Gallerist John Kasmin Unveils His Trove of Never-Before-Seen Artist Photos

His images capture artists including David Hockney, Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman, and Howard Hodgkin in the '60s and '70s.

John Kasmin, Robyn Denny during his exhibition at the Kasmin Gallery (1967). Photo courtesy of the artist and Lyndsey Ingram.

Previously unseen photographs by the gallerist John Kasmin, including intimate portraits of some of modern and contemporary art history’s biggest names, will be going on display for the first time in London at Lyndsey Ingram Gallery.

More than 100 photographs will be featured in the exhibition, titled “Kasmin’s Camera,” including shots of the most influential artists of the 1960s and ’70s, among them Helen Frankenthaler, Howard Hodgkin, Barnett Newman, Frank Stella, and Bruce Chatwin. Via his namesake gallery, Kasmin championed these revolutionary artists, and has been credited with introducing the work of the Abstract Expressionists to British audiences for the first time. Also captured by Kasmin’s camera were designers Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, both close friends of the gallerist.

A man standing on a balcony holding a camera, behind him is a view of an Indian city

John Kasmin, Howard Hodgkin in a Palace on the Banks of the Ganges, near Benares, India (1968). Photo courtesy of the artist and Lyndsey Ingram Gallery.

“This was an extraordinary time,” said Ingram about the time at which Kasmin made these photographs. “Kasmin’s photos show us that place and time, and help us understand the mood of the people and light of the day. The friends captured in these photos are so close, the essence of so many images that become fundamental to how we see the world. These images are so fresh, or as Kas says, ‘in their juice.'”

Born in London in 1935, the dealer first gained a foothold in the art world during a stint at Victor Musgrave’s Gallery One. The young Kasmin also worked as an assistant to (and became the lover of) the portrait photographer Ida Kar, Musgrave’s wife. Much like Kar, Kasmin began to photograph the artists he encountered in London.

In 1963 Kasmin set up Kasmin Gallery on New Bond Street—London’s first “white cube” gallery. David Hockney was one of the first artists he represented. The pair had met three years earlier and became firm friends, with Kasmin selling drawings by Hockney from his London flat before opening his gallery. Kasmin put on Hockney’s debut solo show and would later give a cameo performance in Hockney’s 1973 biopic A Bigger Splash.

A woman sitting on the ground with her head in the lap of a man who holds up two fingers

John Kasmin, Helen Frankenthaler and Anthony Caro, Torcello (1966). Photo courtesy of the artist and Lyndsey Ingram Gallery.

According to Ingram, the dealer’s son, Aaron, had encouraged him to look into his father’s photography archive, from which Ingram selected images to build a comprehensive retrospective. Most of the images in the exhibition have never been seen before by the public; each is printed in editions of 25 from the original negatives, and signed and numbered by the photographer. To Ingram, all of them bear out Kasmin’s intimate camaraderie with his subjects and his unique eye, while serving as documents of art history.

Among the images, there’s a young, playful Frank Stella captured amid what looks like a cafe, Anthony Caro and Frankenthaler basking in the Italian sun, and Chatwin struggling to pop a champagne bottle during a picnic. “There is a beautiful shot of Peter Schlesinger at the villa Le Nid du Duc in the South of France at time when Hockney painted the famous picture of him there,” Ingram said. Hockney himself shows up in a bulk of the photographs.

“He’s interested in things that tell us about people,” Ingram added. “He appreciates the formal qualities in even the most modest, utilitarian objects and pays them the same close attention he would a work of fine art. He also has a wonderful sense of humor, which comes through in the photographs.”

A man sitting among dried leaves while struggling to open a champagne bottle.

John Kasmin, Bruce Chatwin opening a bottle of champagne for our picnic, Christmas Day, near Bonnieux, Durance Valley, France (1985). Photo courtesy of the artist and Lyndsey Ingram Gallery.

“Kasmin’s Camera” will arrive as the gallerist celebrates his 90th birthday. “It’s thrilling when you’re nearly 90 to suddenly be having a show of photographs you’ve taken 50 or 60 years ago, and for them to be appreciated, admired and exhibited,” Kasmin reflected. “It’s wonderful and unexpected to be on the other side of the desk at the art gallery!”

Kasmin’s Camera” is on view at Lyndsey Ingram Gallery, 20 Bourdon St, London, June 26 through August 16.

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