Massimo Bottura photographed by Bea de Giacomo and Kerry James Marshall's self portrait on the cover of this Sunday's New York Times' T Magazine. Images courtesy of the New York Times

Massimo and Kerry James Marshall are NYT Greats

The chef and the painter join William Eggleston, Lady Gaga, Junya Watanabe and Michelle Obama on Greats List

When the New York Times’ T Magazine comes to draw up its annual Greats list, it isn’t simply looking for a splashy series of celebrity profiles. NYT, still widely regarded as the USA’s Paper of Record, still attempts to lay first draft of history, even in its lifestyle coverage.

So, we are pleased to see that, in its 2016 list - published this Sunday - of seven highly influential cultural figures, the Times has backed a couple of individuals Phaidon also believes are changing our cultural outlook. The Italian chef and food advocate Massimo Bottura is joined by the American painter Kerry James Marshall in a list that also includes the First Lady Michelle Obama, the pop star Lady Gaga, the fashion designer Junya Watanabe, the novelist Zadie Smith and the photographer William Eggleston.



The accompanying video for his profile is equally wonderful. Fellow Chicago artist Theaster Gates interviews Marshall, asking him such probing questions as: If artistic practice is unremarkable, then what are we striving for?

“Attention,” replies Marshall. “We all want some attention. Making artworks, fairly unremarkable. You can look in the books and see some images of works made 30,000 years ago,” he concludes, perhaps making reference to this book.



Bottura is widely credited with reinventing Italian food, and in the accompanying interview, the Skinny Italian Chef displays his iconoclastic hubris, dismissing that most sacred of Italian culinary institutions: grandmothers’ cookery. When one diner at Bottura’s Osteria Francescana - currently ranked number one in the 50 Best Restaurants List - said the chef’s ragu was not as good as his nonna’s, Bottura retorted “I’m sorry your grandmother had such bad taste.”

The chef also reveals some of his more outlandish schemes, such as his ambition to wreath a bridge in cheese-flavoured fog, so that “every single person who drove over the bridge could breathe Parmigiano-Reggiano.” And, in an accompanying video, you can watch, and hear, Bottura cook his signature crunchy part of the lasagne in a sound-proofed room.

Kerry James Marshall, in his Greats profile, has more grounded, if equally ambitious plans. The painter recognises the absence of black faces from art history, yet has no burning ambition to indict earlier painters and critics. “My interest in being a part of it is being an expansion of it, not a critique of it,” he says.

He also reveals how his father’s watch repair hobby enabled him to realise that, with dedication though not necessarily training, we can master challenging and mystifying skills.



Finally, the German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans has the pleasure of creating a video profile for the American photographer William Eggleston. Eggleston is a man of few words – in the video he admits that he has never found the language to adequately express what he does or means in his photographs, yet the imagery in the short video, including Eggleston’s piano playing, and the intimacy of the photographer leafing through one of his albums sat on a sofa next to Tillmans, is worth more than a thousand words.

Look out for the Greats issue in the NY Times this Sunday, or browse through the list here. You can buy our Massimo Bottura book here; our Wolfgang Tillmans book here and our Theaster Gates book here. We are proud to be publishing our Kerry James Marshall Contemporary Artist Series book in early 2017.