It’s been a long time. I realise this. I’m sorry. But then nobody reads this so it doesn’t really matter.
I’ve had a cultural week or so and thought I’d pass on a few thoughts.
Last Sunday I trotted off to the Courtauld (never been before) with two of the History of Art gang to see the Cézanne exhibition there. Only a room. Bit steep for a fiver (this causes an argument later in the week), but I get in for free – thank you Art Fund membership. Good though. Those that know tend to rate Cézanne. Those that don’t say “Nice fruit“. I’m somewhere in between. I love Man With Pipe. I’m struggling to see how one of his landscapes could have been seen as revolutionary. Cézanne was somewhere between the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists. It was an odd place to be. But the guy could paint. Seriously.
Whizzed round the permanent collection too – some good stuff in and among. Definitely worth checking out.
That was then, this is now.
Took Friday off and headed to the Hayward. Having been to an entertaining evening celebration of all thing Hayward a few weeks earlier (Antony Gormley special guesting), was even more keen to go to the Psycho Buildings exhibition that’s been the cultural talk of the town of late. If you like buildings and you’re a bit psycho you’ll love Psycho Buildings. Apart from messing with your conceptions of what architecture is, it’s fun and plays with the gallery space in interesting ways. The most famous thing is the boating lake, which generates big queues at the weekend, but as I was the first one in on a Friday morning was quiet. The couple who’d dashed straight there were already flailing around in the water – focusing more on how to move in any given direction rather than on the unusual perspective on the Eye and Westminster. I wandered onto the pontoon, but declined the boating opportunity. Felt a bit silly on my own. And it was really windy!
Sadly, the other “cool” thing was closed. There’s a giant bubble that everyone can walk into but a select few can crawl onto half-way up. But the crawling bit was closed.
Two installations really caught me. The first is an exploded room – gives you a 3D version of a Matrix-style 360 degree freeze frame. Astonishingly well done. The second was Rachel Whiteread’s village of dolls houses. I’m not a big Whiteread fan – at least not of her earlier stuff. But this was cool. Both eerie and comforting, Tim Burton and I Love Lucy. The blurb claimed she’d found/bought all these dolls houses. I’m struggling to believe this. Anyway. Go.
A 68 bus later and I’m at the British Museum. Last time I was here was for the Terracotta Warriors thing. Now it’s for “American Scene“. It’s a take on American prints roughly from the first half of the 20th century. The marketing throws out the two famous names: Hopper and Pollock. But there’s lots of other stuff to get excited about here. And it’s free. Free! Some fantastic social commentary, some truly amazing etchings (fnarr), and some stuff that’s downright weird. Whyohwhyohwhyohwhyoh do they never have postcards of the stuff I like? Definitely go.
Day two of my culturefest and I’m back at the British Museum for Hadrian – the next in the empire series. Can’t say it was as good as the Terracotta Warriors. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Hadrian was a pretty interesting guy but the exhibition is largely full of statues of the Hirsute one. The documentary I saw earlier in the week about him was more informative. Made me fancy a trip to Tivoli to see the ruins of his villa though – and I’ve never really seen the Wall either. But overall. Don’t go.
Mooched over to the National Gallery to see what was on there. I’d not heard of “A Radical Light“, which is the Sainsbury Wing exhibition. This is perhaps not surprising. It’s an artists’ art exhibition. The Divisionists were a bunch of disparate late 19th century artists in what was a rather shaky country called Italy. They were the precursor for the Futurists (Wikipedia is your friend), who are Well Known. But it’s basically Seurat with a conscience. Uninspiring. And again, they didn’t have a postcard of my favourite one. Don’t go. Unless you can get in for free. And even then… Sorry National Gallery. But there’s populist and then there’s über-esoteric.
I zipped over to Tate Mod to see how the permanent collection was doing. I’d already seen Twombly (good – whether or not you think your 2-year-old could have done it (hint: s/he couldn’t) and Street & Studio (disappointing, esp. compared to the outstanding Cruel & Tender photography exhibition of a few years’ ago). Most of the main collection was much the same as it was when we were going round on our course. But a few things had moved and there was some good new stuff. I really liked Thirty Pieces of Silver, and a load of leather straps hung from meat hooks (no, not for that reason).
I can’t escape the fact that I really like the minimalist room at Tate Mod. Now that I understand minimalism a bit more, I find it quite appealing aesthetically. Sure, it’s not Rembrandt, or Monet, or Hockney, or Breughel… but it’s good. No, really. One of my moments of artepiphany came during our course when we were looking at Donald Judd’s Unitled (in this case the copper box that’s untitled) and then David (our course leader), dashed back to the nearby room that we’d been in about four weeks earlier to a classic Mondrian and pointed out the similiarities. It all made sense.
Tate Mod is odd… if you skip the temporary exhibitions in a way it’s not as big as you’d think. And because it’s really modern art (there’s only one Monet I think on display) and not as much explanation as I’d like, it’s quite easy to skim through fairly fast. Or you can spend 2 hours in two rooms. Art eh? Tsk.