img_3756I tweeted H: ’Unfortunately it’s sold, so I can’t get it for you.’
‘Where is his nose?’ came the response. I ignored the question, after all a bust of this Hellenistic King from mid century BC was bound to come a cropper at some point in the last few centuries.

Frieze Masters hosted this fine piece of art along with many others of repute and fame, their makers well established in art history vernacular. From Picasso to Bonnard, Dali to Louise Bourgeois, these were all artists we can agree on as having made it. The elite hush of this particular part of Frieze held a reverence indicative of solemn recognition and certain provenance, to say nothing of sky high prices.

Across a cooling October park lay Frieze London.

I headed to the bathrooms, noting that Julie Verhoeven was performing a piece of her art there entitled ‘The Toilet Attendant … Now Wash Your Hands’. One of many works this year with a message cloaked in humour.

A blue strip of carpet led to the ladies, a pink to the mens. Once that initial confusion was dealt with I entered to the usual set up save a few trolleys dotted about laden with the tools of a loo attendant’s trade.  I spied the artist suitably dressed in the latter’s regalia.

‘I just want you to know, I’ve washed my hands’ I said.
‘But did you put the loo seat down?’ she asked, ‘It’s amazing how many people don’t.’ ‘Well, that could be because they’ve become confused by the blue and pink carpet. Perhaps you would find that if you went into the mens all the loo seats would be resting in situ between visits.’
‘Ha!’ she replied. ‘Maybe.’

Through the fair I wandered, stopping in my tracks for some pieces, marvelling at them, rendered mute by others such were the thoughts and feelings provoked.

I heard my name being called:  An old acquaintance from the 90’s, and art collector. I told him about Julie’s work.  ‘Did she ask you for a pound? Is that how artists are making money these days?!’ he laughed.

The question’s answer is potentially the same as it was in mid century BC as it may be in 50 years; a benefactor, menial work or connections – the way the pendulum swings dependent on our appetite for and willingness to appreciate another narrative to our daily lives.

Frieze Art Fair until 9th October, Regent’s Park, London.


New Term

img_3540Just in the door, my Skype rang. It was Fifi from Ibiza.  “Everyone’s gone home” she said, “The whole family. The temperature’s dropped and the campsite’s finally calming down.”

I relayed how I’d just been sitting on a bench in the park with a hot cup of tea for company as the smoky smell of autumn drifted towards me, leaves on the ground around my stillness; serving as a carpet to crunch through on the way home.

“I crave nature these days” I said.
“You’re not the only one.  Practically every guest I’ve had a conversation with this season has told me of their yearning for countryside, greenness and simplicity in life” Fifi replied.

Later that evening I bounded up the steps of my choir’s rehearsal venue, literally grinning with glee in anticipation.

Continue reading “New Term”

Village of Beauty

img_8950“It’s gives you a break, that’s the most important thing” Kamila told me as she explained the Jean d’Estrées Vitamin C Facial.  “And, that’s what we’re about too, we like people to come here – men, women, couples, groups of friends, basically everyone can be together and get everything done.  We’re like a one stop shop for relaxation through treatments.”

I can testify that to be the truth, as I have now had various beauty treatments at this local emporium – one more delicious than the next – from mani/pedis to a massage to various other more intimate ones.  However, this, the facial, was what I really longed for.  Anything, but anything that can give me a break from daily hecticness more than floats my boat. Plus, if it’s good enough for A-Listers such as Luke Evans, then it’s good enough for me.

The familiar strains of Stevie could be heard as we discussed the options: ‘’till you come back to me, that’s where I wanna be’.

Continue reading “Village of Beauty”

Pokemon Olympics


IMG_3328What do the Olympics and Pokemon have in common?  Well, not much really except that they’re both topical and highly competitive.  So, when my suggestion to join my ‘nephew’ and his Mum at the Olympic park to hunt Pokemon was met by a youthful ‘Yeah okay’ that was enough encouragement.

I did the downloading and arrived at the beautifully landscaped venue of so many inspiring memories from 2012.  Alliums and long tall grasses gently swayed in the breeze, a blazing sun bounced off the River Lea and cyclists rode slowly past curvaceous benches, enjoying the sense of freedom and space afforded.

IMG_3322J came running towards me: “You need a name! Have you got one yet?”
“No – any bright ideas?”
We stood by the aquatic centre looking up at curves side-framing a blue sky.
“I don’t know – Helexium?”
“Whatever you say, you’re the expert.”

I punched in my virtual self’s new name, added a few numbers and I was off.

My first Pokemon appeared floating in front of me, hovering just above the grass.  I tried to zap him with the ball but to no avail.
“Here let me do it for you” J said grabbing the phone. “Gotcha! You got a Staryu, I’ll power it up, it’s only CP 11 though..”

Continue reading “Pokemon Olympics”

Norte and South

IMG_3249I’ve long been fascinated by graffiti and street art – from days of New York living where the subways trains rattled past spray-painted with a thousand colours.  By whom, I used to wonder, and when and how? The mystery of incognito people decorating vehicles and walls in the dead of night or when no one was looking intrigued me.

