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players. "Castelli is one of the handful of chess players," says Stone. Castelli, he means, is a man with perspective. But it was not in anyone's perspective, back in 1957 or 1958, that the art business would boom as it has, or that Johns and Rauschenberg would become so valuable. Castelli thought they were the best young painters around.  

Today, of course, painters feel they can sell better through Castelli than elsewhere. Already successful painters gravitate toward him. In addition to Johns and Rauschenberg, his gallery now features such successful Pop painters as Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Roy Lichtenstein; last year, the combined sales of these five were well over $100,000. Castelli also shows such well-known painters as young Frank Stella and abstract expressionist Jack Tworkov; among his sculptors are Lee Bontecou, Edward Higgins and John Chamberlain.

Castelli's old friends in the art world accept the seriousness of most of these artists, but balk at the three Pop men. They feel that Castelli has betrayed them, betrayed art. The sense of betrayal comes mainly from the fact that the Pop movement of which Castelli is a leader caused a tremendous anxiety among all those whose power and success has seemingly been established - the Abstract Expressionists. Squeezing up under this older generation, the new young men of Pop art cut into their fame and income and put their whole notion of art into question. In the status panic that followed, Castelli was consistently cast as the villain. "He knows better," said one old painter friend, thereby implying machination for either fame or profit.

Some see his every move in terms of the profit motive. It is hard to imagine someone fighting with the diplomatic Castelli, but one well-known woman collector tells of shouting at him, in his gallery, that it used to be a temple of art and that he had turned it into a five-and-dime, or a grocery store, according to which artist was showing. "He just gave me that big Italian smile and patted me on the head - you know those affectionate pats on the head he gives all the ladies. Well, I could have kicked him in the shins. 'There, there,' he said, all but calling me an old fuddy-duddy grandma, 'it's very difficult work.'"

Yet almost everyone who knows anything about the Castelli operation will comment at some point: "You know, Leo doesn't make as much as you'd expect, considering that he's got such a successful gallery." In fact, it was only two years ago that the gallery began to operate in the black. (Last season, with Lichtenstein, Warhol and Rosenquist all going strong, the gallery did extremely well.)

There are several reasons for this. His generosity, for one. Castelli has always kept his artists on substantial salaries, even when they were not selling. (This is the traditional way in which a European dealer shows his commitment to a painter; the practice is not common in America.) He has kept up payments of $400 a month to artists who have sold few, if any, paintings. Indeed, it is well known that he still gives a stipend to an old friend and painter who is no longer with his gallery. One of Castelli's associates feels he is far too free, and that over the years some artists have "plundered the gallery." One collector has said that another dealer, given Leo's painters, would have made twice as much personal profit.

Italian Line 1965

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