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Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

I had a visitor in town a few weeks ago and we decided to head to the Art Science Museum. It’s such a lovely piece of architecture and having it situated right on Marina Bay makes it’s hard to resist.

Currently there are two free exhibits on display, Hermes Leather Forever (until December 13) and The Nobel Prize: Ideas Changing the World (until January 2016).  We decided to check these two exhibits out and pay to see the Collider exhibit if we had time and energy afterward (spoiler alert: we did not.)

Unfortunately, I think we should have skipped the free exhibits and forked out the money for the Collider instead. Or better yet, made it to one of the ArtScience Late sessions where the museum is open for free in the evening.

I wasn’t all that impressed with the Nobel Prize exhibit and the Hermes exhibit felt like an overt advertisement. It’s not like I didn’t learn anything though- I got some historical perspective on the Nobel Prize and learned a bit about the beginnings of the Hermes brand. Did you know they got their start with horse riding?

We met Shanna for a drink at Overeasy on Collyer Quay after the museum session. She was surprised to hear that I was less than impressed with Hermes Leather Forever, but then again she attended a Champagne premier of the exhibit. Looking at luxury goods you can’t afford is always better with a glass of Champagne in hand.

One thing I can say is that the Hermes exhibit was artfully crafted. But you wouldn’t expect less, would you?

hermes1.jpg

Hermes Motorcycle Gear VROOM VROOM

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Can you spot the Birkin Bag??

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A few weeks ago Gillman Barracks celebrated their second anniversary with late night art openings, food, libations and music. I enjoyed my time at their first anniversary party so decided it would be worth a second go around. My friend, Radha, was keen as well so we met there and moved from gallery to gallery following the path of free wine.

Gillman Barracks Second Anniversary Party

Gillman Barracks Second Anniversary Party

Along the path of free wine at Gillman Barracks

Along the path of free wine at Gillman Barracks

When we arrived at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery we were really stoked to have stumbled across 38 large-scale prints of Annie Liebovitz‘s portrait photography. (editor’s note: exhibit closed as of 9 Oct 2014) .I had heard that she had an exhibition at the ArtScience Museum but had not yet made my way there so this was a great treat. Radha was equally as excited.

Sundaram GAGd Gallery

Sundaram Tagore Gallery

Whoopi Goldberg photo by Annie Liebovitz

Whoopi Goldberg portrait by Annie Liebovitz

The next holiday weekend, Hari Raya Haji, I was planning to treat myself to the beach. That is, until I saw the haze had crept in. Left suddenly with no plans I got out my trusty Google Machine aka computer and started scouring for events around town. Voila! The ArtScience Museum was having a free day in honor of the holiday. I texted Radha and we made plans once again to meet. (editor’s note: exhibit closed as of 19 Oct 2014)

True as promised, the ArtScience Museum was free to all that would brave the haze to get there. We perused the exhibition that featured both professional and personal photos, although Annie was very clearly portrayed as someone who did not have boundaries between the two. The story of her life and career was on display, including moments with her partner (referred to in the exhibit as “long-time friend”) Susan Sontag and Annie’s often clearly annoyed parents.

Quite chuffed with our luck, we ended our afternoon with a pizza at Pizzeria Mozza in Marina Bay Sands. Not cheap, but necessary. Especially after viewing the line at Din Tai Fung.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, because you may be a procrastinator like me and just realized that you have the day off work tomorrow for Deepavali. If so, you are in luck. The ArtScience Museum is hosting another free day. Although the Annie Liebovitz exhibit is now closed, Flux Realities: A Showcase of Chinese Contemporary Photography is still on display and offers 60 photographs by 7 different Chinese photographers ranging from landscape to fantasy. It’s definitely worth a look. Did I mention it’s free?

The ArtScience museum is open daily from 10:00am until 7:00pm, including public holidays. Last admission is at 6:00pm.

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If you’ve been around London and paying any vague amount of attention, you’ve probably heard something about the Designs of the Year exhibit at the London Design Museum. What? You’ve never heard of the London Design Museum? Well I guess neither had Justine when I suggested we go one afternoon, so scratch that first sentence.

It’s in a slightly undesign-y looking building near Tower Bridge on the Thames. In fact, it is housed in a former 1940’s banana warehouse, but this all to change with a slated 2014 move to the former Commonwealth Institute building in west London. The museum covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design and was a brainchild of Terence Conran, who coincidentally has an exhibit dedicated to him on the entire first floor. The museum costs £10 for adults to enter, which feels a bit expensive in a city full of free museums, but is totally worth it if you are a design geek. Being slightly artsy with a background in product design, I felt like I fell well into this category. As for Justine, she had an upcoming date with a design and art book publisher, so naturally this would aid in the development of dinner conversation material.

