When in doubt, go to a museum – that’s a mantra that has always served me well when visiting a big city, and especially well on this trip. I had about a day and a half in London on the tail end of my expedition, and the city’s museums were brimming with blockbuster exhibitions. It was time…for an art gorge!
First stop was the Royal Academy, near Picadilly Circus, for Degas’ Ballet Dancers, a show dedicated exclusively to his favorite subject. As if I didn’t already binge on Impressionism in multiple visits to the Musée D’Orsay, but witnessing Degas’ technique with movement delivered yet another level of understanding in the seemingly inexhaustible subject of Impressionism. Also at the Royal Academy was a show about Russian Constructivism, the post-Bolshevik Revolution art and architecture movement that hoped to deliver Soviet ideology in dwellings for the proletariat. The apotheosis of Constructivism was Tatlin’s Tower (or, Monument to the Third International), designed as a monument for the masses, yet never constructed to its original specifications (it was to have dwarfed the Eiffel Tower!) Several smaller models have been executed, including the one pictured below, built in the Academy’s entrance courtyard specifically for the exhibition.
Now it was time to move south of the Thames, to a regular stop on the Kristin Rolla London circuit, the Tate Modern (pictured above). The museum had just mounted a retrospective of German painter Gerhard Richter, who rose to prominance in the ’60s with his “blurred” photorealist paintings but has since ventured out into expressionist styles and even other media, such as sculpture and photography. He still remains active, relevant and highly collectible today. According to Don Thompson’s The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art, he is considered among 25 of most important contemporary artists favored by collectors, and ironic statement given Richter’s origins in poverty-stricken East Germany.
I then moved west, thanks to this helpful bankside sand sculpture…
…to The Hayward Gallery at The Southbank Centre to check out George Condo: Mental States. This was the first UK gallery retrospective of the American Condo, who is best known as the artist behind Kanye West’s controversial album cover art for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but who has actually been producing canvases since the ’80’s. His most noteworthy series is called “Imaginary Portraits” and in this exhibition he invited visitors to contribute captions for the paintings. Following is my contribution, attributed to the reclusive billionaire “Le Rappelier”…
Last but not least, it was off to South Kensington and the Victoria & Albert Museum for an exhibition on Post-Modernism. This massive survey covered the architecture, design, music, fashion, film and popular culture of the much-maligned movement that reached its pinnacle in the ’80’s. It was possibly my favorite show of the entire trip but was a little disappointed they did not feature more on Los Angeles, which has taken much grief over the years as the home of the most exemplary Post-Modern, and quite possibly the ugliest, buildings of all time. However, the show did feature an extensive segment on New Wave, performance art and the melding of the two mediums, probably best demonstrated by Devo (who also claimed they were post-modern before they even knew what post-modernism was!) Their famous naugahyde suit and energy dome hat was on prominent display (both deserve enshrinement in the Smithsonian if you ask me!)
OK, so that’s 4 museums, 5 shows, one day (and does not include side trips to Libery, Dover Street Market, Mother Mash and Saville Row to settle a bar bet!) It’s safe to say my art appetite has thoroughly been sated!