The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

“Perry’s abiding interest in his audience informs his choice of universally human subjects. Working in a variety of traditional media such as ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry, Perry is best known for his ability to combine delicately crafted objects with scenes of contemporary life. His subject matter is drawn from his own childhood and life as a transvestite, as well as wider social issues ranging from class and politics to sex and religion.

Taking place during the Serpentine’s popular summer season, when the parks enjoy hugely increased local and international audiences, The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!, tackles one of Perry’s central concerns: how contemporary art can best address a diverse cross section of society.”

The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever is the new addition to the Serpentine Gallery from Grayson Perry. In true Perry style, the exhibition explores popularity and art, masculinity, and the current cultural and political landscape of Britain. After a visit this month, I can see why it’s the most popular art exhibition ever.

I’ve not always known about Grayson Perry, and the importance of his work didn’t really occur to me until I saw his political tapestries on display at the Manchester Art Gallery a couple of years ago, and later at the Tate Modern more recently. Both tapestries, from what I can remember, were satirical maps of British society, highlighting both the divisions and similarities in groups. One of Grayson Perry’s infamous pots was also recently part of a LGBT trail at the Brighton Museum, which I blogged about last year. Pretty much, all of the times I’ve seen Grayson Perry’s work, it’s been part of a wider collection. Visiting The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever was an insight into Perry’s work, concentrated into a small space; as The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, that small space was full of people.

The audience to the exhibition was as lively as the objects, full and loud, discussing the pieces in both their visual and contextual importance. Each piece had something to be said about it, accessible to everyone (or at least everyone in the room) conversations were brimming in the crowded space. Themes of Brexit, class, media, and immigration are always going to open up some debates, even amongst strangers.

As well as opening up debate, the pieces are also visually brilliant. One piece of tapestry, pottery or whichever medium Perry had chose sucks you in to it for a long time. Attention to detail, and making each intricate detail beautiful is what Perry does best. I think this is what is missed when a Grayson Perry piece is displayed as part of a larger collection of other artists. Visiting The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, you know you’re going to see a Grayson Perry work and you know you’ll need to take the time to look at each pieces detail. When a Grayson Perry piece is part of a larger collection, it can get lost. A visit to the Tate takes hours already, spending the 5 minutes (at least) that you need to see one piece isn’t often spent.

The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever deserves to be The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, it certainly felt like it when I was there.

Grayson Perry, Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens London W2 3XA, open 8 Jun 2017 to 10 Sep 2017.

 

Take a seat with Josef Frank

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

“Explore the work of designer and artist Josef Frank (1885-1967) in the first-ever UK exhibition of his textiles. The Austrian-born architect moved to Sweden in 1933, where he developed his colourful brand of modernism, working with Estrid Ericson on furniture, glassware, lighting and interior design ideas. Together they redefined what is regarded as Swedish Modern. This exhibition in association with Millesgården, Stockholm highlights Frank’s vibrant fabric designs for Svenskt Tenn alongside a number of his previously unknown watercolours.” 

I didn’t realise that the Fashion and Textile Museum only holds temporary exhibitions, I went to the museum quite blindly, expecting the stereotypical image of ‘fashion museum’ with mannequins scattered with 1920’s flapper dresses. However, between the 28th January to 7th May, the Fashion and Textile Museum has hosted the Joseph Frank: Patterns, Furniture and Painting exhibition, in association with Millesgården museum, celebrating the architect, artist, and designer. Curated by Dennis Nothdruft, the exhibition is the first ever dedicated to Franks work, and explores Josef Frank’s works within his social and religious background. Josef Frank was born an Austrian Jew, and fled to Stockholm with his Swedish wife in 1933, to escape growing Nazism. Beautifully and poignantly, the vibrancy of Franks style is in a direct opposite to his contemporary fears in the political and social climate, of course felt most heavily within his Jewish faith and heritage.

