In an interview published by Frieze, Judith Wilkinson talks to the acclaimed polymath, artist, and author who is celebrating his 90th year. Wilkinson’s forthcoming book, Samuel Beckett: Contemporary Artist, examines Beckett as a practicing artist working in sound, moving-image, performance and installation art. The interview touches upon the correspondence and influence between O’Doherty and Beckett.

“‘I am now a Saint,’ proclaimed Brian O’Doherty as we sat down together in Dublin. ‘I was canonized in Cork. This is my supreme narcissistic moment, in which my faith in myself is completely justified communally.’ There is some truth in O’Doherty’s playful observation. The Irish American artist, novelist, art critic, television presenter, curator, political activist and former doctor is currently the subject of not one, but three exhibitions in Ireland, along with a series of specially commissioned artworks, performances, publications, music and theatre events. At 90, O’Doherty has never been more celebrated in the country of his birth.


Moving from Boston to New York in the early 1960s, O’Doherty became the art critic of The New York Times, while also hosting the television interview programme Dialogues. He would go on to commission the seminal Aspen 5+6 magazine/box (1967), which included works by Roland Barthes, Samuel Beckett, John Cage, Sol LeWitt, Andy Warhol and Susan Sontag, and to write what is undoubtedly amongst the most influential series of essays in 20th century art criticism, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, which were first published in Artforum in 1976. His novel, The Deposition of Father McGreevy(1999), was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2000. His latest novel, The Cross-Dresser’s Secret (2014), is written from the perspective of the Chevalier d’Eon, who lived in the 18th-century, and who lived as both a man and a woman, a French spy and celebrity.


O’Doherty has always had a skill for forging cross-generational relations. As a younger man he formed relationships with modernists that came before him, such as Jack B. Yeats and Mark Rothko, as well as the aforementioned Beckett, Duchamp and Hopper. His 2011 installation and performance piece Hello Sam was an attempt to facilitate a dialogue with Beckett across the ultimate divide of death. (Hello, Sam: Brian O’Doherty’s homage to Samuel Beckett)”

Read the full article at

Posted by:Rhys Tranter

Rhys Tranter is a writer based in Cardiff, Wales, UK. He is the author of Beckett's Late Stage (2018), and his work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator, and a number of books and periodicals. He holds a BA, MA, and a PhD in English Literature. His website is a personal journal offering commentary and analysis across literature, film, music, and the arts.

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