Novak knew of Washburn while still being a shepherd in the kibbutz. The
man’s reputation as the head of Carnegie International Contemporary Art
Show in Pittsburgh was truly of world wide fame. By 1966 when Novak met
Washburn, he was no longer in his Carnegie position, but the director of
Asia House, off Park Ave., New York City, putting on the most
exquisitely produced ancient Asian art shows.
By fall of 1967, as Novak unpacked the “La Coupole” sculpture group in
his New York show room, Washburn was his very first guest to view this
latest work. The combined parts of Washburn’s actions a few hours before
his visit and a few more into the following day, gave inspirational hope
to both Novak and Washburn that Novak’s career is about to be launched.
The evening before Washburn’s visit at an art gathering, chatting with
his friend, Leo Casteli, the most powerful art market figure of the day,
Washburn learned of a schedule disruption in Leo’s gallery shows, which
gave Gordon an idea as he saw the “La Coupole” group. A sculptor about
to open a show at Casteli was not going to fulfill his commitment.
Realizing the opportunity, and in great belief in Novak’s unique art
quality, Washburn invited Casteli to see Novak’s latest work. In his
certainty of helping both Novak and Casteli , he made a further move by
inviting the art editor of Life Magazine to join in the visit.
Group Title La Coupol
|Novak received his three most anticipated guests, dressed in his usual
denim pants and jacket, most excited and relaxed , confident about his
work. As Leo entered the room, his nervous behavior was evident, and his
mumbling illogical meaningless words of response to Washburn’s showing
the work which he believed so worthy. Leo’s irrational behavior, even
avoiding eye contact with everyone present, included suddenly leaving
the studio, with everyone dumbfounded and at a loss to continue the
visit. Life Magazine’s editor, in obvious embarrassment for Washburn,
and recognizing no opportunity for a story, left immediately. While
Washburn in deepening disbelief, stalled a while, numbed in his obvious
personal hurt, to comprehend why or what happened.
Novak was cordial to the two who departed early, while in deepest
sympathy and gratitude to Washburn, expressed by the words: “I shall
never forget your kindness”. The following morning, Novak delivered a
framed drawing to Washburn’s home, with appropriate words of thanks.
Five years on, Gordon Washburn, as Asia House director, circumventing
the rules of his position to ancient Asian art, gave Novak the
opportunity by invitation, to create his “Room at Asia House”. In
Novak’s mind, the most advanced art show of his, it was also the last
While the show was on, Novak took Washburn to lunch one day, through
which Novak reiterated his everlasting gratitude to Gordon for his
belief in the “La Coupole” group five years earlier. This most elegant,
gentle, scholarly man, came instantly to the edge of a rage, saying:
“that man was so full of it, his eyes were solid brown”, obviously in
reference to Leo Casteli.