From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Leo Castelli (born September 4, 1907 at Trieste as Leo Krauss – died August 21, 1999) was an art dealer of Italian and Austro-Hungarian Jewish origin. He was best known to the public as the art dealer who showed Andy Warhol's paintings, and whose gallery showcased cutting edge Contemporary art for five decades. Castelli showed Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Neo-Dada, Pop Art, Op Art, Color field painting, Hard-edge painting, Lyrical Abstraction, Minimal Art, Conceptual Art, and Neo-expressionism, among other movements.
Castelli's first American curatorial effort was the famous Ninth Street Show of 1951, a seminal event of Abstract Expressionism. In 1957, he opened the Leo Castelli Gallery in a townhouse on E. 77th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues in New York City. Initially the gallery showcased European Surrealism, Wassily Kandinsky, and other European artists. However the gallery also exhibited American Abstract Expressionism. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly, Friedel Dzubas, and Norman Bluhm were some artists who were included in group shows. In 1958 Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns joined the gallery, signaling a turning away from Abstract Expressionism, towards Pop Art, Minimalism and Conceptual Art. From the early 1960s through the late 70s, Frank Stella, Lee Bontecou, James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Morris (artist), Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Ronald Davis, Bruce Nauman, Ed Ruscha, Salvatore Scarpitta, Richard Serra, Lawrence Weiner and Joseph Kosuth joined the stable of Castelli artists. In the 1970s Leo Castelli opened a downtown SoHo branch of the Leo Castelli Gallery at 420 West Broadway. In the 1980s he opened a second larger downtown exhibition space on Greene Street also in SoHo.
He was an early patron of Pop art especially by exhibiting artists like Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. His first wife Ileana Sonnabend had a contemporary art gallery in Paris during the early 1960s and she opened a contemporary art gallery, the Sonnabend Gallery, in New York in the 1970s. His second wife, Antoinette Castelli, opened Castelli Graphics, an art gallery devoted to the prints and photographs of Castelli Gallery and other artists, and they had a son together named Jean-Christophe Castelli.
Leo Castelli was one of the most successful art dealers of the 20th century.