Bjork Digital: Somerset House

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 17.30.21Somerset House presents an exhibition Bjork Digital from 1st of September until 23rd of October which is a great example of unity of music, art and technology. It is very difficult to buy tickets on site because groups are small due to the limitation of equipment. So it is better to pre-order them online. You will be allocated a time slot and you HAVE TO arrive 15 minutes before, this is very important. Some guys arrived at 3pm for their 3pm slot and they had to wait in line with latecomers. It is very strict.. 

The exhibition consists of 2 video screenings, 3 virtual reality (VR) experiences and 2 rooms with musical instruments. For those who are not familiar with Virtual Reality it a new technology which allows you to plunge into whole new world where you can rotate 360 degrees and have a continuous picture of your surroundings.

First room you go to has two screens and surrounding sound, so depending on where you go you hear some music notes louder. The experience lasts for about 10 minutes and it is a video clip of Bjork’s song. To be honest I am not a fan of her music and this experience did not impress me at all. It is pretty much the same as you would to the cinema with good sound system. I did not know what to expect next and at that point I was a bit disappointed and did not understand what I had paid my money for.

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Once you are done, you are guided into the next room where you have your first VR experience. The assistant explains you how everything works and you put on glasses and headphones. This is when I realised what I had paid for. This experience lasts about 7 minutes and it was very engaging as you explore the surroundings while rotating on the chair. The second room is similar, you are watching the second clip there. And during the final VR experience you can stand and go around Bjorks digital projection. The technology is not THE latest, the image is a bit pixelated but it still fun.

The next room is just a screen, nothing special about that. And finale two rooms featured music instruments and their sounds. I am glad I visited it, I would probably enjoy it more if I listened to Bjorks music. So for the her fans – do not miss it! The exhibition features her works that have never been shown before and she also is going to perform in London in relation to this exhibition, for the first time since 2013.

Clocks and Watches at British Museum

вBritish Museum is one of the most famous visitors attractions in London, it is estimated that each year it opens its doors to 6.7 million people. It is hard to describe how significant and enormous the museums collection is: it covers history of human civilisation, art and culture from the start to the present. The earliest artefact in the museum is a chopping stone with origins from Tanzania which is estimated to be 1.8 – 2 million years old. British museum collection calculates more than 8 million pieces. It is the most comprehensive and multicultural collection in the world. British museum houses part variety of artefacts, sculptures, icons, chronicles, manuscripts, coins,  armoury and many more.

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In November of 2008 a new display was opened – Clocks and Watches. It is sponsored by Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly. Spreading over two rooms 38 and 39 the exhibition explores history of clock making. You can find these galleries on top of the main stairs.

The earliest piece is from 16th century  – Scottish Wall clock. It is one of the few rare pieces that have survived.

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In the middle of the first room there is a giant mechanism explaining how the clock works.

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You can see how technology develops overtime and by the end of 16th century clocks looked similar to what we are used to. In 1620 clocks became even more advanced, on this amazing “Masterpiece Clock” made in Germany by Thomas Starck, not only the time was displayed on the dial but also weekdays. There is also an indicator in dragon shape showing when eclipses are most likely to occur. There are moving dark and light shutters measuring length of day and nigh throughout the year. Unfortunately only the dial has survived but there is a picture of a similar clock from the same period.

Second room is bigger that the first and covers more time periods. The first piece you see in the centre is Automaton in the form of a ship dated around 1585. It was also produced in Germany by another famous clock maker Hans Schottheim.

There are many standing pieces, wall clocks, clocks for fireplaces. The display ends with a retrospective of pocket watches.

It you want to take a break from antique sculptures in British Museum and you want to have a look at something different you should definitely go and check out this clock collection. So many beautiful detailed pieces, I only wish that there were more explanation on how clocks and watches were invented. Otherwise it is a great display with many short video presentations.

French Riviera

French love their public spaces, large squares, promenades, wide streets, cities are designed for long walks and time outdoors. No matter how large or small cities are they all have stunning art decorating public spaces. Art is in form of installations, sculptures, fountains and elements of architecture. You can find both: contemporary and historic art pieces, so you can find something for every taste.

French Riviera was a popular destination for many artists in 19th and 20th centuries. Seascapes and landscapes are very inspiring and many artist captured them in their works. You can see art everywhere – in museums, in public spaces and even in hotel lobbies. Some hotels have great art collections and their lobbies look like museum halls.

South of France is different from the North, it has much more colours. Buildings are painted in warm pastel colours with contrast window-blinds. Climate is amazing and sun makes everything shine.