Along the River Thames near the Design Museum

The current museum consists of only two floors, but to be honest this was perfect for my museum attention span. When I find myself at places like the Victoria and Albert or the British Museum, I try to see to too much and end up heady and overwhelmed. The Design Museum with a cup of coffee in the cafe and a peruse in the gift shop can easily be done in 2 hours.

As I mentioned before, the entire first floor was dedicated to Terence Conran. At the time, I had no idea who this bloke was, but turns out that’s because his contributions are so woven in to the London experience that I had been influenced by him without even knowing it. The  designer, restaurateur and retailer promoted a whole new style of interior design simplicity that reverberates today across the globe. Looking at his designs, I started wondering what things had looked like prior to this ubiquitous genre. “Like an old Granny’s house,” Justine had to remind me. In my head I tried to contrast clunky wooden furniture with heavily upholstered thick florals next to sleek clean lines and curves. Obviously I’ve spent too much time in London and not enough time at my Granny’s.

Clean Lines at the Design Museum

Teapots

In 1964 Conran opened the first Habitat and later went on to develop Heal’s. He was revolutionary in his displays as they were set up like actual living rooms, which not only taught people how designs could be arranged, but also allowed them to wander in and out of possibilities imagining them as part of their everyday life. I’m reminded of this scene from the movie 500 days of Summer.

And while we are here, shouldn’t we mention Ikea? Being founded in 1943, I can’t say that they’ve necessarily taken from Conran’s concepts, but clearly they must have influenced each other. Ikea, however, being more disposable and therefore a further step away from Granny’s living room.

Justine and I compared back and forth which Terence Conran restaurants we had been too. Most were a bit too expensive and highly appealing to the West London set. Nice area, but not quite what I consider innovative. But then again, there was a day when the King’s Road was full of Mary Quant innovation and Vivienne Westwood appeal. Funny how things evolve.

We next headed upstairs to view the 2012 Designs of the Year where my definition of design continued to expand and expand until I wasn’t quite sure what a designer is or does anymore. There was everything from a bicycle helmet that activates and extends only upon impact to a computer software program that mutates an image of your face into a creepy facsimile. Also included were an electric car, DIY design jelly shoes and elements from Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. In April, judges will chose seven winners from Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Product and Transport categories and one overall category winner.  I couldn’t even begin to guess who the winner would be. I left with my head spinning from so many ideas.

The Design Museum is located at 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD and is open daily from 10am – 5.45pm. Last admission is at 5.15pm.

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The British Museum sat on my London bucket list for a long time. Luckily, it was on Sarah and Temi’s list too when they came to visit from Texas.

Walking up to the front doors I felt a tingle of excitement. Once inside I was blown away by the Great Court.

The Great Court

Other highlights included the section on ancient Greece, complete with opulent drinking cups depicting engagement in naughty lustful activities, Hokusai’s colour woodblock print, The Great Wave, which is on display until 8 January, and the Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone

This is one tourist attraction I won’t mind returning to, unlike the Changing of the Guard which I refuse to accompany any more visitors too. I’ll give you guys a map to that one and you can go on your own. 😉

The British Museum

The British Museum is free and open daily 10.00–17.30, Friday until 20.30.

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I was aching for something cultural and Blair was restless in her painting studio, so we decided to meet up at the Tate Modern to see their permanent collection.

I love modern art museums, but any museum can be a serious marathon. Floor 3 with the surrealists is manageable, but by the time I’m at the Rothkos, I am shifting my weight from leg to leg and adjusting my typically massive bag from one shoulder to the next. This is when we decided we were in serious need of some caffeine and a snack if we were to continue. We headed to the 7th floor restaurant where the views were amazing and the atmosphere stylish.

Restaurant View

Blair, excited for her cake.

Unfortunately, that’s about the only good thing I could say about the restaurant that day. We had really been looking forward to the cake and coffee. The server brought the wrong coffee, and when we did get the right one, it used real milk instead of the soy we had ordered. It was delicious, but I was concerned for anyone lactose intolerant. Then the cake came out. The carrot cake was spicy with a nice cream cheese icing, but the coffee cake was not at all like I had imagined. The sugar was overly intense. I had to scrape all the icing off in order to enjoy any bit of it. Even then I had a hard time tasting the coffee flavours through the sugar. The worst disappoint was that the chocolate covered espresso bean on top wasn’t an espresso bean at all. It was overly sugared espresso bean shaped chocolate. I guess they assume their clientele REALLY like sugar.

