Saatchi, Tate Britain and Pale Ale



Up The Smoke last week. Train to Victoria. Tube to Sloan Square. Sunshine and sharp clothing. These people must never drink and always get a full nine hours sleep. How else to appear so elegant?

The Saatchi was a disappointment. Some time in the last century it was decided to divorce art from craft. It was possible to be an artist while having no skill to produce art, one merely contracted it out. Jeff Koons exemplified this with his sculpture of a dog made of flowers. Mr. Koons merely looked over the top of his newspaper and instructed his gardeners to get to work. Of course the mere fact that one is a master of one’s craft is also sniffed at these days and, though Jack Vettriano is popular his paintings are universally despised by the critics as having no artistic merit.

In their current exhibits, The Saatchi, have taken these ideas one step further and are exhibiting works by people with neither talent for their craft nor artistic insight. Scrawled, half arsed works sometimes even resorting to either lifting bits of Francis Bacon or the desperate cliché of depicting genitalia in an attempt to shock anyone left alive with 19th century sensibilities. – “A penis! Good gracious Maud, we’re being shocked again! What will our 9 children think?”

My Soul Hath Them In Remembrance

My Soul Hath Them In Remembrance

Having channeled my inner disgruntled old git, I recall that, with visiting modern art, one must take the rough 90% with the smooth. I liked “Baguette” by Maria Farrar. Simple, almost causal but with great lines and, perhaps, an indication of great things to come. David Bryan Smith used colour and abstract pattern brilliantly to build background in his painting “My Soul Hath Them In Remembrance”. Impressionistic but with a vivid reality despite the orange sheep.

Then back to Victoria and emerged to see the splendid job architects are doing to “regenerate” the area so that it looks no different from any other city in the world. If we’d just get rid of those horrid black cabs and red double deckers then London could truly call itself a “Global City”. The great thing about this architecture is that its simple geometry is easily rendered in virtual environments. This, along with the thousands of tiny “dwellings” being built along the south bank, will leave Londoners so inured to confinement and a world devoid of detail that, when they are eventually snatched off the street, stuffed into pods and connected to the Matrix, they’ll scarcely know it’s happened.

Time for a quick pub lunch in The Bag of Nails and then down to Pimlico for Tate Britain. Wandering at random, I came across one of the first works of modern art that I ever saw. Bernard Cohen’s Fall. In fact, I came across a room full of Cohen and it was stunning. For me, one of them, had the feel of the works of Roy Lichtenstein.

By now, I was dead on my feet and so headed for the little garden out the front to spend 20 minutes horizontal, in the sunshine gazing through the trees at the sky and I eventually dozed off.

Then along the river to Westminster. Big Ben wrapped in scaffolding like some Christo sculpture. Great to see people playing football in, and generally enjoying, Victoria Tower Gardens. Despite the threat of terrorism, the seat of British government is not surrounded by a 10 mile exclusion zone. Walked down Whitehall, The Cenotaph looking impressive as was the monument to the Women of World War II which shows only uniforms hung, as if on pegs, and one is led to wonder what happened to the women who wore these uniforms.

Past machine gun wielding coppers behind iron gates and pubs packed with smart, blue suited apparatchiks. My mind drifted back to the 1980s when I’d do tech support for various government departments. Turning up in jeans, wandering straight into offices and, if someone checked your ID, it was unusual. It’s so sad the way that everything must now be protected from mindless violence.

Of course, this was before the Blair Purges. In those days civil servants were an idiosyncratic and disheveled band of faintly distracted and often intellectual individuals. Presumably they have all now been fired and replaced by former employees of Goldman Waterhouse Coopers with brown noses and keen little eyes focused firmly on their bonus.

Trafalgar Square was a bright oasis in the midst of traffic. Then up Charring Cross Road to an office in Soho and a cup of tea. After this necessary revitalisation, we headed for the pub and I spied a Californian friend loitering outside the Dog and Duck. A warm embrace, “what are you doing here?” and remembering a similar afternoon twenty five years ago just a stone’s throw away in the Three Greyhounds. Then pints of Pale Ale and standing outside for a fag, absorbing the steady, humming verve of the metropolis.

Tube back to Victoria and arrived a few minutes before my train was due to leave. Having just acquired Frank Zappa’s excellent “Shut Up And Play Your Guitar”, I dozed off to the sound of enormous guitar solos.

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