What struck me most about the exhibition was the accessibility. While I appreciate the beauty of the work, I went in with no prior knowledge of Frank’s work. By the time I’d left, I adored it. Throughout the exhibition were sofas, armchairs and seats all made in the fabric that the exhibition was there to celebrate. The textiles are displayed as both a grand and authoritative persona when displayed on the walls, while at the same time as accessible, physical and functional as part of the visitor experience. Viewing textiles, in a paid museum, can be an intimidating experience. I could’ve felt out of my depth. But, the curation by Dennis Nothdruft and the Fashion and Textile Museum make the visitor experience comfortable. While simple, the physical act of sitting on a comfortable chair, in my opinion, is not to be underestimated.

Not just textiles, the exhibition also displays Franks not often seen watercolours. As a man of many talents, he created, combining his love for art and architecture, with charming results. His ‘fantasy houses’ are the most impressive. Designed without the intention on ever being built, Frank’s thirteen fantasy houses took shape during 1947, inspired by modern architecture, often built with friends in mind who could live in them. This escapism into his fantasy estate, for me, summed up the exhibition, a story of Frank’s innovative and eccentric design in an era of political turmoil. The Josef Frank Patterns-Furniture-Painting three month exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum is an insight into Josef Frank’s take on modernist design, his growing understanding and processing of the horror in Jewish 1930’s Europe, and his beautiful botanical designs are one of a kind to see.

 

 

Guggenheim

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Readers of this blog will know i know nothing about art, and luckily I’ve never set up a precedent of pretending to. So, this ‘review’ of the Guggenheim will, I guess, be a from a visitors perspective, not altered by any underlying biases of museum study.

Basically, I loved it.

Designed by American architect Frank Gehry, The Guggenheim is obviously stunning. The building is on three levels, centred around the Atrium, connected with curved walkways. Surrounded by the river, and the red and orange old buildings of Bilbao, the stone, glass and titanium building is an unmissable contrast. You know you’re in Bilbao if you can see the Guggenheim.

My favourite work, and probably most visitors favourite work, was Richard Serra’s installation The Matter of Time. It was fun, which is what art galleries often have the stereotype of not being. I sort of understood the meaning, it definitely was a unforgettable, dizzying feeling. More than that, it’s unusual finding a maze in an art gallery, people were enjoying it, whether they understood the context or not.

“The Matter of Time allows the viewer to perceive the evolution of the artist’s sculptural forms, from the relative simplicity of a double ellipse to the complexity of a spiral. The last two pieces of this sculpture are created from sections of toruses and spheres that produce different effects on the movement and perception of the viewer. These are unexpectedly transformed as the visitor walks through and around them, creating an unforgettable, dizzying feeling of space in motion. The entire room is part of the sculptural field.”

The Guggenheim is a tourists dream, myself included. The building, Louise Bourgeois’ giant spider sculpture, Maman, is an impressive photo opportunity. Almost 9 meters tall, Maman is a reflection of Bourgeois’ relationship with her mother, as a symbol of both strength and fragility in maternity. But, of course, it’s prime selfie background. Likewise Jeff Koons’ Puppy, the West Highland terrier carpeted in bedding plants sits outside guarding the entrance. The Tulips, also by Jeff Koons, the bouquet of balloon flowers, that are 2 meters tall and 5 meters across, lay on a balcony overlooking the river.

Bilbao is a beautiful city, and one I’d recommend to anyone for a city break. The Guggenheim is an accessible, fun, and exciting gallery. And has taught me that I’m drawn to large scale art..

 

Fear and Love 

Monday, February 27th, 2017

“The exhibition asserts that design is deeply connected not just to commerce and culture but to urgent underlying issues – issues that inspire fear and love. This is a bold, multidisciplinary and global exhibition that aims to capture the mood of the present and establish the Design Museum as the home of design debate”

I couldn’t read the description of the Design Museum’s newest temporary exhibition quote without thinking of THE Donnie Darko scene, “there are other things that need to be taken into account. Like the whole spectrum of human emotion. You can’t just lump everything into these two categories and then just deny everything else.” Maybe it’s an intentional tie, maybe it’s not, but the quote felt oh so relevant. The exhibition explores love, it explores fear, and it explored the whole spectrum of human emotion.

