Saturday, 21 March 2015

Face to Face: Richard Cork in Conversation with Morgan Quaintance | The Small Desk

A video that shows both Quaintance and Cork, but they've not met yet!

It's not often an interviewer is interviewed. You have to be a pretty big-time interviewer to be interviewed; for people to want to know who you are and not just who the people you interview are. Richard Cork is pretty big-time when it comes to the 'art world'.

The first artist he met was Picasso in the 1960s with his best friend Tim Curry. Cork and Curry (not a comedy duo!) were in Cannes on their Gap Year and spotted Picasso having lunch. Cork was simply grateful for seeing Picasso, but Curry pushed him to go and speak to him. Cork wandered over and spoke through Picasso's American friend and got Picasso's signature, Curry then told him he had to do more and so Cork went over and started to draw Picasso's portrait. At which point Picasso decided to start pulling funny faces but eventually asked to see the portrait. Unbelievably he then decided to draw Cork's portrait. An incredible first encounter with an artist and an experience that no doubt gave Cork the motivation and the fire in his belly, if you like, to become an art critic.

He has been an art critic for various newspapers including the Evening Standard and The Times, he is a curator, author of many books including The Healing Power of Art and has been a Turner Prize judge. His passion is finding new artists and giving them the space to be heard. His new book Face to Face: Interviews with Artists is published by Tate Publishing and so naturally this talk was held at Tate Britain in the Clore Gallery, right next to their offices. I must admit I have never been to the Clore Galleries and didn't even realise they existed! It holds the Turner Collection: the Collection and the artist that give their name to the biggest art prize in the UK, the Turner Prize, again very fitting for this event! What was really interesting was that three of the artists whose interviews feature in the book attended the talk: Richard Deacon and Langlands & Bell. This shows real success when the people you have interviewed come to your talk about your book to hear you being interviewed.

The interviewer was Morgan Quaintance, a name I had not heard of before, but one I will no doubt now hear more of. At first I thought he was struggling a bit with the interview and was cutting Richard Cork off during stories he was telling, but I quickly realised that he was doing the job of the interviewer and bringing the interview back to the initial question, 'what is it like to interview an artist?', not just what are the artists like. Towards the end of the interview Quaintance asked a brilliant question, it was something along the lines of: 'Many say that every painting an artist paints is a portrait of themselves, do you think the same can be said for interviews, that they are a self portrait of the interviewer?'. I had never thought about this before but naturally the questions you ask, the way you interpret them and the way you write up the interview are all a reflection of who you are as much as who the interviewee is.

The whole interview had such an energy and you can see why they are both so good at being interviewers: they put people at ease and have such magnetic personalities. I could have listened to the conversation all day, astounded by the amount of experience and fascinating stories Cork had to tell and the terrific questions that Quaintance put to him. Quaintance admitted that Cork was one of his boyhood heroes and that he used to watch his shows as a kid. This was a perfect meeting of one great critic meeting the person who could become his successor. Watch this space.
Face to Face: Interviews with Artists is out on 31st March, 2015
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