Indica Gallery

Coordinates: 51°30′27″N 0°08′16″W / 51.507364°N 0.137737°W / 51.507364; -0.137737

Indica Gallery
Industry Literature, art gallery
Founded 1965
Headquarters Mason's Yard (off Duke Street) London, England
Area served
Key people
Paul McCartney, Barry Miles, John Dunbar, Peter Asher
Products Books, art

Indica Gallery was a counterculture art gallery in Mason's Yard (off Duke Street), St. James's, London, England during the late 1960s, in the basement of the Indica Bookshop co-owned by John Dunbar, Peter Asher and Barry Miles. It was supported by Paul McCartney and hosted a show of Yoko Ono's work in November 1966 at which Ono first met John Lennon.[1]

Indica Books and Gallery

Miles had been running the bookshop and alternative happenings venue Better Books but with new, more traditional, owners arriving, had been planning to open his own bookstore/venue. Through Paolo Leonni, Miles met John Dunbar who was planning on opening a gallery, and with John's friend Peter Asher as silent partner, they combined their ideas into a company called Miles, Asher and Dunbar Limited (MAD)[2] to start the Indica Books and Gallery in September 1965, as an outlet for art and literature.[3] They found empty premises at 6 Masons Yard, which was in the same courtyard as the Scotch of St James club,[4] where John Dunbar was leaving with his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, when he discovered the place.[5]

McCartney's involvement

Whilst living in the Asher family house, 57 Wimpole Street, Paul McCartney became involved with the emerging underground scene in London and the setting up of the bookshop/gallery.[6] McCartney was the Indica bookshop's first customer – before it even had premises – as he used to look through the books at night, stored in the Ashers' basement, and leave a note for the books he had taken to be put on his account.[3] Some of the first books he bought were Ed Sanders "Peace Eye Poems'", "and the Mind" by Deropp, and "Gandhi on Non-violence".[7] The wood that was needed for the shelves and shop counter was picked up from the lumber yard by Dunbar and Miles in McCartney's Aston Martin car.[7] Artists such as Pete Brown also helped in the renovation of the Indica, and Brown remarked that as he was helping to paint the interior, he would often look over his shoulder and see McCartney, who also frequently visited the Scotch,[3] sawing a piece of wood.[8]

McCartney's girlfriend, Peter Asher's sister Jane Asher, donated the shop's first cash till,[9] which was an old Victorian till that she had played with as a young girl.[9] McCartney helped to draw the flyers – which were used to advertise the Indica's opening – and also designed the wrapping paper.[8][10] Barry Miles later introduced McCartney to the works of William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg,[11] and their conversations were infused with subjects such as Buddhism, drugs, and 'pataphysics, which McCartney later put into the lyrics of Maxwell's Silver Hammer.[11] After one evening at Lennox Gardens, McCartney had an idea that he told to John Lennon the next day, which was an album title called "McCartney goes too far", which Lennon thought was a great title, and insisted that McCartney should do it.[12]

Indica Bookshop

In 1966, the Indica bookshop was separated from the Indica Gallery, and moved to 102 Southampton Row in the summer of 1966.[13] The bookshop was opened on the site of an old and established bookseller and exporter called William Jackson Books Limited. Jackson's had decided to concentrate on the export side of its business and sold a twenty-year lease of the retail bookshop to Miles, Asher and Dunbar. The name of the bookshop was promptly changed to INDICA Books. Chris Hill and his wife Jo, who owned William Jackson Books, had taken a flat above the shop on Southampton Row and ran the export business from there. It soon proved to be a popular venue for the INDICA Books team and the royalty of the 'swinging sixties' that were associated with them. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were visitors to the flat and on one evening in 1966 they rehearsed a song they called "Mark X" in the flat. The song was later recorded at the Abbey Road Studios as "Tomorrow Never Knows" and included on the Revolver Album.

The International Times newspaper was started in the basement of the Southampton Row bookshop.[14]

2006 exhibition

An exhibition at Riflemaker (a gallery on Beak Street, London, England) in November 2006 re-visits Indica 40 years after it was closed. It includes work by the original artists including Liliane Lijn, Boyle Family/Mark Boyle and Carlos Cruz-Diez as well as a younger generation of artists whose work relates to some of the ideas first presented there.


  1. Art & the 60s: Episode 3, BBC Two, 7 August 2004.
  2. Barry Miles (2010) – London Calling:A Countercultural History of London since 1945 p 160
  3. 1 2 3 Miles. pp223-224
  4. Friends of the Scotch of St James 11 November 2006
  5. Barry Miles (2010) – London Calling: A Countercultural History of London since 1945 p 161
  6. Barry Miles (2002) – In the Sixties
  7. 1 2 Miles. p225
  8. 1 2 Miles. p227
  9. 1 2 Miles. p226
  10. Indica wrapping paper – 5 November 2006
  11. 1 2 Miles. p233
  12. Miles. p234
  13. Miles. p237
  14. Miles. pp237-238


External links

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