ART Book Club – Book 5 – Travelling with Words and for Art

This month book will make you rush to find your passport and plan your next trip. If you are like me, as soon as you dive into Gayford descriptions of those places, and the mesmerizing art – you will be ready to leave your sofa and hop on a plane – but we are still in a pandemic – let's dream and discover places and travel through words – for now at least...

This book will spark your desire to travel, go miles and miles away, or be very close to home to discover the many treasures that the art world offers. Going where the art is might sometimes be the way to enjoy some art that couldn’t be moved for a museum show or to go where the magic of creation has happened – it might or may not change your perception  – but we, Martin Gayford and I think that you will feel something different.   

This book fueled the long debate of how experiencing art in the flesh might provoke a different reaction than experiencing it through a screen, a picture or another mediated way. Anybody that has waited years to see the Mona Lisa, behind the velvet rope and its custom-built anti-bullet plexiglass case, didn’t have the experience they were expecting – but what do we expect? As this book club intends to engage with others and hears you reflecting and reacting on the genesis of this book – let us know what your thoughts are. Also, we invite you to reflect on those questions:

  • How does experiencing a work of art in the flesh might alter your perception of it?  
  • Does the fact of travelling to – most likely a remote location – contribute to your perception? And how it may affect it positively or negatively – e.g. if you had a lousy time travelling, you might not enjoy less and the other way around as well, if the location is magical – will you create and preserve a nostalgic and embellished version of the encounter?  

Remember to comment like our post to enter our giveaway. You will get additional chances to win your copy by leaving comments and tagging other people! Finally, if your effort isn’t rewarded this time, we have a new book club monthly and make sure to head to your local bookstore or on bookshop.org to order your copy!   

As always, we want to hear from you. What are your thoughts about this book? Any places and art which you would like to know more about?  Get the conversation going on social media, and let’s add new chapters to Gayford’s book!  

And if you have a suggestion for us regarding the book club or even a book to suggest – email el@nic.art.


Review of the book by evlyne Laurin  

We are the sum of our experience. I have been a mini Gayford many times in my life, boarding a plane, taking a train, riding the bus or driving to quench my thirst for art experience and to see some of the most brilliant/acclaimed and sometimes even obscured works of art. Trust me – some people around me have “paid the price”, and I still hear about those stories. But there is one chapter of Gayford book that deserves that I tell you an accurate tale of my art journey.

I was lucky enough to get an invitation to Austin, Texas, via friends a couple of years ago. Then I read Gayford’s book – and discover the tale of a little city, less than 2 000 souls living there, 1,788 people to be exact by the 2020 census – MARFA. This town is miles away from Austin and in the middle of, let’s admit it, nowhere in Texas. It is far from any big centre, flying there is almost impossible. So, driving is roughly 7 hours plus stop – not the end of the world. It is with the words of Gayford that I convinced my friends to join me on my road trip to see the city that Donald Judd picked in the last year of the ’70s to build an artsy town, or mostly, to let his imagination run wild, built spectacular art installation that would be affected by their surrounding but also would give him the satisfaction of being the way he intended them. And while one of my friends is still very vocal about being dragged to Marfa for countless hours of touring at the Chinati foundation and around too many Judd works – you understand that he isn’t a fan, my friend – I know he enjoyed it and does it for the show. Many people had tried before me to bring them there, and nobody succeeded, but the way Gayford words describe it helped – actually, it did the job. I remember scanning the chapter and sending it in an email with nothing else than one sentence – Read this and convinced me that it isn’t worth the road trip?” – Also, Marfa has excellent restaurants.”

Polaroid, 2019 © evlyne Laurin, 15 untitled works in concrete, 1980–1984 by Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas

My recollection of my few days in Marfa might be embroidered by this tale or simply by the fact that it was a place I had been craving for since I heard about it many years ago. For the Contemporary Art Student that I was in London, going to the middle of Texas, searching for art seemed like a sterile enterprise, but it wasn’t. Naoshima is still very much on my bucket list – and I must say that the past year and the encounter of too many people who I don’t consider art lovers but who did go there – gave me a big-time FOMO, and I can’t wait to experience it with my own two legs and eyes. Will this tint my experience? The wait, the FOMO? I will let you know when I am back! I can’t wait to discover many other places in the book and add some more.

In the meantime, while the days of travelling freely and relatively easy to see, all the art we wanted to see is behind us, and with the incertitude of today – I strongly recommend travelling through the words of Martin Gayford. You will be taken to Italy, Japan, the USA, and a few other locations. You will be able to picture the road twisting, the atmosphere, the sun shining on your skin, and most importantly, you will experience art through the eyes the words of someone else. Take it all in, write down how you experienced it and then, when you will get there, compare both experiences. I can’t wait to hear/read your account of those experiences. I enjoy this book more than I could say, and I hope that I can publish my account of my experience one day, giving other people this burning desire to travel and see it for themselves. This isn’t the end of a journey – it is the continuation of scratching off things on my bucket list – yes, you know it, it is primarily an art-filled bucket list!


A bit about the author  

“I’m a writer, mainly about art and jazz. I am currently the art critic for The Spectator magazine, and also contribute to many other publications.” – Martin Gayford

Martin Gayford studied philosophy at Cambridge and art history at the Courtauld Institute of London University. He has written prolifically about art and jazz, regularly contributing to the Daily Telegraph and many art magazines and exhibition catalogues. He was an art critic of The Spectator 1994-2002 and subsequently of the Sunday Telegraph before becoming chief art critic for Bloomberg News until 2013. He is now once again an art critic for the Spectator. Gayford is the author of acclaimed books on Van Gogh, Constable and Michelangelo as well as Man with a Blue Scarf, Rendez-vous with Art (with Philippe de Montebello), A Bigger Message, Modernists & Mavericks, A History of Pictures (with David Hockney), The Pursuit of Art and Spring Cannot be Cancelled, all published by Thames & Hudson. His latest book is a Sunday Times Best Seller titled  Spring Cannot be Cancelled, collaboration with David Hockney.  

evlyne Laurin
evlyne Laurin
Is many things and has been in the cultural sectors for more than 12 years. She does Creative Consulting, Art Strategy and Art Appraisal. She contributes to various sorts of articles for .ART blog related to the art world and contemporary art. She has a phobia of pigeons, loves the colour orange and obsessively colour-codes her library. Connect on LinkedIn or Instagram.