Bob Cantor - The Comedians Painting

Obsessionistas – Collecting At It’s Wackiest

I haven’t posted one of these for a while, don’t worry I am still as enchanted and interested in collecting as I ever was. In fact, I’ve discovered a wonderful website filled with quirky, unusual and fascinating collections. The creators of Obsessionistas showcase individual collections from the curious to the significant. I am always wondering what makes people collect what they collect, a collection often gives us an insight into the the persons tastes, values and says a lot about who they are.

I wonder then what this collection says about Graham. He collects Deely Boppers – those joke head bands with wobbily antenna (no, I didn’t know they had a name either). A collector of over 100 Deely Boppers Graham says…

The ‘official’ justification for the collection is that Deely Boppers represent one of the most ridiculous products to conceive, design, manufacture, retail, purchase and then finally wear, and so as someone who studies and teaches product design they were perfect for questioning the old doctrine of ‘form follows function’.

Deely Bopper Collection via Obsessionistas

Very kitsch you may think but the collection from Bob Cantor is even more, how should I put it, bizarre! I remember being so chuffed when it was back to school time and I got to fill my new pencil case with sparkly new stationary and Bob Cantor has around 200+ novelty pencil sharpeners. His obsession began when looking for a cheap and fun but functional holiday gift and he now paints them in surreal scenes (see below). His colourful pencil sharpener paintings take on their very own bold personalities as they stare back at you in all their realistic glory!

Musician Pencil Sharpener Collection - Bob Cantor

Bob Cantor Pencil Sharpener Collection via Obsessionistas

If you like Bob Cantor’s kitsch artwork you can buy 8″ x 8″ prints from $15.00 – that’s a fantastic price to brighten up your walls! My favourite has to be this adorable musical scene…

Bob Cantor - The Comedians Painting

 For more inspirational art and features on Brogues In A Coffee Bar click here and don’t forget you can see updates and follow me on Twitter!

Maggi Hambling painting from 'Walls Of Water'

A Wall Of Water: Maggi Hambling At The National Gallery

Maggi Hambling’s current exhibition at The National Gallery, titled ‘Walls Of Water’ (26th Nov – 15th Feb 2015) has received a mixture of reviews since it’s opening. Notably from Jonathan Jones who said in the Guardian…

What is art for? This is a question Hambling appears never to have asked herself. Her paintings are acts of egotistical imperialism, with no purpose except to claim space for themselves.

Quite a damning review (read the rest here). I read this whilst in The National Gallery coffee bar right before I went to see ‘Walls Of Water’ in the flesh and I have to say I agree (sort of). I live near Hambling’s beach sculpture ‘Scallop’ which has been defaced by graffiti several times since it’s installation in 2003 and I happen to quite like her past works so I had high hopes for this new exhibition. Consisting of 8 paintings measuring over 6x7ft and one smaller piece ‘Walls Of Water’ is inspired by Hambling’s musings from the sea wall at the Suffolk seaside town Southwold. She pictures gigantic waves crashing against the seawall and says…

The crucial thing that only painting can do is to make you feel as if you’re there while it’s being created – as if it’s happening in front of you.

However, I was left feeling pretty flat when confronted with the large pieces. Created from 2010-2012, I have stood many-a-time on the windy beach and pier at Southwold where Hambling would have experienced the waves and perhaps even on the same day and I have seen how wild it can get with the coastal winds. ‘Walls Of Water’ however, are empty, they do not evoke the drama and emotions felt when experiencing the wilds of nature and they remind me more of our great British rain rather than waves. There is no obvious concrete sea wall, just a white expanse behind the Pollock-esque drips and Monet like blurriness.

It’s as if Hambling has pulling out every trick in the book to create these, including Van Gogh style brush strokes and abstract dribbles in the foreground and yet they seem to lack impact and fail to evoke any real emotional response. There is something a little bit contrived and too controlled about their creation. They look interesting in these small images (below) but when seen in the flesh it’s very clear that size isn’t everything.

