Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Ritz

The Ritz has become the embodiment of opulence and luxury contributing the word ‘Ritzy’ to the English language. Opened in 1906 to the specifications of Swiss businessman Cesar Ritz it was the first major steel framed building in London. Furnished in the style of Louis XVI the hotel was refurbished in 1995, by French craftsmen, to bring it back to its former glory.

The very phrase ‘putting on the Ritz’ assumes an air of superiority and sophistication perfectly encapsulated in this clip from Young Frankenstein.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Mortimer Street

 A window in Mortimer Street, just off Regents Street. I have no idea what it represents as the building is now closed. I must have passed this spot hundreds of times but have never noticed it. It's amazing what you see when not staring at the pavement. Psychogeography in action.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Tent city

I visited St Paul's yesterday to experience the Occupy London campaign for myself and found a bunch of well meaning, law abiding, socially concerned, tidy group of protesters (they are very keen to clear up their own mess). They have occupied the piazza to the side of the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. Their position is very important as the Dean, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, who originally welcomed the protest, now states that it is a health and safety risk. He has closed the doors to the Cathedral, the first time since the Second World War, urging the protesters to leave. The real reason is that St Paul’s is losing £20,000 a day in visitor revenue. Seems the Dean is as interested in money as the people the campaigners are protesting against.

The Health and Safety issue is a total red herring. The only H&S issue I could find was this guy strangling songs in front of the locked doors of the Cathedral.

An ‘Occupying Guide’ has been produced. This 17 point agenda gives advice on how to behave, re-cycle, feed and look after each other. There are numerous workshops from legal advice to political philosophy and the groups very own newspaper is due to be published on Wednesday. A first copy has been ordered by the Museum of London.
These people are not a menace or a H&S risk. They are an inconvenience for the ‘City’, a reminder, least we forget, of the mess we are in. 

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anoesis \an-oh-EE-sis\, noun:

A state of mind consisting of pure sensation or emotion without cognitive content.

    "Normally, on my long-distance walks, anoesis descends within a few miles: the mental tape loop of infuriating resentments, or inane pop lyrics, or nonce phrases gives way to the greeny-beige noise of the outdoors".
    -- Will Self, Psychogeography

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Three men in three boats.

Three types of craft on the Thames. A canoe, a yacht and an oligarchs plaything.

The enormous ship is moored at the mouth of one of London's missing rivers, the Neckinger, which means "Devils neck cloth" a term for the hangman’s rope.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Frieze Sculpture Park 2011

A selection from this years Sculpture Park at the Frieze Art Fair in Regents Park.

'Angry Pins' - Des Hughes

'Lost and Found' - Eva Kot'atkova & Petr Kot'atko

'Ajar' - Gavin Turk (Small child not included in the work)

'Hermaphrodite' - Thomas Houseago
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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

In the spotlight

Young kids filming themselves performing beneath the Festival Hall at the South Bank complex. The Festival Hall was built as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951 and was regarded as the “People’s Palace”. This legacy is being kept alive by skateboarders and young kids like these, simply enjoying themselves in an area that has become their own without alienating others who also use the South Bank.

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Sunday, 16 October 2011

An art stroll around London

Trafalgar Square
In the true spirit of “I was literally on my way” this is a stroll around London inspired by an invitation by my good friend Pat Kent, the Charles Saatchi of Beckenham, to a private view (my third this week) of ‘Prismatic’ by Ian Davenport at the Alan Cristea Gallery in Cork Street.

Arriving at Charring Cross I walked into Trafalgar Square and past the Fourth Plinth, which is currently home to a piece by Yinka Shonibare. A large bottle containing a 1:30 scale replica of HMS Victory plays tribute to Horatio Nelson while the multi coloured sails of the ship represents the diverse and multicultural mix that is London.

There is now a campaign to have the 'ship in a bottle' taken to Greenwich to be on permanent display

On my way to Cork Street I pass this reconstruction of Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International in the courtyard of the Royal Academy in Piccadilly. This is part of their Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935exhibition
Courtyard of the Royal Academy
Arriving at The Cristea Gallery my time is spent in good conversation, good art, patisseries and bucks fizz (it was 11 o’clock in the morning) and it was good to meet Ian Davenport in person whose work I have been aware of and interested in for a long time.

On leaving the Cristea Gallery I caught the tube to Regents Park and checked out the Sculpture Park as part of the Frieze Exhibition in Regents Park. There are a couple of ‘thought-provoking’ pieces but it was disappointing. There is so much interest to this type of event that Regents Park was distorted into a cultural Disneyland with young kids climbing over the exhibits. At least they were enjoying themselves which is more than can be said for the poor security guards charged with protecting the work.
'Icon' - Will Ryman
The tube to Embankment and a walk across Hungerford Bridge on my way to Tate Modern. On the south side of the walkway I noticed this screever at work. I’d like to think this modern day Bert (aka Dick Van Dyke) is a jack-of-all-trades, one man band, professional cockney and chimney sweep but very much doubt it.

