Leo Castelli


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(b Trieste, 4 Sept. 1907; d New York, 21 Aug. 1999).

Italian-born American art dealer. He settled in New York in the late 1940s and originally sold modern European works, acquired mainly through contacts he had established during the 1930s when he had been a dealer in Paris. However, finding this market dominated by more established dealers, he turned to American art, and in 1958 he first showed work by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, the two artists with whom he is most closely identified. In the catalogue of the exhibition ‘American Art in the 20th Century’ (Royal Academy, London, 1993), Castelli is described as ‘perhaps the most influential art dealer of the twentieth century…The reputations of most of the major artists of the 1960s were made under his guidance. He established the careers of Cy Twombly, Frank Stella, and Roy Lichtenstein, before enhancing the standing of Andy Warhol…With his first exhibition of Claes Oldenburg in 1974, Castelli completed his group of Pop celebrities…In the early years he helped to change the American gallery system by introducing a European-type retainer (monthly wages advanced against royalties from future sales), enabling his artists to concentrate exclusively on their art.’ Castelli said: ‘You spot movements emerging and try to pick the best practitioners.’

Subjects: Art.

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