The party on Thursday was in the IAC Building, down on 18th. Street and designed by Frank Gehry. I didn’t have a chance to appreciate its strange, curvilinear, milky façade in the rain and the dark, but yesterday it was billowing in all its glory:-
I had read that David Zwirner’s gallery had been designed by Annabelle Selldorf, so was surprised that the gallery on 19th. Street, where there was a beautiful Bridget Riley exhibition, was so unexpectedly low-key. It turned out that the Selldorf building was one block north, an exercise in very minimal, sculptural shuttered concrete, entirely appropriate for showing the work of Donald Judd:-
I am in New York for the annual gala of Royal Academy America. It was quite a wonderful event (in the American sense of ‘quite’): champagne supplied by Moet & Chandon; honorees including Cornelia Parker and Jeff Koons; and a speech by Agnes Gund, the President Emerita of the Museum of Modern Art, in honour of Jeff Koons which was as thoughtful and profound a statement of one generation in support of the next as I have ever heard. I tried to take a picture of Agnes Gund as she gave her speech but failed because it was very unrhetorical:-
I did better with Jeff Koons:-
This evening I attended the private view and opening dinner at the V&A for Bejewelled Treasures, an astonishing exhibition of highlights from the collection of Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani, alongside a small number of loans from the Royal Collection. It was an event of appropriate magnificence: an ice sculpture in the entrance hall, a full orchestra, the waiters in white tie and decorations looking grander than the guests (actually, that’s not quite true as there were several representatives of the Qatari ruling family, as well as a few Maharinis, not to mention the Prince of Wales).
This was the ice sculpture:-
The exhibition opened with the Turban aigrette of the Maharaja of Nawanagar, dating from the 1930s:-
I was gently rebuked last night for having described Marcus Stone RA as obscure. Of course, he would not have been obscure in 1900 when he was living in pomp in Melbury Road next door to Frederic Watts surrounded by all the attributes of late Victorian artists’ prosperity, painting rather saccharine narrative paintings which were bought for large sums of money at the RA’s annual Summer Exhibition. But nowadays ? I am not so convinced that he has enjoyed the revival of interest in Victorian art and note that as a book illustrator he is described as ‘wholly undistinguished’ and that in discussing his work as an illustrator of Dickens, Nicolas Bentley wrote: ‘the defence of youth as an excuse for Stone’s inadequacy as an illustrator would be easier to sustain – he was twenty four when he illustrated Our Mutual Friend – were it not that the talents of Millais, Holman Hunt, Richard Doyle, Keene and others were considerably more precocious than his own. The fact is that whatever other talents he may have developed – later in life he achieved some degree of fame as a painter of maudlin pot-boilers with a Regency flavour – as an illustrator he was no better than a hack’.
I have just spotted in the footnotes to Chloe Ward’s excellent short book on The Drawings of G.F. Watts an entry in Mary Watts’s unpublished diary for 22 January 1891 which gives some indication of her husband’s view of the RA: ‘More and more one regrets that Signor should even nominally be connected with such a dull stupid institution, where in future times all the greatest names of the day will be outside – Rossetti, Holman Hunt, Burne Jones and many more – why does one go on hoping for any improvement ? It becomes more and more impossible each year. Only love of Sir Frederic (Leighton) keeps Signor there’.
I travelled down to Guildford to open the exhibition Brothers in Art: Drawings by Watts and Leighton at the Watts Gallery in Compton. Watts and Leighton were friends and neighbours in Holland Park, Leighton calling on Watts most mornings at 9am for a gossip and to keep him up-to-date with what was happening at the RA. Leighton was an enthusiastic RA, a member of every committee, and elected President in 1878, when he was only 48 (the next youngest PRA was our current PRA elected when he was 59). Watts was much less keen and had to be endlessly prevented from resigning by Leighton. But they both shared a great interest in drawing and were, in different ways, very skilled draughtsmen.
I have returned from Beijing to the aftermath of the shootings in Paris, the most arbitrary and shocking act of violence that I can remember. I particularly abhor the fact that in the Bataclan, they shot the people in wheelchairs who weren’t able to move fast enough out of the way. Nothing more reveals their barbarity of intent.