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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.

Posts from the Art in the UK Category

Compared to September, last month was slightly less “culturally charged”. This is mainly due to the fact that my sister got married, an event to which I dedicated a bit of time as well as a stay in Belgium, of course.

I did, however, manage to do and see the below (listed in chronological order).

Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House

Swan Lake, ROH

Swan Lake, ROH (Photo: © Bill Cooper/ROH)

Who doesn’t like a good Swan Lake? It had been way too long since I had been to the ballet, and my friend Charlotte had never seen one in London, so back in July we had booked tickets for what is probably the world’s most popular ballet.

It was my third “Lake”: I had seen it twice at La Scala, once with Svetlana Zakharova, who is the ultimate Odile/Odette in my opinion, and once with Alina Somova, whom I had found a bit too athletic for my taste. The Royal Ballet’s version of Petipat’s ballet was, of course, very good. Sarah Lamb (pictured above) proved to be a gracious Odile/Odette, and I found the costumes and sets really beautiful.

But oh my, the audience! This is one of the rare ballets that has really beautiful music (if you don’t see what I mean, try to listen to Coppélia’s score on its own…). So I was a bit frustrated that people kept clapping at all times, not letting the music flow, let alone breathe.

The Frieze Art Fair at Regent’s Park

I have devoted an entire post to Frieze, which you can read here.

A Walk & Talk with Richard Wentworth, with Love Art London

The walk/talk through SW3 with British sculptor Richard Wentworth was one of the best Love Art London adventures yet. Witty and enlightened, we chatted with the man about architecture (with a special mention for Richard Rogers’ house), bridges, garage doors, terrible public sculptures and whatever else he could think of at the time.

We ended our walk with a very quick tour of the Royal Academy of Art studios in Battersea. These strongly reminded me of the Teatro alla Scala workshops, which is kind of normal since they also have foundry, painting and sculpture workshops. Rumour has it that we might pay a more in-depth visit to the RA studios with Love Art London in the future: I am keeping my fingers crossed!

Adam Neate at Elms Lester Gallery, with Love Art London

Exclusively represented by Elms Lester, British graffiti artist Adam Neate had a solo exhibition at the gallery last month. Rather shy but very friendly, he explained his background and his practice to us. His work really needs to be seen in the flesh, because a lot of it is tri-dimensional, as he often incorporates wooden or plastic elements with painting.

Adam Neate at Elms Lesters Painting Rooms

Adam Neate at Elms Lesters Painting Rooms (Photo: © Love Art London)

When we finished chatting to Adam Neate, the gallery directors opened the doors of the Painting Rooms, which are adjacent to the exhibition spaces. Elms Lester is located in the ancient parish of St. Giles between Soho, Covent Garden and Bloomsbury and was built in 1904 by Mr Elms Lesters. It originally served as (then) state-of-the-art scenic painting studios, which were supplying all the West End theatres with their theatrical backdrops. Apparently it is idiosyncratic of British set makers that they paint sets vertically; on the Continent these are painted horizontally.

Elms Lester Painting Rooms

Elms Lester Painting Rooms (Photo: © Love Art London)

As the use of painted backdrops declined, the painting studios were more often than not being used by the gallery’s artists, often producing site specific works for their upcoming shows or as photo shoot locations (for the likes of Blur and Kylie Minogue).

Edward Le Bas: Inside an Edwardian Studio in Chelsea, with Love Art London

Some of Love Art London’s activities feel more exclusive than others. This one wasn’t bad. We were ushered into one of London’s only three houses designed by Sir Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in Chelsea. If you know my enthusiasm for Art Nouveau (or more precisely in this case, Arts and Crafts), you can easily imagine how much I enjoyed that particular event.

