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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.

A foreword of warning: this is a very intimate and very schmaltzy post. One year and a half ago, I set about to change my life completely, “tabula rasa” style. Such a project obviously needed a dedicated soundtrack. Now that it seems that I have sorted out at least one area of my life, it’s perhaps appropriate to publish this soundtrack, which just might inspire someone.

“The Magic” was my main song, the title track if you want. Just as my world was starting to take a clear new turn, Joan as Police Woman’s 2011 album, The Deep Field, came out, and provided musical companionship. I have a total girl crush on JAPW: I’ve seen her twice on stage and she’s not only a terrific artist, she’s also very funny and nice (and she’s autographed my copy of Seven Days In The Art World, but that’s another story).

Check out the video for “The Magic”, I think it’s brilliant.

This is so cringe worthy. Look at the video, it makes it even worse. I can’t believe I am posting a song by Madonna here. But then I guess these lyrics (sic) allied to the catchy tune were just what I needed to… jump.

Once you’ve jumped, all that remains for you to do, just like the girl in Tracy Chapman’s song, is to get a ticket and use it. Doesn’t matter that I wasn’t actually going to fly.

When starting your life again, chances are you will sometimes feel like you’ve got nothing left. That’s when Nina Simone’s “Ain’t Got No, I Got Life” comes in handy, to cheer you up.

This is a rather short playlist, I know, and its artists are all female. This might well have to do with the fact that I am, well, a woman.

I know there is now no use in banging on about Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 or Chicks on Speed on Twitter. My musical reputation, if I ever had one, is now irremediably damaged: I have posted a bloody Madonna video.

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.

I know, this is a rather feeble attempt at putting a catchy title to this post. I have written about the FAI, the “Italian National Trust” before, but this time I would like to highlight one of their initiatives, which aims at protecting endangered historical, natural or artistic heritage in Italy.

The “Places I Love” census

Have you ever asked yourself which place in Italy was your favourite?  Is it a garden, a villa, a forest, an island, a bell tower, a church or a trail? Well, now might be the time to do so, as the FAI is interested in your answer for its “Places I Love” census. Simply choose a place anywhere in Italy which you’d like to see cherished and protected, and let the FAI know. With your help they’ll do everything possible to protect it.

The FAI’s “I Luoghi del Cuore” (“Places I Love”) census, which is now in its 6th edition, aims to give voice to the suggestions on Italy’s cultural heritage, in order to grant it a future. To do so, the census asks citizens to identify those places they feel as particularly dear and important and which they would like to see preserved for future generations. The appeal endeavours to protect big and small, famous or less well-known treasures that occupy a special place in the lives of those who cherish them.

The good thing is that this year, for the first time ever, voting is open to people from all over the world because “beauty has no boundaries”. So you have until 30 November to cast your vote on the Places I Love website.

Saved Locations

Thanks to the public’s support, eleven locations have been saved so far. Here below are two examples.

Mulino di Bàresi (Bàresi Watermill) in Bergamo Province

Bàresi Watermill in Bergamo Province (® Marco Mazzoleni)

Bàresi Watermill in Bergamo Province (Picture ® Marco Mazzoleni)

This mill, which is immersed in a beautiful clearing in the upper Val Brembana (a valley in Lombardy), was highlighted in the first national survey in 2003 and was subsequently acquired by the FAI . Restoration works were completed in 2006 and the mill officially reopened.

Colombaia Castle, Trapani (Sicily)

Colombaia Castle, Trapani (Sicily)

Colombaia Castle, Trapani (Sicily)

The Colombaia castle was the most referred location in the 2008 census, with 7,053 votes. The first success of “Places I Love” was to draw attention to the process of recovery of the castle, which for years had been buried under the weight of bureaucracy, and to shake the situation out of this impasse. As a result, the obstacles that stood in the way of the Colombaia’s recuperation have been overcome: the castle is no longer listed as a national property, but now belongs to the Region of Sicily, which has allocated 600,000 Euros to ensure that the building’s safety is up to standard.

Win a trip to Italy and a stay at an enchanting guest house on the Italian Riviera

To promote the “Places I love” initiative, the FAI is organising a competition in which you have to demonstrate how well you know Italy. Easy! It is quite simple: just answer a few questions about Italy, invite friends to play, recommend places and, finally, connect with your social media accounts (Twitter or Facebook). The final step is perhaps a little bit more complicated: upload a video in which you declare your love for Italy and the place of your choice.

To play, just visit http://play.iluoghidelcuore.it/

I found the quiz questions pretty easy (except for the sports section, obviously), but that’s probably because I lived in Italy for 5 years.

The prizes for players from abroad are really, really cool.

