Tag Archives: Victoria & Albert Museum

On Malvolio in the museum….More Shakespeare fun 41/100

IMG_20160414_102504_edit_editApril has arrived and with it the start of what is going to be a London love-in of all things Shakespeare. This month marks the 400th anniversary of his death, and it isn’t just The Globe ready to remind us why we love this man so so much. My London Passion has plenty of plans as well, all over the city. As I wrote in my last post, I started with a super special screening of R+J, thanks to Backyard Cinema. Today, something a little funnier, but equally as clever, at the V&A. Malvolio’s Misorder. A delightful spin-off from Twelfth Night, written by Dominic Gerrard. The British galleries, 1500-1760 are now the interior of Olivia’s home. And lucky guests, we have been invited on a tour. Malvolio (Alasdair Craig) is our host, as his lady is indisposed, with lady’s maid Maria (Lotte Allan) as assistant. It all starts off well. Pompous but well meaning Malvolio shows us a bust of Henry VII, admits to being baffled at his a lady’s interest in these English things, but he does a stellar job at presentation never the less. Next, a terrible copy of the famous Holbein portrait Henry VIII on copper….and then, poor Malvolio, drunken Sir Toby (Nick Haverson) begins bellowing from the next room. Dear Maria tries to take over. We see the “deliberately damaged” 15th c panel of the Annunciation, the violence done in the heady, early days of the split from Rome. Then the Bed of Ware. IMG_2102So large it could hold 4 couples at the same time. A faded painting on the headboard suggests what all those bodies could have been up to…coitus interruptus by means of Malvolio. He is horrified Maria is discussing this racy item and hurries us into yet another room, to show off a fireplace and a ceiling. But we don’t really get to admire these blander fixtures as immediately he is overtaken by Toby. And then the fun starts. A back and forth and round again between all 3 characters. A song. More badinage. The famous yellow stockings. No, they didn’t speak Shakespeare’s words, Yes, you needed to know the play to appreciate all the jokes, but it is such a playful and fast romp it didn’t require any in depth knowledge. Why do you tease me so, whinges Malvolio. Because “you delight in others misfortunes.” And this afternoon we also delighted in Malvolio’s misfortune. After being invited to join a lovely rendition of With Hey, Ho, the wind and the rain (a familiar ditty to any as dedicated to the Globe as me), Malvolio staggers off. Howling. In self-pity. A thoroughly entertaining 35 minutes. If only all museum tours could be so engaging. Shakespeare and the V&A. Great combination.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Passion & Obsession, Alexander McQueen at the V&A, 23/100

IMG_20150416_134735Sometimes I am an idiot. Sometimes I say things that are so stupid, the only recourse is to publically confess and wait for the hostile reaction. So here it goes: years ago, when first in London and dizzy from the choice and variation of the museums, I dismissed (dismissed!!!!) the Victoria & Albert Museum, in its entirety, with a wave of my hand and these moronic words “the V&A is like the attic of a rich, crazy old Aunt. I have no interest in the place.” No interest in the place, indeed. What a fool. The Chihuly chandelier alone….

I have since spent many an afternoon and evening strolling through the rooms of the V&A admiring things I didn’t know I coveted. Silver punch bowls. Stained glass. Groovy furniture. All that jewellry. On a recent visit I noticed that everyone who works there is extremely good looking. Maybe being surrounded by such beautiful objects has that affect on people?

And then there are the special exhibitions. If I wasn’t already regretting my ridiculous statement while oogling boots from Tsarist Russia, several years ago, I definitely knew how wrong I was when I fell under a spell of enchantment at the supurb David Bowie extravaganza, last year.David Bowie

And now Alexander McQueen. Savage Beauty is not so much a show as an experience, an experience that leaves you gasping from the sheer brillance of his work and the dedication with which it is showcased. I won’t embarrass myself further by trying to say something insightful or provacative about McQueen. I simply don’t have the vocabulary. But this show overwhelmed me. With love and fear and awe. How can something so seemingly simple as a dress be beautiful and scary and an object of obsession all at the same time? Because it can. And it isn’t simple. Most things worth wanting aren’t. Instead it creates an invisible, but powerful connection that stays and stays and stays. Such is his work. His work which was his passion. Perhaps that is a great part of the attraction for me. My passion is London. And Alexander McQueen IS London. He is London’s passion. Even more now than when he was still alive. Passion and Obsession. Yes, that is it.

But it is a damn good show as well. The Cupboard of Curiosities is a curatorial triumph. A sensory overload of the most delicious kind. Everything, all the time, everywhere, and a little more too. I could have stayed there for hours and still not taken it all in.

Kate Moss as a hologram instantly made me think of Tinkerbell, as she whorls and twirls in the air. When it finished I wanted to do as JM Barrie instructed and clap my hands and shout “I believe in Fairies,” just to make sure she didn’t fade away for good. Passion and obsession indeed!

mcqueen dressAt the beginning of exhibtion I made notes of all the clothes I think would look particularly good on me. But the list became unwieldly very quickly. For the record, anything from the The Girl who Lived in A Tree (Autumn/Winter 2008) and the Irere (Spring/Summer 2003) collections would suit. And ALL of the shoes. So if any of you out there have your own attic of treasures and wish to share, let me know.

Beg, borrow, steal, tickets to this show. Or better yet, become a member of the V&A, as I am going to do, so the whole ticket problem goes away. If only to see this show. Again and again. With passion. And Obsession. And Awe.