The Advisory Board

There’s a big and very obvious problem with the FT‘s front page story this morning, which the FT perhaps doesn’t need to spell out.

If there is indeed a shadowy Advisory Board which helps fund the Tory party and influences government policy in exchange for big cash gifts, this is quite clearly and obviously deeply corrupt in a way in which the government is too implicated possibly to understand: it’s straightforward purchase of political influence, undocumented, by non-UK taxpayers, entirely extra-parliamentary and apparently unknown to senior figures in the party.

If, on the other hand, it is an Advisory Board which does not give advice, but charges £250,000 under false pretences, then this is also corrupt, although perhaps less so.

They don’t say it, but the Augean Stables springs to mind.

It’s well worth £4 for a copy.


Phillip King PPRA

I was very sad to hear of Phillip King’s death yesterday (he died on Thursday). He was one of my ex officio trustees at the National Portrait Gallery when he took over from Philip Dowson as President of the Royal Academy. I always liked and admired him in spite of the fact that I know he had a difficult time as President and he couldn’t have been more welcoming when I arrived. I hadn’t realised that he read modern languages as an undergraduate, then studied under Anthony Caro who had read engineering. A big figure in the world of 1960s sculpture.


Liane Lang

I went to Liane Lang’s new exhibition at the James Freeman Gallery in Islington – highly topical because it’s an exploration of statues of well-known women, a project begun some time before this became such a topical subject.  

The works are based on photography, but then manipulated in three dimensions – rock, marble and stone. I particularly admired the piece of Queen Victoria. The original statue was done by her daughter, Princess Louisa:-


The new LACMA

I have been following with the utmost interest the plans and proposals for the new LACMA a) because it is a project by Peter Zumthor, a great architect and b) because it encapsulates so many of the trends of recent museum thinking – thematic displays, the abolition of history, less Eurocentrism, no sense of an encyclopedia, everything on the same level, no front door. The attached is a long and considered discussion of the project, well informed, but only half sympathetic:-


Bromley-by-Bow Gasholders

I’m sure I’ve done posts about the Bromley-by-Bow gasholders before, but as the surrounding area is developed, I suspect their future may be at risk in spite of them being rightly listed, designed by Vitruvius Wyatt for the Gas Light and Coal Company and very obvious monuments of high Victorian engineering:-


North Greenwich

Before walking The Line again yesterday, I thought I should explore North Greenwich a bit, not least because last time I had failed to identify the location of the so-called Design District, even though it is signalled in large graphics, close to the tube stop:-

In theory, the area ought to be interesting – a showcase for new architecture and ideas after the whole area was decontaminated at public expense as part of the preparations for the Dome. It has the new building for Ravensbourne University, done by Foreign Office Architects in 2009:-

But, in practice, the area still seems a bit of a mess – lots of gigantic car parks, an ambitious walkway, some good buildings, a hideous Damien Hirst statue, and absolutely no sense of a masterplan, no sense of density or complexity or street life. It is as if architects and developers pay no attention to urban theory and just go on designing over-elaborate sheds with no understanding as to how these buildings might be integrated into a proper and successful overall urban environment:-


Cody Dock

I went back to Cody Dock, one of the highlights of The Line – the walk from North Greenwich to the Olympic Park which weaves through the different, previously unconnected part of docklands.

Cody Dock is in a strange, still underexplored part of East London, close Star Lane station (yes, I had never been to Star Lane before). It was originally constructed by the Imperial Gas Company, an area of gasworks, the underbelly of industrial London. In 2009, it was acquired by a charity as a kind of hippy enclave – very beautiful and unexpectedly atmospheric, with a café in an area of big industrial warehouses:-


Travelling to France (1)

So, they’ve changed the quarantine rules for everywhere except France, on the grounds that there is still a risk from the so-called beta variant, which is apparently mainly in the former French colonies. This means a ten-day quarantine period for everyone who comes from France unless you pay £250 to friends of Matt Hancock to reduce it to five. One wonders if this ploy is characteristic incompetence, greed or just petty-minded Francophobia.