Maggi Hambling 'Wall Of Water'

Maggi Hambling with two Walls of Water paintings at National Gallery, London

Maggi Hambling 'Wall Of Water'

I think the thing that lets the exhibition down is writing about the contemporary parallel between Hambling’s ‘Walls Of Water’ and the seascapes by Peter Balke (1804-1887) which are shown only a few rooms away. They just do not compare.

Peder Balke 'Nordkapp'

In ‘Walls Of Water’ Hambling has apparently hidden outlines of animals and even made a homage to Amy Winehouse. Why?! What is the point in this? What does Amy Winehouse have to do with the drama and power of our coastline? The only animal form I could see in one image was a white splodge that could have been Jemima Puddle Duck which yes, made me laugh but just shows how feeble the artwork really is. Can you spot Jemima? I would say if you are interested do go and see the show but don’t expect to be bowled over, I certainly wouldn’t pay to see it.

Maggi Hambling painting from 'Walls Of Water'

For more inspirational art and features on Brogues In A Coffee Bar click here and don’t forget you can see updates and follow me on Twitter!

John Keane Painting 'Hopless In Gaza'

REALITY: Modern & Contemporary Painting at The Sainsbury Centre

Perhaps one of the best exhibition’s of contemporary painting that I have ever seen. I’d like to introduce to you REALITY: Modern & Contemporary Painting at The Sainsbury Centre. I feel privileged to live so close to this stunning museum that is linked to The University of East Anglia, the collections at The Sainsbury Centre represent some of the most remarkable works of art spanning an astonishing 5000 years of history. From ancient Greece and Roman artefacts to important works by Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti. However, in this new exhibition curated by Chris Stevens REALITY: Modern & Contemporary Paintings celebrates the strength of British painting from the past 60 years in an uncompromising and direct display of artwork from the small oil painting to larger than life canvases. Featuring an all British cast of artists such as: Bacon, Lowry, Lucian Freud, Stanley Spencer and David Hockney all of the artists exhibited in REALITY are committed to creating figurative work which tells a narrative. They have explored the world as they experience it and without dwelling too much on the clichéd stereotype of the starving artist each piece of work shows a harshness and truth to the world that is unsurprisingly quite uncomfortable to be confronted with. As it says in the exhibition catalogue, which is a stunning publication in it’s own right…

REALITY draws us towards the more gritty substance of both the everyday occurrences and strange imagines scenarios – each one of them leading us to an experience that is every bit real.

I love a bit of realism to shake off the cobwebs! The artist’s in REALITY have the amazing ability of detach from their subject matter whilst revealing it completely. They’ve stripped off the polish of how British life is portrayed and have given it back it’s actuality. I am sure most of us are aware of what it thought to be typically British… Tea, crumpets, bunting and cute summer fetes. However, what stands out most in REALITY is the artist’s sense of humour whilst they play with the reality of what it truly means to be British. I have to admit I won’t be featuring my favourite paintings (namely by artists Anthony Green, Phillip Harris and Clive Head) in this review – they deserve a post all to themselves, so instead I will talk about the true essence of the exhibition. Realism, fear, mortality and poverty.

 One of the first pieces you’re confronted with in the entrance to REALITY is ‘Hopeless In Gaza’ by John Keane. Emerging from a larger project consisting of observations made when travelling through the occupied territories of Israel. He has used photography under painting to create a blurred effect, as if you are actually standing in the scene being shaken by the bombs. A boy is being shielded by the man, making it a harrowing image to look at. This sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition…

John Keane Painting 'Hopless In Gaza'

By far the most distressing painting for me shown in REALITY is the piece above by Carel Weight, titled ‘Fury’ (1961). In quite a large scale Carel Weight encapsulates a moment of childhood fear that everyone has been through. Whether the two boys pictured running have been caught in a mischievous act or not, they are painted running away from an enraged man wielding a club. As a police man approaches one lad stumbles in his escape. Doesn’t it evoke a feeling of humiliated panic? As well as showing Britain’s urban landscape in the early 60’s the scene is timeless, perhaps evoking those wayward childhood memories.

