house calls

I’ve had some great experiences during my internship at the V&A and I’m only hallway through! One highlight has been three external visits to National Trust houses with a short course group. Officially I was assisting to supervise the visits but really I was enjoying every talk and tour as well as all the history of the houses and the areas around them. The group we had was pretty fun too, a great bunch of people.

Carlyle’s House, Chelsea

The little garden at Carlyle’s House

The stairs from the attic room in Carlyle’s House

Sweet little Chelsea street

Mansion block in Chelsea

2 Willow Road, Hampstead

Goldfinger’s desk in what was intended to be an art studio for his wife but she never used it because they had three kids

Goldfinger’s cameras and tool box

The garden from the balcony

The strangest chimney leaning on a house where Lee Miller lived

I always like to make a cat friend

Fenton House, Hampstead

You can see why I love visiting Hampstead

View of the city from the balcony at Fenton House

 

The beautiful garden

Fenton House from the back of the garden

The orchard

The vegetable and cut flowers garden

A church I spotted on my way back down to the tube

the underwhelming banksy retrospective

I like Banksy. I have watched Exit Through the Gift Shop multiple times, on my first trip to London I enjoyed seeing some of his work along the canals and I even got his book for Christmas or a birthday one year. I wasn’t expecting too much when I went to see this “unauthorised” retrospective at Sotheby’s and although there was a substantial amount of works I left feeling depressed about the whole situation. It’s not that I don’t like seeing his work hanging on the walls, hell if it’s painted onto canvases and signed then it has every right to be there, I think just the way it was set up was what got to me. The walls had been splattered with paint in a seemingly haphazard manner but the floors and ceiling were perfectly clean which just emphasised the controlled environment this “rebellious” wall spraying had been created in. The works were all the usual images we would associate with Banksy but they just seemed like a greatest hits, lined up one after the other. There were no prices which annoys me about the transparency of it all and is just a reminder about how deceptive the art world can be.

This white-cube-anti-white-cube approach to displaying graffiti art just didn’t seem right when they have millions of pounds worth of art hanging just across the street. By all means try something new but this was just unbearably fake.

just pretend you can afford it

I have become rather lazy in following what is happening within the art world since I finished my course at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in December. It seems like an age since I first walked into Sotheby’s and Christie’s to see the Post-War and Contemporary Auction previews so I thought it was about time to go back and get my head wrapped around those prices again. I guess that half a year or so on and the art world hasn’t moved much as the offering looked almost identical to what I saw last year, but I still enjoyed seeing all that art I can’t afford.

First I went to Christie’s, then over to Sotheby’s and S2, Sotheby’s special little gallery just behind the main building, for the Banksy show (for which you can find my opinion of in this other post as this one is going to be long, I can feel it).

Tracey Emin, My Bed, 1998. estimate £800,000 – £1,200,000

When I walked into Christie’s I wondered if I had walked in, uninvited, to a special event. There was champagne, miniature food (croissants, burgers oh my!), coffee and hors d’oeurves whizzing about the place. It was buzzing with people, there was cool music playing (Foster the People, MGMT – Christie’s appealing to the young crowds for sure) and Tracey Emin standing by My Bed and apparently she was jumping on it too. All of this happening around millions of pounds worth of art and I was having a great time on my own. Some things I will be watching for during the sale is the Yves Klein pieces, how much that ridiculous bed goes for and especially how much Martin Creed’s Work No. 127: The light going on and off sells for.

I feel like I’ve talked about that Martin Creed work before and so I will talk about it again. When I saw it at Tate Britain my scepticism was replaced with amazement at how much of an effect it had on me. However, this “edition” on display in a tiny out of the way room at Christie’s was less than impressive. While all you get if you buy it is a certificate the sale guide tells you it’s 30 seconds on, 30 off so really you could create it anywhere. But the big difference is the space it is in. At Tate it was in a big white gallery, high ceilings and beaming lights which left your eyes struggling to dilate between the changes. In Christie’s it was a low ceiling carpeted room with little spotlights, the light didn’t really fill the space as dramatically as it does at Tate Britain. For the £50,000 – £70,000 estimate I hope if someone does buy it they have a massive room to play it out in. I always wondered how it would be possible to sell such a conceptual piece of art so I am really counting down the minutes (by flicking my light switch) until it comes up during the auction.

Yaacov Agam, Structure Couleurs, 1973-4. estimate £15,000 – £20,000

Over at Sotheby’s there was a more subdued atmosphere. No free food, no music, no people. Just silence and art. Usually I would love that but I was tipsy and wanted more fun. I had the problem I had during my last visits to auction previews, it all seems the same. Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s follow the trends but it all seemed too similar, Francis Bacon pieces are the stars surrounded by Warhols, so many Fontana slash paintings and the inevitable Richter. The whole team was there. It gets to be the case if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. So going to Sotheby’s after Christies didn’t feel much different. There were a few particular pieces I enjoyed like the Yaacov Agam above and the crocheted marble lions by Joana Vasconcelos below, both in the day sale.

