Prompted by what was happening in Iran a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the experience of visiting the mosque at Soltaniyeh in the summer of 1973. I had only the haziest recollection of what it looked like, but now my friend, Adam Bennett, with whom I was travelling, has sent me a digitised image of the Ektachrome slide he took then, now a bit faded, like my memory:-
I have only just heard that Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has decided to call in the application to turn the Whitechapel Bell Foundry into a hotel for review and to hold a local inquiry.
This is wonderful news for all those who have campaigned against the scheme not just at local level, as Historic England has erroneously maintained, but nationally and indeed internationally; and it is very good that Jenrick has listened and admirable (and right) that he has intervened.
Now, the hard work begins, because the case against the plans will have to be made, using the best possible lawyers. The United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust have been leading the legal side of the case and are very good at it. My next post will be about how to donate to an appeal.
I had a break before going in to Oliver Beer’s Confessional. You have to because only one person can go in at a time and, of course, everyone wants to go in. It’s worth it – in a way, it’s the archetype of the MONA art work – experimental, using sound and experience to extend the boundaries of normal perception (maybe that’s ‘art wank’). Any way, I can’t illustrate it.
The last thing I went to was Alfredo Jaar’s performance piece based very loosely on The Divine Comedy. The most extreme of the installations, again pushing the boundaries of mood and sensory experience in ways which are deliberately intriguing, disturbing and simultaneously stimulating and unpleasant: a version of art which, like so much of MONA, is as much sixteenth century as twenty first.
So, this is MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art), the museum which I’ve travelled to the other end of the world to see:-
I was told to arrive by boat, but didn’t. If so, I would have had to climb these steps:-
The museum itself is underground (deeply), reached down steps carved into the rock:-
First things first (or thirst). There’s a very fine bar:-
Of course, museums were originally purely about wonder – a mixture of art, technology and natural phenomena:-
It takes time, partly because all the information is contained on an Apple app called O and I’m hopeless at working out how to manage it. I like All the King’s Men by Fiona Hall, a kind of anthropological Rocky Horror Show:-
There’s a version of Richard Wilson’s 20:50, as beautiful and surprising as when I first saw it in the Saatchi Gallery:-
At this point, I discover the ‘art wank’ feature on the app which tells one rather more about the work than one wants or needs to know; but good that it is there.
Onwards and upwards:-
The Washer by Francis Upritchard (NZ, but lives and works in London):-
Cloaca Professional by Wim Delvoye:-
Then, you come across a late Minoan chest:-
I read in an interview that the chief curator was inspired by the Soane Museum and I can see that there are elements of Soane in it: the mixture of contemporary and old; the sense of discovery. But it’s one of a kind: an anti-museum, more in the world of magic than the Enlightenment.
Given the condition of multiple jet lag, I got up early to see the sun rise on the Sydney Opera House (what you could see of it beyond a monster ocean liner):-
Then I wandered round the Rocks which I remembered as being full of well-preserved late Victorian houses.
The Rawson Institute for Seamen, a former mariner’s church, now a bar:-
Down to Sydney Harbour Bridge, which I had assumed was a piece of Victorian emgineering, but turns out to have only been completed in 1932, based on the design of the Tyne Bridge which is why it looks so familiar:-
Then, up to Lower Fort Street:-
And back for breakfast:-
To begin with, I wasn’t convinced by the imagery of the multiple watch springs combined with a flat dome, making the Louvre look a tiny bit like an alien spacecraft, landed with treasures from around the world, but it has the virtues of intellectual coherence and confidence, which I’m sure was what was intended, and is more impressive than any other recent museum that I can think of: most like the Getty in its construction of a universe:-
I have just had the briefest, but most exhilarating introduction to the treasures of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, first of all to Jean Nouvel’s astonishing interiors – more interesting inside than outside because you get a sense of the depth of the shallow dome and the way in which light plays through it:-
And then the briefest of walking tour introductions to the thinking behind the displays: the dream of the Universal Survey Museum, extended to cover all cultures and all religions through time, starting with antiquity:-
All religions – Christian, Muslim, Judaism, Buddhism – and, in the nineteenth century, primitive masks alongside the Impressionists. I didn’t have time to digest it, but it is certainly done with the utmost intellectual confidence and displayed beautifully and authoritatively in display cases designed by Nouvel as well, which gives it a strong sense of systematic integration.
Then, I had to leave for Sydney (the museum is closed on Mondays).
I wanted to see the new Louvre early in the day before it’s too hot later. It hovers mysteriously in a big parkland of fresh planting:-
Up close, it’s impressive – a great shallow dome of what look like watch springs, close to the water:-
From some angles, you get no more than a glimpse of what happens under the dome:-
I will discover later:-
I have already done a post about the restoration of Wickham’s, the local East End department store which was built to rival Selfridge’s and has now been impressively repaired and repointed in all its 1920s, neoclassical glory. It looks like Valhalla:-
I fell into conversation this morning with the man who sells bread at Stepney Farmer’s Market. I had always assumed that he baked it himself as he is often late setting up his stall, as if he he has only just managed to extract himself from the oven. But, no, it comes from an industrial estate in Inkpen on the Berkshire Downs, made by Syd Aston of Aston’s bakehouse and supplied to farmer’s markets all over London. I’m not complaining: it’s very good:-