Saloon Bar, Edward Le Bas, 1940

Saloon Bar, Edward Le Bas, 1940 (Photo: © Tate)

Why were we ushered in that house? Well, it’s because it used to be Edward Le Bas’s private studio. Since you probably don’t know much about this painter, I thought I’d copy and paste (duplicate content alert!) some of Love Art London’s information:

“As well as being an avid collector of contemporary art at the turn of the 20th century, Edward Le Bas was one of Britain’s most talented painters who, despite being an elected member of the Royal Academy and awarded a CBE, has been slightly failed by the history books. Le Bas’ style owes much to the French tradition, Post-Impressionism in particular, and to the work of his great friend Duncan Grant and the Bloomsbury Group, a circle of British artists with whom he was associated. As a collector Le Bas amassed a hoard of important works The Camden Town Group (a London collective which included heavyweights like Walter Sickert), The Bloomsbury Group (in particular his friends Duncan Grant & Vanessa Bell) and the celebrated French artist Edouard Vuillard. Le Bas’ impressive collection, including around 200 of his own paintings, (the ones which aren’t in the Tate, Royal Academy, the Arts Council or other important institutions) hang in the original studio in which Le Bas lived and worked.” (With thanks to Love Art London)

Additional information about Edward Le Bas can be found on Tate‘s website.

Some arts-related digital stuff

Because having written all this leaves me with the feeling that I did little in October, I should probably add that I attended one of the monthly Art of Digital London meetups, which I heartily recommend to anyone who is interested in digital communications and the arts. They are hosted at the Photographers’ Gallery and the line-up of speakers is generally excellent. I also made a very late appearance at the Culture Geek meetup, a “spin off” of the Culture Geek conference.

Writing this post is against my own interest. I am torn between keeping this a secret and telling everyone how good it is. I’ll go for the latter, since they are very nice people.

Love Art London is one of the most beautiful things to have happened to me since moving to London. Love Art London is, in their own words, the “best god damn behind-the-scenes art club in London”. It is all true.

It was founded by the ever colourfully-dressed Chris, who left his job at Sotheby’s in order to organise a “monthly programme of unique arty happenings exclusively for members”. The club is run by him, aided by the ever-enthusiastic American gal Lindsay. The lovely Emma, a fine art student who interns with them, provides practical assistance.

Love Art London hangs out with Billy Childish (© Lovel Art London)

Love Art London hangs out with Billy Childish, who shows off his woodcut printmaking technique (© Love Art London)

London has a lot to offer culturally and even I, who pretty much live through that (I was about to write “for that”, but that sounded slightly too extreme), find it sometimes overwhelming. There have been times when I thought I was getting close to an arts overdose.

So it is easy to just follow the blockbuster shows at the world-class museums that are Tate, the V&A, the National Gallery and the British Museum. And then to add to them some seasonal events such as the Frieze art fair or the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.

Which is why Love Art London is fab. For £25 a month, you have access to the 4 (or 5) events they organise monthly. These include behind-the-scenes visits to exhibitions, auction houses and museums, usually with their curators or directors. We also often visit artists in their studios, which provides an opportunity to get a first-hand account of their practice.

The following three events have been my favourite so far.

Polly Morgan studio visit and subsequent show at All Visual Art: I’ve already written here why I like this taxidermy artist so much.

Lucian Freud’s drawings at Blain Southern: In conjunction with the retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, Blain Southern was showing over 70 years of drawings by Freud. I found them utterly beautiful and very intimate.

A behind-the-scenes at Phillips de Pury design auction with their in-house specialists: as a design enthusiast I had been hugely looking forward to that visit. I was not disappointed…

This week’s event, a “Walk & Talk” with British sculptor Richard Wentworth, deserves special mention for being one of the most intellectually stimulating events so far.

Other highlights included Renaissance Sculpture at Daniel Katz Gallery; Jelly Sculpture with Bompas & Parr; Alex Hartley in conversation at Victoria Miro; a visit to the studio of Idris Khan & Annie Morris; a behind the scenes at the Mondrian & Nicholson exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery (with the show’s curator Barnaby Wright); the Catlin Art Prize with Curator Justin Hammond; a “Graffiti Connoisseur’s Walking Tour” in Shoreditch (increased my street creds greatly with that one…); “Alexander Calder in India” at Pilar Ordovas; and a behind-the-scenes at the Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret.

Chris Pensa, Love Art London

Sometimes we do “weird” things: here Chris and Karen Howell (from The Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret) demonstrate old amputation techniques.

Last but not least, Love Art London is an excellent way to discover more of London itself. The city is so big, you can easily take to staying in your local area. I live in Stoke Newington, and without Love Art London I probably wouldn’t have set foot yet in Wandsworth, Colindale, or Acton.