Fast forward to August 2016 and the opening of ‘Norte and South’ an urban art exhibition at Atzaró hotel in Ibiza, and it’s clear things have developed in that world.  Possibly the most beautifully situated luxury boutique hotel in Ibiza annually hosts a show of street artists whose work now fetches none too shabby prices, and adorn the walls of the most high spec villas and homes. In short – it’s moved from the outside in.

The artists’ names indicate anonymity: Sixe, Inkie, Vinz, Miss Van are some that together with the use of masks in many of the paintings perpetuate the theme of mystery and secrecy necessitated by illegal street painting.

I asked Inkie what the difference was between a graffiti artist and a street artist. “Grafitti is about making your mark by spray painting surfaces freehand – then you tag (sign) it – to show you’ve been there.  It’s a territorial thing.  If someone graffitis over an existing piece on a wall somewhere – there’s gonna be trouble..”

So far so understood.  But what about street art? “Well, that’s work produced using stencils and print.  It’s more iconic image based work.” I was getting the gist.
“And your name?” I asked, “Inkie?”
“You know, it’s like an ink fingerprint.”

It was all making perfect sense, until I spotted the magnificent ‘Dimensions’ by Sixe Paredes. Continue reading “Norte and South”

Wondrous Stevie

IMG_2906As with the best holidays, the blues follow: They’re inescapable. And so it was for Stevie Wonder at Hyde Park.  Such was the sublime soulfulness of Stevie and his band’s performance of ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ that the only way from such an up was an inevitable down today. But tonight when I listened to some of my recordings I felt the magic again.

The day had started inconspicuously enough.  Meeting my cousin, we were excited at the prospect, but exhausted from a hard working week; keen for a catch up and a sit down.

With a mid forties average age audience, we remained seated during Corinne Bailey Rae and read the papers. Pharrell stirred us at 5.30pm and at 6.30pm we stood to attention to salut one of my all time favourite singers.

‘Songs in the Key of Life’ was the first (double) album I ever bought on cassette, and the first song I christened my first hi-fi with was ‘Isn’t She Lovely’.  That’s a lot of firsts.

Through the humour and charm of his performance, frequently spouting ‘cockney’ and admonishing the crowd when they came in too soon to sing a long, Stevie had us all in the palm of his hand.  And what a comforting and gentle hand it was too.  He reminded us of the importance of love over hate and how we can all play a part in turning things around. His rendition of ‘Pastime Paradise’ gave me goosebumps – a gospel choir coming in strong with a heart-rending  chorus of ‘We Shall Overcome’.

After he performed ‘Joy Inside My Tears’ he wiped his from mirrored-shades protected eyes. He wasn’t the only one.

Before he sang ‘If it’s Magic’ he told us that his harpist had recently died from cancer, and that the last backing track she had recorded to accompany this tune would be played with him now.

Through it all – from his array of stupendously excellent singers’ and musicians’ solos contributing to the democratic perfection of a truly beautiful and uplifting whole, the occasion was tinged with a bittersweetness.  Bitter in that so many geniuses and legends of note have left us recently; a seeming rise in troubled times and uncertainty; sweet in that Stevie in all his magnificence continues to inspire – despite a debilitation that from birth must have challenged him in all aspects of his life.

His message was clear: If I can do it, you can:  ‘We can all make a difference when we choose love over hate’ he said.

Poignancy infused this three and a half hour set in the most soaring way: Despite feeling ill that day, he’d arrived to be here, and as darkness fell he called out to the crowd: ‘We’ve got 20 more minutes before they close the park: Let’s turn it out!’ He didn’t want to go home, and neither did we.

All Creatures Great and Small

P1080105It’s not what you might expect, but, as soon as I walked the dusty sunny path to Hampton Court Palace Flower Show from the station, entered the grounds and perused the catalogue, I knew what I wanted to see.

The show gardens are of course predominantly what it’s all about with prizes awarded to the most outstanding.  Then there’s the rose marquee, various celebrity talks, plants to be purchased and delectable food and drink to taste. However, this year the flower show encompassed so much more – from cooking to dogs and butterflies.  Yes, you heard me right.

‘If you head to the ‘DogsTrust: A Dog’s Life’ garden you should be able to see it complete with a few of its namesakes’ the press office told me.

I couldn’t get there fast enough.  Past people carrying trundling boxes full of garden delights I did my best to make haste.  But, the mood was relaxed, and I found myself slowing down: A couple stood looking over a show garden: ‘I think if we did something like that water feature dear – it could work – it’s just a small dribble’ one said.
‘We could give it a try love’ came the mellow response, made so by the warmth of sun shining and a precious day away from the norm.

Up ahead I spied a rectangular shallow pool overhung with various delicate plants and some sculptures of – were they dogs – wading through it? I had reached my destination and was soon chatting to Emily from DogsTrust.  ‘We just won Gold last night’ she told me excitedly proceeding to fill me in on the whys and wherefores of this sensitively planned garden.

‘It represents the journey of every DogsTrust dog – making sure they’re as happy as can be. It’s got herbaceous borders, sniffer tracks, a pavilion for shade, tubes for them to run through, water and places to dig. But, it’s also about people being able to enjoy their garden with their dog – showing that it’s possible to make it work for both.’

