Wednesday, 15 June 2016

A fine example of Giacometti's portraiture at Gagosian

The wizards of the Gagosian Gallery Grosvenor Hill have combined the work of Yves Klein with that of Alberto Giacometti for this show.The colour experiments of Klein, notably the ultramarine-bright, eyeball-grabbing Klein Blues (also shown in one ot his Untitled Sponge Sculptures - SE 309 (1959)), look good against the black or low key painted or patinated bronzes of the Italian master.

The exhibition, which has already been extended, closes on Friday 17 June at 4 pm. So, while Tate Modern and its shiny new extension opens the doors to hordes of first visitors, you might like instead, diesel traffic permitting, to saunter through the sparkling streets of Mayfair. The Mayfair that is transforming itself into a starry place people want to live and work in, not to mention visit, might surprise you.

Go south along Davies Street, turn left into the exquisite little Bourdon Street and on the left you will find Grosvenor Hill and the Gagosian Gallery at No. 20. There are three big things to celebrate here:

- A streetscape designed by the architectural and engineering practice BDP. Clean and friendly, the space has seating, new paving, trees and lighting, the  whole prioritising those on foot (or bicycle).

- A gallery building whose interior, a double height, daylit space by Caruso St John, is spellbinding. The same partnership was responsible for the redevelopment of Tate Britain. The overall exterior of the building, which is multipurpose, was designed by TateHindle.

- The Art. 
Look particularly at Giacometti's portrait of the Japanese philosopher Isaku Yanaihara (1961) a subject he painted many times. Look at what Giacometti does with his palette of dead head colours - various shades of grey - the fluidity, the agility, of those brush strokes. Look at the modelling of the face. And look where colour occurs to move the painting out of the monochrome: on his subject's patterned tie. Nearby, you will also find the four studies Giacometti made of Yanaihara's face the previous year, sketched in blue ballpoint on a sheet of newsprint. You'll also find around 20 of the bronzes, including the 1960 L'homme qui marche I.

Gagosian Gallery
Alberto Giacometti Yves Klein
In Search of the Absolute
20 Grosvenor Hill
London W1
Hours: Tue–Sat 10-6

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Preserving London's fine retail heritage

Some of the most celebrated architects have been and still are responsible for London's retail buildings. Some of these buildings are relatively modest in scale. Most of Oxford Street, for instance, consists of the typical mixture of large department stores and relatively small boutique stores that suits London (and shoppers) so well.

Many of these buildings are not officially 'listed'; they come into the category of what Westminster City Council planning department in its wisdom call buildings of merit. 

I am taking a look here at one section of one street: the south-west section of Great Marlborough Street that leads to Liberty and Regent Street. No-one would think of altering Liberty, that marvel of Tudor revival, but what about the smaller buildings further along the street?

Here is one - a delightful step gabled building that used to house the London College of Music. Schott's wonderful music shop still operates next door. 

As I understand the development of this section of street, and borrowing from the Survey of London, the area in the 20th century became predominantly garment industry, notably millinery. Some of these buildings - I can think of at least two or three - now stand empty and face that often rather sad fate known as 'redevelopment'. 

Europa House at 54 Great Marlborough Street is one notable example (see pic); the building at 55-57 is another. These buildings have been empty for some years but recently the ground floor of No. 54 has been covered with hoardings. At first I felt relieved about this. At last, I thought, this beautiful little art deco building is going to be refurbished. Another fine example of the street's (and the area's) retail heritage is going to be preserved. The art deco lettering and style of the hoardings misled me I'm afraid. Now I'm not sure what  exactly is going on.

"These buildings too . . . are part of what people come to London to see."

Dusty and neglected these buildings may be, but there is much elegantly functional design value at risk here.The latest Westminster City Council planning department meeting notes I can find refer to "redevelopment behind retained street façades at 54 and 55-57". E-architect on the other hand suggests that "the new building (sic), at 54-57 Great Marlborough Street, will feature a new façade". E-architect goes on to say, referring to the Europa House building (see pic above), "the gentle curve of which has been designed to reflect the curve of the existing building at 54 Great Marlborough Street and the rhythm of the original streetscape". The curve referred to is of course the restrained curve of the typical art deco reworking of classical proportions. 

These buildings form part of London's light industrial and retail history, and of the family histories tied up with those industries. IThese buildings too, I would suggest, are part of what people come to London to see.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Shop windowing art

Shops and art galleries seem to be fusing: they already have in some cases. Art gallery shops become ever more artful (two of my favourites are in the Serpentine and the Serpentine Sackler Galleries). Shops become ever more art gallery-like in terms of their interiors, their handling of day and artificial light, as well as in their merchandise. 

I'll write later about the way auction houses are handling this trend - more and more resembling giant art supermarkets where you can bid for whatever you fancy hanging on the walls or stay at home and bid online for work you can collect in store or have delivered.

My recent journey through part of Mayfair to see Alberto Giacometti and Yves Klein at the Gagosian Gallery Grosvenor Hill emphasised this and here are some examples of the shop and architectural art I spotted. The picture left shows No. 30 Bruton Street, the Stella McCartney showroom, with some beautiful neon cats, any one of which, if she isn't planning to offer them to Tate Modern, I'd love to give a home to.

Another shop reaching into the realm of art (although this is something the French and Belgians are already known for) is the accessory designer Jérôme Dreyfuss's new shop at the corner of Bruton Street and Berkeley Square.

Here's another, the precious practical art of the Ancient Greeks at the newly opened Kallos Gallery at 14-16 Davies Street. The exquisite amphora shown is an attic red-figure specimen from Nola. Just let me say that red-figure Nolan amphorae are most likely to be found in the world's top museums.

The architecture of the area also captures the attention. The famous Bonhams auction house is an example. You'll find it in Woodstock Street, a tiny street just west of New Bond Street. It's the art deco beauty at the far end

Ermenegildo Zegna has also re-opened their 37-38 New Bond Street shop in a beautiful art deco-inspired envelope building (see pic).
I would urge you by the way not to wait for my review of the Gagosian show. The Giacometti-Klein exhibition has already been extended and closes on Friday 17 June at 4 pm. In addition, if you haven't seen the new building at 20 Grosvenor Hill, be prepared to experience a delightfully airy and well-lit space designed by Caruso St John. Outside the new gallery, the Grosvenor Group's clean and friendly streetscapes with new paving, trees and lighting that prioritise those on foot also impress.

Gagosian Gallery
Alberto Giacometti Yves Klein
In Search of the Absolute
20 Grosvenor Hill
London W1
Hours: Tue–Sat 10-6