I recently spent a few days in London and had an amazing time seeing some of the museums and galleries I have not had a chance to see in the past. This trip meant both some of the cutting edge and some of the classics.
The Courtauld Gallery was the highlight of the trip for me. It is a small museum located at Somerset House on Strand, and it is brimming with treasures. The Courtauld is best known for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections, specifically the collection of Samuel Courtauld which was amassed between 1923 and 1929. The icons of the period are more amazing in person than I even expected. In one room hang Manet’s Bar at the Folies Bergere, a period copy of his Luncheon on the Grass, nine Cezanne masterpieces including both his constructed landscapes and portraits and three Gauguin paintings reflecting his time in both Brittany and Tahiti. The Haystacks, 1889, by Gauguin, depicting the golden French hay fields, is a treat. The next room holds its own with Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889, a Seurat portrait, a Modigliani nude circa 1916 and works by Monet. To say nothing of the works by Botticelli, Cranach, Breugel, Gainsborough and many others. I look forward to returning many times.
Next stop, the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. I was thrilled to see some more icons: Seurat’s luminous, large Bathers at Asnieres, 1886, Manet’s Execution of Maximillian, Stubbs’ Whistlejacket, 1762, Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed, 1844, the room of Canalettos and the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait, not to mention the current special exhibition, Picasso, Challenging the Past. I need days more to take it all in – I will be back.
The Saatchi Gallery at the Duke of York Headquarters in Chelsea is now open. The current exhibition, Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East,fills the large and bustling gallery space with varied and interesting work. Among the best are Shadi Ghadirian’s large scale color photographs. Upstairs in the Project Room is a hilarious installation piece, The Bed, by New York artist Will Ryman of an enormous papier mache male figure strewn across a bed surrounded by the remains of a late night: Doritos, cigarettes, beer cans, etc.
Gallery hopping in Mayfair-St. James I found a great exhibition at Art First Contemporary Art on Cork Street of works by recently deceased gallery artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham entitled Paintings 1965-1980. I also took in the current shows along Cork Street and at Hauser & Wirth and wound up at Haunch of Venison’s Mythologies. All in all, a very successful and varied weekend of seeing art. I look forward to doing it again soon.
I picked up a copy of Sidra Stich’s art-SITES london which is a great guide to carry with you as you make your way on such extensive art tours.