New York dealer Ivan Karp dies, aged 86
As assistant director of Leo Castelli Gallery and then at his own gallery, he championed the early careers of John Chamberlain, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol
By Eric Magnuson. Web only
Published online: 28 June 2012
Ivan Karp, the New York gallerist who Newsweek magazine called “the chief salesman of the pop-art movement”, died of natural causes in his sleep at his Charlotteville, New York, home on 28 June. He was 86.
From 1959-69, Karp was assistant director of the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, where he championed the early careers of some of the era’s biggest names, such as John Chamberlain, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol.
Karp once recounted in an interview that while working as a dealer for the Martha Jackson Gallery in the late 1950s, he sold an early Chamberlain sculpture out of the gallery’s basement for $275, “based on my own fervour and my own conviction… that it was really something interesting.” He said that the sale convinced Jackson to keep Chamberlain on after first considering the artist’s work “pretty strange and pretty difficult”.
Karp previously worked as the art critic for The Village Voice from 1954-55. “Somebody said that they needed writers who would work for nothing,” he later said about joining the paper.
After ten years at Leo Castelli, Karp branched out on his own in 1969 and founded the pioneering Soho art gallery OK Harris, which regularly promoted the photo-realist movement and was one of the first galleries to show the artist Robert Bechtle. The gallery is still open after 43 years, now at 383 West Broadway. A memorial service will be held this autumn, according to OK Harris.
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