The City (2)

My picture of the City now completely transformed by skyscrapers such that its distant profile bears not the faintest relationship to how it previously looked prompts the question how and why this has happened. After all, there was a moment not so long ago when the idea was that Canary Wharf should be the new Manhattan in order to allow the City itself to retain its character and integrity as a low-rise city, comparable to Paris, but without the boulevards, clustered round St. Paul’s. I know that Ken Livingstone was very keen while Mayor on liberating planning controls. But in the end responsibility for what has happened, good or bad depending on one’s point of view, must lie with the city planning authorities which is why I assume Peter Rees bears the greatest responsibility as City Planning Officer who, according to his biography, ‘led the planning and regeneration of this world business and financial centre from 1985 to 2014’.


The City (1)

I stopped as I was riding round Victoria Park this afternoon to photograph the City as seen from the far end of the park. I’m not sure what to think of it: a mirage ? What’s obvious is the extent to which its profile has changed so that the Gherkin – till recently one of the more recognisable buildings – has disappeared into the general high-rise mélange and the highest of the buildings, described by Edwin Heathcote as ‘the wodge’, is entirely nondescript. It’s what’s called ‘a cluster’. Another similar name springs to mind. All thanks to Peter Rees:-


Books for the New Year

You have to scroll down a long way to find The Art Museum in Modern Times, but there are lots of tempting books en route: The Crichel Boys, Marina Warner’s new memoir and Richard Wollheim’s Worms now reprinted, Midnight in Cairo, all available by mail order from JdeF.


the white pube

I went out to buy a bottle of milk this morning when my eye was caught by the wording of a poster right next to the tube:-

idea for a new art world

003: Curators should ask the public what they want to see and what they think galleries and museums should be used for

Interesting, I thought. The New Museology has arrived in the Mile End Road, alongside the chicken shops.

I read the rest of the suggestions:-

001: if I were the Tate, I would simply remove my racist paintings

How many might this involve, I wondered ? It’s a massive collection of nearly 70,000 works of art. Do they mean paintings on display or paintings in the collection as a whole ? Which count as racist ? It could be a lot, starting with Rex Whistler.

002: Universal Basic Income and affordable housing so that everyone, including artists, can make a living

A sensible suggestion.

004: people across the art world need to declare if they have rich parents who helped them get where they are today

I was interested by this being amongst the six top priorities of a guerrilla group and clearly an issue where internships have been so common across the art world and postgraduate courses so expensive.

005: the art world should not replicate the capitalist structures of other industries and instead should set a better example with a horizontal approach to decision-making and pay

006: dear museums, give back all stolen objects

An interesting set of thoughtful observations for the morning, written in a style they describe as cazjjj. I can’t think so many people are going to stop to read them, although it’s right next to a bus stop. Signed, the white pube.


Art Books for 2021

Christie’s have just published a list of the books they recommend for spring reading: a book about Carlo Scarpa, with new photographs, much needed; a book about the way Napoleon’s armies commandeered paintings to create the Louvre; a book about Louis Kahn, with photographs by Cemal Emden, the best; AND (keep scrolling) The Art Museum in Modern Times on cue for COVID. I like the idea that I sat down in March and wrote my book as a response to the challenges of Coronavirus and am only too happy if it gives it timeliness. Beautifully illustrated it is ! And beautifully designed and produced.


The nature of ‘experience’

I have found myself engaged in a surprisingly animated discussion on Twitter – at least, by my standards – on whether or not it is a good thing that museums have shifted from the idea of learning – absorbing and imbibing information about art and the world in a broadly passive/receptive way – to a belief and interest in visitors’ ‘experience’ – the idea that autonomous individuals don’t just absorb information, but construct it according to their own desires and interests: a more active idea as to how people experience museums. It may be that the idea of ‘experience’, as used in The Experience Economy, has become a cliché. But it is still a way of describing a big shift in the way that museums now think about visitors. I like the comment of the person who said ‘[Museums] forget they aren’t the centre of people’s lives, but one modest sausage roll at the buffet table of life’.


Wilmington, Delaware

For reasons which will be obvious, I have spent time today thinking of Wilmington, Delaware where we spent two months in the summer of 1988 exchanging not only our house, but our car as well with Henry and Sue Moncure. Joe Biden had already been a Senator for fifteen years. What a relief it is to have a President who is representative of that aspect of America which I have always admired.


To the Western World

We were sent an invitation last night to watch a film made in 1981 by Margy Kinmonth about the visit of Jack Yeats and John Millington Synge to Connemara to report the effects of rural poverty and the famine in the so-called ‘Congested Districts’ for the Manchester Guardian. The film was very low budget and all the better for it: because it was made 40 years ago on location in Connemara, it was astonishingly evocative, as if it was them in person, with some of the accents barely comprehensible. The voiceover was done by John Huston who was apparently dying and summoned Margy to the Savoy Hotel where he read the entire script there and then. The film had faded, but has been repurposed. It won lots of prizes at the time and deserved to (


Elliot Sheppard

Now that the Inigo website has gone live, I can credit the photographer, Elliot Sheppard, with the excellent photographs not only of the interiors – not an easy thing to do so atmospherically – but of me as well. He was responsible for the big looming close-up which has been a feature of the blog for the last few months and this post is a way of thanking him for allowing me to reproduce it.