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Getting Inside the Brain of Richard Serra

Richard Serra pontificates at the Strand.Photo: Getty Images

Megasculptor Richard Serra is known for being a bit tart of tongue, and he lived up to that reputation last night before a packed audience at the Strand. He was there to take questions and sign copies of MoMA's fat 40-year retrospective of his work, which coincides with the museum's just-opened installation of three of his new pieces.

Turns out he's not so keen on hyperintellectual readings of his hulking structures and just wants people to think new thoughts while they're pacing around them — "but if people find themselves sharing a common experience that they can get off on, great." He dismissed an adoring fan who asked him if he minded little kids running with delight through the monoliths, mucking them up with sticky handprints: "As long as people don't go in with spray paint, it's fine." How did he enjoy appearing in Matthew Barney's Cremaster 3? "I liked him so much that I said, 'If I make a fool of myself, so what?'" he answered. "At least he's not ripping off minimalism like everyone else."

And he spoke with pride of his working-class background and how he put himself through Yale by working in steel mills, callusing his hands: "Girls from Smith and Wellesley would feel them and say, 'Ooh, what's that?'" —Tim Murphy