Sursock @ Beirut

July 25, 2016 § 1 Comment

I have just returned from a trip to my mother’s beautiful homeland: Beirut. Of course, no trip would be complete without a visit to a museum or gallery and Lebanon certainly impressed with its stunning Sursock Museum.

The Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum is a glittering white palace. When the sun is up its spectacular façade boasts the best combination of Venetian and Ottoman architecture, while at night its multi-coloured stained glass windows sparkle like magic. The inside of the museum is just as spectacular as its exterior. One can see the best of modern and contemporary Lebanese and Middle Eastern art across the galleries walls from the likes of Paul Guiragossian, Etel Adnan and Saloua Raouda Choucair among many others. Most of the artwork is bright and colourful – dispelling any preconceptions you may have about the Middle East.

The museum is famed for its Salon d’Automne, an open call exhibition much like the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, which first took place at the Sursock Museum in 1961. For me, the most impressive part of the museum was the Salon Arabe. This room, which is a full of marble columns and keyhole arches sits next to Nicolas Sursock’s office, giving a taste of history in a building that celebrates the new and innovative.

The Sursock Museum is simply gorgeous and a certain must-see for anyone visiting Beirut





Christine Ay Tjoe @ White Cube

July 17, 2016 § 1 Comment

I stumbled upon a photograph of Christine Ay Tjoe’s exhibition at White Cube on instagram by accident and knew instantly that I had to visit. The colours in her work and the way they fall across the canvas look strikingly similar to Cy Twombly’s work, but there is a kind different energy splattered across the images that isn’t so gentle.

The works in the show are all abstract manifestations of pinks and blues on white and cream backgrounds. There are 12 large canvases spread sparsely across a large gallery, giving the viewer the space to take in the paintings from a variety of distances and angles.

Ay Tjoe is an Indonesian artist; with this being her first solo show in the UK. In an interview she has stated that her artwork represents her view of human interest from different angles – a display of what people would do if they were invisible. At some points it seems as though fish are bleeding out of the paintings. I am almost certain that I saw a blow-fish, perhaps this represents an attempt to escape, or maybe it relates to the waters surrounding Indonesia.

At first glance, the paintings are attractive bursts of oil paint across clean canvases, but the viewer only has to find out the titles of the images to realise that they have more layers beyond the surface. One work has been given the title ‘Demonic Possession’, which transforms pleasant pinks into bloody reds, scratches and bruises. Another notable work is ‘Concealer Player’, a diptych which moves from cool, watery ocean blues on the left side to concentrated pinks and greens on the other.

This exhibition is a fascinating display of colour and emotion. There is also a striking exhibition of Raqib Shaw’s work running concurrently at White Cube that I encourage everyone to see.

Christine Ay Tjoe: Inside the White Cube is on display at White Cube Bermondsey until 11 September

Chagall @ Globe Theatre

June 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

I have something a little different for my readers today. A different kind of art than I am used to writing about on this blog. The beauty I am about to write about was not on view inside a gallery or museum, but a theatre on the South Bank under candlelight – the stunning Flying Lovers of Vitebsk – a dramatised production celebrating the life of Marc Chagall and his wife Bella.

Chagall has long been a mystery to me. I have always loved his magical paintings, but I have never known anything about him. This play at the charming Sam Wanamaker theatre at the Globe not only enlightens the viewer about Chagall, but also his greatest love, his first wife Bella and the town in which they met and fell in love.

As well as being a celebration of the couple’s love the production and a history of how their adoration for each other saw them battle the struggles faced against them as a Jewish couple in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, but it is also a visual display of Chagall’s art. The stage is lit with fabulous purple, blue and green lighting that mirrors Chagall’s famous canvases and Marc Antolin and Audrey Brisson move across the stage with the dreamlike movements that mirror the artist’s visual portrayal of the couple in his paintings.

Antolin and Brisson make the perfect pair, acting, singing and dancing magically across the stage. The story is heartwarmingly sweet, even in death the play ends with a smile.

