Andrew Crispo, Disgraced Manhattan Gallery Owner, Dies at 78

Andrew Crispo, a once high-flying art gallerist in Manhattan brought low by a long series of tabloid-worthy scandals, including tax evasion, extortion and implication in the grisly 1985 murder of a Norwegian art student, died on Feb. 8 in Brooklyn. He was 78.

His lawyer, J. Benjamin Greene, said that the cause of his death, in a nursing facility, had not been determined, but that it came after a decline in Mr. Crispo’s health, including the discovery of an inoperable brain tumor. Mr. Crispo left no immediate survivors, and word of his death emerged only recently.

Mr. Crispo opened his namesake gallery at the corner of Madison Avenue and 57th Street in 1973, and for the rest of the decade he ranked among New York City’s best-known art dealers. Though he lacked formal training in art, he was widely respected for his exacting eye, which he used to identify promising young painters.

“He could have been another Larry Gagosian today,” said Edward Ligare, an artist whom Mr. Crispo represented in the 1970s, referring to the Manhattan mega-gallerist. “He had such enthusiasm for art and such good connections.”

Mr. Crispo eventually expanded his gallery to a second floor, with the interiors decorated by his romantic partner, the noted designer Arthur E. Smith. He owned an art-filled estate in Southampton, N.Y., and at one point had some $50 million in the bank.

Things were less rosy behind the scenes. His employees accused him of failing to pay bills and of keeping two price lists, one for artists and a higher one for clients, with Mr. Crispo pocketing the difference.

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