As the prospect of moving back to the West End looms closer, I have started paying more attention to my surroundings in the City, which I have never really warmed to – it’s been too butchered by redevelopment – apart from the silent majesty of St. Paul’s which so effectively, but unrhetorically, dominates its surroundings:-
I went to a fascinating talk by Harry Handelsman, a developer who arrived in London in the early 1990s from Germany, France and Manhattan (some combination of all three) and recognised the value of buying warehouses in what were then still cheap areas of town. He started by buying for less than £450,000 (he gave the precise figure) what became Summers Street Lofts in Clerkenwell which had been designed by the architect of the Central Court, Wimbledon as an ink factory. Then he developed Soho Lofts with a Damien Hirst in the show flat. Bankside – immediately next door to what became Tate Modern – was a new-build project by Piers Gough in a style which was 1930s industrial. Then (amazingly) he took on the development of the hotel and chambers attached to St. Pancras Hotel Station: a gigantic project which must be one of the more successful radical renovations of a historic building. Chiltern Firehouse was another smart move. And now he’s developing Manhattan Loft Gardens, a skyscraper in Stratford designed by SOM with interiors by the Parisian Studio KO. It looked like he’s got pretty impeccable design instincts.
I at last managed to call in on Eskanazi yesterday to see the first selection of works being sold by Norman Kurland, who was the representative of the Getty in London (I got to know him during the controversy surrounding the Madonna of the Pinks) and is known to be a great collector of Chinese art. There were impressive pieces.
A Limestone Buddha (mid 6th. century):-
A Limestone Torso of a Buddha (550-577 how, I wonder, can they be so precise ?):-
An Earthenware Horse (550-577):-
A Limestone Bodhisattva:-
I went to this year’s Apollo Awards: a good set of winners, some expected, some less so.
Raphael: The Drawings
(I knew I should have visited it)
Aileen Ribeiro, Clothing Art
Van Otterloo and Weatherbie Gift
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Musée d’Arts de Nantes
(With a new extension designed by Stanton Williams)
Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo
I spent the first half of the morning, by long-standing arrangement, studying the cross-sections of the brains of people who have suffered from MS. I have never actually seen a brain before, so to speak, in the flesh: all wobbly, made out of tissue like jellified nougat, including the minuscule hippocampus where information is processed and the fatal lesions, small, desiccated, oval areas which are the causes of MS, owing most likely to viral infection. But the causes are not fully understood, nor the reasons why it affects people so differently.
Alongside the yellow-ish bits of cross-section of brain laid out on the slab was what looked like a bit of old rope, but turned out to be a spinal chord, with multiple wires protruding out of the bottom of it which control the movement of the body.
I would post photographs, but there are understandably very strict rules round the photography of grey matter.
I went to hear Todd Williams and Billie Tsien talk in the Royal Institution as part of the RA’s Architecture Programme. I wanted to hear them because they were responsible for the recent building for the Barnes Foundation, which (with a few reservations) I admired: not least for the fact that its redisplay of the collection is very unusually an improvement on the original, which they demonstrated by juxtaposing a wall of the new with the old, demonstrating the very subtle variations of window design, wall colours and the way the pictures are hung. I liked their philosophy which consists of only doing projects they want to do, either domestic or public; emphasising the role of drawing and model making in design; and trying to do things slowly, not fast. Now they are doing the Presidential Center in Chicago for Barack Obama.
This was my view of the Barnes Collection with the addition of plastic swans:-
I walked into the courtyard of the RA this morning to be confronted by G.F. Watts’s great equestrian statue titled Physical Energy, a gesso model of which survives at the Watts Gallery and a full-scale bronze on display (but not much noticed) in Kensington Gardens. A version was also displayed in 1904 in the courtyard of the RA and it is to mark this and draw attention to the work of the Watts Gallery that a new cast made by Pangolin is being shown again:-