The late Ivan C. Karp, 1990 Photo by Melanie Eve Barocas
Ivan Karp, who died yesterday at 86, was one of those selfless mentors who were always profligate with their time and insights, even with little-known, fledgling art writers (including me in the 1970s). His artworld reputation was made while he was co-director of the now legendary Leo Castelli Gallery from 1959 to 1969, when it was giving exposure to new such new talent as Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Oldenburg, Wesselmann, Chamberlain.
While Castelli became blue-chip, Karp kept the emerging-artist focus in his still active O.K. Harris Gallery, founded in 1969. He was a pioneering settler in New York’s SoHo, which soon became a gallery mecca.
[UPDATE: Suzanne Kreps of O.K. Harris pledges that “the gallery will continue with vigor.”]
Eminently approachable by young artists, beginning collectors and cub reporters, Ivan was the fastest mouth in Manhattan—one of the few people with whom my notetaking could never keep up (frustrating, because so much of what he said was pithy, pungent, deeply informed).
Here are some Karp-isms, as recorded in my Knopf-published book, “The Complete Guide to Collecting Art”: