As readers of my blog will know, I have developed an interest in trees (as Roy Strong points out, I know nothing about gardens). Here are some Herefordshire examples:-
It’s a long time since I’ve been to the Laskett, Roy Strong’s garden, made out of fields in rural Herefordshire. For most of yesterday, it was misty, but at the end of the day the sun came out, illuminating the pleached avenue and highly compartmentalised different sections of the garden, much of which is wrapped away for winter:-
Some time ago, I was asked if I might be willing to interview Sir Roy Strong for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s oral history project about his time as Director, which lasted from 1 January 1974 to 1987. Since he gave me my first job in September 1982, I agreed with enthusiasm. So, it was that I found myself travelling on the slow train to Hereford armed with a picnic and stout tape recorder. It was hard work, not so much for me as for Roy: the task of remembering the évènements of the mid-1970s, the three-day week, the Heath government, the introduction of compulsory museum charges, the way he was treated by the Keepers, and the closure of the Circulation Department.
Today has been Rubens, Rubens, Rubens. Our exhibition is about vastly much more than just Rubens, but is fundamentally about how to get contemporary audiences to engage with Rubens’s stature, not just in his own lifetime across Europe, but his influence on eighteenth-century artists, nineteenth-century artists, and, in the room which has been specially curated by Jenny Saville and added to the exhibition since it was shown in BOZAR in Brussels, on contemporary artists, including Picasso and Sarah Lucas. I think the exhibition looks – but then, of course, I’m prejudiced – pretty wonderful in our big galleries (wall colours chosen by Eric Pearson), which enable the thematic system of organisation to work quite clearly: love, sex, war and poetry; he did them all.
I was asked to come to the unveiling of a new work by Stephen Cox in Apple Tree Yard, where Lutyens worked on the plans for New Delhi and Wheeler’s used to be. It’s at the back of a new building by Eric Parry, with whom Cox has worked before. I realised that the façade of the new building is one I had recently admired in walking across St. James’s Square: quite plain, unornamented, faced in smooth black brick at the upper levels and black porphyry on the piano nobile below, following the rhythms of adjacent buildings, with an effective, semi-classical, big basalt office building behind.
This is the building from St. James’s Square:-
I came out of Bond Street underground station one morning last week and noticed the elaborate terracotta sign signalling the premises of John Bolding & Sons, of Grosvenor Works in Davies Street. It was a company founded in 1822 in South Molton Lane, a manufacturer and supplier, as the sign says, of sanitary appliances – the highest quality basins and baths to the residents of Mayfair and beyond, made often in brass and technologically sophisticated. It bought out its rival, Thomas Crapper, in 1966, only to go bust three years later:-
We went on an expedition to see an exhibition of knitting at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey High Street. I had never been to the museum which has an idiosyncratic coloured façade by the Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, but which is presumably as much an expression of its former owner, Zandra Rhodes, who established the museum:-
One of the unexpected consequences of writing this blog is that it has made me pay more attention to buildings which I would otherwise pass by. So it was that yesterday I realised how fine the façade of 22, Old Bond Street is, which I have walked past a thousand times without noticing. Pevsner thinks it likely to be by William Flockhart, who worked for Ricketts and Shannon and whose office was at 27a. He describes it as ‘outrageously lush’. But a bit of lushness cheers up a winter’s afternoon. By chance, David Rosen was there and told me that when he first knew it, it was the office of Hubert Givenchy:-
We went to a small concert performance by Melvyn Tan in Ravenscourt Park, the scene of the first telephone call from Brown’s. He played Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op 7, followed by a series of short pieces based on Bist du bei mir composed in honour of Judith Serota when she stood down as Director of the Spitalfields Festival, together with several more which Melvyn himself had commissioned, two of which were being played for the first time in the composers’ presence. It began with a piece by Judith Weir and included work by Peter Maxwell Davies and Richard Rodney Bennett, each a small distillation of the composer’s style, variously allusive and atonal, played with flourish: