Fashion & Gardens @ Garden Museum

April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

From the outside, the Garden Museum looks like an abandoned old church which has been taken over by a community of glorious plants. The Museum which is situated in Lambeth is a botanical haven in central London and is currently playing host to an exhibition that is exploring the link between fashion design and gardens in Britain.

The show, curated by Nicola Schulman, sister to Alexandra, editor-in-chief of british vogue, was much smaller than I was expecting but did not disappoint on content. On display are garden designs, drawings, paintings and clothes from the seventeenth-century to today.

Everything from brogues to tweed have their origins in gardening. On display are some exquisitely embroidered gloves and shoes from the eighteenth-century, much of which was influenced by garden design patterns.

All on display are fashion pieces which would be more recognisable to contemporary fashionistas. These include a pair of Vivienne Westwood platforms which I have had my eye on for the past two years, as well as designs by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and Burberry. Also on display is one of Philip Treacy’s spectacular orchid hats.

This exhibition is small but mighty and should certainly be visited before it ends. Even just to wander round the rest of the museum, which I promise is a real treat.

Fashion and Gardens is on display at the Garden Museum until 27 April

Veronese @ National Gallery

April 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Verona is famous for Romeo and Juliet and its Roman ruins. 60 miles to the east, is Venice, the city that produced such artists as Bellini, Canaletto and Titian. In 1553 at the age of 25, Paolo Caliari from Verona moved to Venice and acquired the nickname Veronese and now a monographic show of 50 of his works are on display at the National Gallery.

I chose to take the Art of Death option over the Venetian Art module, so my knowledge of art from the region is basic. Venice is automatically associated with Titian and the use of bright colour. All I knew of Veronese before the exhibition was his famous incident with the inquisition in 1573 during the counter-reformation, where the artist had painted a version of The Last Supper filled with acrobats, dwarves and monkeys. This was of course deemed to be unsuitable and Veronese was ordered to change his image, however he refused and simply renamed the painting The House of Levi, thus managing to satisfy everyone. Unfortunately this painting was not in the exhibition, though what is included is far from disappointing.

The show is very different to any exhibition at the National Gallery I have ever been to before. The reason for this is that there is absolutely no wall text or image labels apart from the spontaneous quote from an art critic written on the walls. When entering the exhibition you are handed a booklet. Normally these give a rough guide to the exhibition or summarise each room. I don’t normally look at it until after the show. When I entered the first gallery it took a few minutes to realise that the wall text was missing, I was too busy looking at the beautiful paintings. My companion however alerted me to the absent labels and informed me that these were in the booklet.

Having to look in the booklet for image descriptions did not bother me. In fact I didn’t bother to look. This is because, not only is the exhibition different for its lack of wall text. There are also no drawings, and nearly all the images are large-scale paintings. This is an exhibition made up of 50 masterpieces. 10 are from the National Gallery’s collection with 40 other images on loan to the museum from such places as the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. To honour the artist, the National Gallery have chosen not to stage the exhibition in the usual gallery space of the Sainsbury Wing but in the rooms where its permanent collection is housed, which has not been done since the Leonardo exhibition.

Among the paintings are scenes for altarpieces, mythological subjects and saints. Amidst the grand images the backgrounds are often decorated with scenes of antique architecture which Veronese’s home town of Verona was famous for. Also amongst his paintings are well respected individuals dressed in luxurious silks and furs.

The show begins brightly, in almost chronological order, which suddenly becomes darker towards the end of the exhibition. There is no explanation to why this may be, however it is exciting and the whole exhibition carries the aura and prestige that must not be missed.

Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice is on display at National Gallery until 15 June 2014

Gallery Girl @ A Fine Art Auction

April 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

I generally like to upload at least one new blog post per week. However, dissertation deadlines, exams and a student budget have kept me away from galleries during the past week. However, that was never going to stop me from churning out an art related piece for all of my readers. I was struggling to think of a subject to write about when a catalogue from an auction that I attended at Bonhams earlier this year caught my eye: I had found my thread!

