The first week of 2017 I finally made it to London! It is really not that far from Brussels, but somehow we always had other priorities and kept postponing it. We stayed in Shoreditch for 5 days and that turned out to be a very good choice. Good food, nice people, lots of shopping possibilities and not too far from the best museums and art galleries. Shoreditch is known as ‘hipster town’ but that didn’t bother me too much. Or maybe there is one thing that bothered me a little bit: the huge amount of boutiques and hair dressers just for men! Could there be a feminist deep inside of me?
Compared to Brussels, London has a few advantages: free entrance in most of the museums (!), the River Thames as part of the city (not like the hidden Zenne in Brussels), the many new buildings emerging everywhere and the fact that most of the restaurants have a gluten free menu. Here are a few of my personal highlights when it comes to art, food, shopping and the city culture. I hope it might inspire you.
Anselm Kiefer @ White Cube Gallery, London
The Anselm Kiefer exhibition called Walhalla at White Cube Gallery was without a doubt the most interesting artistic experience I had in London. I was looking forward to this one so I prepared myself by watching a documentary and reading about his work in advance. If I would summarize what Kiefers work is about, I would say that it is about the danger of ideology and populism. Born in 1945, the artist grew up in the ruins of the Second World War. He is constantly reminding us that we should take the time to look back and learn from the past. He is showing us that we can’t make the same mistakes again.
Kiefer is still fanatically making one art work after the other, like he is obsessed. The scale of his work is overwhelming. He had a huge studio once in Barjac, in France, where he turned an old factory in one big piece of art. He made underground tunnels, turned old containers into towers, created an artificial lake, constructed greenhouses and all of this was filled with impressive works of art.
His work is also about life and death. He is wondering which role we have to play as a human being, here on earth. Who are we? What’s the relationship between heaven and earth? Is there some kind of God? What happens after we die? Kiefer often uses the symbol of sunflowers. When they are dead and withered the seeds fall down and start to grow again.
I will post a video of the exhibition at the end of this blogpost, made by The Art Channel. It tells more about the exhibition at White Cube Gallery. If you plan a trip to London in the next weeks, you can still visit the gallery until 12/02/2017. Check my Instagram account (@komalibxl) to see more pictures of the expo.
Left above: ‘Ishi’s Light’, 2003, by Anish Kapoor. Right above: ‘A l’Infini’, 2008, by Louise Bourgeois. Under: ‘Emboryology’, 1978, by Magdalena Abakanowicz.
Of course our London trip would not have been complete without visiting Tate Modern. My favorite part was the Rothko room! I didn’t feel the need to take pictures because it would have felt wrong. I was almost alone in the room and took my time to feel one with the large color fields. Heads up for the people who created the audio guide, because the extra information and music made the whole experience even more intense. I wish there was an enormous museum somewhere in the world with just paintings by Rothko, nothing else. Room after room, color after color. How nice would it be to take some time off from this world in there, just for one day…
Besides Rothko, there were 3 artists that stood out for me: Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois and Magdalena Abakanowicz. I saw a connection between the 3 art works combined in the picture. They are all about the female body, fertility, giving birth, life and death.
‘Breakers on a Flat Beach’, 1835-1840, by JMW Turner
I had high hopes for Tate Britain as well, but because we visited Tate Modern first I was a bit disappointed. Except for the Turner floor! Actually, I now understand why I love the work of Kiefer, Rothko and Turner. They all have something that overwhelms me. Something that is very comforting and destabilizing at the same time. I guess that is what some people call ‘the sublime’.
Oh my. I didn’t expect to have such a wide range of gluten free options in London. Maybe it is only like that in Shoreditch? I really recommend Andina (Peruvian cuisine), Oklava (Turkish food) and Dishoom (Bombay style). Making reservations is absolutely required because these restaurants are very popular.
We went to this play called ‘Art‘ at the Old Vic Theatre. The play is about 3 friends. One of them is an art lover who buys a work of art that is white, with different shades of … white. His friends start to discuss wether it is art or rubbish. In the end it is not just about art but also about human nature. Hilarious!
If you want to go shopping in London there is one place you should visit: Brick Lane. You will not find H&M or other chain stores here. Only vintage, hand made and second hand markets and shops.
One thing is for sure, I am going back!