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Anthony Korner

Born 1939 in London; educated at Harrow School and Cambridge University; qualified as a chartered accountant in 1965; worked in investment banking in London, Paris, Frankfurt, and New York; interested in Indian miniatures and antiquities, music, cinema, textiles, gardening, and travel (mainly in India); directed the documentary film Helen, Queen of the Nautch Girls (1972) with Merchant Ivory Productions.

AT THE 1975 BASEL ART FAIR, a lightbulb went out above the booth of an English gallery. The owner climbed a ladder to change it, but fell off onto his American assistant, badly breaking her arm. The assistant was accustomed to driving her car to work in central London. But with her injury, this was no longer possible. That same year, I was preparing to leave London to move to New York. Friends introduced me to the woman in question, and she eventually rented my London flat. In this way, I met Amy Baker. A couple of years later, she arrived in New York to direct the John Weber Gallery, and we became fast friends. In 1979, I decided to change professions and began to search for a new occupation that could keep me in New York. Amy suggested we start publishing art books. I needed experience with contemporary art, so I found a job that summer in Venice assisting the director of the Venezia la Fotografia festival. To celebrate my fortieth birthday that June, I invited Amy and several other friends to join me. Amy visited Art Basel on the way. There she heard the owner of Artforum was thinking of selling. She persuaded me that this would be a more interesting and useful project than art-book publishing because the contemporary art world needed Artforum’s independent voice. We made an offer for the magazine that, unexpectedly, was accepted. In mid-October of that year, we were handed the key to the office; a modest, two-room space in Midtown Manhattan comprising a staff of four, five basic metal desks and chairs, a depleted art library, a single telephone line with four extensions, an old manual typewriter, and an interesting but possibly out-of-date subscriptions list. Up till then, every issue of the magazine was typed out on the manual machine and sent to the typesetter. When the galleys were returned to be cut and pasted, photographs were inserted laboriously, while last-minute corrections were painstakingly made with a razor blade. Once completed, the issue was sent to a photo shop to be readied, and then on to the printer. In today’s computerized age, this process seems impossibly antiquated. Forty years on, I am about to turn eighty. Artforum’s editor in chief, David Velasco, has given me this special occasion to remember some of the art and experiences that were exceptional. In addition to the pleasure of working with my brilliant colleagues over the decades, and the friendships that have made so many of these experiences possible, these are a few of the places and works of art that have meant so much to me.

  1. MINIMALISM

    Unlike almost everyone who works at Artforum, I have no formal art education. I only became seriously interested in contemporary art through my friendship with Amy Baker. When she directed the John Weber Gallery, I particularly enjoyed the Minimalist art being exhibited there. Through exposure to the work of Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Fred Sandback (whom Amy married in 1982), Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, and many others, I began to understand that art doesn’t have to be limited to the spectrum of abstraction and representation, confined to a wall or a floor—it has to engage your mind. In particular, Sandback’s sculptures and drawings, seemingly so fragile and tenuous, have a dynamic tension that always astonishes me.

    *Fred Sandback, _Untitled (from Ten Vertical Constructions [red rust variation]),_ 1977–79,* acrylic yarn. Installation view, Dia:Beacon, New York, 2015. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio. Fred Sandback, Untitled (from Ten Vertical Constructions [red rust variation]), 1977–79, acrylic yarn. Installation view, Dia:Beacon, New York, 2015. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio.
  2. LONDON MUSEUMS: THE BRITISH MUSEUM, THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT, THE WALLACE COLLECTION, THE TATE, AND WHITECHAPEL GALLERY

    I grew up in London, where most Saturdays, my father would take me to one of these great museums and galleries. Through repeated exposure to phenomenal historic collections, I came to know a little about so much—be it Japanese netsuke, Hindu gods, German and Italian sculpture, English silver, French furniture—whatever. These places opened the whole wide world of art to me and surely continue to do so for others. (Amazingly, at all public museums in the United Kingdom, there are no admissions fees.) The first modernist art that engaged me was at the Tate: Henri Matisse’s L’escargot (The Snail), 1953, a huge collage more than nine feet square. I didn’t know then that Matisse had turned to cutting colored paper with scissors when his arthritic hands could no longer hold a brush—an example of genius overcoming adversity.

