Questionnaire: Nicholas Logsdail
Q: What do you like the look of? A: Art that does not look like art
What images keep you company in the space where you work?
The artworks we have on view in the galleries’ offices change frequently. In London we are currently displaying a porcelain vase by Ai Weiwei, works on paper by Joyce Pensato and Stanley Whitney, paintings from Leon Polk Smith’s Correspondence series, made i the 1960s, and a video by Laure Prouvost, amongst many others.
In my personal office, I am kept company by small studies for paintings by Peter Joseph, which were realized for his exhibition at our New York gallery in Chelsea in June. I have a study for a sculpture by Richard Deacon on my desk, as well as work by Lawrence Weiner on the walls. There are also a number of works in my office that hold sentimental value, including family portraits painted by my great-uncle William Logsdail and a landscape painting of Aix-en-Provence by Matthew Smith, circa 1932, which is very important to me.
What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?
The first piece of art that really mattered to me stems from childhood and my first trade with an artist. After Matthew Smith taught me how to paint when I was about seven or eight years old, he exchanged a work on paper for one of my paintings, and he thought my work was better than his! One of the most encouraging things ever said to me … This exchange was my first confirmatory experience with art that motivated me and committed me to the direction I went on to take.
As far as my first experience of contemporary art is concerned, it was for the most part through the significant artists the gallery showed in its early days. Those artists had a very strong influence on me.
If you could live with only one piece of art what would it be?
How can one live with only one work of art? That is an impossible question, so I must answer obliquely … I consider the publication we have created on the occasion of the gallery’s 50th anniversary a work of art, not least because Irma Boom designed it. Thinking of all the artworks I have encountered throughout my career, all the artists I have met and exhibited, all the thoughts and images in my mind’s eye – the translucency of the paper in our anniversary book somehow grasps all those things at once, and it is very special to me.
What is your favourite title of an artwork?
What do you wish you knew?
‘The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything and the young know everything.’ Although this is not my quote, but one by Oscar Wilde, I could not answer your question more truthfully. Although I do wish I knew more about quantum physics and could speak French fluently!
What should change?
Well, I would do it if I knew. I have tried to change everything I can. Gallery artists and everyone who has worked at Lisson all these years have certainly changed my life as I hope I have theirs. Change can only be personal. It stems from individuals believing the same thing and sticking with it, a collective consciousness emanating from a few people with overpowering belief and commitment.
What should stay the same?
Never giving up what you believe and letting go of what you don’t.
What could you imagine doing if you didn't do what you do?
It’s a bit late for that! But I have of course reflected on what else I might have done over the years. Music has been a preoccupation of mine since childhood, so if not art, I would have pursued that. Great art, after all, is silent but makes beautiful music; and great music is great art, which you can listen to.
What music are you listening to?
Our exhibition with The Vinyl Factory, ‘Everything At Once’, was partly inspired by a 1966 quote by John Cage: ‘Nowadays everything happens at once and our souls are conveniently electronic (omniattentive).’ I have since been reacquainting myself with the work of Cage and came across a piano piece performed by the Israeli pianist David Greilsammer, who masterfully alternates Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes with the work of the 17th-century Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti. The arresting contrasts between the two composers spotlight the genius of Cage and Scarlatti as both artists and composers.
What are you reading?
I am currently rereading The Little Sister (1949) by Raymond Chandler at night and one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read, Man's Search For Meaning (1946) by Viktor Frankl, in the morning.
What do you like the look of?
Art that does not look like art.
What is art for?
Art is for what you cannot see. Art is there to question, verify or deny the greatest of all human mysteries – how we measure our life and daily experience with our existential nature. Art and culture represents who we are and what we believe.
Lisson gallery’s 50th anniversary exhibition ‘Everything At Once’, presented with the Vinyl Factory, runs from 5 October to 10 December 2017 at the Store Studios, 180 The Strand, London.