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A blog about Belgian culture in London. A blog about the arts in London, Brussels and Milan, from a Belgian point of view.

Hello, person who – probably quite by chance – has landed on this site.

You will notice it seems rather deserted: “Arts & Sprouts” currently functions more as an archive of the content I created between 2011 and January 2013. Nowadays I am (very) busy being a Web Producer at Sotheby’s, the auction house, so I have l less time to devote to a personal blog.

There is, however, another project I am involved in that I would like you to have a look at: prominentmonkey.com. It is a cool new blog about creative industries, mainly cinema and video art, set up by my friend Nicolò Gallio.

See you there?

In life, there’s not only art. There is also food, hence this post. In a previous “Belgian Chocolate” episode, I was telling you about two of my favourite Belgian chocolate brands, New Tree and Neuhaus. I will continue my tale of “sweet Belgian magnificence” (yes) with additional recommendations.

Another very good Belgian chocolatier is the über-posh Pierre Marcolini. In the UK, you can buy his creations online; apparently they used to be sold at Selfridges, but sadly they are no more. His pralines are very refined, not exactly rich in cream – think tea, think rose, think thyme. His “Carrés2 de chocolat” make for very nice cocoa-presents.

Carré2 chocolat, Pierre Marcolini

Carré2 chocolat, Pierre Marcolini

In Belgium we like to celebrate with chocolate (and beer). Seasonal feasts like Easter and Saint Nicolas can always be celebrated with a creation from one of my favourite brands, Galler, which is also “Belgian Royal Warrant Holder”.

Galler chocolate, "Snowman" range

Galler chocolate, “Snowman” range (picture © Galler)

The big guy below is called Saint Nicolas, our version of Father Christmas, whom we celebrate on 6th December. As a child I would never get presents at Christmas, I would always get them at Saint Nicolas.

Galler chocolate, "Saint Nicolas" range

Galler chocolate, “Saint Nicolas” range

When I first left home for Milan, my parents very nicely started sending me package full of Galler chocolate. They stopped after one of the lovingly packed boxes ‘disappeared’ somewhere in the post between Belgium and Italy. Fortunately I now live in the UK, where so far the post has proved somewhat more reliable.

Galler chocolate used to be sold at Harrod’s but sadly isn’t anymore, so I have suggest a trip to my homeland, where it is widely available.

I recently was on the brink of a “chocolate crisis”, having eaten all my provisions. I was awaiting visitors from the homeland were to come with some fresh stuff, but in the meantime I had to find something to help me stay awake after my lunch break. Fortunately for me, up until recently I worked close to the London boutique of Daskalidès. To be honest, I had never heard of this brand until a Latvian colleague of mine pointed out to me that they were Belgian. Having tested their pralines, I must admit they’re not bad (try out the ones with caramel and salt).

Now that you have read this short, two-part “guide to good Belgian” chocolate, you must promise me one thing: never, ever, again buy Guylian chocolate (you know, the horrible shell-shaped chocolates) thinking they are typically Belgian. Note how open-minded I am being: I could have said: never, ever, again buy Guylian chocolate full stop.

PS: the lovely team at Galler has pointed to me that their chocolate is also available at Sainsbury’s. I haven’t seen any myself yet, perhaps because I don’t go the larger stores. Let me know if you can spot any in London!

 

2012 was a year particularly rich in art for me. Having moved to London primarily to take advantage of the city’s cultural offerings, I was very active, and very spoilt. Everyone who’s got a blog or writes for the press has done their “best of 2012” lists ages ago, but I like to do things ‘properly’ and wait until the year is truly over. So here’s a post about my favourite exhibitions of the year past, in no particular order.

They are not necessarily those that were curated best, or those which displayed the greatest works. They definitely were those that either moved me most or that opened up a whole new “artistic horizon” for me. They are the exhibitions I enjoyed most and have recommended with the greatest enthusiasm.

The National Gallery Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude

Claude Lorrain, Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, 1648

Claude Lorrain, Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, 1648

I probably wouldn’t have seen this exhibition if a friend of mine hadn’t insisted on going. I am so glad I did, because it made me change my mind about Claude (known in French as “Le Lorrain”). I used to think he was just the painter of pretty landscapes – a bit dull. I discovered works that were yes, beautiful, but strong in a way I hadn’t expected. They projected a sense of calm and majestic peacefulness.

Incidentally that friend of mine wanted to go primarily for the Turner half of the exhibition. That part made made me realize that I only knew Turner’s later period, and that before that he was very much painting in a “less-good-Claude” style…

The Royal Academy Bronze

The Chariot of the Sun, Trundholm, Zealand, early Bronze Age © National Museum, Copenhagen

The Chariot of the Sun, Trundholm, early Bronze Age © National Museum, Copenhagen

I knew so little about Bronze, and someone mentioned this exhibition as a must-see. They were right: it was excellent. Many styles, many subjects and many eras were represented so as to get a good overview of what you can do with the material. A room devoted to the making of bronze works also revealed the secrets of the craftsmanship. Seeing the exhibition on a Friday night added extra drama to the works and rendered them even more beautiful.

