A taster for the Royal Academy’s exhibition this spring on Charles I and his art collection, where I’ll be hoping for more Van Dykes like this one. Thank you Becca for flagging it up to me.



It’s been a good winter for art in London this year – I can’t recommend highly enough the Cezanne portraits at the NPG, the two Opera and Balenciaga shows at the V&A or the Scythians at the BM – but the Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain was actually rather a disappointment for such a talented artist who previously did a well-displayed installation at Tate Modern just along the river.


Instead, I say keep your visit to the ever excellent permanent collection (free), especially the wonderful Henry Moore rooms (free!), and if you want some Whiteread, this gummy bear piece in the main upstairs hall that is currently turned over to sculpture (all free).


You’re getting the point…save your £15 and just enjoy the permanent show!


All photos from last month.

Census taking


Lucinda Rogers’ gentrification exhibition at the House of illustration is a must see. Each piece documents the changing nature of life in Hackney and the changing communities. Striking, energetic, thought-provoking and top quality as ever.




If you go to the RA (and aren’t distracted by the chicken trucks), then go to the top floor by the Sackler Wing and see if Richard Deacon’s selection of RA diploma pieces is still there. Bracketed together by Deacon’s choices there’s a subtle and varied set of sculptures which I actually enjoyed more than the exhibition I’d been to see. From the classical to the avant garde, through marble to terracotta, metals, paint and rough to smooth there as something for every eye.

All photos October 2017.

The Autumn Season


Like most cities, London sees September shift from pop-up restaurants and pop concerts to a parade of plays, operas, history exhibitions and weighty films to get you thinking after the summer break. Here’s my list of things I’ve seen and would recommend:

Image use embargoed until 7.30pm 28-09-17

1. Aida at ENO: superb singing, including from the chorus, and most definitely a star in the form of this new Aida herself. Great sets – hats, masks and leopard skin a go-go – of the Hollywood musical kind and none the worse for that.


2. The girl from the north country – at the Old Vic and now sold out, but the cast recording is available online and well worth the price for some gutsy, gritty, beautiful performances.


3. Oslo, which is now transferring to the West End. I liked the political negotiation parts best rather than the drawing room marriage comedy, though despite the good cast in London, I wonder how I’d have felt if I’d seen Jennifer Ehle in New York.


4. The Scythians at the British Museum – wonderful gold pieces discovered in the 18th century frozen in the Siberian tundra, along with the remains of silk, cheese, pottery and wooden coffins. All the wrong postcards, but it doesn’t matter if you’ve been to actually see the show. Quite big, but can be done in an hour. The BM is on fire still after their American Dream show earlier this year.

Jacqueline Ayer


The House of Illustration is very good at making me see artists I hadn’t heard of before (e.g. Linda Kitson), but who are very accomplished and had fascinating lives.


Jacqueline Ayer’s parents had moved from Jamaica to New York in the 1920s and Jacqueline grew up helping her father’s ad agency, the first aimed at African Americans.


Her observation for fabric and costume fed into her children’s’ illustrations when she moved to Bangkok in 1959, and after coming back to America in 1963 she founded a Thai textile line. I wish there’d been more room for her work with the Indisn government, her autobiography, and what was clearly a fascinating life, but I’d still recommend this to anybody.


Feathered friends


Quentin Blake’s delightful series of extremely human birds. This could be creepy, but it’s absolutely not, mainly because underneath the wicked humour is a fundamental kindness and interest in people. On display at the House of Illustration in London.



Perfume: go, go


I was pretty sceptical when I heard that Somerset House was putting on a show about perfume, and even more so that it would be done in the manner of a contemporary art installation. Well that’ll show me – it was actually great fun, very well thought out, would be perfect to do either on a date or with friends, and is actually both non-intimidating and witty, a real achievement for a craft that is second only to wine-making for jargon, history and insiders’ snobbism.


As the notes to the show said, self-taught perfumiers are now breaking the mould, getting away both from the stuffiness of some schools, and the idea of scent as a marketing product. I won’t tell you too much about the perfumes in this exhibition as the whole point of the showing is to have a guessing game / voyage of discovery of your own, but you can see from the pictures above how inventive the sets were. In other rooms you smelt white cotton scarves or brilliant liberty-style print pouches, whilst the room with “paint pots” inspired this response from some other visitors:


I didn’t get so creative myself, but enjoyed the game of hide and seek, and the weekend I went there was also an interesting series of presentations from perfumiers at the end in the testing lab.

PS in the first room you smelt the bowling balls…it felt quite James Bond, actually.