Tag Archives: Anish Kapoor

On Sculpture in the City….and my favourite House of Cards 97/100

DSC_6239 (2)I love public sculpture. The quality of a city can be judged by its sculpture, I believe. I was once lured to Chicago on the promise of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud. London, the best city in the world, is filled with sculpture. Some of it awful, but much of it fantastic. And for the last 7 years, the City of London has filled its streets with work by famous, ultra-famous artists, in 9 month rotations. Sculpture in the City, as the programme is called, apparently came about as a gentlemen’s bet by the head of Hiscox, the art insurers, at a industry dinner. Could he get artists to donate work to the City? No way, was the reaction. Watch me, was the response. And the rest, as they say, is history.  Not only do artists and galleries willingly donate the work, the selection committee gets more than a hundred offers every year. And why not? The chance to have your work showcased in the busiest part (Monday-Friday anyway) of the greatest city, to be admired by millions of sympathetic eyes…..an artists dream. Mine too. I love this programme. I look forward to the unveiling of the new selection each summer. Last year, I was fortunate enough to take a tour with one of the selection committee members. What a fascinating insight into the work, chosen at times for its potential reaction to the buildings around it as much forP1030307 (2) the work itself. The City is an incredible mix of the old and the new. Beautiful post great fire (1666) buildings up against brand new shiny towers with unfortunate post WWII construction in between. Stone and glass and cement, all under London’s changeable sky. Add some contemporary sculpture and this is for what Instagram was made.

P1030308Another of my favourite things is the morning after the night before in a city. Early  morning, streets empty of people but with the debris of nighttime fun still in evidence. An eerie calm with traces of raucous frivolity. The perfect atmosphere in which to admire art. With a rather vague map from the City of London downloaded on my phone I set off, with only the ubiquitous packs of builders as company. I found all 18 pieces, and dare I say, the overall affect was a little disappointing. Two of the works were part of last year’s group, Gavin Turk’s Ajar and Recycle Group’s Falling into Virtual Reality. I adore the Turk piece, photographed my children in it on our New Year’s Eve day outing, would be happy for it to live in the churchyard of St. Botolph’s without Bishopgate forever. Not sure, however, that is P1030318can be presented as part of a new series. Some of the others I just didn’t like as much as what had come before. For me, Paul McCarthy’s Apple Tree Girl Apple Tree Boy just wasn’t as engaging as Giuseppe Penone’s Idee di Pietra of last year, and with the Gherkin as the backdrop, you do want something rather fabulous. But fabulous is what Nathaniel Rackowe’s Expanded Black Shed looks like against the iconic building.

DSC_0049_4Sarah Lucas’s Florian/Kevin phallic vegetables, last year,  were such a pleasure on the eye and funny as well, but to everything  a season and the current season offers its own brand of humour. Not sure I was all that taken with Mhairi Vair’s Support for a Cloud, until I read that TimeOut (which did like them) suggested the Lloyd’s building had contracted a fungal infection or grown testes, depending on ones angle. This made me laugh out loud. Artist as interpreter of public opinion, surely. Similar wink and nod to Damien Hirst’s Temple, a giant medical model torso of a man. The worship of self has gotten more than one city boy in serious trouble over the decades.

Martin Creed’s plastic bags in the tree on Bishopsgate weren’t nearly as charming as LiziDSC_0007_11 (2) Sanchez’s party rings in the same tree (and Leadenhall Market), but then they weren’t meant to be. Creed may be making a big statement with his glorified rubbish, Sanchez was P1030306just having a bit of fun. But perhaps I am being too harsh. And a walk through the city is always worth doing, regardless of what you find. It was in this spirit that once finished with the sculpture trail I walked back on myself, to Broadgate. Because it is there that one of my most loved pieces of public art stands, permanently. Richard Serra’s rusty wedges with a gorgeous view of the sky from inside. P1030356 (2)Its official title is Fulcrum, but to me it is House of Cards, these big pieces of metal not quite leaning on each other, precariously defying gravity, unstable.  The perfect symbol for the financial capital of the world, upsetting as that truth may be.  Now that is great public sculpture. P1030358


