Apollo Magazine

My Masterpiece Selection: Idris Khan

The artist on his appreciation of Cy Twombly, the Rothko Room, and a particularly delicious dal

Photo courtesy of Idris Khan’s Studio and Victoria Miro Gallery

To coincide with the opening of Masterpiece London, we asked the artist Idris Khan to pick out some of his personal favourite masterpieces

In London, my favourite space to spend time is the Rothko Room at Tate Modern. I remember the first time I walked in and the impact it had on me. In that moment I knew I would do everything in my power to become an artist, and try to create something as moving as Rothko’s enveloping paintings.

Installation view of the Rothko Room at Tate Modern, London Photo: Marcus Leith and Andrew Dunkley © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko / DACS 2015

South of the river, Raqib Shaw has created a magical garden in the most unexpected of places – an old sausage factory near the Peckham Road. The artist is a friend of mine, and what he’s created here is a living, growing masterpiece. Surreal, epic and beautiful, with over 100 bonsai trees it’s a real haven in the capital.

Home and studio of Raqib Shaw (b. 1974), Peckham, London Photo: James Mollison

Agnes Martin was a remarkable painter, and Writings – her collection of letters, journals and lectures – is a great source of inspiration to me. Martin’s meditative text gives an insight into an artist’s way of life, and casts light on her continuous search for the sublime.

As a tribute to the late Cy Twombly, Gagosian’s 2012 touring exhibition of his last eight paintings was both uplifting and poignant. They were so intense and typified the freedom that Twombly had mastered as an artist. I saw it in London, and here the gallery itself was made smaller so that the viewer was almost enclosed by the strong green, red and yellow paintings. I was incredibly moved knowing these were the last works he left.

Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased De Kooning of 1953 is a stroke of artistic genius. Rauschenberg’s creation of an artwork entirely through erasure and the act of removing is masterful – especially his audacity in rubbing out work made by a modern–day master.

J.M.W. Turner’s Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth was painted in 1842, but its composition was years ahead of its time. It informed my recent set of photographs at Victoria Miro.

Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, (1842), Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) © Tate, London

The dal created by the chefs at Bukhara in Delhi is to die for. It’s cooked over charcoal for 48 hours and then eaten with buttered naan bread. This dal is a masterpiece!

This article was originally published in the Masterpiece London magazine 2015.

Masterpiece London takes place in the South Grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, from 25 June–1 July.

Highlights of Masterpiece London 

My Masterpiece Selection: Anita Zabludowicz

My Masterpiece Selection: Amanda Levete

My Masterpiece Selection: Gary Tinterow

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