Smells and Artistic West End Bells
From gallery shows and fairs to South Ken’s ever excellent V&A and Somerset House’s perfumery exhibition, Trevor finds July is a month to revel in London’s art
Column by Trevor Pickett
It’s a busy time of year in the West End during the end of June and beginning of July with the Modern British Contemporary and Old Master sales at auction and Masterpiece, the infamous fine art fair, which causes Mayfair dealers to think outside of the box and to raise awareness of what is on offer in the art world around this part of town. Historically, Cork Street was the centre of the creativity, however many art galleries have migrated to other parts of town and left the “street” taking space above the first floor with the trade increasingly relying more on fairs. These fairs serve to boost the art market and remind the public of the wealth of art still being traded in the SW1 and W1 area. Three years ago, the Browns Art weekend was inaugurated at the beginning of July and it kicks off the pre-holiday season in the area encouraging further visitors to this creative hub.
To celebrate The John Martin Gallery’s 25th anniversary in Albemarle Street this year, they have invited collectors, artists and supporters of the gallery to sit for the artist Eugenie Vronskaya as part of her show this month. Eugenie is not a conventional portrait painter and is not interested in producing a photographic likeness or working within the constraints of a commission. Her academic training in Moscow has given her the ability to work with confidence, speed and to maintain the vitality of the sitter. The show is an insight into the diverse creative offerings of one of the world’s most historic art districts. The portraits will be shown in the form of a screen or ‘Ikonsastas’- not dissimilar to those found in a Russian Orthodox Church which the gallery hope will be a fitting way to honour the essential collaboration between artist, gallery, audience and & friends. Not only is this a great record of the gallery’s 25th year, but her work is mesmerizingly beautiful.
All traders in the area try and support the endeavour and find a way to be involved, for example, the RA is hosting a special arts festival at Mayfair Art weekend to make the event bigger and establish the area as a vibrant hub of creativity and craftsmanship. We, at Pickett, had an exhibition of work collected from the Rebecca Hossack Gallery over 25 years – which is still hanging after the first year of the initiative.
“Birds” has been commissioned by Burlington Arcade, a site-specific installation by Mathilde Nivet. This is her first commission in Britain and her largest installation to date. 300 suspended blue paper birds rise from the Piccadilly end of the arcade to the centre.
Nivet starts with a sheet of paper and her sculptural shapes and patterns form her poetic work. There is an intense process of drawing, cutting and gluing before the works are assembled and arranged. Using this method for Birds, Mathilde will be creating 300 birds in-flight motion in two positions – their wings fully stretched or slightly bent! Sourcing her inspiration from nature, she has been able to explore and elaborate on the theme of birds. It seeks to highlight wildlife that already exists in our cities. It mimics the flocks of people that move throughout London and provides a restful refuge in the hubbub of a busy day.
A gem of a gallery in south London is the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which is celebrating 200 years being the first public art gallery. Housed in a John Soane building, over recent years it has had some wonderful shows of 20th century artists, most recently Eric Ravillious and Vanessa Bell. This summer brings the watercolours of John Singer Sargent – a medium he is less known for. This exhibition is devoted to this area of his work and the watercolours are exquisite and detailed and equally rewarding to look at as his oils.
The summer art season has its annual favourites worth a reminder a controversial one plus good old favourites, The National Portrait Gallery BP Portrait Awards always shows interesting and varied work from classic to contemporary plus avant garde. Entrance is free so it is worth just popping in even for a whistle stop visit. The Summer Exhibition at the RA is in full swing and at Tate Modern the Giacometti will draw to a close mid-September
At the V & A the excitement this month is of the Exhibition Road entrance opening. You arrive at the Sackler courtyard with 11,000 handmade white porcelain tiles and The Sainsbury Gallery, a new 1,100 square metre column-free space which will be one of the largest temporary exhibition spaces in the UK.
Apart from the permanent collection there are always special exhibits such as Balenciaga which will run until next year although don’t let it slip through your fingers. This is another capsule insight exhibition at The V & A of one of the most innovative fashion couturiers of the last century and is paired up with their pop fashion show this year Pink Floyd
I was once lucky enough to go on a perfumier’s course with Roja Dove, one of the top noses of the industry with his own very own line of perfumes, a scent room in Harrods and shop in Burlington Arcade. It was a fascinating time and made us realise just how complex and emotive the whole process of creating a perfume is. We were looking forward then to the recently opened show, Perfume: A Sensory Journey through Contemporary Scent, running until the 17th September at Somerset House featuring 10 outstanding perfumes and their creators who have radically changed our thinking of what a fragrance is over the last 20 years. Forget trying to recreate a roomful of rose petals, these (sometimes self-taught noses) are trying to surprise and outrage us with unusual smells such as sweat and smoke, evoking a Moroccan desert and a Catholic confessional. It isn’t just the modern ‘fumeheads’ that are explored in this show, though, for one of the most interesting parts is the overview of 20th-century perfumery highlighting ten trailblazing perfumes of each decade of the 20th century. Starting with L’Origan de Coty (1905) and ending with CK One(1994), the original gender-neutral fragrance of western perfume culture that led the ‘clean’ scent trend.
And if the exhibition inspires you to explore further, don’t miss their series of talks by perfume pioneers with demonstrations at the Perfume lab, talks on the future of perfumes and the chance to create your own signature scent.
Trevor is the founder and owner of Pickett.