Sunday, January 23, 2011

Last Days

Dear Blog,

Hi, it's me, Celine. My last day and a half in London was bittersweet. Wednesday I went to the Royal Academy of Art, followed by the Tate Modern to see the Gabriel Orozco show.

At the Royal Academy of Art I saw the "Aware: Art Fashion Identity" show, which I was initially hesitant to see, but turned out to be a good experience. I was hesitant because there are many shows that are basically fluff- shows arranged with little curatorial purpose other than to draw people into the museum. (Particularly when the image on the fliers for the show are so clearly meant to be sexy and seductive- see below). But I felt that it would be remiss of me to not see a show whose work is so closely related to the field of art jewelry. Although in academic discussions in the art world, fashion is rarely mentioned, this seems to me a major oversight-- after all, the way that most people experience jewelry is as an extension of fashion, and even the most academically-minded jeweler must admit that jewelry is meant to be worn on the body, and as such participates in many of the same discussions as fashion (a word that strangely connotes clothing, not sure why this is). The show covered an impressive (if somewhat schitzophrenic) range of what fashion could mean; alternately presenting runway garb, video art, performance work, theoretical clothing, and a four channel video exploring the garment industry in India. There were a few givens, such as Yoko Ono's "Cut Piece" and a large installation by Yinka Shonibare entitled "Rich Little Girls". There were also many artists who were included, I suspect, more for their name brand than for their reflection on fashion and identity (Acconci Studio's Umbruffla comes to mind, as does Cindy Sherman's Doll Clothes) This seemed an extension of a common theme; a field in its own right is only recognized as art when well known artists dabble in a craft with which they have little familiarity. Some of the most revelatory work was by artists whom I had never heard of, although this certainly does not mean that they have no following.

Also at the Academy was Haunch of Venison, a solo show of French video artist Nicolas Provost's work. This was hands down one of my favorite shows in London.

It was raining hard when the Tate closed. Luckily I had my trusty umbrella. I walked across the Millenium bridge , past the steps of St. Paul's, and over to the ICA one last time to try and catch a lecture entitled "The Problem with Contemporary Sculpture". It was sold out. I can't imagine people lining up to pay to see a lecture on the state of contemporary sculpture here in the states. There wasn't even any standing room. After walking around a bit, I found a quiet pub near Trafalgar square, where I sat quietly in a corner, gathering my thoughts and munching on a traditional English meat pie. The waitress was very kind, and could tell that I was a tourist. I wonder what gave me away. Perhaps it was the map. After dinner, I met Iain near Nelson's Column. We walked to the Houses of Parliment, which looks its most imposing and majestic at night, when rows of warm orange spotlights illuminate the building from below, exaggerating its craggy gothic exterior. Iain's connections got us past the guards, down into the heart of the building, through numbers of long hallways and huge stone rooms that echoed like the walls of a cathedral, down into a cozy pub with green carpeting. I drank beer in the Houses of Parliment. It was great.

On my last day, I visited the British Museum once more to see the small drawing show, From Picasso to Mehretu, selections from the permanent collection. It was initially underwhelming, due in part to the size of the work; all were fairly small, and many were sketches or studies for larger pieces. It is also hard to compete with the sculptural work contained in the British Museum; some of the greatest works of mankind from the last 20,000 years is contained within that collection.

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