Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Comtemporary Art--are you feeling it?

On my daily walk up and down Kings Road towards Sloane Square, I would pass the Saatchi Gallery and always ponder going in. There was nothing really stopping me, after all it was free, it was accessible, but a visit of a contemporary gallery never really grabbed me. Relocated last year to the beautiful Duke of York Headquarters, the gallery hosts temporary exhibitions of varying interests. A couple of weeks ago, with camera in hand on a frigid day, I stepped into this new world to check it out.

Currently, the focus is on India with The Empire Strikes Back exhibit. I consider myself an art lover, but I've got to admit, I did not know what was going on with most of the art I was seeing. Maybe it's my limited perspective, maybe I've been sheltered too long from what's going on the contemporary art world, because I found myself tilting my head from one side to the other trying to soak it all in. Take this first piece for example, Bharti Kher's mysterious fiberglass heart of a blue sperm whale...

or Huma Mulji's Arabian Delight. Hmmmm....what can I say? What would you say?

Her Suburban Dream by the same artist intrigued me--a cow extension of sorts.

This made me pause and look twice. Mansoor Ali's  Dance of Democracy--an installation of discarded chairs. Recycling into art, now there's something I can cheer about.

How do you feel about Kher's Hungry Dogs Eat Dirty Pudding?  A vacuum covered with animal skin. Now there's another recycling thought for all those discarded and broken-down vacuums. You know, by this point, I was really puzzled and a little frustrated. Just what makes art, ART?

I mean, I looked down on the floor about that time at this splat on the ground. In the eyes of the beholder, art maybe? 

As I was finishing up my tour, wrestling with my struggles about what really makes something a piece of art, I found a permanent exhibit that really touched me. Emily Prince, an American artist, has put together this collection of 5,158 sketches of American soldiers who have given their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

This tribute is an ongoing project that she updates as the statistics change. Each soldier is sketched with pencil on a color coded square of paper that corresponds to the soldier's skin tone. If she knows their story, she adds it to the sketch.

I searched until I found a soldier from Houston, my home town. Analaura Gutierrez, 21 years old, who died in 2003. She joined the Army in 2002,  so she could eventually attend college.  A stirring of the heart is what I felt--I think that is what best defines art to me. It certainly spoke to me that morning.


  1. I recognize that building! We stayed in Chelsea, just off the King's Road when we were in London 2 Christmases ago but we just didn't have the time to explore everything. Not sure I like everything on display but I will definitely go there when we go back to London.

    Best wishes,

  2. Bonjour Debi,
    I'm with you, I've never quite understood modern art either, but that last exhibit of the sketches of our American men and women who have given their lives was very touching. Thanks for sharing this.
    Is the London weather any better, Paris is a bit warmer, I actually saw a little tree with some new buds today - could it be Spring is on its way?

  3. We can leave this museum off my "tour program" when I visit you week after next. I'm just not a contemporary gal but then again you probably knew that. I did enjoy your post, as always, and especially appreciate the last exhibit you shared with us.

  4. Of course the last exhibit is the only one I 'get'. Lovely.

    We have passed many modern museums in Paris, and never went inside. We sat by the fountain of the Pompidou, but never went in. I don't even think it's modern, but the outside is!

  5. Hello Debi. thank you again for taking us on this tour. I too would have seen the title "modern art" and avoided it. I have been to quite a few conemp. art museums and left scratching my head as to what it all was about. But, at times, like with the Saatchi, the building itself is a draw and the fact that it is free can prompt me to explore and hopefully discovering a gem like that moving last exhibit you found.

  6. not big into modern art. used to hate picasso, until my son
    had a report on him. once i learned a bit, i could appreciate
    him more.