My favourite room
Sean Scully

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 47, Summer 2016

Page 56

Sean Scully is transported by Monet's bridge every time he visits the Resnick Rotunda in Philadelphia Museum of Art

I must have first visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art 30 years ago, but I didn't really get to know the Resnick Rotunda until quite recently, when I struck up a friendship with Tim Rub, the Director.

The museum is an icon and of course, since the Rocky movies, coachloads of people go there just to imagine Rocky on the steps.

But inside the museum you can breathe – unlike MoMA in New York or Tate Modern, where it's difficult to see much of anything because things can be so chaotic and crowded. The museum has an extremely selective collection; their approach is to concentrate on individual artists, from Constantin Brâncuși to Cy Twombly, and they have a lot of my paintings now – ten – which is more than the Tate.

You approach the Rotunda down a vast corridor and in the room there is a beautiful painting by Monet of a bridge. It's the same period as the one in the National Gallery and just as good. It's right in the middle and is framed by the doorway. I have loved that painting ever since I was a student in Croydon, when I would spend hours trying to copy it. Seeing it always takes me back to those days. I think its magic lies in the fact that you can't see either end of the bridge.

Every time I visit, Tim meets me and we walk around before having lunch. It's a privilege to have someone with such an understanding of art history as a guide, and that relationship is one of the reasons they will be hosting my retrospective in 2020, once they have added an extension by Frank Gehry.

Philadelphia is just up the road from where I live in Tappan, on the other side of the Hudson. The gardens there back down onto the river and I'm slowly turning it into something like Giverny. I have planted roses and fruit trees – it's wonderful. There are two streams and I have commissioned a recreation of the Japanese footbridge from that Monet in the Rotunda over the streams.

The history of art in the West is an ongoing inspiration to me and is the focus of my Resistance and Persistence show that is touring China until March 2017. Bridge is the title of one of my essays accompanying the show and I see my work as a medium for dialogue between China and the West. Bridge, after all, is what a medium does; it takes you from one reality to another, which is what happens to me every time I visit the Resnick Rotunda.

Sean Scully's Resistance & Persistence is at Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou from 6 September to 9 October 2016, and at the Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan from 10 January to 12 March 2017.

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