You recently collaborated with illy
to mark the 25th anniversary of its
Art Collection cups, culminating in
an installation at this year’s Venice
Biennale. Can you tell us about it?
In 1993 I won the Golden Lion for
sculpture at the Venice Biennale for a
work called “MEMORY/LOSS.” When
asked to do something for this year’s
Biennale in a similar space, I decided
to make a counterpoint to that work. I
wanted to create another world — like
Alice, falling through the rabbit hole into
Wonderland — to display the collection
of artist-made cups for illy. What I found
fascinating was how different each artist’s
work was from the other. Hence the title
“EVERYTHING YOU CAN THINK
OF IS TRUE the dish ran away with the
spoon,” a quote from the caterpillar in
Alice in Wonderland.
Your work is wide-ranging, to say the
least. How do you choose a project?
Very often when asked what I should do
next, I think what I shouldn’t do, and
then do that. I think the through-line is
something that continues through a classical opera such as Mozart, then something like a musical with Lou Reed with
very loud music, and then Luigi Nono,
whose music is meditative and quiet. I
can work with playwrights from Heiner
Müller, William Burroughs and Virginia
RFor the 57th Venice Biennale, illy enlisted Robert Wilson to put its artist-designed cups—400 in all,
than 100 artists—on
the world stage.
A visionary artist guides us through
the way he sees the world.
Woolf to Shakespeare or Tom Waits.
The works become clearer by being so
different from one another.
What is the first great artwork you
A painting by Clementine Hunter,
an African-American woman who never
learned to read or write. She made her
own paints and painted the interior of a
little house in Natchitoches, Louisiana. I
was 12 years old.
Who would be your ideal seatmate
on a long flight?
What’s the last great book you read?
“The Kalasan Batak,” about a small
group of people from Northern
Sumatra, by Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller.
Are there any special souvenirs you
like to pick up when you travel?
I found beautiful hand-painted bowls,
from the late 19th century, when I was
in Romania recently.
What is your favorite area in Venice?
I like the small Carlo Scarpa garden at
the Fondazione Querini Stampalia. And
Teatro La Fenice is my favorite theater
in the world.
How does travel inspire your
It is a window to the world — a library
of inspiration. [
obert Wilson, the renowned theater
director and artist known for avant-
garde works, is as experimental about
seeing the world as he is about art.
His creative incubator, New York’s
Watermill Center, draws a global talent pool, while his
own travels include a recent jaunt to Venice for a col-
laboration with illy caffé. At the time of this interview,
he was in Potsdam, Germany, rehearsing “LUTHER
dancing with the gods,” which premiered Oct. 6 at
the new Pierre Boulez Saal, designed by Frank Gehry
for Daniel Barenboim. We asked the director to tell us
more about the intersection of art, travel and creativity.