    *Henri Matisse, _L’escargot_ (The Snail), 1953,* gouache on paper collaged and mounted on canvas, 112 3⁄4 × 113". Henri Matisse, L’escargot (The Snail), 1953, gouache on paper collaged and mounted on canvas, 112 3⁄4 × 113".
  3. CARSON McCULLERS, THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFÉ (1951)

    Like so many of my generation, I enjoy the printed page. I have many favorite books—Sybille Bedford’s A Legacy (1956); Thomas Bernhard’s Woodcutters (1984); Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians (1918); and Christopher Isherwood’s My Guru and His Disciple (1980). Yet The Ballad of the Sad Café stands out. I read this novella as a teenager without knowing anything about the author—but I was fascinated by the story and the clarity of the language. There is a point, about a third of the way through, when McCullers stops the action and writes, “The time has come to speak about love.” The next three paragraphs are the best definition of love that I have ever read. I showed it to a close friend, the Indian film producer Ismail Merchant, who optioned the film rights and, in 1991, with Simon Callow directing, brought to the screen this almost unfilmable book.

    *Simon Callow, _The Ballad of the Sad Café,_ 1991,* 35 mm, color, sound, 101 minutes. Miss Amelia (Vanessa Redgrave). Simon Callow, The Ballad of the Sad Café, 1991, 35 mm, color, sound, 101 minutes. Miss Amelia (Vanessa Redgrave).
  4. SATYAJIT RAY, THE APU TRILOGY: PATHER PANCHALI (SONG OF THE LITTLE ROAD), 1955, APARAJITO (THE UNVANQUISHED), 1956, AND APUR SANSAR (THE WORLD OF APU), 1959

    In 1965, I accepted a friend’s invitation to visit India. I stayed for two months and thought I’d never want to return. But two years later, I did go back and fell in love with the country’s great beauty and varied cultures. I have made some of my closest friendships there and now visit as often as possible. A couple of years before he died, I had the opportunity to meet and interview the celebrated Indian film director Satyajit Ray. It is said you should never meet your heroes, but Ray was an exception. I met him at his home in Calcutta: He was kind, helpful, and open to my questions. His deceptively simple black-and-white films take stories from humble village life in rural Bengal and reveal truths about human nature and behavior that apply to the whole world. To me, he is the finest filmmaker of the twentieth century. The emotionally wrenching Pather Panchali, made on weekends while he worked full-time at an ad agency, is a world-class masterpiece.

    *Satyajit Ray, _Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road),_ 1955,* 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 125 minutes. Durga (Uma Das Gupta). Satyajit Ray, Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), 1955, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 125 minutes. Durga (Uma Das Gupta).
  5. THE MAUSOLEUM OF I’TIMAD-UD-DAULAH IN AGRA

    The one place every visitor to India has to see is the fabulous Taj Mahal in Agra, the mausoleum of Mumtaz, Shah Jahan’s favorite wife, and also of the shah himself. Diagonally across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal is the white marble “jewel box” known as I’timād-ud-Daulah, commissioned by Nur Jahan, the wife of emperor Jahangir, for her father, who was the grandfather of Mumtaz. This pavilion is often skipped by tourists, which is a mistake, as it’s exquisite—possibly the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Even now, in its poorly restored state, it is representative of India’s incredible architectural riches, which in today’s political climate are endangered because of indifference and religious problems. In 2011, to counteract this neglect in the Deccan region, two art-historian friends of mine, Dr. Helen Philon and Dr. George Michell, helped set up the Deccan Heritage Foundation (www.deccanher itagefoundation.org) to raise funds, restore, and publicize with guidebooks some of the Deccan’s vulnerable structures. The foundation, in which I participate, is also intent on improving the quality of life in this huge area of southern India through education, sanitation, and beneficial tourism.