In this post I will share photos and thoughts on public art in different cities of French Rivera. Throughput French Riviera architecture is pretty similar and there are some similar art pieces. However each city has its own identity and style.

Nice

Nice is the biggest city in south of France, it has historic centre and modern parts, it has many parks and a promenade alongside the beach. The Massena square is famous for contemporary art pieces – seven luminous human sculptures on poles. This installation was created by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and is called “Conversation in Nice”. Seven figures represent all the continents and how people are communicating and living with each other. Unfortunately I only have day photos but at night these sculptures light up with different bright colours. There are many opinions about these sculptures but they are so integrated in the landscape that it is impossible to imagine Nice without them!

There are many large scale sculptures in Nice, there are very conceptual and surprisingly big. There are less colourful and cutting-edge contemporary sculptures in Nice, or I just have not come across them much.

Airport Nice Cote D’Azure deserves a special mention, there are some interesting artworks inside the airport.. So that is the first thing you see when you arrive or it is the last chance to admire french art before you go.

Cannes

Main promenade along the coast is a perfect place for evening walks: Ferris wheel, ice cream tracks, sweet stands and small stands with souvenirs. There is a square with plenty of improvised art booths by local artists and it looks like an open air art gallery. Diversity of style as and techniques is amazing! I am very picky about abstract art but some of the artworks really caught my eye. Even if you are not shopping for art, it very entertaining to wonder from stand to stand and admire different textures, views and styles. You can also talk to the artists because usually they are presenting everything themselves and occasionally paint or sculpt on the spot.

 

 

For those of you with sweet tooth, french artist Laurence Jenkell strewed French coast with giant candies. These sculptures are crafted in different sizes and from different materials like plexiglass and marble. Candies spread all the way from Monaco to St Tropez, you can see it out in the street or in hotel lobbies, there is one sculpture with French and EU flags as candies wrappings is displayed in Nice airport.

Public Art is not everything that south of France has to offer. French Riviera is filled with art museums. Chagall’s museum and Matisse’s villa museum in Nice, Picasso museum in Antibes, latest Renoir’s home in Cagnes-sur-Mer, national museum of Fernand Leger in Biot and many more. You can easily spend days exploring art.. Cote D’Azur is a magical place with fantastic views, so many artist are still coming there searching for inspiration.

 

Art in Monaco

Monte-Carlo

Monaco is luxury. Do not get me started on yachts, sports cars, restaurants, clubs and bars.. It is also very pleasant to walk and enjoy picturesque views. Monte-Carlo is very clean and beautiful: plenty of green spaces, promenades and beautiful buildings. Since this is an Art blog rather than Travel Blog, I would focus on the public art that I came across in Monte-Carlo while travelling.

Public Art is very diverse. You can find artworks in variety of colours, materials, sizes and from different time periods. Monte Carlo combines historic and contemporary glass-based buildings and it looks organic.

Monte Carlo casino is the main landmark of Monaco and its most recognised and iconic buildings. It is THE casino featured in Bond’s movies, Ocean’s Twelve and even animated movies Cars 2 and Madagascar 3! The building is a masterpiece itself but I was captured by steel sculpture in front of it. This is “Mirror Sky” by British artist Anish Kapoor. His style is quite recognisable and he has created many sculptures for public display, including huge sculpture for Olympic Games in London a few years ago. This 2.5 meter piece reflects the image upside down to the viewer. To my taste, such contemporary polished steel peice  looks stunning with a 19th century building on the background.

There are some artworks that are very specific to Monaco and highlight Monegasque culture. For example there is a bronze Race car sculpture to celebrate Formula 1 track which spreads across Monaco.

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Along the back of Grimaldi Forum there is a sculpture path from Footballers footprints, which is called “The Champions Promenade”. Each sculpture is a bronze panel with name, date, footprints and signature on it of an exceptional football player. In fact, it is a prize and only once winner is selected each year and his footprints get added to the promenade.

 

Even a sign board is decorated with beautifully carved bronze frame!

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Monaco is very artistically rich. Although the country is tiny, only 2.02 square kilometres, it has a huge variety of museums and galleries. They even have Stamp and Coins museum! Art Market is also busy in Monaco, there are some annual art fairs, like European Art Fair, which passed in July and an upcoming art fair Art Monaco in October.

Francis Bacon

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The Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, has composed a solo exhibition of Francis Bacon. Thematically there are two major topics in the exhibition – one is relation of Francis’s wont to other artists such as Picasso, Giacometti, Léger, Lurçat, Michaux, Soutine, Toulouse-Lautrec and others and second one paintings inspired by Monaco and French Riviera. The exhibition is on until 4th of September, so you still have a chance to see it.