I stroked Evie’s head – a quiet and restrained greyhound visiting from their West London centre for the day.  ‘She’s been with us two weeks – often dogs come here when there’s a change in the family circumstances.  She used to race.’ In the cool and gently scented garden a photo session followed.

Time was flying by and there was yet a final highlight to attend: In the Butterfly Dome, I couldn’t stop myself smiling – thrilled by hundreds of these most colourful creatures flitting about my head, landing on plants and occasionally my bare arm.

Without a doubt it had been a day to delight not just one, but all of the senses.P1080159

Very many thanks to RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Ms Georgia O’Keeffe

P1080066The last time I got tearful at an exhibition was The V&A’s Alexander McQueen show.  Today at the new Tate Modern’s sensitively and sublimely curated exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, it happened all over again.  And then some.

Rounding the corner of one of the first rooms I came face to face with ‘Music – Pink and Blue No. 1’.  This was the catalogue cover of my first, and until this day, only viewing of Ms O’Keeffe’s art in the flesh as it were.  That was in 1987, just a year after she died.

A flood of memories surfaced; living in New York and then Washington D.C. where the show had taken place at the National Gallery of Art. Tears pricked my eyes.  Her powerful and confident strokes of both paint and charcoal reveal a determined character:  Determined and dedicated to being true to herself.

In her own words, quoted on the introduction to each room in this exhibition she comes across as a woman of single mind and focus.  I could say ‘person’ here, and many of the often cited quotes on her work refer to her as a great ‘woman’ painter which she famously railed against, saying ‘The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I’m one of the best painters’. However, only a female artist could say: ’Of course I was told it was an impossible idea – even the men hadn’t done that well with it’ on painting the New York landscape.

She knew she was up against it to be taken seriously as a woman who made art, and nothing less than 100% of herself would do.

Through showing such an extraordinary variety of her work in this exhibition, the Tate seeks primarily to champion O’Keeffe’s own insistence that her work was not overtly sexualised, that every flower and landscape she painted had little to do with sexuality and in particular the female body.

It’s largely succeeded in this mission, but there’s no getting away from the fact that there is an inherent sensuality and almost erotic like quality imbued within her paintings in particular – whether they be of New York skyscrapers or clouds floating beneath blue skies.  Nature was such a source of inspiration to her, and that in its most basic form is reproduction – in all that is created.

The final rooms hosting her paintings from New Mexico stirred up emotion again. The ruthless and unrelenting desire to demonstrate clarity and one’s own truth is particularly piercing in the Pelvis series and the paintings of her Abiquiú house. The sense imparted is of an infinite search for oneself, to strip back all that doesn’t matter and reach the core:  ‘I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only woman can explore’ she once said.

Her love of nature and the nature of love, in particular for oneself, is imbued in all Georgia O’Keeffe’s work. She just couldn’t help herself. P1070963
‘My Last Door’ Georgia O’Keeffe.  Portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz.

Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern 6 July – 30 October 2016.

Inside and Outside

P1070862They informed me at the Press Office that I might be able to have a few words with Bjarke Ingels, architect of this year’s Serpentine Pavilion.  I’d read about the unzipped wall and wondered how it would compare to past years’ structures.

I was also super keen to ask him about the unzipping part:  In conceiving of these staggered cubes undulating from narrow to wide creating a different view from every angle, had he thought it male or female?  Had he thought of no gender whatsoever? Are structures/buildings usually referred to as ‘she’ or is that just for sea vessels? I felt it could be an interesting conversation.

Walking through Hyde Park to get there, raindrops fell from tree branches, soft landings on my top, rippling outwards to create the occasional water mark.

Wandering in past the gallery, I moved slowly through the crush of people by the 2016 Pavilion. Wine gasses in hands, bottles of beer, interesting spectacle frames – coloured and otherwise surrounded me. ‘Isn’t it great to be out’ I overheard someone remark. Indeed it was, after a day of downpours the sun had finally granted us an audience, enabling outdoor pursuits once more and now setting on a city yearning for summer.

Continue reading “Inside and Outside”

House of Crab

IMG_1948When you’re in the West End of London town and feeling peckish at lunchtime, it’s hard to escape the pull of the ubiquitous fast food chains for a re-fuel: Mayfair, home of the £20 cocktail is especially challenging.

Crossing New Bond Street through streams of Bentleys and revving Maseratis I sought sustenance and respite from the main drag. On Grosvenor Street I spied a couple of brightly painted tables and chairs sitting outside a cute wooden facade.  An entrance gaily thrown open to the street dared me to walk past without investigating.

I walked in to more cheery furniture and a whitewashed bar at the back, behind which a young bearded man industriously attended to business.

“Are you a pop-up?” I asked, “Specialising in Crab by any chance?”

He grinned and gave me the lowdown.  Open since early this year they are indeed that, and plan on staying in Mayfair for the duration of 2016, business depending. “Sit down! Sit down!” he insisted handing me a menu.

Continue reading “House of Crab”