Obituary / Paul Kasmin
A tribute to the renowned British gallerist who was at the heart of the New York art scene.
ON 13TH SEPTEMBER 2009, New Yorkers heading to work were entertained by the surreal sight of twelve bronze sheep cropping grass in the middle of Manhattan’s Park Avenue, alongside an outrageous giant copper and bronze cabbage with chicken feet. This marked the moment that the witty sculptural work of French design duo Claude and her late husband François-Xavier Lalanne hit public consciousness. The display, which lasted two months, was an inspired collaboration between the New York City Parks Public Art Program and the artists’ dealer, Paul Kasmin, who sadly died this week.
Kasmin was born in London, in 1960, to renowned British dealer and collector John Kasmin. Kasmin senior had given Hockney his first show and also represented post-war British heavyweights Francis Bacon and Anthony Caro. But it was when he took his son to New York in 1970 and introduced the ten-year-old to Andy Warhol and other hip friends and artists that Kasmin junior was truly impressed. Smitten, it was here that in 1989 he opened his first, eponymous, gallery in SoHo, in turn becoming a linchpin of the New York art world. In 2000 he moved the gallery to Chelsea, spearheading the wholesale reorientation of New York’s art scene, and gradually expanding his premises. Only last October he opened his newest, fourth space at 509 West 27th Street, in a purpose-built gallery complete with rooftop sculpture garden, nestled beside New York’s High Line.
Kasmin’s programme ambitiously combined representation of the estates of significant modernists such as Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Stuart Davis, Lee Krasner and Robert Motherwell with the enthusiastic nurture of artists from subsequent generations, such as Walton Ford, Bosco Sodi, James Nares, Bernar Venet and Judith Bernstein. Among his most beloved artists however were Les Lalanne, for whom he would commission wonderfully audacious gallery presentations and whose market he really made in the United States. As Kasmin said in 2009 to the Financial Times, “I’ve wanted to show their sculpture outdoors for years because for too long it has been like a little secret, with only private collectors owning that work.” Now their fame is truly international.
Latterly, Kasmin devoted himself to photography. In tribute to their founder, the gallery is currently showing on their website a large selection of his many photographs of artists, friends and family.