Fear And Love makes the future, and the present, feel dystopian. Fitting perfectly into the desperation most half of the UK, and half of the US, felt in 2016, the exhibition plays into the essence of dystopian despair 2016 brought to many. Fear and Love perfectly tapped into the parallel fears Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror brought to all that watched it, of how far truly can social media take us.

Andres Jaque’s Intimate Strangers focused on dating apps, and the impact they have upon our ‘real’ relationships, blurring the line between real and networked. The Pan-European Living Room, designed with interior style from all 28 EU member states questions the British decision to leave the EU, and the motivations to do so. Minus by Madeline Gannon received the most attention from visitors, myself included. Minus is a 1200kg industrial robot, and through developed software mimics human behaviour. As the robot appeared to follow visitors around the room, and take a closer look at visitors it ‘chose’ to, the robot was humanised, and taps into the social fear in a postmodern climate of robots and what it means to be human. Fibre Market by Christien Meindertsma is, after running away from Minus, the most visually striking exhibit in the room. Exploring disposable fashion and the ethical implications, Fibre Market subtly but explicitly calls into question the social impacts of technology and globalisation. And finally, Room Tone by Hussein Chalayan explored, through devices that visually display the wearers emotions, summarising the exhibition that postmodernity is terrifying and exciting in equal measure, that we all fear it but ultimately love it. 

Fear and Love is the perfect blockbuster exhibition for Design Museum, what the permanent collections display does so well is bring in the social and human interaction with design and technology, Fear and Love is both a continuation and addition of this. Even those ‘inartistic’, and ‘not interested in design’ visitors (myself included) will engage with this exhibition, as is it intertwined with all of our personal lives, our personal anxieties, and our personal obsession with globalisation and postmodernity. 

p.s, I forgot my GoPro, so not arty video, no joyous playing on iMovie, sigh. Low quality iPhone photos will have to do this time. (Is it ironic to care so much about the technology used to discuss this exhibition?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best, and worst, thing about living in London

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

It’s been circling around in my head for what seems like weeks, how to write about the opening of Tate Modern’s new building. Circling spiralling thoughts of how to write in a way that is concise, intellectual, factual. So much so, ironically, I’ve left it too late to discuss it as ‘new’ at all.

Today I realised: it doesn’t matter.

I realised this wearing my new hat. To me, this new hat is a highlight of an otherwise monotonous tube commute. What is a highlight to me, no one else glanced at.

The best, and worst, thing about living in London is that no one cares. Every person and every community is so wonderfully diverse and interesting and cool that you can do almost anything and barely stand out.

While that may seem intimidating, perhaps even depressing, it’s also incredibly, incredibly relieving.

It doesn’t matter that I know nothing about art, or art galleries, or architecture. There’s another million blogs that discuss that. There’s another million readers that read that. So I guess I can write whatever I want, wearing my new hat, and no one really cares. In the best possible way.

So, here’s the unintellectual, barely factual, most certainly not concise, thoughts about the new Tate Modern building. The view. There’s nothing I could type that can’t be said by looking at these photos. In terms of visitor figures, tourism, etc, the view will be a stand out addition to the gallery. To draw in crowds, what more could you need than these beautiful views. I’m sure the art snobs amongst us are cringing at the thought: commoners, coming into the exquisite Tate for something as simplistic as a view. But, Tate’s gotta pay the bills. That said, of course the extension has more to offer than the views. Of course it does. But that’s where it gets a big stickier for me. I wish this could read as some Guardian worthy think piece analysis, but it won’t. What does stand out is the atmosphere, the new building feels more accessible, more open, more light, less elitist, more democratic. Maybe I felt this with rose tinted glasses, embracing the crowds who were there for opening weekend that maybe aren’t the regular demographic. But I sincerely hope not. I hope the views draw diverse audiences, new audiences, and then it’s Tate’s job to have something to keep them there once they’ve left the tenth floor.