On The Frieze and the Sexiest of Staircases….29/100

Tracey Emin

I am on rather an art binge at the moment. October is always the best month for art in London, in large part because of the Frieze week. Like London Fashion week, the Frieze, a world-famous art fair held in Regent’s Park, has a knock on effect throughout the city, so related and unofficial events pop up everywhere…..simply a matter of time and tolerance for over-stimulation. This year, my wonderful art loving friend Sara scored us some VIP (!!) passes for the Frieze, through her wealthy Texan Uncle, so we were able to flash the blue card about town and absorb as much as we possible could manage. The Frieze itself is, for me anyway, the least interesting part of the whole affair. Galleries from all over the world showcase new art and artists, much of it completely unintelligible. Some of it, may I say, utterly ridiculous. A favourite from years back was a collection of dirty traffic cones with sharpie drawn faces on them….have since fantasized often of putting my children to work and finally affording that mansion on the sea in Spain…..

Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley

But this year nothing made me laugh out loud with incredulity. Nothing particularly moved me either…except a Tracey Emin neon sign. All that vulnerable romanticism speaks to me. And a stunning Anish Kapoor Sky Mirror. Better yet, him.  Another moment with the fabulous man himself. Of course he FullSizeRender(2)remembered us (fancy that, ha ha) and was just as charming as he was in Stratford. More kissing. More photos. How divine. The neon Emin and Kapoor, both the art and the flesh, were the stand out highlights for me. Though neither could be considered new or up and coming.

Louise Bourgeois

But never mind because the smaller Frieze Masters is what we had really come to see. A collection of galleries with superb, beautiful, recognizable things. Antiquities, medieval religious art, names we love and covet. A Picasso? A Matisse? Perhaps a Calder sketch? A small Henry Moore, one of Louise Bourgeois’s spiders or a Bridget Riley? An enthusiastic Yes to all. I “discovered” the hauntingly beautiful work of Austrian Alfred Kubin.  I was so enthusiastic the gallery gave me a book, which I am still pouring over.  Always a pleasure to learn more. Masters shows the art that if money were no object I would buy in bulk. Masters is also where they serve the champagne, on the dot of 6, on opening night. Needless to say, it was THE place to be. Terrific art. Terrific fun.

With Penny and Sara

The real joy of the VIP pass, however, is the extra art….so it was that Sara and I found ourselves 3 mornings in a row willingly experiencing the special kind of hell that is the Northern Line at rush hour. Wednesday, an early morning view of Goya:Portraits at National Gallery. A treat of artistic and historical reward. Friday was a lecture and private view of the V&A’s new, glorious Fabric of India exhibition. But Thursday was extra special, not least because it featured the sexiest of all staircases. Damien Hirst recently opened his Newport Street Gallery, on Newport Street in Vauxhall, near Lambeth Pleasure Gardens. A former Victorian scenery painting factory, Hirst began buying it in sections, using parts as his studio. Now, with the help of architects Caruso St John (who are also doing the Tate extension), he has created a visually stunning gallery in which to showcase his 3,000 piece strong personal art collection. The gallery is so new it still smells of fresh paint. And for this very first show, Hirst chose John Hoyland, an English artist deeply influenced by American Abstraction in the 1960s. Certainly colourful and his paintings from the 1960s are a delight, less so in the subsequent decades. But it didn’t really matter; John Hoyland couldn’t compete with the space itself. Large, airy rooms filled with natural light. The kind of rooms that make you immediately think “I want to have a party here,” and we were all roaming round oohing and aahing and chatting to strangers, including the wonderful Penny from New Zealand on the Grand Tour of European art fairs. We were all full of admiration for the building itself, taking photos from above and below.