Joana Vasconcelos, Gardes, 2012. estimate £180,000 – £250,000

After all this time and all that champagne I still find the classification of these auctions to be problematic. Post-War and Contemporary, what can that even mean anymore? One piece at Christie’s really echoed my sentiment and so on that I will end my poor mans reaction to the auction views. I will be watching the auctions online, from the comfort of my own home, writing down how much people overspend on the pieces I wish I could own.

Maurizio Nannucci, All Art Has Been Contemporary, 1999. estimate £15,000 – £20,000

portable art historian

In my first year at uni all my lectures were recorded except for my art history lectures. The whole department never recorded their lectures, it was as if the Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts department were technophobic (one architecture lecturer still used ye olde slide carousel). Now my art history lecturer, who was always amazing and I took units just so I could have him, said that the reason he didn’t want the lectures to be recorded was that he didn’t want us sitting on the bus with his voice in our ear telling us what to think. On the one hand I understood that it was important for us to develop our own point of view and understanding of art, on the other hand I wanted to be a lazy student and sleep in instead of going to lectures.

I only think of this now, 5 years after I first had those lectures, because when I’ve been going to special exhibitions in many galleries and museums around London I seem to be one of few people who don’t have an audio guide. I understand that a lot of people who visit these exhibitions are tourists so need a different language to understand the displays or are just interested in developing their personal knowledge about art. A lot of time and effort has been put into creating these exhibitions and so an audio guide can help enhance the experience and give people everything they can get out of the art. But I personally never take one. I don’t think I ever have and I probably never will. I just want to see the art for what it is and make my own conclusions about it. If a particular work interests me I’ll go home and research how it was made or its meaning in my own time. Standing in the gallery, in front of it, I want to just see it through my own eyes and enjoy the experience in the moment.

This art related rant has been ignited because when I went to the Veronese exhibition at The National Gallery I experienced something I never had before. Every other visitor had an audio guide. This may be in part to the extremely pushy audio guide giver-outer (what would I call her?) who really tried to convince me I couldn’t enjoy the exhibition without it (“It’s really good, come back and get one!”). I found that I had enough information already in the extremely thick paper exhibition guide which gave the story of every single painting in the show, something I rarely see. Most exhibitions, such as at Tate, have the text that explains the whole room that is usually displayed on the wall in the handout so you don’t have to read it off the wall (16-22 pages). The Veronese hand out seemed excessive (70 pages!) but helpful as this commentary was not on the plaques next to each painting like it usually is in normal permanent displays.

 

 

open to new discoveries

I enjoy going to see exhibitions I haven’t heard much about and don’t even know if I have a particular interest in them. And that’s good because if they are interesting and exciting then my expectations are easily exceeded and if they are just average then I don’t feel too bad about spending my time there. Ruin Lust (closes 18 May), Martin Creed: What’s the point of it? (extended to 5 May) and Richard Deacon (ends today) were all exhibitions I enjoyed because I didn’t really think much about it before heading inside.

I only knew one work by Martin Creed – Work No. 227 The lights going on and off (which I love!), so I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to his other work in this “major survey”. I had never heard of Richard Deacon before and I really enjoyed his sculptural works, especially the pieces of wood that were twisted, so amazing! And I’ve always had an interest in decaying and unused buildings so Ruin Lust reaffirmed that it’s not only me with that interest and that for a long time people have dreamt of a world in beautiful ruin.

What I can take away from my visits to these exhibitions is that you don’t always have to be interested in a theme or artist beforehand and not to let that prevent me from discovering new art to get exited about.

perth op shop map update

Seeing as I am no longer in Perth (and don’t know when I will return) I thought I’d make a more complete map for those of you who still use my Perth Op Shop Map. I added my previously hidden “to visit” map so there are now pins for every shop I never made it to but which you might like to visit. As I won’t be able to investigate anymore if you have an opinion on any of the shops I haven’t visited then send me an email, comment, tweet, carrier pigeon and I will add it on there.

For those of you I’ve left behind, enjoy your rummaging!

 

lazy diary keeping

I’ve dallied in journal writing before and I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who keeps an updated journal. I even kept a diary every day to record my last year as a teenager between my 19th and 20th birthdays and I could say that went very well because out of 365 I only completely forgot one day. When I moved to London I battled with the idea of journaling because on the one hand I would have so many new experiences to record but on the other shouldn’t I be spending all my time doing things instead of writing them down? Journaling and even blogging moved to the back of my mind for those first months and now I am finally ready to commit to some sort of record keeping, but not just in any normal diary.

I found the Keel’s Simple Diary at the Design Museum and I absolutely love it’s laid back approach to journaling. Created by an artist it asks you to finish sentences, tick boxes, draw, do word association and many other strange things. Sometimes I don’t bother making it relevant to what happened that day and sometimes I do, but it’s really good for those days that nothing really happens.