I'm so far away, One moment there. Moving me up
Every step is moving me up, One moment there/
One tiny, tiny move. It's all I need and I jump over - Arthur Russell (here)
She said, 'did you do it?' I said, 'I did it.' And that was that. Our last conversation.
Agnes Martin, Milk River, 1963.
"I think what she wanted most from me was the idea that I would install the shows the way she wanted and place the pictures in collections that weren’t speculative. 30 years ago it was very tough art that very few people could even see as art. But great artists turn the tide of taste in their own direction. " - Arne Glimcher on Agnes Martin
What’s your lasting memory of Agnes?
Arne Glimcher: I think of somebody who was not interested at all in commerce, somebody who spent her entire life searching for truth and beauty. I remember her saying to me at the beginning of our relationship, ‘If you ever try and sell my paintings I will leave your gallery. If people really want them let them buy them, but don’t ever try to sell them.’ It’s the only time I’ve every heard an artist say that! I think what she wanted most from me was the idea that I would install the shows the way she wanted and place the pictures in collections that weren’t speculative. 30 years ago it was very tough art that very few people could even see as art. But great artists turn the tide of taste in their own direction. Martin reinvented painting by taking everything out of the painting: colour, composition. . . The things that are all beneath notice in a painting became the subject of the painting. You could say minimalist in that way, but they take you to a step beyond in perception - the touch and the brush stroke, the way the pencil line was drawn over the surface of the weave of the linen. These paintings exist more like music or mantras than they do like paintings as we knew them.
It was such a long relationship. Agnes said to me at the beginning she said ‘we’re never going to be friends, we’re co-workers in the art field.’ And then we became really close friends. The visits that maybe stick in the mind are the ones where she would show me four versions of a single painting and she’d say to me. ‘I think this is the best one, what do you think?’ Invariably there was so little difference between them, it was so hard to say, they were all really beautiful. And then she’d say OK we’re gonna keep that one and we’re going to cut up the others. And I would help with a knife slice up the paintings. Those are the studio visits that I think are the sharpest, helping her destroy the work.
What goes through your mind the first time you hear something like that?
Arne Glimcher: It’s her work, and I’m a co-worker in the art field. . . but yeah. It is brutal. I was there at the end of her life and she said ‘go down to the studio, there are three paintings. Hanging on the wall is the one I want to keep, I want you to destroy the other two.’ So I went down to the studio. The two paintings she wanted me to destroy were magnificent – absolutely perfect. The one on the wall was a very stormy painting, unlike anything that she had made since the 60s. I certainly didn’t want to destroy those two spectacular paintings but I did. I sliced them to ribbons and put them in the trash. When I came back. She said, 'did you do it?' I said, 'I did it.' And that was that. Our last conversation.
(interview sourced from Phaidon)