The walk to the Tate takes me past this huge Ian Davenport that since September 2006 has hung beneath Blackfriars Bridge in Southwark Street.

'Poured Lines' - Ian Davenport
Arriving at Tate Modern I make straight for the Turbine Hall to see ‘FILM’ by Tactita Dean, which is a silent 35mm looped film projected onto a 13 metre tall monolith. This piece has received rave reviews but didn’t live up to the hype. The hall was full of people, as usual, which surprised me as there are so many other 'art events' going on in London at the moment.

'FILM' - Tacita Dean
From the Tate I walked along the river, through the Borough Market and onto Bermondsey Street and the inaugural exhibition at the new White Cube. I must admit that being from Bermondsey I was not looking forward to the gentrification and transformation this gallery might bring to an area that I care about. How wrong could I be? All the local bars and cafes were full  and the whole area has a new lease of life. The gallery is excellent and is currently showing work by Gary Hume, Damien Hirst, and Jake & Dino among others.

White Cube gallery, Bermondsey Street
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Thursday, 13 October 2011

All Visual Arts Gallery

Wednesday night – Private view at the All Visual Arts Gallery, Omega Place, Kings Cross.  London is currently overflowing with private views, all trying to make the most of the punters in town for the Frieze Art Fair in Regents Park. The exhibition, Mittelland by JonathanWateridge, features six huge oil paintings, some exceeding 3m x 4m. The AVA at Omega Place is a great space and must surely be one of the few galleries in London that can effectively exhibit this excellent exhibition of very large, very good pieces of contemporary art.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Andipa Gallery

Tuesday night – Private view at the Andipa Gallery, Walton Street, Knightsbridge. The event showcased work by David Roux-Fouillet entitled Morphoses and featured sculptural structures, silk worms and jewellery. All very interesting but somewhat eclipsed by the work on another floor. This included pieces by Miro, a fantastic Matisse, Banksy and others. An eclectic mix.

There were a few, small spin paintings by Damien Hirst for which the expressions “old rope” and “money for” must have been created. A Banksy titled “Every time I Make Love To You I Think Of Someone Else”, created from a stencil of two armoured vehicles, was on sale for £85,000. He is a genius. Not a good artist but a genius who can sell a 1 of 5 series for 85 grand each. You do the maths while I take my hat off to the man. Without doubt the star of the show was a print by Andy Warhol, Red Lenin. One from a series of 120 at £60k somehow seemed cheap by comparison. Mr Roux-Fouillet was certainly up against stiff opposition.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

St Katherine's Dock

St Katherine's Dock
In the heart of London and literally within the shadow of Tower Bridge is St Katherine’s Dock. The docks were constructed in 1828 on the site formerly used for executions, with gallows situated here up until the sixteenth century.

As with all docks it was once a dark, dangerous place surrounded by high walls to protect the cargo inside. River Police would regularly visit local schools to warn of the dangers of playing around the docks on the barges or river banks, using early cloth flip charts (very low tech) to display how dangerous the river could be.

The Dicken's Inn
Concerns were raised when the dock closed in 1968 when it became apparent that the area would become a marina along with apartments, restaurants and a shopping area. Wanting to dispel fears of elitism the developers promised a school and amenities for the locals but this was soon forgotten after a hotel was built and the yachts started to arrive.  Despite this the area is now open to the public and a broken, dilapidated and dangerous industrial area is now a new centre of urban life. If you have not got a boat to moor you can at least have a pint in the Dickens Inn.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Spanish Cival War posters

Spanish Civil War posters featured as part of the Battle of Cable Street commemoration at Wiltons Music Hall. 2,500 British and Irish volunteers fought for democracy in Spain between 1936-39. 530 did not return.

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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

They Did Not Pass

It’s been 75 years since the Battle of Cable Street and a commemorative event was held at Wilton’s Music Hall on Sunday to celebrate the occasion. A temporary street market was set up with stalls representing all flavours of the Left. All good harmless fun commemorating a momentous event that saw poor, working class men and women stop the British Union of Fascists from marching through the East End. People of varied faiths and backgrounds crowded the streets, barricades were erected and the area successfully defended..

Speeches were made inside Wiltons and it made me proud to be in the same hall as four survivors of that historic event in 1936. An exhibition of Spanish Civil war posters were on display along side photographs of the day and filmed interviews with some of the brave people who were there.

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Sunday, 2 October 2011

Mind the gap

My feet
No true Londoner can resist this. When walking over Tower Bridge you just have to stop, put one foot on the north side, the other foot on the south and then wait for a bus to pass. Being a bascule bridge (French for "see-saw") you are left with the feeling that this bridge was never built for such traffic and you are about to fall into the Thames.

Contact the Bridge Master at the following site should you want the bridge raised.

I assume you have to be in a boat and not just standing astride the gap in an elberate bout of brinkmanship