This exhibition was warmly welcomed by critics and the job of curator Martin Harrison was highly recognised. I was expecting so much from my visit and I have to say, I was disappointed. To my surprise I admired the artworks and rediscover Francis Bacon as an artist but from my point of view presentation did not do justice.

First things first – the space was dark. It was obviously curatorial idea, but it did not work. Narrow projected light in a dark room works great with jewellery as precious stones ‘play’ under the light. In this case, bright colours were lost because of the poor lighting. Some rooms were entirely dark and light was concentrated only on the painting. Primarily the exhibition is about artworks and finding the most interning way to display them.

Painting descriptions on the walls were barely visible, you have to try hard to be able to read the card. Descriptive passages on the wall were written against dark grey walls and it made it impossible to comfortably read it.

However, the artworks were incredible. Throughout the exhibition you can see how Bacon’s style evolves. In his early years  he was associated with many artists, especially with Picasso, as Francis was finding his own voice, he was inspired by other artists, however, in his later years he developed his distinctive independent technique.

In his late years Francis painted a lot of portraits especially diptychs and triptychs, you can see many sets gathered in the exhibition, some of them came from museums and majority came from private collections.

The exhibition was not crowded and photography is allowed, which is rare for temporary exhibitions. I can share my thoughts, for those who are interested why photography is mostly prohibited. As majority of works are loaned from private hands, collectors usually do not want their works to be photographed so they agree a loan on specific terms. Even if one artwork from the whole exhibition can not be photographed, the museum will not tolerate any photography.

Towards the end of the exhibition there was a room – imitation of Francis Bacon’s studio. The idea was great but execution not so much. It should have been closed space rather than only walls and it should have had more large scale prints with original photos integrated. Wooden floor covered with paint would have created a great atmosphere.. I think that full recreation would be more suitable and spectacular rather than 4 photos and 2 wallpapers. Do it good or do not do it at all.

The final part of the exhibition was interactive screen, you can take a photo in photo booth and the place it on the wall, it was very entertaining and fun to do. You can either take a picture or upload from your phone and then you can apply different filters resembling Francis Bacon’s photographs.

Gift shop was very advanced, there was a photo booth, where you can take picture and then print it on the t-shirt, iPhone case or just have it printed in mini series.

Some people from our group really enjoyed it, it is surely worth visiting!

Saint Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence is one of the oldest Medieval towns in South of France. It is absolutely charming with narrow streets and breathtaking views. It spreads on top of the hill and surrounded by a wall. The whole region is a bit more than 7 squared kilometres and the village itself is even smaller. We completed full circle in less than an hour..

I have not even tried to go into any art galleries because there are just so many of them. However I took some pictures of the entrances for you to have an idea. Some galleries occupy ground floor, but some have historic stairs leading to lower ground floor. It looks very charming and inviting.

Marc Chagall, who lived in Saint Paul for 20 years, is buried on the local cemetery and people leave small stones in circle on his grave.

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Many restaurants and hotels have incredible art piece hanging on the wall, like Chagall, Picasso, Matisse. Saint Paul de Vence is also called city of artist. In 20th century this small village was the destination for painters, filmmakers and writers.

You can discover many artistic elements while walking in the town, many doors and gates have interesting pattern, some houses are decorated I even saw painted letterbox. Street signs are also artistic and written in a cheeky font, it adds to artistic atmosphere of the village.

Museum of Miniatures & Cinema

Many friends recommended me to visit Museum of Miniatures & Cinema in Lyon, France, whenever I have a chance. Finally, my road trip took me through Lyon and we spend half a day there and visited Cinema Museum. And I have to say – this museum is fantastic!

First thing I want to say is that museum was dog friendly, I was travelling with my small pom and they let us keep him during our visit. The museum is 4 floors with open stairs, like a balcony. There are a lot of benches where you can rest and even have a cigaret. Where on earth you can smoke in the museum? This is how chill and relaxed atmosphere there is…

Now about the museum itself. Museum features over 300 original film props and artefacts,  as well as real size decoration setting from movie Perfumer, countless number of miniature sets and individual objects.

There were some rooms with “Not suitable for Children” sign, containing itinerary from horror movies and sci-fi. I did not take any pictures of that section but believe me it is a lot of disturbing contents! Dead bodies, dead animals, cut open body parts, armoury.. There are some objects from famous movies like Momie, Hannibal lector, The Ring, etc. Not a pleasant view, but it’s nice to check out the accessories and tools for making horror movies. 