The production runs until July 2 and if there are still tickets left then I urge you to buy them, I could not recommend it more strongly! It is also touring Southampton and Cornwall.

Garage @ Moscow

June 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

Where London has Hyde Park and the Serpentine Gallery, Moscow has Gorky Park and Garage Museum. Both respective art galleries host contemporary art inside their individual city’s greatest park. The Serpentine Gallery is one of London’s gems and I absolutely fell in love with Garage on my most recent trip to Moscow.

Garage was founded in 2008 by Dasha Zhukova and was the first philanthropic institution in Russia to comprehensively present contemporary art to its local Muscovites. Situated in the heart of Moscow, the site plays host to many temporary exhibitions as well as a lovely cafe and a very good bookshop.

On my visit I was lucky enough to catch the end of an exhibition of Taryn Simon’s work. The images on display consisted of beautiful flower arrangements that displayed idealised bouquets of flowers that couldn’t be made in reality because of political issues in the cities that each individual work took it’s title from. The works were bright, striking and beautiful, the kind of contemporary art that you wouldn’t mind having on your wall, in fact, I was quite disappointed there were no postcards of these in the bookshop as I loved them so much.

Also on display is the artwork of Viktor Pivovarov in an exhibition entitled ‘The Snail’s Trail.’ This show was colourful, fun and confusing. The colourful illustrations take the viewer into all kind of imaginary worlds, asking them questions about maths, philosophy and nature. This exhibition is particularly fun if you have a little grasp of Russian, words that you wouldn’t expect to appear together are presented side by side in images where they ought not to belong.

Downstairs in the museum’s atrium is Rashid Johnson’s immersive installation ‘Within Our Gates.’ The American artist has built what looks like a greenhouse inside the gallery. Inside a metal frame are dozens of exotic plants as well as random books and films playing on television screens. There are also deck chairs for the viewer to sit on and ornate oriental carpets on the floor. It is an eclectic and beguiling display that is more visually appealing than one might expect.

Next time any of my readers are in Moscow, they simply have to visit Garage.

Botticelli @ V&A

May 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

Few would find it difficult to recall Botticelli’s infamous Birth of Venus. There aren’t many works of art that are instantly recognisable to the masses, but this painting is one of the only exceptions. The renaissance masterpiece that celebrates the goddess of love has achieved cult status world over and has now even managed to land it’s own exhibition at one of London’s most celebrated museums without the original painting even being on display.

Botticelli Reimagined tracks the influence of the 1484 from the present day right back to the renaissance age that it was drawn out of. Divided into three sections, the show opens with a video clip from Dr Bond followed by another starring Uma Thurman as Venus in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The first exhibition space is completely black and spacious. Along the walls are photographs by David LaChapelle and Lady Gaga album covers. Behind a corner is a Japanese take, which takes the form of a video game, complete with Hello Kitty. There is also another Asian influence in the form of Yin Xin’s Chinese Venus with black hair and almond eyes. This first installment also features items from fashion history in the form of a Dolce & Gabbanna suit and two stunning Elsa Schiaparelli dresses.

The next room is a little lighter in atmosphere. The black walls turn to greys and pastel shades. They reflect perfectly the Victorian images on display and the soft carpet beneath the viewer’s feet. This middle gallery is poignant as it was the Victorians who ‘discovered’ Botticelli, who had become forgotten in history. This room is covered in pre-Raphaelite languid and ethereal beauty. On show here is artwork from such names as William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. However, it is their female counterpart, Evelyn de Morgan, who really shines here. Her women are breathtaking and honestly, the highlight of the whole exhibition.

The exhibition concludes in fifteenth-century Florence. We may not be able to see Botticelli’s iconic work here in London, but the V&A have got as close to the Italian experience as possible. Here we see paintings from Botticelli’s workshop as well as two original paintings by the master himself.

The V & A exhibition covers all bases from the past through to the present. The show succeeds in showing that Botticelli’s legacy has lived on and has had an influence on all forms of pop culture, from music, art and fashion. I have no doubt that the Florentine master’s name will continue to be remembered for centuries to come.