When I started writing Gallery Girl nearly three years ago now, then under the name of Cinderella Venus, I wrote about the gems that can be found when going to look at the show rooms of London’s auction houses. Over the years I have passed many afternoons walking around Mayfair and popping in and out of Sotheby’s, Bonhams and Christie’s. Auction houses often display works of art that have been hidden from public view in private collections, that may go straight to another collector. For me, the most interesting part of the display at these pre-sale galleries are the price guides on the wall labels. You wouldn’t find an asking price for a Picasso at the Tate, but at Sotheby’s it is protocol.

Despite years of seeing priceless works of art on display before the sales, until a few months ago, I had never seen an artwork actually being sold. I knew what went on inside. I had seen pictures of packed rooms of bidders with an auctioneer standing at the front with an aisle of telephone operators on either sides. However, I had always been too intimidated to do anything about actually attending the event. For some sales, you have to be invited to the auction, however, I found, to my astonishment, that for many you can simply walk in. Admittedly, I never had the courage to do so myself, a friend of mine happened to be bidding on a Millais at Bonhams and asked me if I would join him for the experience: I jumped at the chance! I also discovered that day, that you have to be registered to bid, which came as a great relief – I have always seen art collecting as a ‘rich persons sport’, which I simply do not have the means with which to join in with – now there was no possibility of accidentally bidding on a masterpiece!

The auction we attended was a day auction selling 19th Century European, Victorian and British Impressionist Art. Most of the attendees were sat in there seats in front of the auctioneer. On the wall behind her was a chart showing the conversion of prices into various currencies. As the auction began, my companion thought it best for us to walk around the room in which the auction was held, which was one of the display galleries. We were the only ones to do so, however, nobody seemed to mind what we were doing and it gave us the chance to get up close and personal with the work on sale.

The bidding was quite exciting to watch, however, if I am honest, there is little in difference to the auction’s that you see on daytime television. The only difference was the dramatic rise in price. I found the telephone operators to be the most entertaining, speaking in various languages and asking the caller on the end of the line multiple times if they would like to bid again. Of course, my friend and I were anxiously awaiting the Millais which was on sale half way through the auction. Unfortunately for us, the painting sold for triple the guide price, although we both agreed, that it was probably worth much more anyway.

The experience was one I think every art lover and student should have. For some reason there are some things in life that make us feel that we do not belong in certain situations. Just because you are not earning a salary that could support a habit of buying renaissance paintings or futurist sculpture doesn’t mean you must be exempt from watching it being sold. I go and look at designer clothes far beyond my means in department stores all the time, so why should I not go to Bonhams?!

Vogue Festival @ Queen Elizabeth Hall

April 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last weekend much of the South Bank Centre was taken over by Vogue. The space was prepped for talks by designers, hair and make-up stylists and a Harrods catwalk. I was there on the Sunday to attend a talk and take a look around.

Among the speakers at this years festival were Naomi Campbell, Alexa Chung, Greyson Perry, Phoebe Philo, Valentino Garavani, Lily Allen and Pixie Geldof, to name but a few. At £40 a ticket for a talk and q&a session that lasted an hour, they were not cheap but for serious fashionistas no price is too high. I went along to a talk about what it’s really like to be a top fashion model. On the panel were Edie Campbell, Jourdan Dunn, Karlie Kloss and Rosie Hungtington-Whiteley. The discussion was more like an informal chat between friends at a sleepover with Karlie giving the audience a demonstration of how to walk the runway like a pro and Edie giving us her famous pose which has just been featured in Vogue Us’s Lena Dunham video.