San Fruttuoso Abbey (Picture ® Flavio Pagani)

San Fruttuoso Abbey (Picture ® Flavio Pagani)

First Prize: A one week’s stay in Italy at the San Fruttuoso Abbey, which has been turned by the FAI into guest rooms, and a voucher to cover travel expenses of up to €600
Second Prize: 4 days (three nights) at San Fruttuoso Abbey and a voucher to cover travel expenses of up to €200
Third Prize: Contribution to cover travel expenses, up to €100 to be used once on http://www.bravofly.it for Italian destinations

From what I can see, not that many people outside Italy have taken part in the game yet, so your chances of winning are relatively high. If I were you, I would definitely play!

Yesterday I went to the Frieze Art Fair. I am adding the “Art Fair” bit, because on Friday when I asked at the pub if anyone was going to Frieze, someone answered “Yes” thinking I was actually enquiring whether they were very cold…

Frieze London 2012

Frieze London 2012 (Photograph by Linda Nylind, Courtesy of Linda Nylind/ Frieze)

It was my second visit to this international contemporary art fair, which takes place every October in Regent’s Park. Quite a few of my friends refused joining me this year, on the ground that tickets were too expensive. In a way, they’re right: £28 to do not even “art shopping” but “window art shopping” is probably a bit much. But I couldn’t resist going, for there is no doubt Frieze is the arts event in autumn in London.

Just like last year, I paid particular attention to the Belgian galleries that had made the trip to London for the occasion. Here is a short report of what I’ve seen, in alphabetic order. Unless specified otherwise, all these galleries are based in Brussels.

Almine Rech Gallery: Their current Jeff Koons exhibition, the first in Brussels since 1992, is big news in Belgium. Everyone (including me) seemed to like Gregor Hildebrandt’s “Madge Evans” – a good way to recycle old cassettes in a glamorous way.

Galerie Catherine Bastide: Catherine Bastide was showing works by Valerie Snobeck and Jean-Pascal Flavien. I found Flavien’s reflection on space, or “physical phrases” (climbing, sleeping, waiting, and sitting), very interesting.

Jean-Pascal Flavien, Breathing house, Galerie Catherine Bastide

Jean-Pascal Flavien, Breathing house, a sequence or a phrase (2012) – Galerie Catherine Bastide

Dépendance: The gallery was exhibiting in the “Focus” section of Frieze, open to galleries established after 2001 and showing up to three artists. They had chosen Henrik Olesen, Nora Schultz and Josef Strau, three Germanic artists whose works dialogue nicely.

Dépendance Gallery booth at Frieze 2012

Dépendance Gallery booth at Frieze 2012

Galerie Micheline Szwajcer: Based in Antwerp, this gallery represents some big names, including Hans-Peter Feldmann (a favourite of mine) and Carsten Höller. At Frieze they were showing “Homeless Cat”, a 2011 work by David Claerbout. I must have seen this interactive, real-time video synchronized with actual day and night time at Parasol Unit this spring, although I can’t remember it. They were also showing “Golden Square”, a 2012 work by Ann Veronica Janssens.

MOT International: This London-based gallery opened a second space in Brussels one year ago. In the “Focus” section of Frieze they were showing a video by Elizabeth Price, who is a 2012 Turner Prize nominee.

Office Baroque Gallery: This Antwerp-based gallery was also exhibiting in the “Focus” section. They had brought three American artists to Frieze; I quite liked Aaron Bobrow’s “Maitland”.

Zeno X Gallery: Another Antwerp-based gallery, Zeno X was in the A1 stand (the very first one). I was really intrigued by the work of Dutch artist Kees Goudzwaard. At first sight it looks like minimal colour studies constructed from rectangles of paper and tape. Upon close inspection, you realise that his works are actually painstakingly created trompe l’oeil paintings.

Having written all this, I have a (major) confession to make: I have never visited any of these galleries. In my defence, I haven’t been living in my homeland since 2006, and back then contemporary art wasn’t my priority. I pledge, next time I am back for more than a few days (and there is no major event like, say, my sister getting married), to pay these Belgian galleries a visit on their own grounds.

Thomas Bayrle, Frieze Projects 2012

Thomas Bayrle ‘Sloping Loafers / Smooth’ (2012), Commissioned and produced by Frieze Foundation for Frieze Projects 2012 (Photograph by Polly Braden, Courtesy of Polly Braden/ Frieze)

A few random thoughts about Frieze to round off this article

1. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if one of the galleries came to the fair with a PC… Would they be allowed in at all? (And I say this as someone who’s been using Macs since 1999.)

2. I couldn’t repress a smile when a visitor enquired out loud whether Paul McCarthy was “the singer”, McCartney and McCarthy’s artistic outputs being quite different.

3.  Gail’s Bakery makes really delicious sandwiches and cakes, at reasonable prices. I wish they would open a store in Covent Garden.

4. Yesterday proved to be a linguistic golden opportunity: it is not that often that I can use all five of my languages in the space of one afternoon. That’s very much the spirit of an international art fair I suppose.