A note for Chris:
Having had a thorough look at all the past events, there are some I feel very sorry to have missed indeed. Any way you could repeat Museum Framing Uncovered, Restoration Masterclass, Jewellery Handling – and, above all, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel: Inside a Gothic Masterpiece?

Exactly one year ago, I bought a one-way ticket to London. I am therefore technically celebrating my first anniversary in London today, and this will be a post with which art and being Belgian have little to do, or perhaps a lot. It is an unusual post in that it will be quite personal.

I was born in a small town (a village) in the suburbs of Brussels, from parents who have lived in that very town their whole life and only speak French.

Perhaps in reaction to my family, I decided I would learn languages – I currently know 5 of them -, and that I wanted to live abroad, to make things more exciting, and to a certain extent, more challenging (“Pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué?” somehow seems to be a motto of mine).

Now aged 30, I consider myself “fluent” in three places, by which I mean that I not only speak the local language, but that I also know their traditions, and the values each of theses cherish. I have devised a personal “proof of fluency” test: being able to swear back in the street at someone who insults you (in the unlikely event of this happening) and being able to use the local public transport systems confidently (as in: knowing if you need to press the door button in order for the tube doors to open). Currently, I pass this test in three cities: Brussels, Milan and London.

I have lived in other places, including Edinburgh (as an exchange student) and Strasbourg (as an intern at the Council of Europe), but these stays have been too short for me to have really absorbed the local “essence”.

My cats, Tosca and Mirza (= The Prettiest)

My cats, Tosca and Mirza (= The Prettiest)

(I didn’t really know which picture to choose to illustrate this post (pictures of me on the web are a no-go), so I have opted for a photo of my cats – both of whom have flown to cats’ heaven now, sadly. I think they’re the prettiest.)

What about art, in all this? I moved to Milan for love (how banal), but ended up finding a job I was passionate about, at an opera house “making history since 1778”. And if I decided to leave everything for London, it was mainly for the art that this city has to offer. The National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert have a lot to answer for, in my case…

I would like to stress that I choose to mainly speak about cities, rather countries. This is because I know that I would have gained very different experiences if I had lived 5 years in Naples instead of Milan. Ditto with London: just as New York is not the US, London does not equal England or the UK – it is sui generis.

Recently I have caught myself dreaming about living in a sort of ideal place, which would include the best of my three cities. Mainly it’s the various friends that I would like to “bundle” (although I have many more friends, in many more countries).

In addition to them, there are a few things, and a few ideas and values, which I would import from Brussels, Milan and London into my “ideal country”. I tried to fit all of these into one post, but it proved too long and I have decided to split this into three posts, one for each of the coming days. So: à demain/a domani!

A quick post, to promote the work of a friend, who happens to have Italian roots and is a fellow Dalston resident (well, technically I live in Stoke Newington, but that’s not the point).

His name is Pierluigi Vecchi, and you have until 13th September (hurry!) to see ‘Neon and Water’, his first personal exhibition at the Other Cafe and Gallery.

Babylon Bath © Pierluigi Vecchi

Babylon Bath © Pierluigi Vecchi

His visually hybrid shots are inspired by themes of neon and water, exploring “the introspective worlds of silent inner turmoil and ultimate sublime redemption”.

Neon Revelation © Pierluigi Vecchi

Neon Revelation © Pierluigi Vecchi

All the works from the show are for sale, with a limited signed edition of 5 of each photograph.

Here’s a picture from the private view, which also featured musical performances by some of Pier’s friends.

Neon and Water Private View at Other Cafe and Gallery. Picture by Katja Zapolnova.

Neon and Water Private View at Other Cafe and Gallery. Picture by Katja Zapolnova.

(I’m actually on the picture. You can only see part of my glittery grey cardie though, because I am behind the red frame)

The Other Cafe and Gallery is an independent venue located between Islington and Dalston, which serves home-made food with a great selection of dishes ranging from traditional English breakfast to Italian and South-American dishes, in a lovely environment.

If you want more info about Pier’s work, you can have a look at his website: http://www.pierluigivecchi.com/.