IMG_0075Then we found the staircase. Oh, oh, oh the staircase. Suddenly all the women were in the staircase. Smiling and laughing and saying “fantastic” and understanding why the security guard in the stairwell was so unusually cheerful….because it is quite clearly, well, a woman. Nice to see we are still very much in style. Poor John Hoyland. But really, can any artist compete with a spectacularly vulvic staircase? I think not. Just wait til the champagne starts flowing there…..oh London, please, please get me invited to that party!

Twitter: @mylondonpassion

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Kissing Kapoor and other gifts…28/100

12003315_10153640090638377_2827318649114283287_nMy love for London is not the wise, compassionate, made sensible by experience kind of love. But the passionate, impulsive, reckless, all-encompassing love of the utterly smitten. The totally besotted. The completely infatuated. A love that convinces itself it is requited, because to believe otherwise is not possible. So when something lovely happens to me in London, and lots and lots and lots of lovely things happen to me in London, it isn’t because I am seeing magic in the ordinary, or that I am just in the right place at the right time, or that a series of actions has a logical result, rather I believe it is a thoughtful gift from my equally enamoured lover. London. A city that is so of the moment its gender is fluid. Sometimes definitely female. Other times dizzingly male. And all for me, me, me, me.

2015-09-17 09.46.55The start of the academic year always makes me feel a bit low, back to school blues. So I was delighted when a friend told me that Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor were going to be walking, a stroll “as they take every day,” explained Kapoor, from the Royal Academy on Piccadilly through the streets of London to Olympic Park. Certainly not a protest, as that would get Weiwei in trouble, but a small, everyday experience as an act of solidarity with refugees worldwide. And the public was welcome to join. I didn’t need to be asked twice. What a thing to be near two men for whom I have such respect and admiration, and in the case of Anish Kapoor, a serious crush. On such a beautiful, sunny day as well, following what felt like weeks of pouring rain. Obviously I didn’t think any of this was simply coincidence or even the power of social media, but yet another offering of love from London

Like many others, I first became aware of Ai Weiwei when he did the incredible Sunflower Seeds installation at the Tate Modern. Millions of handmade, hand painted ceramic sunflower seeds spilled out over the Turbine Hall. I took my children to see it many times. Sadly, the Tate decided against allowing people to walk through the seeds, citing something silly about health and safety. More likely they were afraid we would fill our pockets and leave the floor bare all too quickly. I later read that thousands of extras were made for exactly this scenario, yet we were still kept behind a rope. Nevertheless it was an extraordinary sight. And a fantastic visual for the explanation of a totalitarian regime and the people that live under such a government. Weiwei’s subsequent detention and increased political outspokenness have made him as famous an activist, if not more so, than artist. A true inspiration.

With Anish Kapoor it is much less intellectual and more tactile, visceral. From the first moment of experiencing his work I was hooked. I went to his 2009 show at the RA many, many times. All that red wax made me week at the knees. I went out of the way to visit his Sky Mirror in the City, in 2011. My husband convinced me to travel to Chicago for a weekend, 3 years ago, on the basis that I could spend time with Kapoor’s Cloud Gate. I can spot his work at impossible distances. I might even be able to sense when his work is nearby, such is my fondness for it. And while I would happily travel distances to see his art, I never once considered that I could meet him. Let alone kiss him…ooh London…

I was certainly not alone is my wish to walk with these two great men, and so a gaggle of the interested and the curious, along with an unfortunate crowd of paparazzi set off. For the first part of the walk I was joined by my up for an anything friend Lucy. She left me at Spitalfields for the circus (not kidding) and Sara my art mad friend joined. Sharing adventures with people of passion make things doubly fun. And doubly funny. The sky was blue, everyone was friendly and talkative, London glistened and twinkled in the sunshine and on and on we walked, not necessarily in a straightforward way. Through Westminster and the City. Along Brick Lane and Victoria Park and finally into the Queen Elizabeth Park, site of the 2012 Olympics, and finishing under the Kapoor Orbit, a structure in which I have done yoga and visited so many times I have an annual pass (not kidding). 2015-09-26 20.46.02-2 2015-09-17 13.44.36And it was here that I saw Anish Kapoor standing on his own and I launched myself at him. First gushing about how much I loved his work and how much of it I had seen and how I follow what he does….you know, typical overly enthusiastic fan stuff. And then, emboldened by the fact that he seemed pleased to hear all of this, I asked if I could have my picture taken with him. He agreed and the kissing began. Back and forth and back and forth and then Sara joined, why wouldn’t she, and he said “I have never been kissed so much before,” which made us all laugh and laugh and start again. One long, glorious, lovey-dovey, adrenaline rush. With photographs. Obviously.

