What would you do if you had one and a half days in London?
My list was long; much too long to squeeze into such a short time. After some hard decisions I narrowed it down and set off to slurp up as much art as I could.
For me, a visit to the Tate Modern is obligatory, in particular the ‘Mark Rothko room’ – the Seagram murals I’ve talked about before in ‘Art for the Artist’. At one point there were only 3 of us sitting reverently in the twilight temple, for a few blissful moments, before the silence was sadly shattered by the entrance of a voluble group.
The rest of the Tate Modern was also the usual delight, with inspirational pieces from names such as Gerhard Richter (‘Cage’ 1-6, 2006; a series of six paintings inspired by the composer John Cage), Mark Bradford (‘Riding the Cut Vein’, 2013), Sam Francis (‘Around the Blues’, 1957-62) and Ernst Nay, (‘White Spring’, 1963).
Sam Francis, Around the Blues, c 1957-1962
There was also photography by Brett Weston (for example, ‘Clouds, Skyscape’, 1980 and ‘Banyan Roots, Hawaii’, 1974) and Bernd and Hilla Becher. The latter was a hauntingly beautiful collection of black and white photos of industrial structures (for example, ‘Pitheads’, 1974 and ‘Coal Bunkers’, 1974).
Bernd and Hilla Becher
No temporary exhibitions for me this time, although last time I was here I saw the Marlene Dumas exhibition ‘The Image as Burden’– an impressive collection of intense, sometimes disturbing works.
A walk in the park
A very pleasant walk through Kensington Gardens in the unseasonably mild winter weather brought me, via Henry Moore’s massive sculpture ‘The Arch’, to the Serpentine Gallery. Tucked away between two of London’s larger parks, this small gallery houses the best and most comprehensive art book shop I have ever seen. Drooling, I was regrettably forced to be selective due to airplane weight restrictions.
I digress. I was there to see the ‘Transience’ exhibition from Michael Craig-Martin, a contemporary artist who has been making boldly outlined and vividly coloured paintings of ordinary household objects on walls and canvas since the 1990s. The work shown was almost a catalogue of the popularity and decline of the things we have known and loved, or those we have taken for granted – an ode to bygone objects, some perhaps now hardly used or hidden away in a box in the attic. Each one recognisable and bringing with it a rush of sentimentality and a smile of your face, tinged with the sad realisation that time is merciless and everything is eventually usurped. Although not labelled as such, these pure and colourful paintings lean towards pop art. Thoroughly worth the visit.
Michael Craig-Martin, Untitled (headphones, medium), 2014
Art on the street
Street art is transient. Whenever I can, I like to visit the Brick Lane area in Shoreditch to see the latest of the ever-changing urban gems. Hidden away through a narrow side street, there’s a parking area that is adorned with a large collection of pieces and throw-ups. A little further up the road, Fournier Street and Hanbury Street (the old haunt of Jack the Ripper!) also offer a selection of remarkable pieces, including a 9m tall crane by Roa and its neighbouring mural by Martin Ron, as well as specimens from C215, Dank, Shok-1 and Stik.
C215, Brick Lane, London, December 2015
Iljin, Hanbury St, London, December 2015
Just off Hanbury Street it opens out into Dray Walk. Here some of the bigger names in street art have left their mark: Shepard Fairey, D*Faced, Invader and of course Banksy. Walking around, ever vigilant for a glimpse of the next temporary artwork, it became obvious that I was not alone on my treasure hunt as I came across several street art tour groups.
Roa, Hanbury St, London, December 2015
Street art on Hanbury St, London, December 2015
Talking of Banksy, Steve Lazarides will be curating an exhibition called ‘The Art of Banksy’ at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam from 18 June to 30 September 2016. This is sure to be a very popular event with much buzz around it. I can’t help feeling Banksy’s rather over-hyped these days. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very talented artist and certainly deserves the attention, but in general, hype on anything is a turn-off for me as people have a tendency to jump on the bandwagon to exploit and grab what they can out of it. Still, potential over-hype aside, I’m very much looking forward to the exhibition.
Something else to look forward to is the international graffiti festival ‘Step in the Arena’ that will take place in Eindhoven on 4-5 June 2016. For more info, keep an eye on the Step in the Arena Facebook page.
And the inspiration keeps coming…
So after a packed, art-filled agenda in London, there’s of course so much more on the horizon to feast my eyes, soul and inspiration on… starting with a trip to Foam Amsterdam to catch some excellent photography by Jacques Henri Lartigue and Awoiska van der Molen before their exhibitions close on 3 April.