Botticelli Reimagined is on display at Victoria & Albert museum until 3 July

Giacometti & Klein @ Gagosian

May 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

Alberto Giacometti and Yves Klein are arguably two of the most interesting and most loved artists of the twentieth century. Both Paris-based artists had an interest in the human form. While both men produced artwork at the same time, there is no evidence of the pair ever meeting. While Klein’s widow claims that she did see the two together, the only clear link of the duo ever having any kind of mark on the other is the presentation at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, of a sketch made by Giacometti in blue biro on top of a newspaper advertisement of an Yves Klein show.

The show at Gagosian is the first time that work by Giacometti and Klein have ever been presented together. It is a spellbinding display of 25 works by each artist shown in dialogue with one another. While one may be forgiven to think that the styles of each artist are very different to each other, they seem to blend together harmoniously in the Mayfair gallery. The shocking blue of Klein’s work appears to seem much calmer when hung behind Giacometti’s elongated bronze figures.

Both Giacometti and Klein were conscious of the effects that the Second World War had on the culture and people of Europe. The curator, Joachim Pissarro has been quoted as saying that ‘both artists, rather than creating something that reflected the chaos, chose to rise above it, transforming and deciphering it into elegant, lyrical matter.’ This is seen with Klein’s playful anthropometric paintings made from the blue imprints of nude ladies onto canvas, juxtaposing the thin, drawn out, serious characters constructed by Giacometti.

My two standout pieces from the show are both sculptural works. The first comes in the form of a sponge painted in the infamous Klein blue. It looks like a human brain, and while this should in theory make the viewer feel ill, it is strangely pleasing to the eye. It does not look real and is just begging to be touched, unfortunately though, it has been protected by a screen of glass. The other object that left its mark on me was made by Giacometti. A sculpture entitled Le Nez, or ‘the nose’ in English comprises a male face with a comically long nose – it reminded me of Pinocchio and the child inside me jumped with glee at the sight of this sculpture.

Not only is the show strangely alluring, it is also a historical first and an absolute must see.

Alberto Giacometti, Yves Klein: In Search of the Absolute is on display at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill until 11 June

Russian Portraits @ NPG

April 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

I would imagine that most of the visitors to the National Portrait Gallery’s incumbent Russia and The Arts exhibition have not been to Russia, and if they have, even fewer would have seen the paintings in their natural habitat. Unlike many, I have personally been to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, which makes my response to the display a little different to that of the majority.

The exhibition at NPG consists of portraits of some of the greatest figures in Russian cultural history. Across three galleries one can see the faces of Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy and Turgenev. Figures who contributed to the Russia’s cultural atmosphere between the years of 1867 and 1914 and who have a lasting cultural impact internationally.

Amongst the twenty-six portraits on display one can see beautiful paintings moving stylistically from realism to impressionism. The reds transform into blues and the viewer is truly transported to a historic Russia.

My favourite portraits on display were those of poet Anna Akhmatova and her husband Nikolay Gumilyov by Olga Della-Vos-Kardovskaya. Akhmatova is depicted in profile and displayed alongside the portrait of her husband who does not look towards his wife but to the viewer. The images are lighter in colour than some of the more serious paintings at the beginning of the exhibition, but there is still a sense of uneasiness in the questionable interaction between the two portraits. I was not surprised to later find that the marriage resulted in divorce.

The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and London’s National Portrait Gallery were both founded in 1856. While the London exhibition is fantastic, I must be honest and say that I was a little disappointed – not because I thought the display was lackluster but because the Tretyakov in Moscow captivated me last year and I only wish more of its wares were on display here in London.

I sincerely encourage anyone interested in Russian culture to visit this exhibition and for those who feel like an international adventure, to personally take a trip to Moscow to explore the Tretyakov Gallery in person.


Russia and the Arts: The Age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky is on display at National Portrait Gallery until 26 June


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