Carel Weight Painting 'Fury'

Another large painting on display which conjures up the British sense of humour is the piece below by Alan MacDonald. Painted only in 2013 ‘Spam Dragon’ (below) on the surface is strange. When one looks closer witty paraphernalia from modern life is juxtaposed with people and scenery from the past, perhaps the heyday of British painting. However, smoke ruins the distant landscape and there is that feeling that something is just not right.

Alan McDonald Painting 'Span Dragon'

And talking about the weird and wonderful, Ken Currie’s ‘Dirty King’ (below) certainly is a very uncomfortable painting to look at. Ken Currie has a nack of creating ethereal figures and ghostly scenes. You know the subjects are there and yet you question whether they are real people, there is a hazy glow around the apparition reflected in ‘Dirty King’. Is he bathing in luxury? Has he fallen from grace? The ‘Dirty King’ seems to be treading in something not very nice and his bald patch certainly reveals a grisly side to royalty. An overwhelming feeling of pity came to me when taking in this painting, followed by a unsettling ghostly feeling. Not something I would usually feature on Brogues In A Coffee Bar but certainly thought provoking…

Ken Currie Painting 'Dirty King'

The artists in REALITY tackle a diverse range of subjects, referencing the body, relationships, history, politics, war, the urban environment and social issues. Despite these different references, the works are all united by two things – the harsh realities that have concerned key British artists over the decades and the simple act of painting. It shows that painting, as an art form is not dead there are so many comments now-a-days about art schools not specialising in painting but REALITY: Modern & Contemporary Painting really is a stunning exhibition.

Tickets are just £8 so there is no excuse to not miss it! Buy them here and find out more about The Sainsbury Centre on their website. I will be writing in depth about my other favourite artists featured here so keep checking back for more.

Dream Room V&A Installation

V&A Exhibition: At Home In A Dolls House

For those of you who are fans of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (which I reviewed here) I have some exciting news… The Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood have a new exhibition opening on 13th December exhibiting some of the most prized and best-loved dolls houses in the UK. Titled ‘Small Stories: At Home In A Dolls House’ the exhibition will showcase the fascinating stories behind the dollshouse history and takes you on a journey through the history of the home as well as the relationships and people who live within them. It baffles me how The V&A have managed to condense there vast collection of dolls houses down to just 12 to exhibit in ‘Small Stories’ – the exhibition shows a range spanning 300 years of manor houses, Victorian town houses, high rise flats and even the humble suburban semi.

The V&A have resorted over 1200 miniature dolls house objects dated from 1712-2001 and these will be displayed alongside a specially commissioned art installation called ‘Dream House’. 19 contemporary designers have been commissioned to create their very own miniature dream room, complete with people and a fully decorated miniature interior. What a fantastic idea! The designers involved, namely Katy Christianson and Molly Meg (see their dolls houses below), and many more have decorated their own rooms and as a finale for the exhibition they come together to form a larger installation. The Museum of Childhood says…

 Many of the dolls’ houses in the Small Stories exhibition were made as ideal spaces, or fantasy rooms. In miniature, we can experiment freely and try things otherwise not possible. So for Dream House, designers were asked to think about their own desirable rooms – aspirational, fantastical, whimsical, technological, practical or historical.

 I have *GOT* to go and see this! A new book has also been written by Halina Pasierbska to accompany the show (this can be purchased at the exhibition for £14.99) and for those of you who follow the wonderful author of The Miniaturist on Twitter (if not, why don’t you?!) she has confirmed that she will be opening the exhibition. Apparently, one of the creators of the early dolls houses got into so much debt making her miniature town she had to rely on charity from nuns to live!

