While Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I were in London awaiting Middle Son’s (MS’s) final operations and discharge from hospital, we did, as predicted, fit in a couple more exhibitions:
- At the Whitechapel Gallery, an exhibition of work from the last twenty years by Michael Rakowitz, an Iraqi-American artist perhaps most famous for his work currently on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square
- At the Gagosian Gallery, which neither of us had visited before, an exhibition of about a dozen paintings by Francis Bacon who is one of my favourite artists.
The visits took our minds off MS’s predicament, filled in the non-visiting hours at the hospital and were well worth seeing anyway.
The Rakowitz exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery was an interesting mix of visual effects across eight ‘installations’. All of them related to history and most, a little depressingly, draw inspiration from examples of thwarted hope. For example, the first exhibit, called ‘Dull Roar’ is a very large inflatable building depicting a multi-racial social housing experiment in St Louis, Missouri. Its cyclical inflation and deflation over a period of a few minutes is a metaphor for the initial hope when the building was opened and its failure as it fell into disrepair, became a focus for social unrest and was ultimately demolished.
Other rooms and exhibits highlight book destruction, the destruction and reconstruction of antiquities in the war-torn Middle-East and the rise and fall of The Beatles. The latter includes off-cuts from a 1970 documentary film of the group and many artefacts relating to The Beatles. These are annotated with postulations about how the break-up occurred and parallels with late 20th century North African history. The film recounted the The Beatles’ last attempt to repair their relationship with a triumphant concert in North Africa. The concert never happened.
The exhibition had a lot of variety and depth and made good use of the Whitechapel Gallery space.
The Gagosian Gallery in Grosvenor Hill (I now find that there are three Gagosian Galleries in London alone and many more worldwide) is also a great art space with large, light rooms. It’s an interesting rectangular and ultra-modern building tucked behind Berkeley Square. Inside were a relatively small number of Francis Bacon’s double figure paintings. All were instantly recognisable as Bacon’s work and about half of them were as dramatic and terrific as I had hoped.
Most of the works were, as expected, clearly inspired by his anxious, passionate and probably violent relationships. What was more of a surprise was the interest he had in monkeys and baboons that had been engendered by his trips to Africa. A couple of the paintings reflected this.
Unlike the Whitechapel Gallery which was a bit pricey to visit, the Gagosian is free. What’s not to like!
Now we are back in Gloucestershire with MS. Fortunately the weather has remained wonderful. The garden is in peak colour – although it could do with a refreshing downpour – and the vegetables are growing faster than the deer can eat them.
I have reverted to my pattern of last summer of walking in to the local town’s shops before breakfast when it is cool. That means that LSW can get to work without us leaving MS alone for long and gives me the chance to enjoy the local countryside in the lovely morning light. We have much to be thankful for.