Ticket holders to the talks were allowed admission to the foyer 30 minutes before and 60 minutes after. This however, was not really enough time to do everything on offer, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one to hang around for the longer allotted time. Here there was a vogue cinema, Burberry make up artists, manicurists and Hershesons hair stylists. However, the queues for each of these services were huge, but the end results were usually worthwhile. I waited in line for over an hour to get my nails done by OPI manicurists, which from the Vogue website, had promised to be embellished with the letters of Vogue, one for each finger. Unfortunately, when I got to the front of the line, the nail artist let me know that the Vogue letters were only available for a limited time on the previous day and that the organisers had taken the stickers off them. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased with my pastel green manicure, however I was a little disappointed that I left without the nails I was expecting. I then joined the queue for the Hershesons, where a team of hair stylists gave visitors the choice of five ultra chic new hair-dos, I went for the ‘ethereal up-do’, which was modelled by Ondria Hardin in the selection pictures. This was much faster than the nail queue and the results were beautiful. I didn’t bother getting my make up done as I was tired, however I did get a super-juice from a choice of two recipes created specially for the event by Calgary Avansino. I did want to get something to eat too, however, all of the salads and sandwiches being served at the Vogue Cafe contained some form of animal protein, so being vegan, I went hungry.

For those wanting a little retail therapy, and let’s be honest, what fashionista doesn’t?! A mini Vogue shop was on offer featuring one-of-a-kind t-shirts, water bottles, coffee cups and notepads, all with the signature VOGUE emblazoned across them. Almost as a friendly way for guests of the festivals to let their friends know that they are well-informed when it comes to fashion.

Down stairs was hosted by Harrods. Here visitors had the opportunity to pose for a mock vogue cover if they fancied sparing an extra £10 or could walk done the catwalk showing off their beauty treatments from upstairs. On this level there were also cupcakes with decorations inspired by famous designers and beauty consultants to give advice on what you should and should not have in your make up bag.

While there was a lot of beauty opportunities, I feel like there wasn’t really any fashion, which was a little disappointing for a Vogue event. Having gone to many art and fashion shows previously I was expecting a little more. There was definitely potential for this to be spectacular, but something was a lacking. That said, who doesn’t like having their hair and nails done and being followed around by fashion bloggers taking your photograph every two minutes? The Vogue Festival is definitely something to attend at least once, but whether I’ll return next year, I’m not sure.

David Bailey @ National Portrait Gallery

March 24, 2014 § 2 Comments

It seems fitting that the face of Kate Moss covers all the advertising for David Bailey’s career spanning exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. After all, Moss is probably the first model that springs to mind when we think of someone in the fashion industry who is British, timeless and has had the staying power to keep us interested for decades. Bailey, is the photographic counterpart, without whom, we may not even have models as big as Kate today.

The exhibition which was curated by Bailey himself over two years includes 250 photographs from five decades. The photographer was given the whole of the ground floor of the gallery which had only previously been given to exhibitions of David Hockney and Lucian Freud. The show reads like a who’s who of celebrity culture from Bailey’s emergence from the swinging sixties with Jean Shrimpton and Penelope Tree to the likes of Beyonce – is there anyone he hasn’t photographed?! Most of these celebrity portraits are stripped back, black and white images and it is this simplicity that probably draws us in. We see the same idea in a series of photographs of 1960s East End London where Bailey grew up: an honest depiction of his childhood.

While Bailey got his big break in fashion, the show gives us more than Jerry Hall and Grace Jones posing in pretty outfits. Bailey went on tour with the Rolling Stones, was friends with Mick Jagger and also includes a series of portraits involving the Kray brothers – figures who you wouldn’t expect to appear in the National Portrait Gallery.

As we move through the exhibition there are many portraits of fellow artists and photographers. These include Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Grayson Perry, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Joseph Beuys and Damien Hirst – with whom Bailey has collaborated with on many projects. Here it seems that the photographer has had some kind of dialogue with all the pre-eminent figures in art and photography since his career kicked off. My favourite portrait in the exhibition was of Maurizio Cattelan, probably my personal favourite artist/photographer in the show, who spread the skin on his face as if he was wearing a mask.

