These essays were all written in the last twenty years. For much of that time I have been curating exhibitions of contemporary art. There is no more productive engagement with someone else’s artworks than finding the right way to show them, since artworks are always direct statements or questions about articulations of space, and the curator’s job obviously is to enhance such questions and statements.
Of course, you can write about art from a distance after a single visit but nothing compares to living with art. Visiting an exhibition or installation several times and layering your perception of a painting or sculpture through acquaintanceship confirms one thing at least – that in your own life experience, what really gives substance and complexity to individual artworks comes out of the history of your relationship with them.
For my own part, I have made friends with the oeuvres of certain artists over the years, and this kind of relationship has aspects of both continuity and discontinuity. I am attached to the familiar, and to the strength of feeling that comes with a certain kind of fidelity. But the relationship grows when it takes unexpected turns, when the work itself takes on a new bearing – because I am seeing it from a different point in time, from a different juncture in my own history, or in a much broader history.
I began living with art as a deliberate form of behaviour when a teenager, making repeated visits to the National Gallery in London. But this did not involve contemporary art. As a student of literature, I was fascinated by the twentieth-century