The genuine Merce

In this photo, shot last September by the Walker Art Center's Cameron Wittig, legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham was looking at Sage Cowles, his longtime friend, former dancer and arts benefactor. Cunningham, then in a wheelchair, was in Minneapolis to mount the monumentally scaled Ocean in a granite quarry near St. Cloud, Minnesota. Despite the spectacular scale of that piece -- not to mention that of Cunningham's fame -- Wittig witnessed an ego of miniscule proportions, remembering Cunningham as "the sweetest, most generous person" during the short time he had allotted for photography.

"Sage was with us and I noticed that while I was adjusting the lights or the camera, he would look over at her and he would give her this really beautiful smile. So when I was ready to shoot I asked him to look towards her and he just lit up with love. It was really genuine."

Cunningham, who died Sunday at age 90, has been "almost routinely hailed as the world’s greatest choreographer," the New York Times writes. "For many, he had simply been the greatest living artist since Samuel Beckett."

To commemorate his passing, the Walker posts a video from a 1981 residency in which a red-sweatered Merce converses with John Cage about their collaborations.

Related: In addition to a dance legend, Merce was also a hell of a good sport, signing my name as part of my autograph project, Signifier, signed...

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