Call Me By My Name

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Yesterday I went on a mad rush to get to the Call Me By My Name: Stories from Calais and Beyond exhibition before it closed. Working in West London and living in South, taking a trip to East London is never a simple quest. But it was so, so worth it.

It was a first for me. Never before have I been moved to tears by an exhibition.

Call Me By My Name is an exhibition from the Migration Museum Project, which, as said in the brochure “delves beneath the headlines to examine the complexity and humanity behind the current migration crisis.”

Visiting the exhibition days before the EU referendum was deeply moving. Seeing the same “Jungle” that has been used for scaremongering and scapegoating by politicians and the press, represented in such a dramatically opposite way. The exhibition is deeply humanising, fully addressing that every refugee has a vastly unique story.

In a census taken by Help Refugees and L’Abugerge des Migrants in May 2106, there was a population of 5,178 living in the Calais ‘Jungle’. To the press, and therefore the common public, myself included, this is phenomenal figure. A vast mass of nameless and faceless. Call Me By My Name changes that. The vast mass of the nameless and faceless 5,178 are given a name and given a face. The exhibition is deeply humanising.

This struck me most through the fine-tuned interpretation methods used. I had naively expected a dull, traditional gallery of photographs and art. It was so much more than that. Video, audio, sculpture. Two pieces in particular I found powerfully engaging. The piece ‘Home for Winter’ by Joe Friday, Lee Eyre and Mark Arrigo was an installation of a typical shelter. The every day normality of the objects that scattered around the shelter resonated with me. Toothbrushes and bottles of water reminded me of what is often forgotten in the media, refugees are human beings.

A poignant piece in the exhibition were the lifejackets. Visually striking at first, but when you read why they’re there, because they were fake ‘life’ jackets that wouldn’t save a life at all, the gross mistreatment of refugees becomes abundantly clear.

That said, the exhibition was not a sob story, the narrative avoided presenting the refugees as helpless victims. Equal parts evoking compassion and sympathy, and evoking a element of hope and respect. I was surprised by the extent the Calais ‘jungle’ isn’t really a jungle at all. Without undermining the horrendous conditions the refugees face every day, there are glimmers of hope. The ‘jungle’ has become closer to that of a small town.

I would love to read the visitor demographics of this exhibition. Who visited and what they thought. Perhaps only people who already have a compassion for the refugee crisis visited, and saw and felt what they already thought and felt. I wonder if any who previously held the ‘they’re coming over here and stealing our jobs’ views had come to the exhibition out of curiosity and had their perceptions completely altered. Time will tell as the Migration Museum progresses and develops.

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How to engage as a Millennial

Monday, June 13th, 2016

The title of this post is intentionally controversial, of course millennials can engage with a museum or gallery in a traditional manner. But I have become increasingly aware and interested in how the ‘millennial’ generation will develop to engage with museums.

This was originally inspired by Marina Gross-Hoy from Imaginibus’ post about twitter, in which she tweeted a photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art every half hour, to structure the engagement during her visit. So, armed with my camera, I aimed to try something similar. I love video, and editing video in a creative way, videoing my visit seemed an obvious choice.

I agree with Marina Gross-Hoy. Using technology in this way didn’t distract my visit, it structured it. I became more aware of what artworks I was naturally drawn to, which ones I responded most with, as they were the ones I chose to record.

Videoing the Tate in this way also made me much more aware of how other visitors were engaging with the collection. While I was recording a video, some were drawing, some were photographing, some were on a tour, some writing notes. Engagement is engagement. While I might be bias, as a ‘millennial’ myself, recording a visit as a form of connection with the works is not a new phenomenon. Technology, the internet, and social media, will be a part of museums future regardless of criticism. Seeing so many sketching the works reminded me that drawing and photographing, in the context of taking home an image and memory of the gallery, really aren’t much different.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRAgWvsDANA&w=560&h=315]

An Ode to Grandeur

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Museums are for the objects. Art galleries are for the artworks. I know that. But there really is something to be said for the grandeur of architecture.

