Royal Foundation of St. Katharine

I was asked last week if I knew the misericords in the chapel of St. Katharine (I now realise because they were featured in the daily bulletin of Spitalfields Life).    The answer was that I knew the chapel, but not the misericords as there was a service or maybe just a prayer meeting going on when I went.   So, I returned to investigate this morning and discovered that at the back of the chapel are the original fourteenth-century choirstalls, as apparently illustrated in Andrew Ducarel’s History of the Royal Foundation and Collegiate Church of St. Katharine, published in 1782 (he was buried in the church) and G.L. Remnant’s Catalogue of Misericords in Great Britain.

This is the bearded man:-

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Bethnal Green Library

As the book of my blog inches its way towards publication, I went to check out the Bethnal Green Library, which I include in passing, but without any information.   I’m glad I did.   It’s a fine piece of municipal socialism, originally built in the 1890s as a wing of the local lunatic asylum and adapted in the 1920s by the Borough Engineer as a library, with bas reliefs of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, William Morris and Richard Wagner, as selected by the town council which was part Communist at the time:-

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Soho Square

I know I shouldn’t really like the absurd Tudorbethan hut in the middle of Soho Square which has displaced Cibber’s statue of Charles II and hides an electricity sub-station, but I do:-

This is Charles II, removed in 1876 and returned in 1938:-

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Maker’s House

I was asked to see Maker’s House, a collaboration between Burberry and the New Craftsman in Burberry’s temporary premises in Manette Street in the old Foyles due to be demolished next year.   Downstairs, it consists of a grand pot pourri of crafts, making, needlework, sculpture and scissors, as well as a small shop selling Burberry’s gabardine boiler suits (sold out):-

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Blue Poles

I have only just read the review by Matthew Collings which says that Blue Poles is, I quote, ‘notoriously unsuccessful as a painting’.   Having spent much of today standing in front of Blue Poles, absorbing its extraordinary visceral energy, the depth of pigment, the sense of its compositional complexity, and its obvious originality even amongst major works by so many of Pollock’s contemporaries, I find this negative assessment hard to understand.   ‘Heavy and airless’.   I don’t think so.

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Abstract Expressionism

We had the press view and opening today of our Abstract Expressionism exhibition.   One never quite knows how an exhibition will look and turn out.   Even last week, wandering around, it was hard to assess, with only brown paper representing many of the paintings waiting to be hung.   But today it all came together:  an exhibition which works on at least two different levels, as a survey of a movement in art from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s, and, at the same time, a way of seeing the work of a group of artists united by friendship and drinking, which included extraordinary individual talents (I was told that originally they met in the evenings to drink coffee and it was only later that they switched to whisky).   I only half knew how unique it was to have a room full of work by Clyfford Still outside Denver and to be able to survey an era of American Art (at least temporarily) better and more comprehensively than anywhere across the Atlantic.

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Blue Poles

I had the utmost pleasure in showing Ben Heller, the first owner of Blue Poles and a friend and early supporter of Jackson Pollock, where what had been his painting was hanging in our exhibition Abstract Expressionism.   He told Front Row how he had been offered the painting over lunch for $32,000, which was much more than he had ever previously spent on a painting, including his other Pollocks, and how he had made a quick calculation that he could pay for it in four instalments over two years.   It hung with two other Pollocks in his family’s living room in 151, Central Park West until he sold it in 1971 to the Australian government for $1.3 million, a purchase which helped to bring down Gough Whitlam’s government.   Ben hadn’t seen the painting since it has been cleaned, making the whites whiter, the yellows more yellow, and the blues blacker.   His reaction to the exhibition after seeing it for the first time was ‘Holy moly’:-

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Freud’s Desk

When I was at the Freud Museum, I bought a book (remaindered) which explains the significance of each of the 65 objects arranged on his desk, which were, as Marina Warner describes them in her preface to The Guide to the Freud Museum, ‘tools of thought, the kitchen utensils of his imagination’.   It’s clear that he was obsessed about the arrangements of the objects on his desk from an early age because he drew a map of his worktable at the Institute of Zoology in Trieste in 1872, describing in a letter to his friend, Eduard Silberstein, how ‘I am one of those human beings who can be found most of the day between new pieces of furniture, one formed vertically, the armchair, and one horizontally, the table, and from these, as social historians are agreed, sprang all civilization…’   In the drawers of the desk, unseen, were his Montblanc fountain pen (the original was stolen) and a clothes peg to hold open his jaw when he wanted to smoke a cigar:-

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El Sur

We spent the afternoon at the BFI watching El Sur, as profound a film as I’ve seen, by Victor Erice, who made The Spirit of the Beehive.   So little happens, but that little is filmed with such intensity through the eyes of a teenage girl who is perplexed by her father’s love for someone he has left in the south of Spain.   Nothing is explained, partly because, as I’ve now doscovered, it is only half the film that it was supposed to be;  but that half tells one everything and nothing in order to be able to understand the psychology of the three lead characters and their family.

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Olympic Park

My post on the Olympic Park seems accidentally to have been obliterated, so I’m re-posting the photographs as a record of a morning walk exploring it, getting lost on its paths which lead nowhere and admiring, if that’s the word for it, what is known as Stratfordisation – I assume the building of arbitrary tower blocks in an old out-of-town centre:-

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