The selection

Oh well, I guess everyone has an off day?

Don’t order the coffee cake.

The good thing was that we had the sudden boost of energy we needed to continue on with the museum. We managed to squeeze in the Diane Arbus room right before closing. That is something I can recommend.

The Tate Modern Restaurant is open Sunday – Thursday, 10.00–17.30 and Friday – Saturday, 10.00–21.30

ARTIST ROOMS: Diane Arbus runs until March 31, 2012

Tate Modern Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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With all the buzz surrounding Tracey Emin’s retrospective at the Hayward, a few friends and I decided to check it out. The afternoon promised art and a chance to hang out on the Southbank.

I must admit that before this retrospective I had never heard of Emin. Her identity and art was billed through the media with a sense of British pride. Local girl done good. Why not check it out and gain some insight?

Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995. Picture not mine.

After hearing about Emin’s infamous tent piece, I was prepared for a bit of shock art. What I got was a bit more complex. The shock of used tampons displayed as art, visual depictions of masturbation and in depth details of her abortion were enough for a reaction, but all of this was mixed in with a touch of softness. The hard neon sign messages were delivered in a soft pink. Crude confessions and tragedies were sewn intricately into blankets or other “women’s work.” Loving stories of her family were interwoven into her pieces. These were nice reprieves in the midst of anguish.

Picture not mine.

My thoughts jumped from labeling Emin a self-destructive angry narcissist with boring blankets to self-reflection on why I feel that way. What’s wrong with someone describing the female experience with all its emotional context? Why must we label her with PMS or insanity? Don’t we all feel this way sometimes? Out of control of our own bodies, the weight of feminine expectations, the way men can look at us and never really see us? Worst of all, the cultural assumption that it is our own issue when we feel invisible.

This article is well on target.

Midway through the exhibition Natalie leans over to me and whispers “Uh, glad I didn’t bring a first date here.” That about sums it up.

On the second floor there is a video. Emin describes dancing in her seaside industrial hometown to the sounds of verbal abuse with sexual context from the local male population.  She’s extremely upset as she runs to the coast. She confesses she doesn’t belong in this town. Moments later her voice comes through. “This dance is for you,” she says. An older, wiser Tracey is shown on the screen dancing happily. She is clearly dancing for herself. She’s smiling and carefree. I feel a sense that she has found some happiness and I am grateful to witness it.

Tracey Emin: Love is What You Want is at the Hayward on the Southbank until Monday 29 August 2011. Tickets are £12. Concessions are available.

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Husband (did I mention Boyfriend has been upgraded?) wanted to see Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seed exhibit at the Tate Modern. This was an easy sell for me. I am a sucker for modern art museums.

Unilever has commissioned Ai Weiwei’s brainchild: 100 million hand crafted porcelain sunflower seeds displayed in the Turbine Hall. The colors of the concrete floor blend with the small porcelain seeds like a slight ripple in the floor’s texture continuity. As you approach you notice the individual pieces making up the whole until you eventually realize the small tiny pieces are sunflower seeds. At this point you want to pick one up and bite one, but the sunflower seeds are not real and the exhibit has been deemed non interactive for safety reasons. The dust from the porcelain is easily kicked up and can enter the lungs.

Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern

A fifteen minute video shows how these pieces were handcrafted in Jingdezhen, China. You get a glimpse into the lives of the 1600 people and two and a half years that the manufacturing took place. The people are grateful for the work but I’m curious to whether they find value in the project beyond a paycheck.

This reminds me of a story someone once told me about explaining the end use of  Mardi Gras beads to Chinese factory workers. “So… you toss this at someone out of a slow moving vehicle and girls will take their tops off?”

And perhaps that’s the point – to make me consider the “Made in China” label. Or maybe it’s a statement on how all these small pieces can make up a whole. How collectively we become something we could never be as an individual. The political weaves it’s way in and out of the display. There is mention of how the sunflower seed was once a symbol of goodwill between neighbors but was adopted and altered into kitsch and propaganda by Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution.

Seems like a lot to say all at once.

“Did I get it all?” I asked Husband. He is standing on the bridge above the sunflower seeds looking down with awe that I haven’t seemed to muster.

Maybe I’m not suppose to be so worried about whether or not I got it right.

The exhibit is free and runs until May 2, 2011

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