Following this we move into a more personal room, dedicated to his model wife Catherine Dyer and his children Fenton, Sascha and Paloma. Here we see family photos as well as beautiful portraits of Bailey’s family life and the people he loved. The photographer further proves that he does not just document the cult of celebrity with a series of indigenous people of Papua New Guinea, Australia and Delhi, using his photography to bring light to forgotten regions of the world.

Towards the end of the exhibition are a group of images taken with mobile phones. Here Bailey appears to poke fun at the advances in technology since he began taking photographs over half a century ago and also includes a few selflies.

However, the exhibition is not purely photography. Across the exhibition are three sculptures made by Bailey. These are humorous, small figures which crop up every once in a while, which seem to make the viewer chuckle amidst some more serious black and white images. The show also finishes with glass cabinets containing memorabilia from the photographers life including books, records and magazines.

Bailey has titled the exhibition ‘Stardust.’ Stardust suggests magic and enchanting, an allure of glamour. The photographer’s career is just that. A stellar show that simply cannot be missed.

Bailey’s Stardust is on display at National Portrait Gallery until 1 June 2014

#bigswingingovaries @ Whitcomb Street

March 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last night, on my way to dinner at eat Tokyo I walked past a building which had #bigswiningovaries written across the windows. My initial thoughts were ‘what an unusual name for a fertility clinic’, and immediately went to eat my meal. After finishing my veggie curry, I walked past again and saw a tapestry of Beyonce on the walls through the doorway and stepped inside to see what was going on: a celebration of women!

Inside the pop-up gallery are a series of beautifully tapestried portraits of inspiring women throughout history – think Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, but a stripped down version of it. It was clear from the off-set that the show had a political agenda celebrating feminism, with it having opened on International Women’s Day.

The women have been crafted from upcycled clothing by Jess de Wahls illustrating that beauty can come from unwanted items. Among the females on display are Frida Kahlo, Vivienne Westwood and Marlene Dietrich. Furthermore, de Wahls hopes to use the profits from her textured portraits to raise money for #techmums, an organisation which strives to empower women through technology. The artist has also included a large drawing of the ovaries, with labels to those who helped her achieve the exhibition.

Unfortunately the show closes on Tuesday and had I known about it sooner I definitely would have popped in earlier, however to everyone who has no plans over the next few days, I implore you to go check it out!

#bigswingingovaries is on display at 13 Whitcomb Street, London

Sunflowers @ National Gallery

March 13, 2014 § 1 Comment

The last time I saw people queueing at the National Gallery was for the Da Vinci exhibition. I tried multiple times to visit the Sunflowers exhibition without having to wait in line but was unsuccessful and eventually took my place at the end of the line like everyone else, but I am glad that I did.

The National Gallery has always had one of Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers on its gallery walls. It is the gallery’s most popular painting and for a short time this will be reunited side by side with another painting from the series on loan from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The London piece was painted in 1888 while the copy from Amsterdam was painted in 1889. I could fill this post about the social events that took place between the time in which the two paintings were constructed, I am going to simply write about the visual similarities and differences instead.

The composition of the two images are the same. Both have an equal number of flowers, the same shaped pot, a table at the same height, and a bare neutral background. The flowers are even arranged in the same way and the plants seem to be the same shape. Where the paintings differ most is in colour. The London painting seems more restrained than the Amsterdam image. The painting lent from Holland is brighter. It is more yellow where the London painting seems to be beige. The shades of green in the two paintings alter too. The flowers in the London painting have dark green stems, that we would normally associate with plants, with patches of dark green in the centre of the flowers. Conversely, the greens in the Amsterdam picture are lighter and are at times almost acidic where they are surrounded by the petals of flowers.

If I had to choose a favourite painting it would be the Amsterdam image. It seems more exciting to me with a more vibrant sense of colour, however, that may well be because I was already used to the version that has always sat happily in the National Gallery.

Don’t let the queues deter you. Van Gogh’s Sunflowers are an image recognised by all, young and old, and should be visited by everyone who has the opportunity.

The Sunflowers are on Display at National Gallery until 27 April


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