Prominent New York Gallerist Paul Kasmin, Who Helped Elevate Chelsea Into an Art Hub, Has Died at Age 60

The stalwart New York City dealer had battled illness for a long time.

Paul Kasmin. Photo by Cari Vuong
Paul Kasmin. Photo by Cari Vuong.

Paul Kasmin, one of New York City’s leading art dealers, died this morning at the age of 60 after a long illness.

Artnet News understands the dealer had been ill with cancer for several years, but his condition intensified over the past few months and he died early this morning at his home in upstate New York. Succession plans are already in place for the gallery, with Nick Olney slated to continue his leadership role as managing director with the support of a board.

In the 30 years since founding the gallery in Soho in 1989, Kasmin developed a program that managed to toe the line between brainy and lighthearted by placing historic postwar artists like Lee Krasner, Robert Motherwell, and Stuart Davis in dialogue with established and emerging contemporary figures. The gallery has fostered the careers of artists including Tina Barney, Walton Ford, James Nares, Mark Ryden, Bosco Sodi, and Bernar Venet. Kasmin also organized the first US show of the now-coveted work of husband-and-wife design duo Les Lalanne.

A soft-spoken, puckish gentleman who enjoyed good food and good wine, he had the habit of making you feel as if he were telling you a secret even when he was divulging nothing more salacious than his dinner plans. Kasmin was a refined conversationalist, with an appetite for good gossip, and there was no subject he didn’t have his own way of cheekily broaching.

Installation view of Les Lalanne at Kasmin Gallery. January 24–March 9, 2020. (c) 2020 Les Lalanne / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Photography by Christopher Stach. Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery.

Installation view of Les Lalanne at Kasmin Gallery. January 24–March 9, 2020. (c) 2020 Les Lalanne / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Photography by Christopher Stach. Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery.

Art runs in the family. Kasmin’s father, John, was a legendary dealer and collector in London who was the first to show the work of David Hockney. His brother, Aaron, is a painter; his great-grandfather was the English abstract painter Ben Nicholson. But while the Kasmins had nearly unparalleled art-world pedigree in London, Paul set out to make a name for himself in New York. His was among the first galleries to move to Chelsea in 2000; it now has one of the largest footprints in the area—four spaces including the rooftop sculpture garden that sits adjacent to the High Line.

A recent New York Times story described the sculpture garden as “almost an extension of the High Line’s already ambitious public art program.” Its early displays have included work by Joel Shapiro, Robert Indiana, and Barry Flanagan.

In recent years, as the art market looked back in history, Kasmin expanded its work with estates, mounting exhibitions of work by Constantin Brancusi, William N. Copley, Lee Krasner, and Robert Motherwell.

“Paul devoted himself to a life celebrating art and artists,” the gallery said in a statement. “Those of us who have worked with Paul learned from his extraordinary eye for talent, his delight in the work of the artists he loved, and his rare sense of openness and generosity.”

Over the past few years, Kasmin continued his lifelong passion for photography with renewed enthusiasm. He took pictures of family, friends, gallery artists, and staff. The works are currently available for viewing on the gallery’s website.

“Paul took great pleasure in overseeing all aspects of the gallery until the very end,” the gallery said, “and it was his sincere wish, and in his plans, that his vision for Kasmin continue as ambitiously as ever.”

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