (January 24, 1919 – May 7, 1996) also known as CPLY, was an American painter, writer, gallerist, collector, patron, publisher and art entrepreneur. His works as an artist have been classified as late Surrealist and precursory to Pop Art. Galleries and foundation Copley and Ployardt tracked down Man Ray while living in Los Angeles. Ray then introduced them to Marcel Duchamp in New York City. There, Duchamp opened many doors for them, introducing the two to New York dealers in Surrealism. In 1948, Copley and Ployardt opened The Copley Galleries in Beverley Hills, displaying works by artists including René Magritte, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, Roberto Matta, Joseph Cornell, and Man Ray. However, Los Angeles had not yet caught on to the Surrealist scene as other locations such as New York City had done, and the Copley Galleries faced hardships in gaining popularity and sales. Copley painted part-time during the gallery's running from the encouragement of friends Duchamp and Ernst and worked on painting full-time when the gallery closed after its first year. Copley moved to Paris in 1949–50, leaving behind his wife and two children to continue to paint. During his time in Paris, he remained in Surrealist circles and continued to paint with a uniquely American style. Man Ray introduced him to Noma Rathner, whom he married in 1954. Man Ray took numerous portraits of the Copleys and served as best man at their wedding in Paris. Their home in Longpont in the outskirts of Paris became a central gathering place in the postwar era for a community of Surrealists to reunite after their dispersal during the war. The Copleys developed the William and Noma Copley Foundation, later known as the Cassandra Collection, in 1953 with the funds from his father's inheritance. The board, in which Marcel Duchamp was also an adviser, gave small grants to artists and musicians. Upon Duchamp's death in 1968, the William and Noma Copley Foundation (later the Cassandra Foundation) gave Marcel Duchamp's last work, "Etant Donnés" to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it is still on view. Collecting From the time of the Copley Galleries until his death, Copley amassed a large collection of artworks with an emphasis on Surrealist works. The basis of his collection started when he began purchasing works that did not sell at the Copley Galleries. From there, he amassed monumental works including Man Ray's "A l'Heure de l'Observatoire – Les Amoureux." Copley's collection was sold at auction in 1979 for $6.7 million, at the time the highest total for the auction of a single owner's collection in the United States. Artwork and exhibitions Copley's first exhibition took place in Los Angeles in 1951 at Royer's Book Shop. From there Copley participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions worldwide. In 1961, Copley was given an exhibition in Amsterdam by the Stedelijk Museum. The museum became the first public institution to add a Copley to their collection. Copley's paintings throughout the 1950s and 60s dealt with ironic and humorous images of stereotypical American symbols like the Western saloon, cowboys, and pin-up girls combined with flags. His works during this period were often considered a combination of American and Mexican folk art and melded in well with the new young POP movement occurring in America when he returned to New York in the 1960s. Artists like Andy Warhol, Christo, Roy Lichtenstein and many others were frequent visitors at Copley's studio on Lower Broadway. Copley believed that pop art had always interested him, claiming American pop art had much to do with "self-disgust" and "satire." The Letter Edged in Black Press (SMS) In 1967, after a divorce with his second wife, Noma, Copley and new friend Dmitri Petrov decided to publish portfolios of 20th-century artist collaborations with the abbreviation SMS (for "Shit Must Stop"). Copley's Upper West Side loft became a meeting place for performers, artists, curators, and composers to work together on the open-ended collective. The SMS portfolio contained six volumes, each of which were shipped out from the artists to subscribers. The works included came from artists both well-renowned and obscure, including Marcel Duchamp, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Christo, Richard Hamilton, Claes Oldenburg, John Cage, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Dick Higgins, Ronnie Landfield, Bruce Nauman, Meret Oppenheim, Neil Jenney, Yoko Ono and others. CPLY X-Rated Copley's works in the 1970s focused on his own understating of differences and challenges between men and women in romantic and sexual relationships. His works were now erotic, even pornographic. In 1974 he exhibited these new works at what was then the New York Cultural Center in Columbus Circle, New York in a show titled "CPLY X-Rated." These pieces were a sudden change from his previous romantic whimsical periods. The American public had difficulty with the material, for which Copley expressed, "Americans... don't know the difference between eroticism and pornography. Because eroticism has always existed in art. And pornography has never necessarily been in art." Copley's experienced greater feedback in Europe, where the work was then well received. In conjunction with the New York Cultural Center Show there was a special "CPLY X-Rated Poster and Catalog.