Modigliani Plus Three, Tate Modern, Tate Britain & Royal Academy, 22 & 24 November 2017

The big idea was for me and Janie to take Wednesday 22 November off work to enjoy a members’ preview of the Modigliani exhibition at the Tate Modern.

But the idea grew like Topsy. We both quite fancied seeing Impressionists in London at Tate Britain and also liked the look of a couple of Royal Academy exhibitions showing at the moment: Jasper Johns “Something Resembling Truth” and Dalí / Duchamp.

In the end, it occurred to both of us that four exhibitions in one day is overdoing it at our age…actually WAS overdoing it even when we were younger and less discerning.

So, we resolved to visit the Tate galleries on our Wednesday off (I was so tempted to use the headline “Tate-à-Tate”), then to take in the two smaller exhibitions at the Royal Academy a couple of days later, by taking advantage of late Friday opening.

We enjoyed all four exhibitions, but the highlight for us was undoubtedly the first one we saw; Modigliani.

Following my Evening Of Economics With Eno Comics earlier in the week – click here – I was clear in my mind that the exhibition featured the work of Amadeo Modigliani, the painter & sculptor, not, as I might otherwise have assumed, Merton Miller’s co-author, Franco Modigliani, the Nobel-winning corporate finance economist.

Just in case any Ogblog readers remain confused, I have embedded the trailer for the wonderful Modigliani exhibition below:

We both really loved this exhibition. Not only does it show a superb selection of Modigliani’s work, but you get some real insight into his working world, from his early days in Paris to the end of Modigliani’s relatively short and tragic life.

A tip for anyone planning to go to this exhibition; do make sure you bagsy a (free) ticket for the Modigliani virtual reality studio: The Ochre Atelier. Both Janie and I thoroughly enjoyed that experience. You feel that you are sitting in Modigliani’s studio from three different angles. You can’t quite smell the smouldering Gitanes in the ashtray, but you do sense the breeze coming in through the window.

Impressionists In London – French Artists In Exile 1870 to 1904

We had the car with us, making it a surprisingly short hop from the Tate Modern to the Tate Britain, via Lambeth Bridge.

This exhibition has been somewhat maligned by the critics, but we enjoyed enough of it to justify the visit.

Many of my old school friends, for example, will appreciate the scenes from suburban London where the French artist refugees seemed to congregate for a while; doing some interesting impressions of 1870s Upper Norwood, Sydenham, Lordship Lane and the like – Sarf London Ooh La La?

Cricket loving friends, d’autre part, should love the impressions of 1870s cricket, from Tissot (surely not an Impressionist) hanging out with the I Zingari lot in St John’s Wood to Pisarro’s wonderfully impressionistic crickety park scenes.

In fact, there were quite a lot of Pisarro works on various subjects, probably worth the visit alone. Monet’s foggy London scenes are also well worth seeing if you have never seen them before – as it happens we had seen them before but were very happy to see them again.

Jasper Johns – “Something Resembling Truth”

This was a far more interesting exhibition than I expected. I had a few key images in my head for Johns (flags, numbers…) and didn’t realise the diversity of his work when you see a full tilt retrospective, which this undoubtedly is.

It’s patchy; Janie and I both enjoyed some but not all of the works, but there was plenty to enjoy and I (for one) was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work and variety of styles. A lesser-known middle period in the 1980s, for example, yielded interesting work to my eyes.

Dalí / Duchamp

Janie and I both love Dalí’s better works and many of those were on show in this exhibition. Duchamp’s art, we felt, was less interesting. Marcel Duchamp was clearly a very interesting thinker, but perhaps not such an interesting artist.

Well worth a look at this exhibition, though, with a good selection of artefacts and photographs as well as art works.

Further, with the Jasper Johns and the Dalí / Duchamp exhibitions located next to each other, it really does make sense to see both in one go, unless you are very short of time and/or have an aversion to seeing two shows in one go.

We had a mixed juice (or non-alcy cocktail) in the RA members bar after the shows, served by a comedy combination of competent barman and clueless waiter.

Here are some link terms to reviews of the four exhibitions:

But don’t take the experts’ words for it – we’ve all had enough of experts after all. Janie and I thought all of the exhibitions were worth seeing, but if you can only see one of these exhibitions, for us it would have be the Modigliani.

Matisse In The Studio, Royal Academy, 4 August 2017

An early end to the working week so that we could take advantage of Janie’s Royal Academy membership and see a preview of the Matisse In The Studio exhibition.

