Tuesday, October 28, 2008

London Exhibition Mania

We have a slight problem in London this Autumn - most of the major exhibitions are, shall we say, of less interest to those who appreciate real art. The Turner Prize consists of the usual talentless drivel. Rothko, Bacon, Cy Twombly and others collectively churned out works which sit somewhere between your average five year old and Polish decorator in terms of how I am able to appreciate their efforts.

Ironically in the new Saatchi Gallery on King's Road they have a room where they've invited 7-year-olds to paint inspired by Kandinsky. And I have to say the results didn't seem so very far away from the offerings at Miro at the RA!

Luckily it's not all bad..

Firstly, this gives one a chance to seek out the smaller (and often free) galleries - Charles Avery at the Parasol and today:

Bruegel to Rubens - Masters of Flemish Painting at the Queen's Gallery.

The where? There's a gallery at the edge of Buckingham Palace. They house a selection of the Royal Collection, and also have rotating temporary exhibitions.

The marvellous Flemish one runs till next year, but a Baroque one comes online on November 14th (update, oops, I've just noticed Baroque is in Scotland). It's a lovely space, filled with some very interesting paintings, Faberge Eggs, clocks, etc, and most importantly, unlike the blockbusters at the major galleries it's not jam packed. Go see the Flemish Exhibition!

Miro, or to give the exhibition its full title:
"Miró, Calder, Giacometti, Braque: Aimé Maeght and his artists" is up in the Sackler Wing of the Royal Academy until the end of the year. Yes, you have to climb the stinky staircase to get to it!

One up there, one can appreciate "the freshness, optimism and inventiveness of the art that took post-war Paris by storm.". I have to confess that I was not bowled over, but it's worth a quick visit on a combined ticket with Byzantium. If I'd paid to see this only, I would have been a bit annoyed. The best part of it - an entire wall covered by the front covers of the art journal Derrière le Miroir. That and a couple of African-inspired Braque still lifes. Oh and I should mention a sketch entitled something like "the walker" which just had about half a dozen small scribbles, collectively implying a man walking on a large blank sheet of paper. Quite inventive!

Byzantium 330–1453

The blockbuster at the RA this autumn. Expect to do battle with old people!

The exhibition, a collaboration between the Royal Academy of Arts and the Benaki Museum in Athens, provides an overview of the culture and history of the Byzantine Empire. It's big, with over 300 objects spread over about a dozen large rooms. splendours of , 'Byzantium 330–1453' incorporates over 300 objects. Some of the works have never been displayed in public before, and the suggestion in the Telegraph review was that the objects with St Mark's in Venice had lent out, including the following incense burner, would never be lent out again.

Interestingly several of the icons from the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai had been held up and were replaced with colour copies. No reason was provided and the staff had not been told.

Also on display is the Chalice of Antioch, which has been a candidate for the Holy Grail.

Worth seeing. Allow time!

Hadrian: Empire and Conflict

Finally I should mention Hadrian, the current biggie at the British Museum. This is a timed entry exhibition in a modified reading room. In all honesty, I found it somewhat disappointing. As a British viewer, I was particularly interested in the wall of course. Not much information about that.

What was displayed was somewhat disjointed, much information about aspects which interested me less (his gay lover, for example), and overall a crowded and confused layout. One interesting takeaway though was that the Reading Room ceiling was modelled on the Pantheon in Rome. Didn't know that! Shame they'd butchered the Reading Room to put the exhibition on! The space is much smaller than the one they usually use for big exhibitions, hence part of the issue.

Still to see:
Edge of Arabia at SOAS till 13th Dec
Wallace Collection
Turner Watercolours at the Courtauld starting this Friday.
Renaissance Faces - Van Eyke to Titian at the National Gallery
Picasso and the Masters in Paris (this one pending a cheap Eurostar ticket!).

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