OBITUARY:Guillaume Gallozzi

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 brief obituary. As a Frenchman in New York specialising 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 Henri de Montherlant.

Born in the shadow of de Sade's chateau, Gallozzi was a flag-carrying anarchist schoolboy in Nantes, home town to such kindred spirits as Alfred Jarry and Jacques Vache. He moved to America in 1976 and after semi-clandestine activities in California relocated to Manhattan. Helping establish the groundbreaking night-club Pravda, Gallozzi was a central part of the late Seventies "scene", when New York really was New York.

Paradoxically, renowned for arcane European interests, Gallozzi became familiar with that most fashionable movement, "Graffiti". Setting up a loft where young black spraycan artists lived and worked in situ, he achieved celebrity and wealth, introducing them to the Basel Art Fair, creating a hip-hop spectacle for Valentino's 25th anniversary, taking his "Art Train" round America. Despite never owning a credit card Gallozzi maintained a series of anonymous accounts in Austrian banks, travelled in private jets and ran an art-smuggling ring through the Italian lakes.

Graffiti was short-lived, and after building collections for optimistic Belgian and Dutch magnates Gallozzi jumped swiftly, landing at a magnificent house on West Houston Street once owned by Barney Rossett, founder of Grove Press, where the likes of Samuel Beckett had stayed. By now Gallozzi was dealing "Aeropittura", Futurist plane paintings and British Neo-Romantics, not automatically lucrative areas. His connoisseur's approach to the byways of art history, the cultivation of neglected footnote figures, led Gallozzi's tastes to be described in the New Yorker as "old-fashioned, decidedly recherche".

Five years ago his inoperable brain tumour appeared. Left for dead at Bellevue hospital, surrounded by criminals, Gallozzi borrowed enough for a Concorde to Paris whereupon he was immediately arrested for avoiding military service. Released with diplomatic assistance Gallozzi was, seemingly, miraculously cured by a specialist to whom he dedicated his comeback Manhattan show, "Metamorphose". Later exhibitions ranged from Brion Gysin, the cult kif avantgardist, to Steven Sykes, an octogenarian English recluse who had never shown previously, but subsequently exhibited at the Redfern Gallery in London as a result.

Under financial pressure Gallozzi left his legendary townhouse, where in May 1995 he held a last benefit exhibition of 30 contemporary artists who donated work, including several portraits of himself, his playboy features having undergone interesting redefinition, slightly cross-eyed 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 catalogues he provided a final example:

Refusing galvanisation 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.

Adrian Dannatt

Guillaume Gallozzi, art dealer: born 11 February 1958; died Paris 25 December 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company provides global satellite communi...

Austen Lloyd: Practice / HR Manager - Somerset

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A rare and exciting opportunity for a Practice...

Ashdown Group: HR Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A mainstream Secondary school in C...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade