Steve Cohen, star of the long-running Chamber Magic show performed in a private suite in the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, is hosting the first-ever American exhibition of paintings by magician and television personality Chan Canasta (1920-1999) from 2:00-5:00 pm on Sunday, June 28th in the Waldorf Towers. Rare TV footage of Canasta’s appearances from the 1960s will be screened throughout the afternoon. Canasta’s wife Renata, based in London and Provence, will greet visitors and talk about her husband’s life and work.
Born Chananel Mifelew in Krakow, Poland, Canasta developed a unique brand of psychological illusion that included failure in front of a live audience. Unlike a traditional magician, Canasta felt that when a trick didn’t work, the audience was more likely to believe his tricks were real. His approach elicited empathy and audiences earnestly wanted him to succeed. “Failure only makes the successes more exciting,” he wrote.
In the 1950s and 60s, Canasta appeared on hundreds of TV shows in England and the U.S., including the Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. Later in life, he left the entertainment world and focused on his lifelong passion for painting, hoping to stimulate audiences through another art form. His paintings presented the world in a dreamlike fashion, challenging viewers to discern the difference between reality and illusion.
A fan of Chan Canasta’s work, Steve Cohen hosted a tribute page on his website that included twenty images of his paintings. On the anniversary of Canasta’s 95th birthday, his widow Renata, reminiscing about her late husband, found Steve’s blog post online and contacted him. Together they located the owners of several paintings now on loan to the exhibition. They also contacted a Belgian art dealer who had twenty of Canasta’s paintings in storage that he shipped to New York for the event.
Throughout his career, Chan Canasta was known as “a remarkable man.” Cohen’s hope is that this exhibition will introduce the brilliance of Canasta’s timeless artistry to a new audience.