    *Mausoleum of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 1628, Agra, India.* Photo: Sanyam Bahga/Flickr. Mausoleum of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 1628, Agra, India. Photo: Sanyam Bahga/Flickr.
  6. NICLAUS OF HAGUENAU AND MATTHIAS GRÜNEWALD, ISENHEIM ALTARPIECE, CA. 1512–16

    After the 1985 Art Basel, Ingrid Sischy, Artforum’s then editor in chief, and I decided to drive from the fair to Paris. I suggested we stop on the way in Colmar, France, to see the Isenheim Altarpiece at the Musée Unterlinden, which I remembered from a visit many years earlier. Ingrid was anxious to get to Paris but was reluctantly persuaded to view this medieval treasure. The altar’s paintings were commissioned around 1510 for the Monastery of Saint Anthony, where monks treated victims of Saint Anthony’s fire, a deadly malady of the Middle Ages caused by eating rye grain contaminated by the ergot fungus. Standing before the massive altarpiece, we both were dumbfounded by its beauty. After our return to New York, Ingrid often referred to this masterpiece. I have been back to the Unterlinden twice, each time astounded by the artist’s powerful representation of sorrow, anguish, and redemption.

    *Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald, Isenheim Altarpiece, ca. 1512–16,* oil and tempera on limewood panels, closed 12' 4" × 17' 61⁄4". Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald, Isenheim Altarpiece, ca. 1512–16, oil and tempera on limewood panels, closed 12' 4“ × 17' 61⁄4”.
  7. BRIAN ENO, AMBIENT 1: MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS (1978)

    In 1986, I was captivated by Brian Eno’s beautiful random-sound-and-video installation at Galleria del Cavallino in Venice, and I managed to get an interview with him for that year’s Summer issue of Artforum. During our wide-ranging conversation, he explained the origins of Music for Airports. Eno was waiting for a flight at Cologne Bonn, thinking about a background sound that was calming and wouldn’t raise the noise level in airports or interrupt the announcements. His solution was to record bell-like tones and play them on loops of various lengths simultaneously. Each loop was to be played on a different loudspeaker. Listeners could add to the random element by moving from one speaker to another. A small section was released as this soothing, nonmelodic, yet harmonious recording. I have listened to it so often now that I can hum it.

  8. JEAN-CLAUDE CARRIÈRE’S THE MAHABHARATA DIRECTED BY PETER BROOK (1985)

    In 1987, I was in Paris and managed to get tickets for the production of The Mahabharata, based on the Sanskrit epic, written by Jean-Claude Carrière and directed by Peter Brook, at Brook’s CICT/Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. I had the choice of seeing one three-hour act on three consecutive nights or all of it in one day with one-hour intermissions. I went for the full twelve hours. From the moment it began, with the little boy questioning Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god, I knew I was in the safe hands of a magical storyteller. The play was brilliantly narrated, filled with intrigue, passion, and war and staged with fire, water, and mud. I’m told it was only bettered by its original 1985 setting in a quarry outside Avignon, France. I was so enthusiastic about it that when it was performed in Glasgow—the only city in the UK where it found a venue—I persuaded my brother and friends to fly from London to see it. In 1987, when it stopped in New York on its four-year world tour, I saw it a second time, wonderfully restaged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s opening of the derelict Majestic Theater. Unfortunately, the three-hour film version is a shadow of the original.

    *Jean-Claude Carrière’s _The Mahabharata_, 1985, in a production directed by Peter Brook, 1987.* Performance view, BAM Next Wave Festival, New York. Richard Fallon, Georges Corraface, Jeffrey Kissoon. Photo: Martha Swope. Jean-Claude Carrière’s The Mahabharata, 1985, in a production directed by Peter Brook, 1987. Performance view, BAM Next Wave Festival, New York. Richard Fallon, Georges Corraface, Jeffrey Kissoon. Photo: Martha Swope.
  9. THE GARDENS AT THE CHÂTEAU DE VILLANDRY

    In 2009, with Justin Spring, the art historian and biographer, and our Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Franklin, I took a sabbatical in France. For Justin’s research, we explored the countryside around Paris every weekend. One day in June, after a tour of the châteaux of the Loire Valley, visiting one great building after another, we arrived to the Château de Villandry. Hot and tired, we entered the estate, unprepared for the glory of the surrounding garden in the full flush of an early summer evening. Photography can’t adequately register the massive scale of this garden, which covers many acres, nor do more than suggest the sumptuousness of the lavender in the immaculately maintained, complex, box-lined beds and the arches of climbing roses around fountains. There’s even a perfectly laid out ornamental potagerie to make any gardener despair of cultivating vegetables.