Henri Matisse Photograph by Carl Van Vechten (Public Domain)

Janie was running a wee bit late, so to ensure we got our slot we arranged to meet at the RA itself rather than the flat. Still, we did make our 16:15 slot and very much enjoyed the exhibition.

It is only a small show in the Sackler Wing, but there are many interesting, beautiful and important works on show.

It is all explained here.

The show does exactly what it says on the tin – it covers Matisse’s life and work in his studio, so you see many of Matisse’s artefacts as well as his art works that contain those artefacts.

We were only there for 45 minutes or so (we don’t tend to linger), but still felt it was well worth the effort. We are both partial to a bit of Matisse – highly recommended to anyone who shares that partiality.

We enjoyed a drink in the members bar, then a Chinese meal from Four Seasons and an early night on a Friday for a change.

Hit The Road “Giac”, Three Exhibitions In Half A Day, America After The Fall, Royal Academy, Giacometti and Wolfgang Tillmans, Tate Modern, 16 May 2017

Now that Daisy is a member of the Royal Academy and the Tate, it is even easier for us to take in a few exhibitions in one outing, even those in which we might only have a passing interest.

Giacometti most certainly does not fall into the “passing interest” category – he is one of my favourite sculptors – Daisy’s too (perhaps to a lesser extent). So we planned our trip around the members’ evening showing of the Giacometti exhibition.

Here is a link to the Tate’s on-line resource for the Giacometti.

I had fancied seeing the Wolfang Tillmans some weeks/months ago, but perhaps not to the extent of making a special trip for it. So I was really pleased when the Giacometti invite informed us that the Wolfgang Tillmans would also be showing on that members’ evening.

Here is a link to the Tate’s on-line resource for the Wolfgang Tillmans.

We had also both quite fancied America After The Fall at the Royal Academy, but again not to the extent that we’d arrange a special date for it.

Here is a link to the Royal Academy’s on-line resource for America After The Fall.

Thus our plan was hatched – take the afternoon off, have a bite of lunch together at the town residence, mosey along to the Royal Academy for America After The Fall, scoot down to the Tate Modern and take in the other two exhibitions, shoot back to the town residence to pick up Dumbo (my Suzuki Jimny), then escape London to the calm of the country residence (W3) with some shawarmas.

The plan worked perfectly.

I think we both enjoyed America After The Fall more than we expected to. I had forgotten how much I like Grant Wood’s work as well as Edward Hopper’s and there were several fine examples from each of them. Plenty of other interesting pieces too, along with some rather grim and ordinary work from that difficult 1930’s period.

With some time on our hands and the members’ bar and garden at our disposal, we took some juice in the garden of the bar. We were lucky to get a garden table and celebrated our good fortune with a double-selfie:

Daisy and Ged RA, RA, RA!

Then we braved the rush hour for three stops of the Jubilee to the Tate Modern, arriving pretty much spot on members’ opening time, 18:45. This precision of time keeping does not come naturally to Daisy and I must admit to a bit more luck than judgement on my part too – I don’t pay my time pieces much heed on an afternoon off.

Coincidentally, while waiting for Daisy at lunchtime, I was Ogblogging my old NewsRevue lyrics and came to one about the 1996 Cézanne exhibition at the Tate Modern, based around the Leonard Cohen tune Suzanne.

That got me thinking about a suitable song for Giacometti. Initially I decided that Cézanne was an easier name for parody, but then I had the thought:

Hit the road, Giac,

Ometti come back no more, no more, no more, no more,

Hit the road, Giac,

Ometti come back no more…

So that was it – I had Ray Charles stuck in my head for the rest of the day:

But I digress.

The Giacometti exhibition was everything we wanted it to be. Comprehensive, interesting information about Giacometti’s life and the diversity of his work, lots of our favourite pieces to see and some new favourites to squirrel away in our minds. We particularly enjoyed the documentary film. made late in his life, showing Giacometti paint the interviewer and then talk about the meticulous way he formed his sculpture’s eyes and faces.

The Wolfgang Tillmans was a delicious dessert after the Giacometti.  It is a very interesting exhibition. Mostly photographs of course, but some of the rooms were “littered” with articles and papers that interest him, many of them about the brain and how we form impressions from images and ideas. Some of his photographs are simply wonderful and awe-inspiring. He seems to be a very interesting man, too, although the scattering of papers and articles made me want to have a chat with him rather than simply look at his reading pile.

We quite liked the playback room for sound too, although Janie found it too loud (as did I to some extent) but it was interesting to hear recorded sound at studio quality. We’re used to decent quality at home these days, but often forget how much higher quality is possible in recording, which I imagine is the intention of that work.

