Sunday, 25 August 2013

DIY Sacrifice

Please press the lever: Saint Thomas' hand needs to poke the wounds of Jesus.
Or do you prefer to make Saint Jerome hit himself with a rock to expiate his sins (and maybe yours)?

No, this is not a dream or a Bible Theme-park, it's the National Gallery. Never has one seen the place so irreverent. But who else to jazz it up - and re-interpret their collection - if not machino-phile oddball artist Michael Landy

Like his Credit Card Destroying Machine which ate my Visa at Frieze 2011, Landy's pieces in the current show "Saints Alive"  playfully tackle themes of sacrifice and self-destruction. And this is good. Because it lifts the rest of the Gallery halls from the dusty depths of history and pulls them into the now, the moment your foot hits that lever. You have to feel it before you believe it.

Is one disappointed to learn that Landy had the sculptures made according to drawings? A little - like hearing a saint say he curated a miracle. Does that make the show any less relevant? No. The effect of the sculptures - together with Landy's collages - is so moving it will make you forgive. Praised be the artist.

Until 24 November at the National Gallery. 

Sunday, 18 August 2013


When you held its body between your fingers,
And it was yours alone,
Brushes and lips could turn it into what you felt;
And no one would ever know.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Oh Boy

Oh boy,
The last weeks of summer.
Days are getting shorter,
But we still enjoy ourselves.

Photography by Jack Pierson

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Piercing Through

Who wouldn't want to spend their birthday like Robert Mapplethorpe did in 1971?

"Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé took Robert to dinner and then to the Rive Gauche boutique and let him pick out anything in the store. He chose a simple black shirt. He said it was the cheapest thing in the store, but that's what he wanted… 
Later that night Loulou de la Falaise took him to a strip show, and they drank champagne and talked until 5:00am."  

Untitled (Self-portrait with Loulou de la Falaise), 1971

I had no idea Mapplethorpe used to be in with the European fashion crowd. The link between him and them was his boyfriend David Croland: The socialite-model and friend of Andy W introduced the artist to the who-is-who of Paris, bringing in many a lucrative commission for French and Italian Vogue.
David Croland by Robert, Polaroid, 1971

Now Croland is playing connector again: Thanks to him, the Allison Jacques Gallery  in London is putting on the exhibition "Robert Mapplethorpe: Fashion Show". On paper the photos have all the right ingredients: a pudgy Karl Lagerfeld, a body-painted Grace Jones, some bare breats for Italian Vogue. And yet these commercial works don't quite convince (click here to see all images).

Stripped of New York-rawness, what remains in most of these is the stiff code of 1980's posing. One cannot blame Mapplethorpe for wanting to make money, but the works only reveal what we knew before: that conventional glamour was never his cup of tea. The precursor of grunge was a perpetual pusher of borders, not a fashionista.
And the proof hung proudest from his pierced nipple. Nowadays, that would be Saint Laurent style.

"Robert Having His Nipple Pierced" - Documentary excerpt - here in English

"Robert Mapplethorpe: Fashion Show", at the Alison Jacques Gallery 11 September - 5 October 2013

Thursday, 1 August 2013

London vs Warsaw

I'm moving to Warsaw this month, and I'm taking a certain Mexican with me. Even though the Daily Mail says our quality of life is about to rocket, I'm a little apprehensive. How do my London hang out places compare to their Varsovian equivalents?

1. Battle of the Books

In London I cycle past the chaos of King's X to get to the British Library. Somewhat mute on the outside, spacious and ueber-well stocked on the inside. Drawbacks: drink-ban and relentless bag-checks.

In Poland, my lib of choice will be the Warsaw University Library, right by the banks of the Vistula. It sports a massive roof garden overlooking the city, reading rooms with lots of natural light, and lax regulations. Check. 

2. Scraping Icons

It's undeniably impressive and its changing colours are beautiful, but somehow I never quite warmed to the Shard. Do I sense something brutal and aloof about it? Maybe it's the speed with which it appeared and now dominates the skyline, or its exclusive big-money purpose. Will Self agrees.

The Palace of Culture and Science was a gift from Stalin to the city, and for most old-school Varsovians  it still symbolises Communist oppression. But to the young the Pałac is central to cultural life, containing several theatres, cinemas and bars (and a $2 viewing platform). And the architecture is smugly between Manhattan and Communist nostalgias.

3. Hipsters

Moaning about gentrification is circular and clichéd, but London does take the mick - the capital of cool is being made by the Capitalists of cool. Take Dalston. African and affordable five years ago, it's now filled with bankers and American Apparel clones. 

In Warsaw the key word is reclaiming. There is space, and it's cheap. The city has been going through a Renaissance of trendiness but so far it's inclusive. My favourite places are the Powiśle bar in an abandoned railway ticket station, the super-cool cafe/market Koszyki in a regenerated hall, and the inter-generational parties of the Nizio foundation.

Looks like I'll be fine. Plus there's a pull-out couch in our place. Just saying.