In the course of a career spent thinking and writing about art, the critic Martin Gayford has travelled all over the world in pursuit of first-hand encounters with art and artists. Gayford’s journeys, often to rather inaccessible places, involve frustrations and complications, but also serendipitous meetings and outcomes, which he makes as much part of each story as the final destination. Ever amusing, informative and self-deprecating, Gayford recounts trips to see Brancusi’s Endless Column in Romania, prehistoric cave art in France, the museum island of Naoshima in Japan, the Judd Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and an installation by Roni Horn in the far northwest of Iceland.
Other journeys are to meet artists – Robert Rauschenberg in New York, Marina Abramovic in Venice, Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris – or are made in the company of artists, such as a trip to Beijing with Gilbert & George. These encounters provide insights into the way artists approach and think about their art, and reveal the importance of their personal environment to their practice. They also affect Gayford’s own evolving ideas over a lifetime of passionate engagement with art. A perceptive and knowledgeable companion, Gayford shares the highs and lows of cultural travel, and makes a convincing case that, where art is concerned, only being there will do.