A New Photo Exhibition by David Hockey’s Longtime Dealer Shows the Artist and Friends Living the Good Life

The tale of the artiste maudit is often spun to inject mystery and intrigue into the lives of great painters, that image of a tortured soul working all hours for peanuts, fingers worn to paint-splattered bone, barely sustained on a diet of mind-curdling absinthe and stale bread. Vincent van Goth is one painter spoken about in these terms, Chaïm Soutine is another. David Hockney is definitely not—and the heady, carefree photos taken by his former dealer John Kasmin show why.

Kasmin’s Camera at Lyndsay Ingram gallery in Mayfair, London documents Kasmin’s lasting friendship and professional partnership with Hockney, which stretches back to 1960. They traveled together, holidayed together, and worked together, and Kasmin’s photos portray a shared Life of Riley. Color images reveal a tightly-knit young cohort of lithe, tanned, semi-naked—and incredibly happy—creatives idling under the French sun, cigarettes perpetually in hand, Kasmin the voyeur. A few photos are laced with sexual energy and longing. In one snap, the late British painter Patrick Procktor sits on the edge of a bed smoking a joint, naked save for a pair of tiny trunks. Hockney, also naked, lies behind him reading the paper. They look blissfully postcoital.

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“It was not, as it is now, a common thing for everyone to take photographs,” Kasmin said in a video produced for the exhibition. “Once I got a gallery going, my profession and my friends were overlapping and that’s why I started taking photographs. Looking at the pictures is an extremely helpful resource, it’s one of the ways in which you can keep your memories organized.”

Other artists, dealers, and critics including Leo Castelli, Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski, Howard Hodgkin, Ossie Clark, and Cecilia Birtwell feature in the photos, all very willing muses. Many are shot in black and white. Others record Kasmin’s adventures with his friend, the late travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin, in Africa and the English countryside. Chatwin is less comfortable in front of the camera, mostly stony-faced looking like the classic explorer archetype; beige shorts, woolen knee-high socks, ruddy, sun-kissed cheeks. It looks like they had a lot of fun.

Helen Frankenthaler and Anthony Caro posing at the ancient throne, Torcello, Venice, 1966.

“The exhibition gives a flavor of what the art world was like 50 years ago when artists and their gallerists were friends and worked together,” gallery owner Lyndsay Ingram told ARTnews. “The intimacy between them is immediately apparent in these photographs. You really have the sense that they were living their lives on the same team. These images reveal a shared sense of purpose, which perhaps has been lost by many artists and galleries in our current landscape, but it is reassuring to see that it is possible. Indeed, as many of these artists went on to be among the most important artists of their generation, this shared sense of purpose may not just be possible but preferable, even a necessary ingredient for lasting success.”

Hockney’s unmistakable shock of blonde hair illuminates the majority of the photos in the show. The bond between him and Kasmin is clearly strong and trusting. Hockney is sometimes photographed asleep, weary from cavaliering jaunts to India.

Helen Frankenthaler in her studio, New York, c. 1965

“I sent [Hockney] a letter at the Royal College of Art, where he was a student, inviting him to tea,” Kasmin wrote in The Telegraph in 2013. “He had black crew-cut hair and National Health glasses and was frightfully shy and very poor. I liked what he was doing so I tried to get him represented by the gallery where I worked, the Marlborough. They found the work a bit sloppy and silly, so I started selling the odd drawing on his behalf for seven or eight pounds and not taking a cut. When I set up my own gallery in 1963, Hockney was one of the first people I arranged to represent.”

Kasmin’s Camera runs until August 23 at Lyndsay Ingram gallery.

Source: artnews.com

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