Obituaries USA

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

Ivan Karp outside his gallery OK Harris

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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15 Jul 13
4:34 CET

FRANCY STOLLER, BRONX,NEW YORK

Ivan suggested frames or siding on my husband,Stephen Stoller's work-recently he emailed a kind word-Yes he was kind-the Gallery was calm-and love persisted-I'm sorry

12 Nov 12
14:58 CET

JAMES S ROUSONELOS, DEKALB, IL

In 1976, when I lived in the East Village, I would frequent the galleries in SOHO. One day I mustered up the guts and strength to show Mr.Karp slides of my realist paintings. He looked at them, graciously taking the time to do so, and was attracted to one specific oil I had done in 1975 titled "9 to 5," a piece depicting a tired working class man standing in the doorway with his radio in one hand and his newspaper in the other, after a hard days work as a working class US citizen. When he saw that piece, he commented that it was "top-notch," as he put it, but said that my realist paintings were too much like some of the work he was already representing. He suggested other NYC galleries to me at that time. It struct me in a profound way, and for the rest of my life, that this man, as busy as he was, took that moment in time, when he didn't have to, to give me his vote of confidence. I have successfully sold my work, since that experience. James S Rousonelos: www.JSRArtStudio.com

30 Aug 12
15:23 CET

LEO KAMEN, TORONTO, ON.

I met Ivan Karp in 1995. I was a young art dealer at the time. He was already a sage. Over dinner one night I asked him what he did last week, and he told me he had played Craps. He invited me to join him the next time he went to Las Vegas. A month later I stood with him at a Craps table at the Golden Nugget. I had never gambled before. He was an irascible tutor, and a stern mentor. He told me I "threw like a chicken." The experience, let alone the assessment changed my life, and some ten years later it anchored my memoir, "Rolling the Bones." Yesterday, I finished the first draft of a novel, "The Ten Ways of Craps." Its central character is based on Ivan. He now has a whole book. He deserves it. I will miss his vigor, irreverence, and pizazz more than he would ever imagine.

13 Aug 12
14:51 CET

SU POLO, NYC

It is sad news for the art world to lose this wonderful person, Ivan Karp. It has always been my pleasure to come into the OK Harris gallery and experience the art world a I have always loved it to be. The variety of works in each exquisite room has always revealed the sensibility of skill and extraordinary eye of the artists he curated, each expressing a part of this man's inner sense of what creativity means and showing us what we can look at to give us a map of the world's creative timeline. I trusted Mr. Karps sesiblity to please and educate me after graduating with my BFA. There seemed to be nowhere else to go to find where the art is. I hope that somehow his spirit and idea of Art is followed through and we continue to have a place that shows it to us so well. Rest in peace dear sir.

10 Aug 12
16:19 CET

SU POLO, NYC

It is sad news for the art world to lose this wonderful person, Ivan Karp. It has always been my pleasure to come into the OK Harris gallery and experience the art world a I have always loved it to be. The variety of works in each exquisite room has always revealed the sensibility of skill and extraordinary eye of the artists he curated, each expressing a part of this man's inner sense of what creativity means and showing us what we can look at to give us a map of the world's creative timeline. I trusted Mr. Karps sesiblity to please and educate me after graduating with my BFA. There seemed to be nowhere else to go to find where the art is. I hope that somehow his spirit and idea of Art is followed through and we continue to have a place that shows it to us so well. Rest in peace dear sir.

17 Jul 12
16:1 CET

JAMES ROBIE, LOS ANGELES

I too walked into OK Harris in 1969 while still at Yale to show Mr. Karp my paintings. He was gracious and told me they weren't for him but picked up the phone and called David Herbert at the Graham Gallery and told him that he had his next show setting with him. I took my work uptown and was in a group show that summer, my first New York show. It's something I'll always remember.

9 Jul 12
5:0 CET

KAREY MAURICE, PRINCETON

I also walked into the OK Harris with a few of my paintings and just as I passed by Ivan's office he says to me "You got something to show me kid ?" and invited me into the office where he spent a great deal of time talking to me. He said my work wasn't for him but there were 1000 galleries out there "keep going kid" he encouraged me to do.RIP Mr.Karp!

6 Jul 12
0:44 CET

ALGIS KEMEZYS, STE ADELE

I am so pleased to see that my photograph of Ivan Karp, stood the test of time and became an unofficial Portrait of the Great One!

2 Jul 12
15:46 CET

CHARLES VALOROSO, SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Ivan Karp was of the most generous person that I've met in the New York art world. I walked into his gallery with a roll of canvases tucked under my arms. He actually spent a half hour giving me the best advice on the being an artist in New York. Move to New York, get a loft so he can see my work develop. I went back to Hawaii. I wish I took his advice. The year was 1979.

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