If the best art dealers have a fictitious quality, Guillaume Gallozzi was great indeed and despite his precocious demise at 37 more worthy of a novel than a 600 word obituary. As a Frenchman in New York specializing in British 20th century art Gallozzi was at an unfair advantage when it came to cosmopolitan charisma but it was his savoir vivre that made him altogether novelistic, a character from a collaboration between Tom Wolfe and Henry de Montherlant.
Born in the shadow of de Sade's chateau, Gallozzi was a flag-waving Anarchist schoolboy in Nantes, hometown to such kindred spirits as Jarry and Vaché. He moved to America in 1976, and, after semi-clandestine activities in California, relocated to Manhattan. Helping establish the groundbreaking nightclub Pravda, Gallozzi was a central part of the late 70s 'scene', when New York really was New York.
Paradoxically, renowned for arcane European interests Gallozzi became famous with that most fashionable movement, 'Graffiti Art.' Setting up a loft where young spray can artists worked in situ, he achieved celebrity and wealth, introducing them to the Basel Art Fair, creating a hip-hop spectacle in Rome for Valentino's 25th anniversary, taking his "Art Train" round America. Despite never owning a credit card Gallozzi consistently, magically maintained a luxurious lifestyle that encompassed travel in private jets and the best European hotels.
Graffiti Art was short lived and after building collections for optimistic Belgian and Dutch magnates Gallozzi jumped swiftly, landing at a magnificent row house on West Houston Street once owned by Barney Rossett, founder of Grove Press, where the likes of Samuel Beckett stayed. By now Gallozzi was dealing "Aeropittura," Futurist paintings and British Neo-Romantics, not automatically lucrative areas. His connoisseur's approach to the by ways of art history, the cultivation of neglected footnote figures, led Gallozzi's tastes to be described in The New Yorker as " old-fashioned, decidedly recherché."
Seven years ago his inoperable brain tumor appeared. Left for dead at Bellevue hospital, Gallozzi borrowed enough for a Concorde to Paris whereupon he was immediately detained for avoiding military service. Released with diplomatic assistance Gallozzi was, seemingly, miraculously cured by a specialist to whom he dedicated his come-back Manhattan show, "Metamorphose." Later exhibitions on West Houston Street ranged from Brion Gysin, cult kif avantgardist, to Steven Sykes, an octogenarian English recluse who had never shown previously, but subsequently exhibited at the Redfern in London as a result.
Under financial pressure Gallozzi left his legendary townhouse, where he held a last benefit exhibition of thirty contemporary artists who donated work, including several portraits of himself, his playboy features having undergone interesting redefinition, slightly like Whistler's Robert de Montesquieu redone by Picasso.
Gallozzi made one last grand tour of Italy where, he stayed every summer, often for months, with an extraordinary variety of collectors, artists, poets and aristocrats, one link in his chain of seemingly inexhaustible admirers. The merest anecdotal elements of Gallozzi's presence justified this network of affection, from his 4PM lunches to cork tipped Craven A cigarettes in the fridge, tailor made Cifonelli suits and monogrammed Turnbull & Asser shirts. That they were other people's monograms added to the mystique, an extensive wardrobe of handmade hand-me-downs. Muffled in fur collared coat, with bearskin hat and walking stick he was easily mistaken for royalty in exile, Zog perhaps.
Of the mysterious, rich prose deployed in his catalogs he provided a final example;
" Refusing galvanization into the Cemetery of Uniforms and Liveries, Gallozzi is cutting the ropes and going to peer at farther shores, driven by survival instincts, calling / riding the bright wake ahead."
Guillaume Gallozzi, art dealer: born 11 February 1958 died in Paris, Christmas Day 1995.
Reprinted from The Independent, UK.