In this episode of The Way I See It, our radio collaboration with BBC, we’ve captured composer Steve Reich’s audible awe as he sees his friend Richard Serra’s monumental 2015 sculpture Equal for the first time. As Reich puts it, he and Serra are “in tune to the same frequencies,” so their meeting in Manhattan in the 1960s and subsequent friendship was both important and inevitable. Working in sound and steel respectively, both Reich and Serra rejected traditional compositional structures—one of harmony and the other of form—to give shape to their work. Reich is the recipient of countless awards, including two Grammys, a Pulitzer, and, recently, the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale. His works are performed in concert halls all over the world, and recently at Glastonbury Festival.
Find the complete radio program, hosted by art critic and broadcaster Alastair Sooke, on BBC Sounds or wherever you get your podcasts.
As Reich points out, Serra’s work “in particular demands your physical presence.” In this episode of The Way I See It, we’ve captured Reich’s reaction as he walks through and around Equal. Ann Temkin, MoMA’s Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, joins Reich in our new gallery dedicated entirely to this one artwork. As they step inside, Reich notes that the size and weight of the steel blocks prompt him to stand taller. “You look at this steel and you sense that this is totally different than what you usually run into—objects you deal with—the idea of you having any effect on them is absolutely out of the question.” The artwork creates a space of palpable intensity that, as Reich points out, is humbling. “Many people in our society are underfed spiritually,” he says, “so when something comes along that is indisputable, like Equal by Richard Serra, you’re called to attention. Now hear this. Now see this. Now feel this.“
This is one of many conversations about art in The Way I See It, a 30-episode radio series from MoMA and BBC offering fresh perspectives on artworks in our new galleries. Thirty extraordinary creative thinkers choose a work that they love and share their way of seeing art and our world. Find The Way I See It on BBC Soundsor wherever you get your podcasts.
Steve Reich. Photo: Jeffrey Herman
Major support for the program is provided by The Museum of Modern Art’s Research and Scholarly Publications endowment established through the generosity of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Edward John Noble Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Perry R. Bass, and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Challenge Grant Program.