Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

Finally the big week begins. In four days we open our new Institute -- a 35,000 sq. ft former coachworks in Olaf Street, W11 -- the home of our foundation. For the opening we have planned an exhibition of the extraordinary light artist James Turrell, with all 78 external windows to be lit in sequence, and over 25 pieces by Turrell inside. Strangely, it feels less real, like a dream, the more real it becomes. At the moment I'm looking forward to the last brush stroke (and praying it will take place before we open to the world) but we seem a long way from it right now. I suppose big ideas and intentions always come down to small details. At the moment the small details (but potentially huge problems) are the blinds. The Turrell windows all need full blinds to work properly. They are in place but refuse to come down electronically and we have to invent a way of getting them down manually. To think that all these months of work come down to a long stick, a hook and a steady hand. Right now there are 72 remaining windows with blinds that need to be down. As we go to bed, they aren't. Tonight it is easy to feel some doubts.

The Foundation -- and particularly this exhibition -- aims to explore the links between the arts, neuroscience and creativity. What happens to the mind when we see great art? What does light do to the mind? How can our visual sense teach us to learn in new ways? One breakthrough is how much enthusiasm we have been greeted with. From the local schools taking part in the education projects, to the lecture series we have planned, to the press, the reaction is so rewarding. A Financial Times article says that 'London's latest and most elegantly harmonious gallery space has the power and the presence to transform a whole neighbourhood.' It gives us all a boost. Amid the controlled chaos we have a fun TV interview with props including a chair, a piece of paper and a makeshift clothes brush made out of gaffer tape. It goes well -- I think -- but I end up hoping that we don't have to improvise in quite the same way come Thursday night (though I'm sure that gaffer tape will play a part somewhere: a simple solution to a thousand problems).

James Turrell continues to finesse the show.

He has such a presence, as if luminous himself. On Wednesday evening there is a welcome short break. The technicians are making final changes and need to be left to their own (rather complicated) devices, so I join Tom Krens, director of the Guggenheim Foundation, for dinner. We come back to Olaf Street at 1 a. …

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