Small Stories: At Home In A Dolls House will run in London until 6th September 2015 so theres plenty of time to make sure you don’t miss out. The museum are also holding events throughout the exhibition such as: a fun tour of haunted dolls houses.

For more inspirational art and features on Brogues In A Coffee Bar click here and don’t forget you can see updates and follow me on Twitter!

Anselm Kiefer Exhibition

Anselm Kiefer, Royal Academy Curator’s Tour

I have been meaning to write about the current Royal Academy exhibition of Anselm Kiefer’s work since it’s opening at the end of September. However, not having seen it yet (I must go soon) I have been waiting. The RA recently tweeted a video of curator Kathleen Soriano introducing some highlights from the show which has spurred me to share it with you. I have long been a fan of Kiefer’s dark and historically poignant artwork and when I saw his piece “Fates Of Nations: The New Theory Of War’ I was entranced…

Measuring almost 17 meters and consisting of 2 large glass vitrines filled with a fleet of rusty, sinking and emerging u-boats Kiefer has created a parody of Damien Hirst’s work. I absolutely adore the Victorian cabinet of curiosities and here Kiefer has created an enlarged version of these right in the middle of the Royal Academy’s courtyard. The second vitrine lists great naval battles and as The Guardian review says:

 …he has resurrected the terrors of the 20th-century in a shocking, pungent and explicit way that defies both the politeness of forgetting and the evasiveness of appropriate speech. He would rather you were angry than amnesiac. He will not let the ashes of history’s victims blow away, but thrusts them in your face as a handful of truth.

I cannot wait to go and see this in the flesh! What also really stands out for me from Kathleen Soriano’s overview (see video below) is the textural element in Kiefer’s paintings. He uses ash along with paper, straw, glitter and cracked clay to create complicated works of art that transform a painting from a picture to be contemplated to a fact and story which crashed out of the wall and into your world.

History is not just a theme for Anselm Kiefer, it is entangled in the way he paints. Memory makes his art.

I hope this quick tour inspires you as much as it has done me to go and see the exhibition which ends on 14th December. If you have already seen it, do let me know what your favourite piece/element was.

For more inspirational art and features on Brogues In A Coffee Bar click here and don’t forget you can see updates and follow me on Twitter!

The Collector

Frieze London 2014: Corrado N, AKA ‘The Collector’

It has a fish preserved in formaldehyde, 10 people wearing one hat, a giant dice (Gagosian Gallery) and The Smile Face Museum. Of course, it’s Frieze London time again. One of the world leading art fairs housed in Regents Park is the most important date in the calender of many galleries, collectors and art lovers alike. I have always followed what goes on, I find the whole spectacle that is Frieze fascinating. From the fashions, heals are out and polo necks in this year in case you wondered, to finding out astonishing facts about the fairs visitors and artists. Did you know  200 kilos of coffee will be consumed over the 3 day event?!

There is usually the typical piece of artwork used as a brash marketing strategy for the gallery. However, this year Cork Street gallery Helly Nahmad have captured the media’s attention with it’s unusual display showing a staged set from the louche Paris appartment from 1968, called Corrado N a k a ‘The Collector’. A massive difference to the stark white walls and minimal displays which so often disorientates when walking around the fair (it’s no wonder so many coffee breaks are needed), Helly Nahmad have hung Picasso’s and Miro’s alongside socialist posters and hung a Lucio Fontana above a fake desk.

In an attempt to distill the philosophy of what the ideal collector should be the gallery hired set designer Robin Brown to create the cluttered space. Complete with dirty dishes, keys strewn on top of a Warhol book and it’s very own unmade bed. When talking about the ideal collector the creator says he is…

Passionate, intellectual, reclusive. He’s not living to entertain people here, he’s living and breathing art.

