Questionnaire: Joseph Kosuth

Q: What do you wish you knew? A: All that I don’t, of course!


Portrait of Joseph Kosuth by Andy Warhol. Courtesy: Joseph Kosuth

Portrait of Joseph Kosuth by Andy Warhol. Courtesy: Joseph Kosuth © Andy Warhol Foundation

What images keep you company in the space where you work?

Quite a few: my portrait by Andy Warhol, a painting by Ad Reinhardt from 1960, a small painting by D.H. Lawrence, a late drawing by Giorgio Morandi, a 2004 autobiographical box/shelf work by Haim Steinbach; a group of small works, photos and drawings, by Man Ray, Rene Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, Andre Breton, Meret Oppenheim, and Giorgio de Chirico; an edition Jasper Johns did for Merce Cunningham in 1974, which is a portrait of Marcel Duchamp; a work comprised of a series of faux ‘posters’ by Sanna Marander, and Francis Picabia’s 1938 blue monochrome portrait of his favourite sail boat.

What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?

A portrait of Marcel Proust by Claude Manet, but I was only 11.

If you could live with only one piece of art what would it be?

Well, this is nearly impossible to answer with finality, but probably 3 stoppages étalon (3 Standard Stoppages, 1913–4) by Marcel Duchamp.

What is your favourite title of an artwork? 

Certainly not the unintended paradox of ‘Untitled’. I actually titled a series of my works ‘Titled (A.A.I.A.I.)’ in the 1960’s partly in response to all the painters too lame to even create a title.

What do you wish you knew? 

All that I don’t, of course!

What should change?

Well, there’s certainly not enough room here.

What should stay the same?

Art being about ideas rather than being the expensive trophies of corporate culture.

What could you imagine doing if you didn't do what you do? 

Probably the same thing, but differently – and hopefully better.

What music are you listening to? 

I am listening to various recordings of compositions by Morton Feldman.

What are you reading?

I am reading the excellent, most recent book by Terry Smith, One and Five Ideas (On Conceptual Art and Conceptualism) (2016) which he kindly dedicated to me. I’m also reading The Trouble with Pleasure (Deleuze and Psycholoanalysis) (2016) by Aaron Schuster.

What do you like the look of? 

The view of the river Thames out of the window of my new studio.

What is art for?

It shows us how meaning is made.

Joseph Kosuth’s installation ‘Colour in Contextual Play’ with works by Enrico Castellani, Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni, curated by Cornelia Lauf, open this evening at Mazzoleni, London. The show runs 19 May – 28 July 2017.

Joseph Kosuth (b. 1945, USA) is an American artist who lives and works in New York and London. One of the pioneers of conceptual art, his more than 40-year inquiry into the relation of language to art includes participating in seven Documentas and nine Venice Biennales. Awards include the Brandeis Award, 1990, Frederick Wiseman Award, 1991, the Menzione d'Onore at the Venice Biennale, 1993, and the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government in 1993. Recent projects include A Monument of Mines, (2015) a major site-specific installation for the new cultural center in Kongsberg, Norway and One Field to the Next a permanent large-scale work at the Taipei Main Station (2016). Kosuth is currently working on a new public commission at the Miami Beach Convention Centre and his first publicly funded commission for a landmarked civic building in the US, on the facade of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.

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