  10. JANET CARDIFF, THE FORTY-PART MOTET, 2001

    While in France, Justin and I also visited the Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud in the Loire to see the famous tomb effigies of King Henry II of England and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Walking through the abbey, I recognized the sound of Renaissance music. It was the motet Spem in alium nunquam habui (Hope in Any Other Have I None, ca. 1570) by the English composer Thomas Tallis, originally written for eight choirs of five singers. It is traditionally thought that Tallis dedicated it to Elizabeth I of England to dissuade her from persecuting her Roman Catholic subjects. In the refectory, the Canadian artist Janet Cardiff had installed forty speakers, each one playing a recording of a separate voice from Spem in alium. Cardiff’s installation allows you to walk among the voices, hearing one, several, or all at the same time. The music is sublime.

  11. RICHARD STRAUSS, DER ROSENKAVALIER (THE KNIGHT OF THE ROSE), 1911

    Opera houses are struggling to survive. Unfortunately, classical music, and opera in particular, is wrongly seen as elitist entertainment, partly because the costs of maintaining orchestras and venues are so high that tickets are often prohibitively expensive. My parents, who were music lovers, took my brother and me to London’s Royal Opera House in Covent Garden whenever possible. It was there that I saw many of the great classical operas and ballets. However, my first opera was Der Rosenkavalier, performed in Salzburg, Austria, at the reopened Festspiele shortly after the end of World War II—though I was too young to remember it. This superb opera with its delightful, witty libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal is set in Maria Theresa-era Vienna. I like to imagine that I saw the famous production conducted by Herbert von Karajan, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in the role of the Marschallin. Happily, her exquisite silver voice is preserved on recordings. To this day, the great trio at the end of the final act invariably brings tears to my eyes.

    *Final trio of a 1962 perfor­mance of Richard Strauss’s _Der Rosenkavalier_ (The Knight of the Rose), 1911.* From left: Sophie (Anneliese Rothenberger), Octavian (Sena Jurinac), and Countess von Werdenberg the Marschallin (Elisabeth Schwartzkopf). Photo: GTV Archive/Shutterstock. Final trio of a 1962 perfor­mance of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose), 1911. From left: Sophie (Anneliese Rothenberger), Octavian (Sena Jurinac), and Countess von Werdenberg the Marschallin (Elisabeth Schwartzkopf). Photo: GTV Archive/Shutterstock.
  12. BAVARIA’S BASILIKA VIERZEHNHEILIGEN (BASILICA OF THE FOURTEEN HOLY HELPERS)

    In the mid to late 1960s, I spent a couple of years in Frankfurt—a city I wouldn’t recommend for tourism. But the neighboring Taunus Valley, and the castles along the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen, are among the most picturesque places in Europe. I raced my English Mini all over Germany (steering wheel on the wrong side). There was no speed limit on the amazing autobahns. My favorite expedition was south toward Munich along the Romantische Straße, in search of Tilman Riemenschneider’s magnificent wood carvings. Off the main road, I stopped at the remote late-Baroque church of Vierzehnheiligen, just because I liked the name. What I discovered was the most extraordinary manifestation of delirious Rococo. I am not a conventionally religious person, but this glorious interior, dedicated to the Fourteen Holy Helpers—a group of minor saints who appeared to a shepherd at a country well—is, well, heavenly.

  13. KEES VAN DONGEN, FEMMES À LA BALUSTRADE (WOMEN AT THE BALUSTRADE), 1910–11

    There is one painting I would like to own, which would give me joy every time I saw it: Kees van Dongen’s portrait that highlights a charming young woman, currently hanging in the Musée de l’Annonciade in Saint-Tropez, France. Her smile is as infectious as the artist’s clear delight in capturing her likeness on canvas.

    *Kees van Dongen, _Femmes à la balustrade_ (Women at the Balustrade), 1910–11,* oil on canvas, 32 × 39". Kees van Dongen, Femmes à la balustrade (Women at the Balustrade), 1910–11, oil on canvas, 32 × 39".