And the Nijinsky drawings?
“They suddenly became very important for me for this discrepancy between how Nijinsky was seen through the eyes of his contemporaries and how he, at the same moment, saw the world. The abstract drawings were made between 1917 and 1919. He had stopped dancing and was working in St Moritz by himself, quite desperate I think, because he couldn’t express himself as he used to. I think it was his absolute horror at the First World War that we see in the drawings.”
How does the artist link with the dancer?
“I went through various phases with Nijinsky. I was fascinated by the exotic, magnetic dancer with a great charisma: not only his technique but his presence must have been extraordinary. Then I reached a point where I appreciated what he was trying to do in choreography. He opened a new door to contemporary ballet and he was there before Martha Graham or Mary Wigman. With the publication of his diary we realised that here was an incredibly sensitive philosopher and then discovering the drawings, there was a fourth layer of information about this man."
"This is why I am so interested to have as many as possible – we now have, I think, 98 artworks. And they are not just scribblings of someone who is losing his mind: there is intention in them.”
While Nijinsky was a central part in the unique artistic synthesis of Diaghilev’s ballet productions he was a self-taught artist. Recently his art has begun to attract attention in its own right. Several of his paintings were included in the Inventing Abstraction exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2012. I asked if this was this the first time they were displayed in an art-historical context.
“No, in Hamburg in 2009 Nijinsky’s work was displayed with four other artists who were active in the same period. If the title had been in English it would have been Eye on Nijinsky – Nijinsky’s eye. He was an incredible draughtsman. Seeing the concrete drawings shows what a remarkable hand he had.”