The Ivan C. Karp papers and OK Harris Works of Art gallery records measure 80.3 linear feet and are dated 1960-2014. The collection documents the operation and activities of the contemporary art gallery founded by Ivan C. Karp in the SoHo area of Manhattan. Exhibition files, artist files, printed material and photographic materials reveal the wide range of artists represented by OK Harris and the gallery's role in introducing Photo-realism to the public. Aso included are administrative files, prints by OK Harris artists, business and personal correspondence, 39 journals by Karp spanning a period of 62 years, and other personal papers. Material pre-dating the 1969 establishment of OK Harris Works of Art consists of printed items and a few letters.
Scope and Contents:
The Ivan C. Karp papers and OK Harris Works of Art gallery records measure 80.3 linear feet and are dated 1960-2014. The collection documents the operation and activities of the contemporary art gallery founded by Ivan C. Karp in the SoHo area of Manhattan. Exhibition files, artists' files, printed material, and photographic materials reveal the wide range of artists represented by OK Harris and the gallery's role in introducing Photo-realism to the public. Also included are administrative files, prints by OK Harris artists, business and personal correspondence, 39 journals by Karp spanning a period of 62 years, and other personal papers. Material pre-dating the 1969 establishment of OK Harris Works of Art consists of printed items and a few letters.
Correspondence, both professional and personal, is with museums, galleries, art dealers, art collectors, and graduate students. Artists John Baeder, Deborah Butterfield, John Clem Clarke, John DeAndrea, Jim Dine, Leonard Dufresne, Robert Ginder, Ralph Goings, Duane Hanson, Richard McLean and Tom Wesselmann are among the correspondents.
Admininstrative files concern the daily operation of OK Harris Works of Art. Included are instructions regarding administrative functions and forms for routine activities to enable employees to conduct business in Ivan Karp's absence. Along with files about other items occasionally sold at the gallery, there are files about projects of interest to the Karps, sample announcements, invitations, and advertisements.
Exhibition files document group shows, collectibles and antique exhibitions, summer invitationals, and special event exhibitions at OK Harris Works of Art. The files include photographs and slides, schedules, lists of titles and prices, artists' resumes, installation layouts, reviews and publicity materials, and other items.
Artist files constitute the largest series in the collection at 34 linear feet, and document the gallery's relationships with artists throughout its 45 year history. Files are comprised of biographical information, correspondence, notes, publicity and other printed material (including a few items pre-dating the gallery). Among the many transactions recorded are arrangements for and documentation of solo exhibitions at OK Harris. There are photographs, slides and color transparencies of individual works, and some views of exhibition installations. John Baeder, Muriel Castanis, Don Celender, Ralph Goings, John Kacere, Richard McLean, Robert Rohm and John Salt are among the most extensively documented artists.
Printed material produced by OK Harris Works of Art includes exhibition catalogs, exhibition announcements, invitations, checklists, price lists posters, and notices of gallery sponsored events and activities. Printed material from other sources consists of exhibition reviews, articles about Ivan and Marilynn Karp, OK Harris Works of Art, and the gallery's artists. These appeared in art and mainstream periodicals, newspapers, exhibition catalogs, and books. Also found are posters, reproductions of artwork, and miscellaneous printed items.
Artwork consists of 40 prints by artists affiliated with OK Harris. Most are signed; 2 are black and white prints, the remainder are color lithographs. Included is Radical Realism I, a set of 6 prints issued by Mother Lode Editions, 1972.
Thirty-two linear feet of photographs, negatives, slides, transparencies and digital images are of artwork by OK Harris artists, exhibition installation views, and miscellaneous subjects. Photographs of artwork by 59 OK Harris artists are found in binders called "Artists' Photo Books." Installation views of exhibitions held at OK Harris Works of Art during its 45 year history fill 61 binders. Miscellaneous subjects include OK Harris office space, galleries and staff. Also found are photographs of group shows, art fairs, and gallery artists' exhibitions at other venues.
The Ivan C. Karp personal papers include obituaries from print and internet sources along with other biographical information, published versions of brief interviews conducted for various purposes, writings, a few materials relating to business and academic activities, and some personal photographs. Journals, 1950-2012 (bulk 1991-2012) record travel, daily activities, and reflections.
