Last week I re-charged my cultural batteries in London. I was reminded what an incredible centre it is for art exhibitions. In which other city could you see Michelangelo's 'Dream', read VanGogh's letters to his brother, marvel at Henry Moore's ouvre & scrutinize hundreds of Ronald Searle originals all in one day?!
In my experience only Paris has more top exhibitions simultaneously on the go (and London admission prices are catching up with the French capital too; for £12 a pop they should throw in a complimentary catalogue). I was in town to see the exhibitions celebrating Ronald Searle's 90th birthday but also managed to squeeze in the big 3 major crowd-pullers.
First up, the Henry Moore retrospective at TATE Britain. I was somewhat disappointed by this- the Moore installation at Dulwich a few years ago was more impressive. It seems Moore's monumental bronzes work better outdoors. I realize there's only so many you can heave into the Tate galleries but the sculptures on show seemed to cancel each other out.
sketchbook, impressed by his sculptural use of cross-hatching.
Later in the day I happened upon a Moore print in an antiquarian book shop window; a fine drawing of a rhinoceros, its form similarly expertly rendered.
Early next morning I walked along the Strand to the Courtauld Institute where temporary exhibitions are supported by a fine collection of Impressionist & post-Impressionist works, Dutch masters, numerous studies by Tiepolo & Tintoretto & that picture of Adam & Eve from the title sequence of Desperate Housewives (actually by Cranach the Elder). I was there to see some drawings by Michelangelo that I wasn't familiar with-a series of 'presentation' drawings made to woo a much younger man that the old artist was smitten with. (Were these part of the Michelangelo show at the British Museum 4 years ago?) The highlight of the series is the 'Dream'- it's unimaginable how the artist conjured up this masterpiece merely with chalk & his fingers-breath-taking stuff.
Royal Academy. I waited an hour to get in & spent 10 minutes shuffling along the glass cases peering at the fragile, brown letters before a power-cut plunged the galleries into darkness. We all stood murmuring in the gloom for 5 minutes before being ushered out the fire escape. In the confusion I took advantage of the disabled security alarms & slipped one of the priceless canvases under my coat & made for the exit. A ransom of this kind is the only way to coerce a refund from the RA beaureaucrats!