Today’s photos, taken on a freezing January afternoon in 2014, are from the Palace of Versailles – the country home of the French monarchy from the 1682 until the French Revolution forced them back to central Paris. It seems they were quite into gold stuff. Enjoy!
While uploading the photographs from my latest weekend away, I’ve realised that I have thousands of photographs on various memory cards that have never seen the light of day – they’re frankly too pretentious for Facebook, and I need to admit to myself that I’m never going to get around to getting any of them printed. So as a new feature, I’m going to share some of them here every Sunday. Expect everything from the plastic horses of Brighton Pier to the tower blocks of sunny Croydon, with a few European cities thrown in for good measure.
Here’s the first installment – a few choice snaps from Munich’s Spielzeugmuseum, or toy museum, which I visited last week. It’s based in the top four floors of a clock tower in the city’s main square, Marienplatz, and houses everything from the original Steiff teddy bears from the early 1900s, to 1940s toy soldiers, to kitsch 1980s robots (which I think you’ll see I was quite taken with). Enjoy!
I’ve dedicated this blog to free art exhibitions. At around £13, the cost of a major art exhibition in London isn’t exactly unaffordable to me – but as a young(ish) person living in one of the world’s most expensive cities, having wisely chosen a notoriously low-paid line of work and served myself up a solid helping of student debt, it’s not high on my list of things I can spend money on without feeling, well, a bit guilty. I’d certainly find it hard to justify visiting more than one in a weekend, which isn’t really practical when you’re trying to write a regular (well, at least semi-regular) blog. And as I’m (to my great regret) only one person, it provides an easy way to filter down the hundreds of art shows going on every week into the ones I actually want to write about.
But what if art was cheaper? I recently spent a few days in Munich, and in between ingesting beers the size of my head and marvelling at the fact that people can actually style out lederhosen and dirndls as viable casual outfit options, I visited the Pinakothek der Moderne (above) – the city’s largest modern art and design museum. Its permanent collection houses a huge range of paintings from the early twentieth century onwards, including the likes of Picasso, Paul Klee and Otto Dix, and as a fan of inter-war debauchery I was extremely pleased to see a whole room dedicated to Max Beckmann’s dark, German Expressionist portraits of sinister, heavy-browed good-time girls, masked figures and people looking bored at parties. Exhibitions currently include Creating Realities, a show about the relationship between cinema and art including the disconcerting Sleepwalker by UK artist Clement Page; and a touching exhibition of photography by Nicholas Nixon entitled The Brown Sisters. 40 Jahre, showing photographs of the artist’s wife and her sisters taken every year on the same day for 40 years. There’s also an exhibition of work inspired by El Greco, from the likes of Kandinsky and Adolf Erbsloh, as well as a showcase of modern furniture design.
I was passing through Trafalgar Square today, and got a few photos of the newest work on the fourth plinth – Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse. When I first saw it I thought it was quite impressive, at least aesthetically. The skeletal form cuts a bold figure against the sky from across the square, and plays on the traditional man-and-horse statue that stands opposite (but in a better way than the last equine statue on the plinth, which by all accounts was a bit naff).
As you may gather from the date of my last post, I’ve been off the blogging boil for quite some time. Excuses include abandoning the life of a nomadic freelancer for that of a sulky one-hour-plus commuter who could no longer work from 7.30am until 12, go to a gallery when there’s no-one but a few trendy pensioners hanging around and be back at your desk for the 3pm until whenever-you’ve-done-enough-work-to-silence-the-voice-in -your-head-that-says-working-from-home-isn’t-a-proper-job shift (if it’s in time for the news at 10, you’re having a good day).
I’ve been to so many great art shows in recent months and not found the time to write them up (highlights: Museum of Water at Somerset House, Post Pop: East Meets West at the Saatchi, and Grayson Perry’s Who Are You? at the National Gallery) but I promised myself that this year I would force myself to stop being boring at the weekends and get back into doing creative things, so here we go. If you can’t post opinions no-one asked for on the internet in 2015, when can you? And frankly, I’ve run out of things to watch on Netflix.
Anyway, I went to an exhibition called Beard at Somerset House. There were a lot of guys walking around it in various levels of hirsutism, each expressing a corresponding degree of woeful inadequacy. Because the beards on display – photographed by Brock Elbank – were, frankly, magnificent. (If you don’t like that adjective, there are a whole host of others on allaboutbeards.org’s gallery of featured beards, which for reasons I won’t go into is something of which I am aware. My personal favourite is “Patrick’s picture-perfect beard”. No, wait. “Andy’s awe-inspiring beard”). I can only assume that the other attendees were dedicated pogonophiles. Full disclosure: my boyfriend has a beard.
I’m a big fan of reading the notes in galleries. It may make me an annoying person to follow around an exhibition (I’m also an irritatingly slow reader, sorry everyone), but I think the best art exhibitions are the ones where you not only enjoy the work, but find out something you didn’t know about the artist’s life and personality too. Because believe it or not, artists can be a pretty interesting bunch.
So the Laura Knight exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was a total treat. I knew of some of her more famous work; oil portraits such as Rose and Gold (below) in rich, jewel-like colours but I’d never realised how many different themes she covered. One thing that’s great about Knight’s work is that she delves into such a range of different cultures and ways of life, and although she doesn’t shy away from the less salubrious ones either. Her subjects range from stately old women and doe-eyed prima ballerinas to maudlin circus clowns and gypsies.
For quite some time now, a large proportion of my internet time-wasting has been dutifully conducted on design-porn sites such as DesignSponge, DesignTaxi and Wallpaper*. I’m not going to go nuts and spend my free time productively or anything, but to at least bring a little structure to my procrastination I thought I’d start a little weekly round-up of the best bits of design I can’t afford, and that in any case would look ridiculous in my unglamorous, shoebox-sized home where the shower is actually inside a cupboard (hard to explain the logistics of this but an excellent party piece nonetheless). So, here are this week’s beauts:
5. Victorian-style cushion by Thornback & Peel
I’ve just discovered design duo Thornback & Peel, whose illustrations are a mix of the weird old stuffed animals you find in the dusty corners of the Natural History Museum, intricate-looking Victorian jellies and drawings that could be from Mrs Beeton’s cookbook. Coincidentally, I’ve also just found out that Mrs Beeton is buried less than five minutes from my house. In honour of both these facts, this kooky kushion makes number five.
Originally published on the Independent blog here
Outside of the art world, the Turner Prize seems to be a byword for work that is self-indulgent, ‘easy’ to produce and generally laughable. Most years it serves as an excuse for anyone who fancies it to make uninformed, unfunny jokes about Tracey Emin’s unmade bed. However, with a lack of such easy targets, could this year change the way people see the beleaguered competition?
Thought some of you might fancy a peep at a review I wrote for Weekend Notes of Marilyn Monroe: A British Love Affair – an exhibition of rare photos, magazine covers and film stills which is at the National Portrait Gallery in London until March 24 (it’s also free!).
Be a peach, and have a look here.