Stendahl Art Galleries in Europe:

Expanding the Market for Pre-Hispanic Art at Mid-Century


  • Megan O'Neil Emory University
  • Mary E Miller Getty Research Institute



This paper addresses the Stendahl Art Galleries’ expansion of their trade in pre-Hispanic art from their home-base in Hollywood to New York and Europe in the late 1950s and early 1960s. After an initial success in acquiring and selling ancient Mexican artworks in the early 1940s, the gallery, founded by Earl Stendahl, experienced leaner years in the late 1940s. But they found renewed success after 1950 by placing family members in distinct locations – in Mexico and Central America, to acquire pieces, and in Los Angeles and New York, to cultivate buyers– and by organizing exhibitions in the US and Europe, for which host museums received commissions for sales. What began as works sold one at a time from the Los Angeles gallery would become a network of looters, agents, and buyers that expanded across the US and into Europe, selling both high-priced and inexpensive items in order to capture a broader market. Over the years, they also expanded their sources of pre-Hispanic art, beginning in Mexico and later moving to Panama, Costa Rica, and other countries. This article analyzes letters exchanged among Stendahl family members and clients to shed light on both their acquisitions and sales.

Author Biographies

Megan O'Neil, Emory University

Megan E. O'Neil is Assistant Professor of Art History at Emory University. She received her B.A. in Archaeological Studies from Yale College, a Master’s in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Ph.D. in History of Art from Yale. She has published several books: Engaging Ancient Maya Sculpture at Piedras Negras, Guatemala, a revised edition of Maya Art and Architecture (with Mary Miller), Forces of Nature: Ancient Maya Arts from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Maya. Another, Memory in Fragments: The Lives of Ancient Maya Sculptures, is forthcoming from UT Press.  

Mary E Miller, Getty Research Institute

Mary Miller is the Director of the Getty Research Institute, where she also leads the Pre-Hispanic Art Provenance Initiative (PHAPI), a systematic study of the 20th century international market for pre-Hispanic art. A specialist in the art of ancient Mexico and the Maya, her numerous publications include The Murals of Bonampak (1986), The Art of Mesoamerica (1986, now in its 6th edition), Maya Art and Architecture (1999, now in a new edition with Megan O’Neil), and The Spectacle of the Late Maya Court: Reflections on the Murals of Bonampak (2013). She is Sterling Professor Emeritus in History of Art at Yale University and the recipient of many international and national awards.




How to Cite

O’Neil, M., & Miller, M. (2023). Stendahl Art Galleries in Europe:: Expanding the Market for Pre-Hispanic Art at Mid-Century. Journal for Art Market Studies, 7(1).