I’m rambling again. Three exhibitions, all three well worth catching if you can, especially the Giacometti, which is really special. We had a great outing.

Revolution: Russian Art 1917–1932, Royal Academy, plus David Hockney, Tate Britain, 6 March 2017

We had booked the evening out for Hockney members’ evening ages ago; we decided to book out the whole day once our holiday plans had been fixed.

Thus the idea of going to see Revolution before the Hockney was hatched.

Still, events conspired against us earlier in the day and it ended up a bit of a rush to get in to see Revolution before closing time.

We got to the RA about 17:15. The young lady on the door warned us that they start closing about 17:55 (five minutes before actual closing time). I explained that the revolution wouldn’t take us all that long as we are seasoned revolutionaries. That seemed to convince her – at least she let us through without further ado.

Here is a link to the Royal Academy’s excellent resource on the Revolution exhibition.

In truth, we didn’t need all that long to see that exhibition. There were a few really good works of art, but the rest was interesting from an historical point of view rather than jaw-dropping art that you want to look at for ages.

I expected to like the Chagalls and the Kandinsky. More surprising was that I liked some of the Kazimir Malevich and the Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin (in the latter case, not the one depicted on the resource link above, but I did like several others).

I read The Noise Of Time by Julian Barnes on holiday, so the stuff about Stalin purging the arty folk was fresh in my mind.

Janie commented that, in many ways, reading the leaflet was more interesting than much of the art itself.

We then took a welcome break at the RA bar, where a Lenin-lookalike barman took an age to serve our wine as he was busy making up cocktails for a little group of barflies who were knocking them back.

Then on to Tate Britain for the Hockney. We had seen many of the works before, not least the more recent iPad work, the colourful East Riding of Yorkshire works and (some years ago) the sixties and seventies portrait stuff around pools in California and the like.

The art critics tend to favour the earlier stuff over the later stuff, whereas Janie and I are both fans of the later work. Seeing this retrospective on his whole oeuvre, our feelings were reconfirmed.

Here is a link to the Tate Britain resource on Hockney.

As it was a members evening, the exhibition was actually rather busy at the start. We chose to go round it backwards, starting with the later work and ending with the earlier. This seemed to work well enough for us, as we are familiar with much of his work. Perhaps not such a good idea for an artist with whom you are less familiar.

Then home (i.e. the flat) via the Ranoush shawarma bar in Kensington High Street.

What a pleasant late afternoon/evening.

Abstract Expressionism, Royal Academy, 11 November 2016

Abstract Expressionist Gromit
Abstract Expressionist Gromit

We’d both been really looking forward to seeing this exhibition, without quite getting around to seeing it; prioritising other “more urgent” things, as th Abstract Expressionism is running until January and as a member Janie can get us in any time.

We had booked out the time to see the exhibition on this day and were quite determined to see it, although with Janie feeling poorly the day before, I was half expecting us to defer the visit yet again.

But Janie woke up on this Friday feeling better and was keen to go ahead with the visit after getting some other bits and pieces out of the way.

Naturally, it was quite late by the time we set off for the Royal Academy, which actually worked out well with the late night opening. No congestion charge, no parking charges and a reasonably clear run around Mayfair/Piccadilly.

The Royal Academy has a good resource on this show with some very good examples – click here.

We both really liked the show, without necessarily liking all the work. Barnett Newman has always left me cold and I was not so impressed by the David Smith sculptures. This is big, “wall space” art in truth.

Reviews are a little mixed:

We thought the show worked very well as a whole. Very colourful. Also very interesting, as we were familiar with some of the works and artists but not really on the Abstract Expressionists as a school. We suspect that many non-expert visitors shared our sense of enjoyment along with the sense that we learnt something too.

Janie was convinced that Cy Twombly should have been in there, even asking one of the shop attendants to look Cy up for her and then explain why Cy was absent. It transpires that Twombly’s work is later, modern romantic symbolism, not abstract expressionism. Bad call, Janie.

Romantic Symbolist Madonna and Child
Romantic Symbolist Madonna and Child

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet To Matisse, 26 February 2016

While we were away, Janie got very excited about the prospect of seeing this show about gardens. Janie is a friend of the Royal Academy now, so we can go when we like.  We both thought that the Friday afternoon of our return might be a good bet. Perhaps 16:00ish – between the earlier in the day Friday-offers and the after work Friday evening-istas.

But of course it didn’t work out that way. “I’ll be over around 15:00” became “15:30” and then at 15:30 came the call, “I’ll probably be another hour or so”. It enabled me to get other stuff done. In the end, Janie turned up at the flat around 18:00 so we decided to load up the car and drive in to Mayfair – so we got to the Academy at the prime time for the late crowd, especially as the free guided tour was kicking off.

