Yesterday, we learned the sad news Paul Kasmin had passed after a long battle with cancer. This morning, we’re taking the time to remember the incredible contribution and impact the New York gallerist made on the contemporary art world by revisiting his interview in Whitewall’s winter 2013 Luxury Issue.
Below, Kasmin speaks about the collecting novice’s “fear” of buying the wrong work, his close relationship with the Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, and his ideal artist-gallerist relationship.
WHITEWALL: How do you decide when to bring someone into the gallery?
PAUL KASMIN: People always comment on the peculiar wide range [at the gallery]. I’m out and about the whole time. So you’re endlessly traveling looking at different places. You’re building up in your head. You’re finding these people who interest you and you’re looking. And then I never know when someone is going to come along and say, “Would you be interested in working with this or working with that?” and that always becomes such a disparate group.
WW: A questionnaire you did with the New York Observer asked you about your advice for novice art collectors. You advised to buy what you’re interested in, and that the fear of being wrong is really where new collectors slip up. Do you think you’ve had a similar approach in terms of bringing in artists?
PK: A lot of people that are going to buy pictures now quite often hire art consultants to make up their minds for them. And then the whole thing becomes quite a formal procedure, so at the end of the day God knows how much the people actually would’ve liked what they end up buying had they not been guided that way. But at the end of the day, you’re going to feel the best about something you like and something that interests you. Probably the interest is more important than the like.
WW: When asked who would be your dream artist to represent you, said Walton Ford, whom you happen to already represent. So what makes a dream artist in the dealer/gallerist relationship?
PK: Something that is very satisfactory is when you can work with somebody and be always interested in what they’re thinking and what they’re making. Walton and I talk all the time and we share books. So the interest is a kind of friendship, and then the business comes. It’s an overall relationship with him and I in that we can discuss anything. It’s quite fun to have a friend that you’re with and is also working out where to do the next show or where we should do a book and we often discuses what he’s painting at any given moment. If you have that with a group of artists, you’re incredibly lucky.
WW: You recently published a book of photographs you had taken at the home and studio of Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne, artists whom you represent and whom you are friends with.
PK: Over the years I took photographs whenever I went to visit them, because often they’re there in their metal workshop, so it wasn’t necessarily them in the photos, but just me walking about taking pictures. I confess I made one or two homemade books that you can do on the computer and then it was out of that that I discovered people were infinitely more interested in looking at my snapshots than the more formal thing that they saw taken in a studio or in other books.
I think that people are interested in the process of how art comes to be. And with here it’s quite simple because a lot of the work is organic. So you’ve got the ginkgo leaves, you’ve got cabbages — it lends itself particularly well to a publication.
WW: What do see as a great relationship with the collectors or the people coming in the gallery? Are you looking for a certain type of understanding from them?
PK: That is the other aspect: Where does the painting or sculpture end up? I try to pay attention to that aspect as well. Some people do become friends, and you get quite involved in how they think. The ones I tend to like are the ones that get visibly passionate when you’ve had discussions and you work out that this is the right picture for them — that is always most satisfying.
There are quite a lot of people that are addicts for certain artist, so you know they are going to get really animated; that’s always a pleasure.
WW: This winter, you’ll have a show of David LaChapelle’s work [on view through January 19, 2013]. I heard there’s an interesting story behind the show . . .
PK: I organized a show with him in Dublin, probably three years ago, and while we there [through a friend] we ended up being at this Irish waxworks museum that was closed. Very odd — a bit of Madame Tussauds that had obviously fallen on very hard times. It was very much for Irish interest; there were Irish writers, then there were Catholic characters. David got extremely excited and spent quite a lot of time in the place. At the time I wasn’t quite sure what he was doing, but he knew he had found something amazing. The thing that fascinated him is that you’ve got these very famous people and a lot of them were just chucked on the floor or put in boxes. You could be a preacher or a politician, but the moment you’re not in power you just get put in a box.