Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cultural highlights

It's been a while since I last wrote, and I've seen so many interesting things, so it's difficult to know where to start. Maybe I'll mention some of the 'cultural highlights' of the past weeks.

Well, this past week started off in a very memorable way - at 9am on a misty, damp, Monday morning a dozen or so work colleagues and I gathered at the staff entrance of Tate Modern, where whisked down some hidden corridors, and led up to the entrance to the Rothko exhibition, where we were let loose amongst the vast, empty rooms. The museum is closed to the public on Mondays and we were the lucky few who had the chance to take in the beauty of the room full of warm, glowing canvases that Rothko was originally commissioned to paint for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram building in New York. The exhibition also includes some of the harsher, cleaner looking Black-Form paintings, his large-scale Brown and Grey works on paper, and his last series of Black on Grey paintings, which were created later on in his career. I can't describe what a difference it made seeing it in this calm, silent ambiance, compared to my first visit weeks ago on a busy lunchtime. What a wonderful way to start the week.

What else have I been up to? Well, last Sunday I went to see Kazan's wonderful Streetcar Named Desire at the BFI. Of course, both I and the friend I went with had seen it before, but both of us agreed it's totally transformed at the cinema. It was a real treat to watch the larger-than-life characters, acted by a brooding Marlon Brando and simpering Vivienne Leigh, battling it out on the big screen, accompanied by that wonderfully foreboding music. I'm hoping I'll have time to catch at least one more Tennessee Williams film before the BFI retrospective ends.

The other week, I finally made it to see the Francis Bacon retrospective at Tate Britain. I had always been rather sceptical about Bacon's work, but I totally changed my mind on seeing this fantastic show. I think I just hadn't seen enough of his work. It was so interesting to follow the progression from his earlier, more restrained approach to colour to his later, more exuberant compositions. I adored his interpretations of Velasquez' paintings of Pope Innocent X. One of the best parts of the show was the room in which we're given a glimpse of his work process. There are glass cabinets filled with art books he used for reference, alongside torn out pages from newspapers and medical magazines. There are also some stunning black and white photos on the wall, taken by the artist and friends, in his studio. One wall is covered with a blown-up photo of what the studio looked like, with its round mirror and dozens of paint brushes splaying out from glass pots. I'm hoping I can go back and see the show once more before it closes.

Tonight I'm going to see Othello at the Lyric Hammersmith. It's one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and I've never actually seen it on stage, so I'm very excited. Tomorrow I intend to go and see the MirĂ³, Calder, Giacometti, Braque show at the Royal Academy.

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