Artist Robert Irwin, 87, Says Plan Your Exit Before You Leap

Photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann/

Photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann/

"'I thought it was coming along pretty good,' says Irwin guardedly of the work, which is still in progress when we convene. (He had spent much of his visit discussing with his team whether or not the very faintest of grey stripes should be added; it should, it was decided.) 'The important thing is that you can enter it at any point, and at every moment you have to make an intuitive decision where to go. I’ve been talking about that for a long time.'

A 60-year career has left Irwin plenty of time to talk about things and bring his work to the physical and conceptual excellence it now attains. 'The fabrication has to be such that it does not distract from the bigger intention,' says Irwin tartly, a firm believer in 'I feel therefore I think therefore I am'. And it’s true that it is the apparently effortless presence of his installations — nothing more than scrim, fluorescent tubes and staples (the Dia piece uses 92,000 of them) — that allows viewers’ perceptions to be heightened and sensations evoked as they move through them. 'I could give you endless names of artists who try to work like this, and no one makes it half as interesting as Bob,' says Jessica Morgan, Dia’s director. 'He teaches you how to look.' - via Financial Times