Private Museums

I went to a forum at ARCO in Madrid about the topic of ‘Art Museums in the Public Realm’. It began with Dani Levinas, the chairman of the Phillips Collection, founded in 1921, a private museum surrounded by the state museums of the Smithsonian; then Marcela Guerrero of the Whitney, which I don’t really think of as a private museum, except in so far as it doesn’t receive any public funding, so technically is; Jeremy Strick, the Director of the Nasher Museum; and Margaret Conrads, the Curatorial Director of Crystal Bridges. What became clear is that private museums which may begin out of the private passions in individual collectors, like Patsy and Ray Nasher, quickly develop ambitious public responsibilities, as at Crystal Bridges, which has very ambitious programmes of showing work by women artists (up to 40% of the collection) and native Americans.


William Blake

I don’t know why I have never previously noticed the plaque to William Blake on the west side of South Molton Street, half way down at no.17, where Blake lived when he returned from Felpham in 1803 until 1821 – the bulk of his adult life, occupying a set of rooms on the first floor, above a man who sold whalebone corsets, writing poetry in the middle of the night:-


Lucian Freud

I called in on Pilar Ordovas’s very nice small exhibition, based round a single great Freud of his daughter, Rose Boyt, painted when she was eighteen and doing a foundation degree at Central. The picture is called Rose rather than The Artist’s Daughter, as he wanted, to avoid any suggestion of incest:-

It’s supplemented by a single formal photograph of him she took for an exhibition of his at Anthony d’Offay’s gallery in Dering Street:-

Much more rewarding are the casual and informal photographs of him and his other model at the time, Raymond Jones, which show him younger, more informal and more playful than he was later:-


Saville Theatre

I have often been stuck in a traffic jam on Shaftesbury Avenue and admired the 1930s murals on the side of what was once the Saville Theatre, opened on 8 October 1932, and is now the Odeon Cinema, Covent Garden. The murals are by Gilbert Bayes, a student of George Frampton, apparently known for a ceramic frieze which he did for Royal Doulton and is now in the V&A.

It shows drama through the ages:-


The Mist

I have seldom seen it so misty as it was down by the river this morning – the buildings of Canary Wharf and its surroundings swathed in cloud and tug boats, a police launch and the ferry in the distance:-

Closer to Canary Wharf, the mist began to clear revealing the full extent of new building:-


The New City

10, Fenchurch Avenue is in the heart of the New City, the legacy of Ken Livingstone releasing controls on the skyline, an odd progenitor of Manhattan-by-the-Thames. It’s not without its excitements, making the Lloyd’s Building look old fashioned and relatively tame by the high octane and futuristic standards of the current wave of rocketing skyscrapers:-

Let alone Leadenhall Market:-


10, Fenchurch Avenue

As it was such a beautiful afternoon, we thought we would go and see Eric Parry’s new building at 10, Fenchurch Avenue, a big office development, with an amazing, huge public deck at the top – the Garden at 120, which has been landscaped by Latz and partner and provides extraordinary views of the city and beyond.

It’s an odd conception: a relatively conventional formal office development with a lightweight, multicolored, asymmetrical top.

Here it is popping out:-

More comprehensible structurally from the other side:-

The entrance is space age corporate. You come out in a forest of new towers:-

The views are impressive (it’s hard to take pictures without the reflections):-


Bethnal Green Mission Church

I spotted that the Architecture Foundation was organising a tour of the Bethnal Green Mission Church, a new building nearly opposite the Bethnal Green Museum. It was being led by its architects – Richard Gatti (ex-Denton Corker Marshall), Tom Routh and Stefanie Rhodes.

The church was originally established in the 1860s by Annie Macpherson, a friend of Dr. Barnardo, to provide ‘a home of industry’ and a respite from the appalling conditions of the match-box making industry.

In 1952, a new church was opened, combined with a vicarage and medical practice:-

By 2012, this needed to be replaced:-

Gatti Routh Rhodes were employed to do a feasibility study and then design a new church as a joint venture with a property developer who was a member of the congregation.

They based their ideas on a study of the two churches in Fournier Street: Christ Church, full of the pomp and circumstance of the Anglican church establishment, and the Huguenot church at the other end of the street, which was integrated with the street fa├žade – a community resource as much as a place of worship.

So, the church itself is reticent – a large room in the centre of the building. The building is concrete and brick (raking monk bond) – like the church reticent:-

It fits well at the top end of Paradise Gardens:-

Best of all is THE BEEHIVE COFFEE AND INDUSTRY on the corner of Cambridge Heath Road:-

And the view of the Bethnal Green Museum from upstairs:-


Conservation Philosophy (2)

I have been asked to post a picture of our house as it used to be, which I am pleased to do as a way of preserving the grubby postcard which used to sit over our stove and so is covered with the grease of ages. Our house is on the left. Its top floor was apparently blown off in the second world war. The man sitting on the left hand shop front and made out of bits of exhaust pipe advertised the fact that there was an exhaust pipe garage at the back of our house. You drove through the middle:-

The picture was taken by our former next door neighbours in May 1998. It’s their scooters parked outside.