Tag Archives: Gavin Turk

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 New Year’s Eve and Happy 2017…73/100

dsc_6213-2As I walked to the gym, this morning, New Year’s Eve Day (yes, self-righteous, smug) an elderly man was weaving down Balham High Road in the opposite direction “IS are going to get us tonight,” he was shouting over and over. It being SW London, no one gave him a second glance. But I thought “Oh, I hope not, I want see what 2017 has on offer…” We don’t, as a family, have many holiday traditions. But a fancy lunch at SushiSamba, on New Year’s Eve Day, is one. Last dsc_6219year, due to the sheer size of our party (relatives) we had to move to the Oblix in the Shard, which was lovely. But the kids couldn’t wait to get back to Heron Tower, again, this year. And so we spent this afternoon. On the 38th floor in the NE quadrant of the City. Buildings are allowed to be so tall here because they don’t interfere with the site line of St Paul’s. So the view….except when it is all misty. Like today. And I tried, several times, to take a “family picture.” Ha ha. That old truth…the more one grabs at something, the more it eludes. Children. Strangers.  Plus, the cloud. Never mind, dsc_6227we had a divine meal. Just the trip up in the elevator is gorgeous. Food is incredible, wait staff attentive but unfussy, and the entire atmosphere one of exclusive fun. My favourite holiday tradition.

But this is London. So when we left the building, sans family photo, I remembered, just across Heron Tower is St. Botolph  without Bishopsgate. With the marvelous Gavin Turk, Ajar, in its churchyard.  If I can’t take a proper photo there then….well I did. Dignity and personalities intact. And this is exactly dsc_6239-2why I am so passionate about London. There is always something exciting, wonderful, interesting, fabulous, child-photo perfect around the corner. Just look.

2017, I wish safety for London and for all those who love her. Happy New Year. xxxx


On Gavin and Tracey…and not peaking too early 35/100

IMG_20141018_163007I believe in lots of things. Love, the kindness of strangers, the power of art, the magic of the ordinary and connections. Connections most of all. I see them everywhere. I experience them constantly. I would love to say something like: when I stand very still I see the universe weaving her complicated web of connections. But I don’t stand very still, ever. Or rarely ever. Instead, I toss myself headlong into the day. Maybe it is for this reason that connections continue to catch me out, surprise me. The unexpected delights me. For example, the delight of a day that starts out as normal (whatever that means), then takes a few turns and suddenly I find myself being driven to the Tube station by none other than artists Gavin Turk and Deborah Curtis. They are not just  world famous, influential artists, but serious game changers in the creative world. And we talked about art!!!…if only my 17 year old self could see me now….wait, wait, let me try to find some sort of beginning to this tale.

IMG_20160227_160758_editDuring the London 2012 Olympics, I was filled with even more love for London than usual coupled with a general, overwhelming love for my fellow human beings. Under the spell of all this tenderness, I noticed Tracey Emin’s poster for the Paralympics. An artist I had previously dismissed for her drunken buffoonery had produced, to my eyes, something of exquisite and tender beauty. I was entranced. Then came the neon signs, with all their vulnerable romanticism. I adore them. In Las Vegas, in order to see her signs at their best vantage, I braved a rooftop bar/pool that was like a scene from the In-DSCN5431Betweeners film,  such is my devotion.  When Tate Britain announced that My Bed was back on display I rushed over. And have returned many times. How could I have not gotten it before? Never mind the filth and the rubbish and the morning after pills. This is a work of heartbreak. Perhaps it should be called “what was will never be again.” I know everyone focuses on the dirty sheets and vodka bottles, but it is so so much more than that. It is the debris of paralyzing depression. The I-have-no-reason-to-get-up-ever-again misery, in all its cheap, crumpled loo roll as tissues and over the counter pain relief pop outs and plain “I No Longer Care” grime. I love it.

Then came The Other Art Fair, at the Old Truman Brewery. Artists representing themselves, so a chance to meet, chat and buy with no added commission. All good things. The first thing that caught my eye was a wall of matchbox artwork (as in artwork made with matchboxes) under the enticing banner, The House of Fairytales. Oh yes….I was over like a shot. And then I saw it…..a matchbox version of Emin’s bed. IMG_20151030_162916Complete with fags and pills and tights. I had to have it. HAD TO!!! It wasn’t for sale as such, instead, an item in a silent auction for the charity, The House of Fairytales. Founded by Deborah Curtis, artist (and wife of Gavin Turk), it is a national organization aimed at making the arts, and the creative learning that goes with art, available to children of all backgrounds. I hurriedly scrawled a bid, then went in search of the artist who had created it, not Emin herself, obviously, but equally obviously, a fellow fan. And find her I did. On Stand #15. JanaNicole. American. An artist of gorgeous, vibrant, clever, often nostalgic mixed media pieces who lives in a stunning part of England with her young family, near a haven for opera fans….oh the conversation bubbled with enthusiasm and shared passions. She sounded so much like me. In fact, there was something about her that seemed particularly familiar, not just our accents, not just our ages….when we finally got round to the “ok, where are you from…” stage of the chat I think we both knew what was coming…oh yes, though she claims Southern California on her resume, she spent a few years in the next school district over from me (a much posher one) in the mid-West, a place her father still lives. We probably went to the same parties. Would we have recognized the “I must get out of here” desperation in each other had we met then? Possibly not, but nothing like a proper anywhere-but-there rant to bond two people. Now I was determined to win the bed. Her bed. My bed.

Thanks to some last minute auction strategy, I did get it. I was thrilled. Then came the phone call, “hello, would you like us to post your matchbox bed or would you like to come to Gavin’s studio and have a cup of tea and collect it.” Seriously? For those of you who don’t chase round after contemporary art and the artists who create it, Gavin Turk is one of the original IMG_20160301_134347Young British Artists, or YBAs as they are more often known, brash, bold, barrier breakers who began to exhibit together in London at the end of the 1980s. People like Damien Hirst and the above mentioned Tracey Emin. Love ’em or hate ’em, these guys put British art back on the international map. Turk, who famously created his own Blue Heritage Plague as his graduation exhibition, often explores the ideas of identity and authenticity, including everyday objects in painted bronze. My personal favourite is Nail in One New Change, in the City, perhaps a nod to the fact that this extraordinary building of steel and glass was built completely without such tools.

Turk opened the door himself, “Hello,” he bellowed out and offered his hand. I was almost struck dumb. Almost. But the fetching stripes in his suit startled me back to normal. I bellowed a greeting in return. The studio is very much a working studio, and lots of work was taking place. I didn’t even think about trying to take a photo, of anything. Instead, I was given a delicious cup of coffee and had a long, long conversation with Deborah Curtis. What a charming and fascinating woman, with something insightful to say on, well, everything. Textiles, art, museums, state of the world…I could have listened to her forever. But I had to get back for a karate club pick up. With my matchbox bed all wrapped up and in my hand, I headed out the door. Only to be called back, “we are leaving now as well, shall we drop you at the Tube.” Ummm, yes please. So there I was, in the back of their car, Deborah Curtis driving, Gavin Turk musing about art….oh pinch me now. At moments like this I think “if only my 17 year old self could see me now….” but, no. Actually I don’t. Because remembering how much I had to enjoy ahead gives a lovely bittersweet tinge to the memory of those awful teenage years. Because “don’t peak too early,” is the best piece of advice I was ever given. And lucky, lucky me, I haven’t peaked yet…who knows what tomorrow may bring. Can it top my own little Tracey Emin bed? Well, I am open to the possibilities. And with London on my side, I have no doubt there are many more possibilities to come.