Southbank Centre (Hayward Gallery) Invisible: Art about the Unseen, 1957-2012

Invisible: Art about the Unseen at the Hayward Gallery

Invisible: Art about the Unseen at the Hayward Gallery (Photo Bethany Clake, Getty Images)

This was such a fun, light exhibition – perfect for the summer! Organising a show around the concept of “Invisible art” seemed challenging, but it worked very well. I saw it during a great weekend at the Southbank Centre, where I also went to a concert by Joan as Police Woman and listened to Marina Abramovic’s  “Women Only” lecture. Both events were part of The Meltdown Festival, curated by Antony (from Antony and the Johnsons).

 A (probably incomplete) list of the London exhibitions I saw in 2012

Here are the 17 shows that were taken into account to draw my top three. They were all on view in London, in 2012, and shown at museums or public galleries. Shows at commercial galleries are therefore not included. An asterisk indicates an exhibition which nearly made it to the three best.

Barbican
Bauhaus: Art as Life

British Library
Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination*

British Museum
Shakespeare: staging the world

Estorick Collection
In Astratto: Abstraction in Italy 1930-1980

National Gallery
Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude

National Portrait Gallery
Lucian Freud Portraits

Southbank Centre
Jeremy Deller: Joy in People and David Shrigley: Brain Activity
Invisible: Art about the Unseen, 1957-2012

Royal Academy
Bronze

Serpentine Gallery:
Hans-Peter Feldmann*
Thomas Schütte

Tate Britain
Picasso & Modern British Art

Tate Modern
Yayoi Kusama
Damien Hirst*

Victoria and Albert Museum
Ballgowns: British Glamour since 1950

British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age

Wellcome Collection
Death: A Self-portrait

A note about this classification

I’ve been slightly annoyed by some “best of 2012” articles. For instance, The Guardian’s “Best Art Exhibitions of 2012” includes shows in San Francisco and Kassel. Can I infer from that that exhibitions in New York, Rome and Paris were judged as well? This is equally valid for The Artsdesk’s “Classical Music and Opera: The Best of 2012” article.

I have enjoyed reading Steve Lack’s own “Exhibition of the year 2012” blog. His top three is totally different from mine, and proves that these types of classification are for the most part a question of personal taste.

There are a few shows I am hoping to catch in January, before they close, namely The Preraphaelites at Tate Britain, Hollywood Costume at the V&A and Seduced by Art at the National Gallery.

I know. I have been extremely bad at blogging in the past month and a half. I have semi-decent excuses though: I finished one job, welcomed my parents for the first time ever in my new home city, flew to an official capital of cool and started a new job. That said, Google is after fresh content, and a blog is about content anyway, so I am taking advantage of the Christmas break to write about MoMA.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Why MoMA? My trip to New York – that’s what I meant with ‘official capital of cool’ – was a business one. This meant I only had one day to explore the city so I had to decide carefully on which museum to visit. I chose the Museum of Modern Art, as the Metropolitan seemed too big to tackle in one day.

I had been receiving their e-newsletter for a few years, so it was a bit moving to finally see the works they had been telling me about for so long. (Admittedly, when I first signed up it was mostly to study their direct mail strategy -industrial espionage!-, but still…)

You can feel MoMA is a world museum. Perhaps it had to do with me being in New York, therefore feeling really abroad (I feel “at home” pretty much anywhere in Europe), but rarely have I felt such an international aura in a museum.

The work from the collection that moved me most was Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth. It’s probably not exactly a revolutionary painting, but it is full of emotion: it exudes anxiety and loneliness. Its colours are beautiful.

Christina's World, Andrew Wyeth, 1948, MoMA

Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth, 1948, MoMA

Besides the blockbusters (van Gogh, Rousseau, Monet, etc.), Edward Munch’s The Scream, recently sold for record price at auction, was the centre of attention. Hence it was surrounded by people frantically taking pictures, which annoyed me a bit. Click-click-clicking on your camera probably won’t let you appreciate a work fully, and won’t let you immerse yourself in it. And, let us be honest, there is great chance your photo is going to look rather poor, ultimately doing a disservice to the work of art in question. Buy a bloody postcard, or download the image on the interwebz – but let me enjoy the work of art in peace!

The Scream, Edvard Munch

The Scream, Edvard Munch, 1895

The Museum of Modern Art also has a few paintings by Belgian artists to which I of course paid special attention. These include James Ensor and Marcel Broodthaers, who had a whole section devoted to him. One thing I regret missing is Christian Marclay’s The Clock, which was opening a few days after my visit. I had seen it at the Venice Biennale two years ago, where it won the Grand Prix, and I was curious to see it again in another context.

As my visit to MoMA took place a few days before Christmas, I made sure to visit the Design Store, where I got these (perfectly useless but quite pretty I think) spice shakers for my sister.

Ps: Whilst in New York, I also went to the Metropolitan Opera to see a satisfyingly ‘straight-forward’ production of Don Giovanni. The Lincoln Center is cool.