At the start I saw several stylish works that all resembled the backs of peoples’ heads rather than gardens, but then Janie came up with a cunning plan to whiz through to the end of the show and work backwards-ish, avoiding the heave. This cunning plan pretty much worked, apart from the last room with three of Monet’s giant water lilies.  I thought we’d seen them before in the major Monet exhibition some years ago, but Janie insists these particular three are ones that hadn’t been exhibited before. You need to be an expert/completist to tell one triptych of Monet water lilies from another IMHO.

Reviews in major papers such as the Guardian and Telegraph tell you all you need to know about what you are and aren’t getting in this exhibition. Yes, you are getting lots of Monet. No, you don’t get much Matisse, nor much Klee, Van Gogh etc.  Only one Kandinsky but it is a cracker. Ditto Klimt.

Worth seeing, this exhibition, especially if you like gardens and you like Monet. It is beyond chocolate box but it is mostly easy-going eye candy.


Ai Weiwei Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, 9 October 2015

As Kim had so kindly joined Janie up to the Tate and the V&A, I thought it was the least I could do to join her up to the RA.

This was to be our first opportunity to take advantage of that membership; so we knocked off work early that Friday and enjoyed an early evening viewing of this exhibition.

We found it very interesting. Some of the works are more challenging than enjoyable to view; others are fascinating and attractive. Ai Weiwei is an intriguing artist.

The RA stub explains it all – here, saving me much effort.

Janie and I enjoyed a drink and some nibbles in the members cafe afterwards. We are looking forward to the new improved version of same promised for next year, much as the V&A and Tate are similarly promising! We join and each of these places vastly increase their bar/cafe facilities…?


Allen Jones RA, Royal Academy, 1 January 2015

We were having a pretty shitty Christmas break, with mum in hospital since just before Crimble (and, as it turned out, never to come out). Our main respite had been some reasonable weather that at least enabled us to play tennis in the mornings, as reported on Facebook at the time – see below:

At the end of that long weekend (the Sunday I think) we went to the Park Royal Vue to see Paddington- click here for the IMDb resource on that movie. Janie warned me that I would probably blub at the scene where Paddington loses his old uncle and moves on from his family – she was right as usual.

Still, lots of laughs and fun in Paddington. I loved the way that there was a calypso band on every street corner in this version of Notting Hill, in contrast with the ubiquitously pale look of the neighbourhood in the eponymous movie.

Yet we craved some high culture and had been eyeing up the Allen Jones as high on our list for the holiday season, so we took some respite on New Year’s Day and went to see the Allen Jones in the afternoon.

The excellent Royal Academy resource with videos, pictures and information can be accessed by clicking here.

We really enjoyed this exhibition. Allen Jones’s work is colourful, accessible, fun, sometimes shocking…it was just the ticket for us that day.

Nuff said.

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, Royal Academy, 30 March 2012

Janie and I absolutely loved this exhibition of Hockney’s big landscape works.

It was the day after Uncle Michael’s funeral. We had booked a Friday late slot for this exhibition many weeks before. The exhibition was colourful relief after a sad day.

Here is a link to the exhibition’s resource on-line.

Janie loved it all so much she bought the book and we went off to Yorkshire in search of Hockney’s Wolds the following spring…to be Ogblogged when I get to it.

Hockney says you cannot photograph those Wolds and in a way he is right, but still I did have a go when we visited in 2013:

Below is a video in which Hockney explains the exhibition from his point of view – well worth a look:

In short, we really loved this exhibition at the Royal Academy.

The Real Van Gogh – The Artist And His Letters, Royal Academy, 5 March 2010

This exhibition was a few years before Janie became a friend of the Royal Academy but after they had started taking Friday late bookings, which suited us very well in those days. In fact, we still like going to the galleries and museums for those late openings.

Anyway, that’s what we did.

We both really liked this exhibition. Not only a chance to see some of Van Gogh’s superb works but also a rare chance to see his letters.

Here is a link to the Royal Academy’s on-line resource for this exhibition.

There’s a book if you want it – click the picture below for the Amazon link:

This search term – click here – finds several reviews of the exhibition. If they don’t rate it good they rate it brilliant.

Janie remembers the evening as magical, which is quite a good summary.

Subsequent correspondence tells me we must have bumped in to Bobbie Scully at that exhibition, but neither of us remembers doing that.

Neither of us can remember what we ate either – possibly we stopped at May’s on the way back to the country quarters…