Kasmin’s Camera: An Intimate Archive Capturing The 1960s and 1970s   

John Kasmin

The exhibition ‘Kasmin’s Camera’ at Lyndsey Ingram Gallery presents an engaging collection of over 100 previously unseen photographs taken by the pioneering London gallerist John Kasmin during the 1960s and ’70s. Kasmin, Robert Fraser, and Anthony D’Offay helped shape London’s gallery landscape, introducing a stellar array of global names and faces that contributed to the creation of London’s ‘swinging’ 60s art scene.

This remarkable show marks Kasmin’s 90th birthday and offers a unique backstage glimpse of the art world, capturing the nascent stages of several well-known artists’ careers. Kasmin has aged well. He has the energy and vibrancy of a man twenty years younger. Walking through this time capsule offers an unexpected reflection of a time when art was less driven by money and more about discovery and connoisseurship.

Kasmin’s photographs chronicle the launch of his eponymous gallery and the early stages of artists such as David Hockney, Howard Hodgkin, Anthony Caro, Gillian Ayres, Barnett Newman, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler, and Kenneth Noland. Kasmin was instrumental in giving many of these artists, including Hockney, their first shows and was an early advocate of their work. His gallery was also pivotal in introducing American Abstract Expressionists to the UK audience.

 Bruce Chatwin
Bruce Chatwin

Kasmin founded his eponymous gallery, Kasmin Gallery, in 1963. Located on Bond Street, it was the first “white cube” style gallery in London, a minimalist space designed to showcase contemporary art in a pristine, unobstructed environment. This innovative approach set a new standard for galleries worldwide and provided a perfect stage for the avant-garde art of the time.

The exhibition offers a rare and exclusive opportunity to view familiar images of Kasmin’s friends and contemporaries, including Celia Birtwell, her fashion designer husband Ossie Clark, and the explorer and writer Bruce Chatwin, with whom Kasmin travelled extensively. These photographs, previously accessible only through Camera Press for scholarly publications, are now publicly displayed for the first time in signed and numbered editions, printed from Kasmin’s original negatives in small batches, adding to their rareity appeal.

“It’s thrilling when you’re nearly 90 to suddenly have a show of photographs you’ve taken 50 or 60 years ago and for them to be appreciated, admired, and exhibited. It’s wonderful and unexpected to be on the other side of the desk at the art gallery!” – John Kasmin

The gallery had unrestricted access to Kasmin’s extensive photo albums and negatives, selecting a collection primarily from the 1960s and ’70s. These photographs offer an intimate and personal portrayal of the art scene during that time, revealing Kasmin’s close relationships with his subjects. They are not just snapshots; they reflect the deep connections and mutual respect between Kasmin and his subjects, making the exhibition a personal journey through the art world of that era.

Anthony Caro and Helen Frankenthal at The 1966 Venice Biennale
Anthony Caro and Helen Frankenthal at The 1966 Venice Biennale

John Kasmin was born in 1934 in Whitechapel, London. His background as an assistant to the renowned portrait photographer Ida Kar adds depth to his work. Ingram highlights, “What distinguishes Kasmin’s photos is that they capture a real sense of friendship and understanding between the photographer and his subject. There’s intimacy. Unlike party or documentary pictures, you can sense a kinship between the subjects and the person photographing them. They are spontaneous but also visually composed, compelling images.

David Hockney, Sheridan Dufferin and Kasmin, Minneapolis to Chicago, 1965, C-type colour print. Signed verso and numbered from the edition of 25. 20.3 x 30.5 cm (8 x 12 in)
David Hockney, Sheridan Dufferin and Kasmin, Minneapolis to Chicago, 1965, C-type colour print. Signed verso and numbered

‘Kasmin’s Camera’ is not just a photographic exhibition; it is a significant celebration of an era, an art scene, and the profound impact of a visionary gallerist. This exhibition is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of modern art and the personal stories behind some of the 20th century’s most influential artists. It offers a unique and insightful perspective on a pivotal period in the art world, enlightening the audience about the roots of modern art.

Top Photo: PC Robinson © Artlyst 2024

Do Not Miss This Exhibition *****

‘Kasmin’s Camera’ – Lyndsey Ingram Gallery, London – Until 16th August

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