Although I live quite close to London I don’t go into town as often as I might like. This is mainly to do with the cost of a train ticket – at almost £30 for an off peak day Travelcard, it’s a fair amount of money spent before the day has even begun. So when I saw that Tate Modern were holding a retrospective of the work of Roy Lichtenstein I knew I had to go; especially as I had really enjoyed the last big showing of his work at the Hayward back on 2005. But what to do with the rest of the day? I had a look round at the other offerings in the general area of Tate Modern and came up with Picasso at the Courtauld and Light at the Hayward. 3 very different art styles, spanning the zeitgeist across a century.
First up in this Cultural Triathlon on a drizzly Saturday was “Becoming Picasso – Paris 1901”. This small but interesting exhibition follows Picasso through the year 1901, when he arrived in Paris as an ambitious 19 year old. Works on display show how he was influenced by the important artists of the age, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas and Van Gogh and the way he reinvented their styles in his work. Many of the works on display were originally hung at his first major show at the Ambroise Vollard gallery. After the death of a close friend Picasso’s work took on a totally different direction and his famous ‘Blue’ period began, this is also the time when the now famous signature also emerged and Picasso set out along the road to international recognition not only as a great painter but also as a great pioneer and innovator of the art world.
Moving on to the second leg of the Triathlon we walked along the river down towards the Millennium Bridge. On the way there we passed through the ‘gateway’ to the City of London marked by silver dragons, apparently Freemen of the City of London still have the right to drive their sheep through the city once a year!
Dragon marking boundary of City of London
A bit further on I spotted the Tardis! This amazing little telephone box sadly is not longer in working order but can be seen at St Martins le Grand by the river.
Tardis Phone Box
Fortunately the rain had just about stopped as we walked on down past Blackfriars tube station when a strange pedelo pulled up with a Stag Party on board – drinking and pedalling, but not driving as a girl was doing that while another girl was serving the stags drinks! Fun fun fun!
Stag Pedelo at Blackfriars
The Lichtenstein exhibition was predictably busy, but definitely worth seeing. It is a larger and more comprehensive show than the Hayward exhibition from 2005 and includes his celebrated pop subjects together with series paintings from Perfect/Imperfect, Mirrors and Brushstrokes as well as examples of his take on art historical movements.
After a well deserved cup of tea and sit down we plodded on back down the Southbank towards the Hayward Gallery to have a look at the Light Show.
The unattractive frontage of the Hayward Gallery
I have heard conflicting reports of this show and felt that I should see it for myself. It claims to “explore how we experience and psychologically respond to illumination and colour…” That’s a mighty big claim. It does boast work by some ‘heavyweights’ in the post-modern art world including Dan Flavin, Jenny Holzer, Olafur Olliasson and James Turrell; but to my mind it failed on many levels. Massive queues for the interactive ‘theme-parky’ installations made waiting to see these a fruitless exercise, while other installations were full of children sliding around at break-neck speed in the shoe covers provided. In my humble opinion this show relies too heavily on sensationalism to put its point across and where the static displays are at best akin to Christmas or Seaside Illuminations. I was disappointed; a boring and overblown show full of its own self-importance.
So a bit of a disappointing end to a marathon day of cultural visiting, but then again 2 out of 3 ain’t bad! Mind you, there was a bonus in the shape the Wool House exhibition at Somerset House (see my previous blog post A Bleating Good Show) which in all honesty was amazing and just goes to show that sometimes the best exhibitions are the free ones!
Entrance to The Wool House exhibition at Somerset House