Press – Art News April 11, 2024

Geoffrey Holder’s Extensive Oeuvre Is Finally Coming into Focus
by Maximilíano Durón, April 11, 2024

Geoffrey Holder, photographed by his son Léo Holder.

Geoffrey Holder is famous for many things. Most people will likely know him for playing a Bond villain in Live and Let Die, for directing the Broadway musical The Wiz and designing costumes for it, for being a principal dancer of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in the 1950s, for collaborating with choreographer Alvin Ailey or dancer Josephine Baker, for being the face of 7 Up commercials, or for being a general man about town, with an infectious laugh and astute sense of style, in the New York scene. Only a select few, however, know him for the central passion of his life: his art practice. But that is beginning to change.

“Painting came first,” Léo Holder, the artist’s son and the steward of his father’s art for more than a decade, told ARTnews, noting that his father had his first art exhibition at 14, sold his paintings to finance his move from Trinidad to New York in 1953, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his art in 1956. “It just so happens that everything else he does is an extension of the painting, but painting has always been the nucleus.”

With an aim to correct the record of his father’s artistic contributions and rebut any claims that Holder was merely a Sunday painter, Léo said even he is still learning about Holder père: “Even though I’ve grown up with most of these, I’m always making discoveries—it’s literally the tip of the iceberg.”

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