You may suggest that this is an occupational hazard, given my “choice” to be a boy or, for that matter, my advanced age. However, GofaDM is not at home to innuendo or ageism – so we will all pretend you didn’t suggest any such thing.
Nevertheless, this morning I awoke with all the flexibility of the geriatric love-child of DFS and a King Edward. I don’k think that I have to look very far for an explanation: only as far as my combination of activities yesterday – and so, in line with the public service remit of GofaDM, I felt I should issue a warning to any readers who might be similarly disposed.
Friday morning was, as is traditional, devoted to gymnastics and to various ring and bar based activities that younger (and wiser) men would baulk at. Still, foolishness can carry a chap quite a long way and I continue to make astonishing progress towards my ludicrous goals. I then returned home for a quick shower and some lunch before heading to London.
My afternoon and evening were spend in galleries, with friends, looking at a pretty broad range of art. We started at the British Museum with its exhibition on Germany. This ties in with Neil McGregor’s excellent recent Radio 4 series, Germany: Memories of a Nation. It was fascinating, especially the more recent years which were surprising (to me at least – but then my O level history did stop in 1914) and hold a number of lessons for today’s UK (the parallels with 1930s Germany were alarming). The series made reference to a number of objects, many of which graced the exhibition. From this I learned that, despite Neil’s excellent verbal descriptions, my ability to visualise anything from the radio is truly awful. The exhibition also tied in to some recent reading, Simon Winder’s Danubia, which also covered some of the German speaking world. It is amazing how much a little background can add to the experience of such an exhibition.
After a brief break for refreshments, we took a look at a smaller exhibition of prints featuring witches – which did very strongly suggest artists through the ages have become worryingly overwrought when thinking about powerful women. This space led naturally into the Japanese collections of the BM. This covered two areas of particular interest to me – very old earthenware which was not at all as one imagines Japanese art and very recent ceramics. Some of the current ceramics were absolutely stunning – elegant forms, beautiful decoration and amazing use of colour. I was pleased to see that a number of the makers had been officially recognised as Living National Treasures. Something we might like to consider here, where national treasures tend only to be unofficial and usually need a substantial presence on television for even that. I suspect Grayson Perry is our closest analogue.
We then moved to the Royal Academy and started with some more serious bodily fortification in the calming space of the Keeper’s House. The RA is a splendid place to get away from the hustle (and even the bustle: though the bustle is much less fashionable than it was – surely only a matter of time before some Hoxton hipster adopts it once more?) of London and the Keeper’s House, as well as providing sustenance (both liquid and solid), also provides some great people-watching opportunities.
We went to the RA to visit the Anselm Kiefer exhibition (not just for its cafe). I had no interest in Herr Kiefer – and a slightly negative, if almost entirely uninformed, view of his work – but my friend loves him and her recommendations have never led me astray. Added to this, as a Friend on the RA there was no cost to risking a modest expansion of my artistic horizons. The exhibition was incredible and so well curated. I don’t love all of his work, but almost all is thought provoking and much is very moving. Ages of the World, a new work commissioned for this exhibition was my favourite – but probably a dozen pieces can add themselves to my (non-existent) list of favourite works of art. Totally contradicting my earlier pronouncement, arriving with (almost) no preconceived ideas made for a thrilling and emotional evening. However, our earlier art experiences did feed very well into the Kiefer – especially Germany and the importance of the forest, but also some of the Japanese painting. Going to the RA in the evening (as it opens late on a Friday) was a revelation – somehow it feels a more natural time than when it is daylight outside – and the galleries were very thinly attended giving lots of opportunity to get up-close and personal with the paintings (though not too close – some used tiny diamonds and if you lean too close to look, alarms go off).
The only downside to all this culture is that gallery visiting is very hard on the body – or at least my body. I usually try to limit it to an hour or so per day, and even then it makes my legs, back and neck ache. I don’t know why this should be – but it has been the case for as long as I’ve been visiting galleries (so I don’t think I can blame it on my age). Yesterday, I probably spend three or more hours doing “art” – and coupling that with the earlier gymnastics may not have been entirely wise. I strikes me that I have never spotted an elite gymnast in an art gallery and I suspect that my aching body may explain this absence.
Now, I can only personally attest to the combination of gymnastics and then gallery, so it is possible that the reverse sequence leads to an ache-free existence (but I have my doubts). The again, I had a wonderful day yesterday and a few aches this morning is a small price to pay. So, readers should view this post as a warning rather than a prohibition.