Sitting in a small private room at the Gagosian Gallery’s New York premises, in Chelsea, choreographer William Forsythe faces a wall of art books. From time to time he curiously scans the meticulously organized titles on the shelves while he’s speaking. Being behind the scenes at a blue-chip gallery presumably doesn’t compare to being backstage at a dance performance. After two years immersed in the art world, Forsythe has plenty of astute observations to share. “In theatre, there’s a supposition that if it is not easily given it is being difficult. People are obfuscating, or they’re being impenetrable, or so on and so forth. Whereas it seems that the public engaged with art assumes it’ll have to do some work. And I think that’s a very interesting thing.” This October, Forsythe has a show opening at Gagosian, his first solo presentation with the gallery. When a film of him performing was featured in the Whitney Biennial in 1997, he had already earned international acclaim at the helm of the Ballet Frankfurt, more or less reinventing contemporary ballet on a semi-regular basis after becoming its director in 1984. He achieved such ingenuity in part by drawing on knowledge and ideas from a number of other fields, from philosophy to architecture. This trans-disciplinary inclination, along with his warm and flexible attitude, made him something of a curatorial darling; he subsequently showed work at The Louvre, Tate Modern and the Venice Biennale (four times), among many other institutions. Only since 2015, following his departure from The Forsythe Company – the troupe he founded a decade prior – has art become his main activity.
“Then they come into our context and they’re used poetically, choreographically, they’re very beautiful. Then, [when we’re done], they go back into industrial obscurity.”