I try and get to London two or three times a year. I am lucky, my brother lives in zone two and is an accommodating host. He loves to visit the same sort of arty stuff as me so we catch up on any exhibitions that I've been keen to see. He has a bright, airy flat which becomes more homely each time I visit- he's just got into balcony plants for the first time- the hipster succulents are thriving.
This year I had my heart set on seeing Savage Beauty: The Alexander McQueen retrospective at the V&A. It has been there most successful show ever and on the weekend that I had booked my travel for, it sold out so we ended up having to buy membership- there is an option for a membership that allows one guest. With a train strike as well it did add a little tension to proceedings but it all worked out fine.
We went on Friday evening which is an excellent time to visit the V&A generally. There are less people around, space to eat and drink and it probably encouraged a little more dressing up in the Savage Beauty attendees- I saw some spectacular outfits. No cameras allowed but my eyes thrilled at the spectacle. The variety of galleries and theatrical presentation for McQueen's different themes and catwalk collections was perfection. Excitement and drama in each room. There was a quote about the importance of designing clothing from the side as well as the front and back; when looking at the tailoring, the side view and attention to detail on cuffs and collars was exquisite. Hats, shoes, jewellery as well as the clothes and an extraordinary level of craftspersonship from collaborators- beading, crystals, feathers, film and video artists. Amazing.
Saturday morning was spent at Broadway Market walking to the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. Lunch was at the nearby Gallery Cafe which is a calm and relaxing space to eat vegetarian and vegan food.
The Museum of Childhood is a generously sized building with lots of open space for children and push chairs and a mezzanine exhibition area. It is a place for nostalgia.
This detailed little space is Library (a recent plan) by Emma Mawston for Liberty Art Fabric Interiors
On Sunday, I visited the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2015. Every year, a judging panel sift through thousands of entries and pick and eclectic mixture. Most of the work is for sale- the lowest price I saw was £150 for a tiny photo print- and the artists are a mix of established Royal Academicians and little-known, unknown or amateur artists. It makes for a democratic atmosphere and a freedom that seeps into the viewing experience. The first art work is the dynamic technicolour floor, 'Zobop' made with vinyl tape by Jim Lambie. You can browse the whole exhibition online.
The greatest triumph of the exhibition is how well such a diverse collection of artworks are displayed. The curation was excellent- thoughtful and kept your attention through the multitude of galleries. The exhibitions has been up a while so the 'sold' red dots are in evidence and part of the journey involved me imagining how I'd spend my pennies and marvelling at how others had spent theirs.
Seeing so much art in the one place does make you evaluate what appeals to you and what doesn't. There was a lot of whimsy and commercialism- images that I would have expected to see in a branch of Paperchase but maybe not a gallery? There were artworks that challenged and interested me but I would never want to buy and then there were pretties that I couldn't explain but loved the colour, shape and pattern. The magenta pink Gallery III was a glorious space with its ornate roof and light flooding in. There was the ubiquitous gin bar in the centre with a lonely bartender- no one wanted gin at noon on a Sunday.
I loved the portrait on the left, 'Megan in a Spotted Silk Blouse' by Chantal Joffe RA.
Urban landscapes are another favourite for me. This was a generously sized canvas, I liked the higgledy, piggledy look of the high-rise: 'Tower' by Alison Boult.