I spent the morning in Hollywood Road. I had made an appointment to visit the V&A’s collection of silver which is on display at the Liang Yi Museum, a new collection of Ming and Qing dynasty furniture made by a collector who spent his Saturday afternoons in the antique shops when mainland China was being looted. The collection includes modern works, including a silver tray designed by David Clarke (2004):-
I went in search of the collection of Uli Sigg, the Swiss businessman who started collecting Chinese art as the representative of Schindler in the early 1980s, became Swiss ambassador in the mid-1990s and has sold/donated his collection to M+, the Herzog and de Meuron designed museum which is due to open in West Kowloon in 2018. It’s on display in an exhibition space in Quarry Bay and provides a comprehensive narrative of Chinese art post-Mao. I liked the early paint box from 1970:-
And the picture of Mao admiring Duchamp:-
I spent the middle part of the day exploring the back streets of Hollywood Road and down into Des Voeux Road in search of works by Antony Gormley which have been installed on a wide range of roof tops, 31 in all, throughout Central Hong Kong. It’s a lesson in long distance visual exploration, searching out for the distant figures perched on the edge of the tallest landmark buildings:-
In amongst the colonnades and potted palms in the front lobby of the Peninsula Hotel is a large robot designed by Conrad Shawcross, inspired by the work of Ada Lovelace who wrote an algorithm regarded as the first computer programme. This evening we had a press launch to celebrate the collaboration, followed by a short musical performance in which the robot did a slow form dance to the sound of a short contemporary opera piece composed by Mira Calix and based on words by Alan Turing:-
I had recovered just enough to get the evening flight to Hong Kong. I was dosed up with gin by Cathay Pacific and not disappointed to be greeted by a green Rolls Royce in Hong Kong.
I arrived just in time to attend a pop-up event organised by Adrian Cheng on the ground floor of the Cosco Tower in Sheung Wan, jointly hosted bt Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and followed by a mystery dinner which we were taken to by bus, held in the Cobo House in Kennedy Town for which Janice Wong, a Singaporean pastrycook, had been especially flown in to organise the catering:-
I apologise to my readers for the silence of the blog. On Sunday evening I got sick and have been suffering all week with some form of virulent flu, so have not been able to do anything other than lie in bed feeling miserable, not helped by the fact that it has become so nearly impossible to be seen by a doctor in the modern day NHS. I hope to resume normal service next week.
I have been reading Rowan Moore’s new book about London, Slow Burn City, which, like every book about London, includes a chapter about the role of the Thames and the grand transformation of its sewerage by Joseph Bazalgette.
On Friday, I looked down river towards the changing skyline of the City:-
Today, as the towpath was covered in mist and the tide was turning, I saw the sun break out over Canary Wharf:-
I look out of the window at work across to the Oxo Tower. The building was apparently originally a power station to supply electricity to the post office and was only acquired by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, who make Oxo, in the 1920s. They then converted the building into a cold store, adding the art deco tower in 1929. They had been refused permission to have an illuminated sign as advertising is forbidden, so the way the windows spell out OXO is a visual cheat:-
By chance, my prep school was in a country house previously owned by Charles Gunther, chairman of the Leibig Extract of Meat Company in the 1920s. It had OXO as a decorative motif on some of the stone balconies. Was this coincidental ? The house had been built for a Birmingham industrialist called William Cotterill in 1870. Or did the balconies belong to the great ballroom (Pevsner calls it ‘elephantine’) which was added by the Gunthers just after they bought the house in 1903 ?
I have been meaning to do another blog about Unilever House because there is a widespread misapprehension repeated in our annual report (in my section no less) that it was designed by James Burnet & Partners who were the executant architects of the building after the Crash. It wasn’t. It was designed by James Lomax-Simpson, who, as I’ve written before, was a member of the board of Lever Bros. and designed many of the houses at Port Sunlight. He handed over a set of signed drawings in October 1929, as reported by Charles Reilly in Progress, the in-house company magazine, in an article in Summer 1932. Reilly described how ‘in all its essential lines and in the plan of the building it is the conception of the architect-director of Unilever House, Mr. J. Lomax Simpson, who realised the whole project and worked it out in a remarkably short space of time, while carrying out the ordinary work of the company’. I am grateful for this correction to his daughter, Rosemary Lomax-Simpson, and apologise for the mistake:-