Artist Talk: Matthew Barney at Toronto’s Luminato Festival

As part of Toronto’s Luminato Festival, acclaimed artist Matthew Barney gave a Q & A at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Here are some of his best quotes from that day.


This past weekend, I attended a Q & A with internationally renowned artist Matthew Barney.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from that day:

“My interest in storytelling was there from the start, but I don’t think I knew what to do with it really. I think what I did know what to do, was to use my body as a tool. I understood that and so, I think by default, I started setting up these situations with my body, and experimenting that way on my own, and asking a friend to videotape it.”

“I was educated in a period where the post-minimal tradition was the work we were all looking to. That kind of dialogue was how I was schooled, and I think the idea of making a cast bronze piece was just…not available.”

“I’m interested in…(and) I think any sculptor has to be…the investment of the spirit into the object.”

“People tend to ask what my relationship is to that material (Pop Art) and I always feel…I don’t have a very strong relationship to it, although I think you can find it in the work. I think that my influences are much more to do with the language of sculpture, the  language of performance based sculpture. So, I think it’s more about the way that language collides with the sensibility of Pop, and then trying to keep the work from not functioning as image, but functioning as form.”

“I think, when I start to feel my work being overproduced, it gives me a lot of anxiety. When you start to think about work that you’ve seen more reproductions than you have in person…there’s some images you know, and I think that’s something that scares me, because I’ve pushed my work so far out into the realm of…say cinema, or performance, or something that functions more in the world of art. So, I do have an anxiety that sometimes I feel I’ve pushed it too far, and that at some point, it’s unrecoverable. If it becomes an image, then I’ve failed.”

“I’m ambitious for sure, but I think that my ambition is to do with scale and complexity, and I think it always was.”

“When I started exhibiting work, that initial impulse was really as much about rejecting what was around me. At the time in New York, the kind of pictures artists and the kind of Neo Geo work…this was what was in galleries. So, I think what I was doing, and what a lot of other artists from our generation were doing, didn’t have a place in galleries at all. We all finished school thinking we would be exhibiting in alternative spaces. That would be our path. What happened as I was graduating college, is the art market collapsed. I think it’s something that affected my trajectory a lot. It opened things up in New York, and people from my generation were able to show publicly very early.”

2 responses to “Artist Talk: Matthew Barney at Toronto’s Luminato Festival

  1. thanks for the insight David. Very interesting.

    Jeff has been very successful with his art down here in Boquete, Panama. You might say he’s becoming the sweetheart of the art community. Who knew?.    Carol

    • Hi Carol,

      It was great to hear from you.

      I’m glad to hear that you and Jeff are doing so well and that his art career is taking off – good for him!

      Keep in touch,

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