Disclaimer: I’ve never studied the significance of museum and gallery architecture, so I’m only speaking as an uneducated visitor.

I visited Tate Britain as part of my 25 To Do’s pledge, to visit one museum or gallery a week for 25 weeks. The art works were, of course, beautiful. But what struck me was the architecture. The glamour of high ceilings, columns and marble.

I’m scared to say anymore than that, like I said, I’m wholly uneducated on the whole thing. Uneducated on art galleries in general, actually. But the grandeur of Tate Britain really does something indescribable to your soul. That gasp. That (and I hate this term) wow-factor.

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Get Undressed

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Underwear. It seems pretty unimportant, worn under the clothes, purely personal fashion. How wrong I was. Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, the new exhibition at the V&A highlights the cultural and societal contexts and impacts that our undergarments can have.

Sponsored by Agent Provocateur and Rimmel, and displaying objects dated from 1750 to the present day, the narrative of the gallery is so much more than ‘hey, here’s some pretty pants.’ The exhibition captures the morality, the sexuality, the gender norms, the societal expectations, and the norms of decency that underwear connotes.

One of the text panels reads: “Our choice of underwear reflects our identity, lifestyle, taste desires and fantasies. The possibility presence of a viewer is as compelling for the designer as the wearer.” 

Corsets make up a large portion of the displays. Corsets for maternity wear, corsets for Dita Von Teese, corsets for the colonial empire, X-rays of the effects of corsets. Luckily for me, I find the history of victorian corsets fascinating. Perhaps it’d be overkill if I didn’t.

My two favourite pieces from the collection were polar opposites in why I liked them. One, utterly, stunningly beautiful. One, plain white, unassuming.

1. The Alexander Mcqueen ‘Corseted in Gold’ is a beautiful golden beaded gown, with ruffled feathers. The grandeur of it is consuming, “this feminine but enigmatic gown evokes the sirens, mythological sea creatures whose sweet singing lured sailors to their deaths” the panel reads.  

2. The Acne ‘Gender Neutral pants’ “They are utilitarian, comfortable, and in tune with increasingly liberal perceptions of the fluidity of gender.” The Acne pants reiterates and solidifies the social value and impact that underwear can have.

V&A get exhibitions, and the PR and marketing of exhibitions so right. It’s a difficult task to make a temporary exhibition feel glamorous, but it does. When you walk around the gallery, the glamour oozes from the pieces, the excitement and the erotic element. Undressed maintains to encapsulate the history, context and influence of underwear, without detracting from the beauty, elegance and sexuality.

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No Photography Allowed

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Two chains of events recently got me thinking about how visitors consume museum media. First, I went to the brilliant Fox Talbot exhibition (review coming soon), and there was a very strict no photography rule. Second, the V&A have received much criticism for introducing a no sketching policy. Both rules are very much justified, flash photography will irreversibly damage the Fox Talbot works, and sketching goes against the loan agreements in the V&A temporary exhibitions. Why then do these types of rules affect visitors, myself included, in such a negative way?

Museums have long had no photography rules, with how much flash would affect objects sometimes overestimated. Yet the issue of no photography affects the post-modern visitor more palpably. Smart phones and social media have changed the way people consume experiences. We share our daily lives, especially the parts we take pride in, like visiting a museum. Selfies with Dinosaur bones, that Beyoncé and Jay Z photo with Mona Lisa, the Natural History Museum having its own filter on snapchat. It’s become key part of our museum visiting experience to share where we are, what we think of it.

We want to have our museum cake, and have a take out box to eat it too.

Realistically, we rarely look many times again at the photographs we take of objects. We wouldn’t frame them and put them on a wall. But when that opportunity is taken away, it sits uncomfortably.

Yet, viewing a museum behind a phone screen, behind an Instagram filter, isn’t really seeing it at all. I wanted to take photographs of the Fox Talbot exhibition, it is visually stunning. But, having a phone-less and camera-less experience of the gallery meant I was more aware, more focussed, more concentrated in my experience of the collection.

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(imaged sourced via The Guardian)