The piece has a wonderful nostalgia which I find so refreshing to see at Frieze. It reminds me of the 2008 Frieze Project by Kling & Bang. Where an interactive Sirkus, a bar in downtown Reykjavik, was constructed within a booth. I remember walking in with my Dad for a drink and suddenly feeling like I’d actually come in from the Icelandic cold, the atmosphere was fantastic.

Corrado N a k a ‘The Collector’ is immersive and emotional and represents so many older art collectors environments, it is entirely unexpected. In it’s way it acts as an intimate diary for so many collectors in the art world and as a key performance has attracted a lot of attention throughout the world. See more images below…

 For more inspirational art and features on Brogues In A Coffee Bar click here and don’t forget you can see updates and follow me on Twitter!

Jennifer Steen Booher 'Beachcoming'

Beachcombing With Jennifer Steen Booher

Being a Norfolk girl I have a love for windy beaches, rainy walks along the sand and picking up the flotsam and jetsam found on the seashore (if you’re new see more about me here) so the photographs of miniature collections artist Jennifer Steen Booher speak to my heart. It seems that even from the other side of the world in a different climate the coast has the same pull for people and their wild imaginations. Jennifer lives off the coast of Maine and using photography and her curating skills she documents finds from her daily beachcombs.

Her images (seen below) are nostalgic, they speak of memorable coastal walks and my childhood picnics – we used to have a cold new years day beach breakfast when I was younger that I have fond memories of. The discarded man made objects such as: tin cans, rope and the occasional plastic children’s toy included amongst the natural forms of shells and sea glass illustrates our human relationship with the coast and tell their own story. Who lost the found skateboard wheel? Who ate from the smoothed shard of china that began life as a plate? And what journey ave they been on since?

You can buy prints of Jennifer’s beachcombing adventures as well as other objects directly from Jennifer’s website and via her Etsy shop. Sizes range from 5″ x 5″ up to 40″ x 40″ and starting at $50 how could you not! Here are some of my favourites…


Worldwide #AskACurator Day

A staggering 701 museums and 42 countries are taking part in one of the largest museum Twitter events I’ve ever seen… #AskACurator day! From The British Museum, Tate and even the Historical Royal Palaces museum curators across the UK and the world have logged in today to answer peoples questions. A great idea I thought and once I realised that one of my most loved cabinet of curiosity museum’s, The Pitt Rivers Museum is involved I just *had* to stick my oar in.

Follow the conversation at #AskACurator and ask your own questions now. You can see a full list of which institutions are involved here and see my questions below. I will be updating this as the day goes on so keep checking back or follow Brogues In A Coffee Bar on Twitter.

1) Why do people collect? The Smithsonian Postal museum answered…

History museum perspective: People collect out of a need to save our history/better understand our ancestors.

Others say that it is for an escape, to document the time for future generations and simply for pleasure. A few people have answered saying that collections are shaped by peoples need to remember.

UPDATE: The Heinz History Centre has put it perfectly, as a curator whether professional or at home you have to…

 …love and understand objects – how to read them, what they tell us about the past.  You need to be an object whisperer!! Curators are really the people who collect & interpret objects.

2) You’re all curating public collections but do you have a collection of your own? It seems that even though their lives are filled with artefact’s curators still collect at home. From stamps, postcards and miniatures to teapots – Lucy Moore from The Leeds Museum says:

I used to practice curating on my shell collection, but some had been alive, died, smelt and my Mum threw them away.

However, by far the most collected thing in the answers I have received (thus far) is Books.

3) What percentage of your collections are on display compared to that in storage? Astonishingly the V&A display just 24% of their collection and have a further 2 million artefacts in storage!

4) What’s your opinion on using technology (namely, Google Glass) instead of traditional blurb wall information in exhibitions? After previously writing about and having strong opinions against using Google Glass (see article here) in museums/galleries I thought I’d see what the professionals think. It seems it is thought to be an interesting idea but many say they would have to see it in action first.