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David Sylvester

It’s hard to believe David Sylvester is no longer with us. On both sides of the Atlantic, his imposing presence—a huge amalgam of mind, body, and passion—seemed a permanent fact; and his death on June 19, after a prolonged battle with cancer, feels as unreal as the news that a mountain on our horizon has vanished.

I cannot remember the art world without David’s looming large. Only last October, in Berlin, I came upon him by surprise while touring Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum. The effect was hallucinatory, with his dramatic figure and oracular voice radiating throughout those haunting, still empty spaces. But David could enter any room, whether in a gallery or in somebody’s home, and instantly fill it with the uncanny intensity of his focus on whatever matter, trivial or grave, preoccupied him at the moment. It might have been his quandary over why the taxi driver took this (probably

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