And because of this, Castelli opted not to represent de Kooning, a source of tension between the two of them. And yet de Kooning couldn’t deny the dealer’s ability to sell.
“That son-of-a-bitch, give him two beer cans and he could sell them,” de Kooning said at one point. Johns promptly cast two cans of Ballantine Ale in bronze, and Castelli sold them to the taxi baron and celebrated collectors Ethel and Robert Scull for $960.
Such stories about Castelli are legion, but beyond his bond with Johns and Rauschenberg (and, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd, and many others), he also shaped the practice of selling art in a way that still resonates today. Castelli was the first to assemble a roster of new, boundary-pushing artists and market them as brands, establishing the modern concept of gallery representation. He was the first to partner with dealers across the country and in Europe, taking advantage of an increasingly global collecting class that wanted work by post-war American artists. In his twilight years, he partnered with a younger generation of dealers, ensuring that his influence would reverberate for decades to come. Read more