3 September 2013

Museum crawl. London. 29.07.13.


Somerset House/V & A/ Tate Modern

(No alcohol was consumed on this crawl).

Somerset House

I hadn’t been to the smoke for a while and had a day free before hitting Paris, so I knew I had a lot to do in not much time. Luckily my sister lives in Bethnall Green which makes it quite easy to get around. I had been a little devoid of culture so I was ready to hot foot it around my favourite spaces.

Somerset House is beautiful whatever the weather, on this day kids were running around in the fountains and Gauguin was displaying; all good. I get a really good feeling when I turn the corner into that amazing spacious courtyard, it never fails to disappoint. I always remember Wei Wei exhibiting his Chinese New Year animal heads here, which was stunning. When I realised there was a Paul Gauguin exhibition I did a little hop, skip and jump. I feel an affinity to him, having lived in France and seen his work in Tahiti, where he spent a portion of his life.


The exhibition - Collecting Gauguin: Samuel Courthauld in the 1920s sees the gallery’s permanent collection being displayed in a different context, focussing on the acquisition of the French artist’s works by Courthauld, the art collector and previous owner of the eponymous Gallery. We are treated to five major paintings, ten prints and two sculptures, one being of Madame Gauguin, a rare treat as his sculpture work is not usually shown. My personal highlights were the letters between Courthauld and art dealers, showing his praise for Gauguin’s work and interestingly, prices paid for various works (a hell of a lot for the time). Some early exotic work such as Te reiora (The Dream) painted in Martinique is a thought provoking introduction to his later Tahitian work. Nevermore (1897) is another highlight.

It was so stimulating that I had no choice but to go to the exquisite cafe and scoff a piece of lavender and lemon cake with a pot of Earl Grey just to calm down. The nice waiter lent me his copy of Tatler and the afternoon was complete. Then a little look round the fashion photography of Erwin Blumenfeld – seeing his amazing Vogue covers perked me up to head to the next destination...

Collecting Gauguin: Samuel Courthauld in the 1920s  - until 8th September 2013.

My love for the V & A knows no bounds, especially the gift shop, which I usually need to be removed from before major damage is done. (I have been known to visit the gift shop before the exhibition). My sister had told me about the V & A’s new From Club to Catwalk exhibition, which sounded right up my street, as I have a combined love of the two disciplines. I wasn’t disappointed. Again I relish going to the V & A; I love walking through the tunnel looking at the posters to the sound of a busker anticipating what’s to come, and seeing the permanent collection.

From C to C doesn’t disappoint. Combining fashion, films of catwalk shows from the 80s and reams of information about Boy George, Steve Strange and the eclectic club scene in London in the 80s, this is an education in how things can be done if you are creative and crazy enough not to give a damn and go for it.

v and a

I loved how the exhibition cleverly links the vibrant club scene of the 80s to magazines (i-D/Blitz), music and the emerging London talent in fashion which at this point was taking over the world stage. 85 outfits by designers such as John Galliano, Westwood and Betty Jackson display the risk taking, camp, new romantic vibe of the time, which were painstakingly and meticulously displayed on club goers at clubs like Heaven and Taboo, popular clubs at the time.

I particularly liked the Bodymap clothes and Vivienne Westwood, but I have a soft spot for the old Dame. I managed to leave the gift shop until after the exhibition for once, which was awash with quirky lipstick pens, crazy earrings and enough information on this particular point in time to necessitate a lie down.

From Club to Catwalk is at the V & A until 16th February 2014.

Again, going to the Tate Modern is a mini adventure in itself, crossing that bridge makes me happy, with the Shard to the left in its unfinished glory and a jazz band jamming around if you’re lucky, or a man with birds. The new building planned looks spectacular, can’t wait for that. Yes, there were exhibitions but I wasn’t really that bothered about these on this day, I just wanted to be reminded of the splendour of the permanent collection.


The work is organised into four periods in separate wings revolving around a central display, on Cubism/Futurism, Surrealism, Expressionism and Minimalism. The Cubist/Futurist section features Picasso, Picabia, Duchamp and Metzinger. The great Dali and Magritte feature heavily in the Surrealism section, whilst Expressionism features Pollack, Rothko and Klee. Finally the Minimalist section...is minimal.

Sorry. I collapsed and needed a darkened room. Forgive me.

Tate Modern current exhibition: Ellen Gallager Axme 1st May to 1st September

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