There were some screens with videos of make up in the making. It is very unraveling and takes a bit of magic out of the movie. Each room has OST from movies in that room. Music creates a perfect mood, it is very delicate at the background. Altogether it creates great experience! Some videos are shown about making of costumes both realistic and fantastic. It is also shown how fat costumes are made and worn on set. 

Miniatures impressed me greatly! There are individual objects and whole miniature rooms. How much effort and skill were invested in their creation. I could have spent hours only in that section.

So I repeat my friends’ advise: if you have a chance – do not miss it!

Bruges

Bruges is a magical city – narrow streets, canals, squares it all looks like an illustration for a fairy tail. It has a been a very short stay so I did not have time to check out the museums but I still admired a some art while wondering in the city. There are many small galleries, sculptures, street artists.

There were many sculptures in squares and parks, as well as artists working on the street and selling  their paintings with beautiful Belgian landscapes and street views.

I came across a small toy shop with hand made items, the clocks were beautiful! It were truly pieces of art.

The Wallace Collection

On the very heart of London there is a beautiful museum – The Wallace Collection – that is hidden in Manchester Square just steps away from Oxford Street. It was closed for renovation for some time and this year it has been reopened. The museum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm and the admission is free. So even if you have 15 minutes to spare in the area you can go ahead and spend it there.

“The Wallace Collection is a national museum which displays the wonderful works of art collected in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the 4th Marquess. It was bequeathed to the British nation by Sir Richard’s widow, Lady Wallace, in 1897.” – quoted from the website.

The rooms are just breathtaking, so many different colours! Almost every room is decorated differently with variety of wall papers – greens, blues, greys. Golden and blue rooms are especially beautiful!

The collection is marvellous and many types of arts are presented from furniture and decorative art to paintings and sculptures. Some rooms combine furniture, such as clocks, arm chairs, cabinets, with paintings. However some rooms are more specialised displaying only porcelain or armoury.

In fact, there is a whole wing dedicated to armoury of different types and from different times. Great amount of details and variety of metals.   

Another thing that caught my eye was a special setting to the works of art that are particularly sensitive to the light. It was very thoughtful to create a leather cover that can be lifted, it protects the artwork and helps to preserve them.

Yayoi Kusama

Victoria Miro Gallery at Wharf Road presents an exciting exhibition by Yayoi Kusama. The exhibition is on until July 30th, the admission is free and there is no need to book in advance. However it can be busy, especially on Saturday, it is closed on Sundays and Mondays. There is another paintings exhibition by Kusama in Mayfair in Victoria Miro Gallery, do not mix them up!

Victoria Miro is a contemporary art gallery. The space is a traditional white cube. The exhibition spreads over three floors and back garden. Yayoi Kusama is a famous Japanese born artist and she has quite a resume! She was the artist representing Japan in 45th Venice Biennial, exhibited her artworks in Tate Modern (London), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Whitney Museum (New York) and also had a collaboration with one of the most recognised high fashion brands – Louis Vuitton.

There are three mirror rooms – one is in the garden, one on the ground floor and one on the second floor. The rooms are “space within a space” with mirrors on the walls and ceilings. Visitors are queueing outside each room and assistant lets people one at a time or group at a time, for those who came together. They only let you in for a short time, it felt like 20 seconds.

The rooms are: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, Chandelier of Grief and Where the Lights in My Heart Go. Considering amount of mirrors, you might as well call them “selfie rooms”, everyone took pictures inside (myself included).

I visited only two out of three rooms because Where the Lights in My Heart Go is outdoors and gets closed in bad weather to protect the artwork from excessive humidity.  I was told that there are some wholes in the ceiling so the daylight can get inside the room and sunbeam reflects in the mirrors. It is a shame that it was a rainy dyad we did not get the chance to go inside.

I visited All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins and Chandelier of Grief. I really enjoyed  both of them. It is a very strange feeling – being inside these mirror rooms, it felt like being in some magical space out of this world. Mirrors play with your mind and your perception of reality. Room with pumpkins was very intimate due to a very pleasant warm yellow colour of artwork pieces. Chandelier room was also very engaging, it was a bit confusing at first with all the patterns and repetitions in the mirror, but then I separated the reality from reflection.

Apart from mirror rooms there are some sculptures, paintings and a small gift shop with different books and small sculptures. It is a nice touch that all assistants are wearing T-shirts with Kusama’s signature spots pattern.


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