2015-09-17 13.44.43 HDRWe also had a moment with Weiwei. Being the social media king that he is, he took Sara’s phone and said simply “I take photo,” which he did. And then disappeared. A most wonderful day indeed! 12043147_10153640090663377_1959867548887899261_n

Only on reflection on the Tube home did I understand what London had really given me that day. It wasn’t the chance to be near these two men or even the opportunity to have moments, albeit it a pretty fantastic several moments, with them. Instead London allowed me to meet two heroes. Always a dangerous thing. But they didn’t disappoint. Quite the opposite. Ai Weiwei was stoic and kind. Anish Kapoor divine. Simply, totally and utterly divine. No wonder his art is so sexy. I didn’t come down off my high for days. And days and days.

At times like this, even I don’t believe I get to live this life. Thank you, thank you my passionate, beautiful London.

Twitter: @mylondonpassion

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On Typing about art and the magnificent Royal Academy 9/100

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 10.42.33 AMI spent far too long yesterday typing and typing away on my love for the Royal Academy (RA), that grand building on Piccadilly. But in the end all I had to show was typing. Bland, mediocre, uninteresting and certainly NOT passionate typing. The RA is magnificent and deserves better. So I conceded defeat and closed the computer. Some days are like that. But clearly the universe wasn’t finished with my feeble attempt. Not long after, I logged onto Facebook to see that a friend had spent the day at the RA enjoying both the Allen Jones and the Moroni exhibits. Lots of her friends commented, sharing their love of other exhibits there or simply time spent in the stunning seventeenth century mansion. As the thread grew longer, and I was reminded of just how much I get out of my membership there, I decided to start again.

My original “take” was that we, as a species, have always needed to create and enjoy art. (I have fun archeological facts to back this up), and obviously London is the best place to feed this primordial drive. I hoped to prove this by highlighting those shows at the RA that have shook me to my human core the most. Then I faltered. I wasn’t able to properly capture the sensuous joy I felt at the Anish Kapoor (all that red wax). And how I was overcome with misplaced nostalgia and longing at David Hockney’s trees and forests of his hometown in Yorkshire. And then the Anselm Keifer and his monumental works on monumental subjects; primarily questions as to the role of history and our duty to, relationship with, rejection or reinvention of…..oh I thought my little brain would burst with all the thinking…..

DSCN4519Which made me think of all the other pieces from all the other shows I can’t forget: the bronzes from Africa, the maltesers in the dime bags, the Van Goghs!!!, the Byzantine crosses, the tunnel built by children out of long, colourful plastic straws….the list goes on and on, each reawakened memory tapping the shoulder of the next.

And not just the art. The lunches with dear friends I have had in the restaurant. The gift shop that offers perfect gifts for those who have everything. The transformation of the previously charmless IMG-20140505-00553member’s room into a suite of beautiful spaces to eat and drink and talk. The courtyard with its changing sculptures and, if the weather is right, dancing fountains.

Then I remembered my original thesis; that art is something we need as part of our human experience. To experience. Not write about, but see, touch (if allowed), engage with, sneer at, dislike, love, learn from and most of all react to.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 10.21.02 AMSo this remains a typing exercise. But one with a bossy admonition at the end. Go to the RA immediately, (don’t worry, I will in time get to them all, my wallet is heavy with the membership cards) and do what we have been doing since prehistoric time. Art.