This collection is arranged in 8 series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1960-2013 (Boxes 1-2B; 2.4 linear feet)
Series 2: Administrative Files, 1969-2014 (Box 3; 0.7 linear feet)
Series 3: Exhibition Files, 1969-2014 (Boxes 3-4; 1.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Artist Files, 1967-2014 (Boxes 4-38, 80; 34 linear feet)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1963-2014 (Boxes 38-44, 80, OV 88 - OV 90; 5.2 linear feet)
Series 6: Artwork, 1970s-circa 1980 (Box 44, OV 81-OV 87; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 7: Photographic Materials, 1960s-2014, bulk 1969-1999 (Boxes 44-76; 32 linear feet)
Series 8: Ivan C. Karp Personal Papers, 1961-2012 (Boxes 76-79; 4 linear feet)
OK Harris Works of Art specialized in a wide range of contemporary art and was known for its early support of Photo-realism. When it opened in 1969, the gallery was one of the first to operate in the SoHo area of Manhattan and its presence helped shape the neighborhood's development into a vibrant arts district.
Ivan C. Karp (1926-2012), the founder of OK Harris Works of Art, established a reputation in the art world while co-director of Leo Castelli Gallery from 1959-1969. He is credited with launching the careers of Pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, John Chamberlain, Tom Wesselmann, and Claes Oldenburg. Karp wrote, published, and lectured extensively on art and the art business. He was the author of a romantic novel about New York life, Doobie Doo (published in 1965, front cover by Roy Lichtenstein, back cover by Andy Warhol) and his short stories were published in literary reviews. Karp was actively involved in architectural preservation efforts in New York City. As President of the Anonymous Arts Recovery Society, he rescued and stored cornices, capitals, portals, columns and other architectural fragments of historical and aesthetic interest from demolition sites. Many are displayed in his Anonymous Arts Museum, Charlotteville, NY and some became part of a sculpture garden that Karp donated to the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
While Leo Castelli Gallery was closed for summer vacations in 1963 and 1964, Karp ran his own contemporary art gallery in Provincetown. He named it OK Harris, a name he thought suggestive of a colorful, very American character. A few years later, Karp opened OK Harris Works of Art in SoHo where a portrait of a bearded man titled "Oscar Klondike Harris" hung in his office. "Mr. Harris" frequently assumed blame for delays, rejections and other unwelcome news or decisions. OK Harris Works of Art (first at 469 West Broadway and later at 383 West Broadway) was a 10,000 square foot ground-floor space where as many as six concurrent solo exhibitions were presented every six weeks. The goal was "to exhibit the broadest spectrum of the most adventuresome art being offered" and the focus was on emerging artists, many of them unknown. In addition to being at the forefront of the Photo-realist movement in 1969, OK Harris Works of Art was the first gallery to exhibit the work of Duane Hanson, Deborah Butterfield, Manny Farber, Richard Pettibone, Robert Cottingham, Robert Bechtle, Marilyn Levine, Nancy Rubins, Malcolm Morley, Luis Jiminez, Jake Berthot, Jack Goldstein, Porfirio DiDonna, and Al Souza.
An approachable, friendly man who enjoyed sharing his knowledge, Karp usually sat at the gallery's front desk and was available to all. Unlike many dealers, he was willing to look at and discuss artists' slides, offered encouragement, and often followed up with studio visits.
At his request, Marilynn Gelfman Karp became gallery director after her husband's death in 2012. She ran the business with gallery staff including Ivan's oldest son, Ethan. Following Ivan's guidelines, OK Harris Works of Art closed with a gala celebration 2014 for all the gallery's artists, collectors and friends.
Also found in the Archives of American Art are oral history interviews with Ivan C. Karp conducted by Richard Brown Baker, 1963 October 18; by Paul Cummings, 1969 March 12; and by Ronny Cohen, 1986 April 17-1988 October 18. The Marilynn Gelfman Karp Collection of Ephemera owned by the New-York Historical Society includes OK Harris printed material, prints, and posters.
Marilynn Karp, wife of Ivan C. Karp, donated scattered papers in 2011 and 2013, and the bulk of the collection in 2014.
Use of original material requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The Ivan C. Karp papers and OK Harris Works of Art gallery records are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.