Indica Gallery

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

Indica Gallery
IndustryLiterature, art gallery
6 Masons Yard, St. James's, London SW1Y 6BU[1][2]
Area served
Key people
Paul McCartney, Barry Miles, John Dunbar, Peter Asher
ProductsBooks, 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.[3]

Indica Books and Gallery[edit]

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)[4] to start the Indica Books and Gallery in September 1965, as an outlet for art and literature.[5] They found empty premises at 6 Masons Yard, which was in the same courtyard as the Scotch of St James club,[6] where John Dunbar was living with his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull,[7] when he discovered the place.[8] The name chosen for the bookshop/gallery was a reference to Cannabis indica.[9]

McCartney's involvement[edit]

At the time Paul McCartney was dating Asher's sister, Jane Asher, and living in the Asher family house at 57 Wimpole Street. McCartney became involved with the emerging underground scene in London and the setting up of the bookshop/gallery.[10] 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.[5] Some of the first books he bought were "Peace Eye Poems'" by Ed Sanders, "Drugs and the Mind" by Robert S. de Ropp, and "Gandhi on Non-violence".[11] 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.[11] 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,[5] sawing a piece of wood.[12]

Jane Asher donated the shop's first cash till, which was an old Victorian till that she had played with as a young girl.[13] McCartney helped to draw the flyers – which were used to advertise the Indica's opening – and also designed the wrapping paper.[12][14] Barry Miles later introduced McCartney to the works of William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg,[15] 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.[15]

Indica Bookshop[edit]

In 1966, the Indica bookshop was separated from the Indica Gallery, and moved to 102 Southampton Row in the summer of 1966.[16] 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.[17]

2006 exhibition[edit]

An exhibition at Riflemaker (a gallery on Beak Street in London) in November 2006 re-visited Indica 40 years after it was closed. It included 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 related to some of the ideas first presented there.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Art & the 60s: Episode 3, BBC Two, 7 August 2004.
  4. ^ Barry Miles (2010) – London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945 p. 160
  5. ^ a b c Miles. pp. 223-224
  6. ^ Friends of the Scotch of St James 11 November 2006
  7. ^
  8. ^ Barry Miles (2010) – London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945 p. 161
  9. ^ Barry Miles (2002) – In the Sixties p. 68
  10. ^ Barry Miles (2002) – In the Sixties p. 82
  11. ^ a b Miles. p. 225
  12. ^ a b Miles. p. 227
  13. ^ Miles. p. 226
  14. ^ Playing to the gallery – It's 40 years since Indica set London swinging. Kate Bernard catches up with its founding gallerist John Dunbar. Observer – November 2006
  15. ^ a b Miles. p. 233
  16. ^ Miles. p. 237
  17. ^ Miles. pp. 237-238


  • Miles, Barry (1998). Many Years From Now. VintageRandom House. ISBN 0-7493-8658-4.
  • Harry, Bill (2002). The Paul McCartney Encyclopedia. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-7535-0716-1.

External links[edit]