Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oh to be in London, now that spring is here

This is the sort of delightful surprise that makes walking in London so rewarding. Camels as supports for benches?  All along the riverfront, these never fail to make me smile. . . . by the way, that's Pater just ahead. Here's a closer view  --  I think he looks rather dapper, dressing from his carry-on only wardrobe as well.  We'll see how the look weathers over the next six weeks . . . 

Our first stop this morning was the Tate Modern, across the Millennium Bridge. I was eager to see Ai Wei-Wei's Sunflower Seeds installation and was not disappointed. 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds cover the floor of a massive area inside the Turbine Hall. Conceptual art often makes me impatient, but when it works, it's so exciting. The 15-minute video of the making of the seeds, the communal work in the village with an ancient tradition of porcelain-making, some explanations of the politico-historical significance of the sunflower, Wei-Wei's commentary on his work as well as watching gallery visitors engage with the idea or the aesthetics or simply the materiality of the work in the contrast between large and small, the question of mimesis, etc, etc., Quite wonderful.  The portion of the hall you see in the photo below is perhaps 70 feet wide, perhaps 200-250 feet long, and the "sunflower seeds" cover it to a depth of 4-6 inches.

And every single one of these "seeds" has been held in the hand of one of the 1600 villagers hired to work on the project, and given 3 to 5 strokes of a paintbrush. . .

After such an auspicious welcome to the Tate, we happily continued up to The exhibition of Gabriel Orozco's work which truly deserves another post. Sadly, as I'm on holiday and not willing to spend it all on blogging, that post will not be written, but I can tell you I found much of Orozco's work seductive, intimate (despite an often grand scale), sometimes amusing, always engaging, and sometimes very beautiful. I was also really intrigued to note connections between what we saw last night at the exhibition of Bridget Riley's work at the National Gallery -- primarily the play with circles and grids, with rhythm in lines. I'm not saying there's a deliberate influence, but I see a connection, a lineage of sorts.

Then lunch in the Tate Modern Restaurant with its marvellous view of the Thames -- and its fabulous Gordal olives stuffed with oregano-seasoned orange peel and sea salt. the best olives ever. seriously. Í almost think they factor in our decision to return to London. And if we figure out where to source them, we may not be going back carry-on!

Anyway, carrying on after lunch, we headed to the Borough Market where we saw sights that might make a vegetarian blanch . . .

and then we wandered back across the bridge, along Fleet Street to the National Gallery cafe for cream tea -- scones and a good strong pot of tea, the perfect restorative -- before meeting Alison for an animated annual catch-up over dinner at a nearby Italian spot. . . .

a very full, very satisfying day
and although it's as cold here as it was at home before we left, it's not as miserably windy and rainy -- and the daffodils are in full bloom while the cherry blossoms delight! That's St. Paul's Cathedral in the background along with an iconic bus for you, and we've snuck in a little what-I-wore for those who might be keeping track of how I dress from a carry-on . . .

(and thanks to my sister, Leona, for suggesting the post title)

Please know that I read every one of your comments, with interest and with gratitude -- because I have to balance between blogging and holidaying with my husband, I may not answer them as carefully as when I'm at home, and may even have to leave entire swathes unanswered. But I appreciate them so much and hope that my temporary failure to respond doesn't dissuade you from leaving them.


  1. So glad to see you there and having fun.

  2. Looks like a wonderful first day! Thanks for sharing with us and looking forward to more.

  3. Conceptual art makes me impatient too.

    Those squid tentacles!

    You and Pater look like you're having fun.

  4. Happy St. Pat's day. Hope you will have time to find a pub for a drink. London is so much fun. Enjoy

  5. I'm impressed by your efforts to share your trip with us. Those olives sound wonderful and I'm very curious about the significance of the sunflower. The porcelain seeds are very beautiful

  6. How generous of you to give us such a nice overview of a day enjoyed in London...I may visit there in early May (fingers crossed!) and will put the olives on my itinerary. Oh, and the Tate too...haha.

  7. Brilliant to see you again, thank you so much for dinner, you certainly pack a lot into your day. I hope you made it to Hoppe!

  8. Will never forget my first visit to a Tate Modern installation. I'd pushed my daughter in her new Maclaren from Peter Jones in Sloane Square to the gallery and was quite ready to be transported myself. Indeed I was.

  9. Oh, this is fun! Never mind answering, I am 'there' via your post!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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