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May 05 2011

10 of the best arts venues in north London

Kate Abbott, commissioning arts editor for the Guardian, picks London's most interesting arts venues north of the river, from an old coffin repository to an artists' haven

Whitechapel Gallery

You never know what to expect at the original east London gallery. Since 1901, it has shown modern artists from Barbara Hepworth to Nan Goldin, Jackson Pollock and David Hockney. Famously, the Whitechapel is the only British space to have exhibited Picasso's Guernica, and it continues to champion challenging contemporary artists. It recently expanded into the Passmore Edwards library next door, which has a year-round free exhibition to tempt even more heads to peek through the doors. Once you've eaten up all the delights inside, pop around the corner and wander up Brick Lane to Story Deli for pizza served on driftwood slabs and street-side hipster-watching.
77-82 Whitechapel High Street E1, +44 (0)20-7522 7888, whitechapelgallery.org, open Tues-Sun 11am-6pm, Thurs 11am-9pm

Banner Repeater

Need to kill time while waiting for a train? Search out Banner Repeater on platform one of Hackney Downs station and be bored no more. This innovative rush-hour haven should spawn a slew of art spaces in unexpected everyday environs. It's an intimate gallery with a library trolley outside and a reading room attached, but it instantly breaks down the barrier that can make wandering into an official art gallery daunting. Banner Repeater is artist-run by Ami Hughes, with support from Hackney council's Empty Shops Fund.
Hackney Downs Station, Dalston Lane E8, bannerrepeater.org, open Tues-Thurs 8-11am, 4-7pm, Fri 8am-6pm, Sat, Sun noon-6pm

Hannah Barry

The inimitable Hannah Barry gallery is surreptitiously tucked upstairs in an 18th-century corner building on the swish shopping promenade of New Bond Street. Once you've survived the tiny, clanking lift and shuffled across the fusty landing, the door opens into a luminous showroom that is bringing emerging artists to the central London masses. Visionary Hannah Barry first opened a Peckham gallery in a disused grain warehouse before launching this second space in 2010. Bold Tendencies, the annual sculpture show she founded in the dizzying disused heights of a south London car park, is now in its fifth year. The summertime show coexists with Frank's Café and Campari Bar, and is universally acclaimed for the art, architecture … and those views.
110 New Bond Street W1 (entrance on Brook Street), + 44 (0)20-7493 4224, hannahbarry.com, open Tues-Sat 10am-6pm

Freud Museum

While the main draw here is the pristinely preserved study, couch and all, this vast Hampstead house, where Freud and family lived after they escaped Austria in 1938, doubles as an art space. Exhibits take Freud's work, and the world's most notorious sofa, as a starting point. Artists that have interpreted Freudian terms – from the pleasure principle to free association – include Sarah Lucas, Susan Hiller and Sophie Calle. You can also gaze upon a Dali portrait of an ailing Freud that he didn't live to see, and Freud's own fine art and archaeology collection, not to mention irresistible morsels of the Freud clan's home videos.
20 Maresfield Gardens NW3, +44 (0)20-7435 2002, freud.org.uk, open Wed-Sun noon-6pm, adults £6, concessions £3-£4.50, under-12s free

Kate Macgarry

Head through the bottle-green industrial front doors on notoriously arty Vyner Street and up a sloping walkway and you will emerge in this classic white cube gallery. There is a relaxed feel about the place – the exhibitions continue into the curious glass-roofed office, where you can poke your head in and peruse the art while staff are hard at work. Kate Macgarry is on the international scene, presenting work by established artists including Peter McDonald, Francis Upritchard, Goshka Macuga and Marcus Coates. This part of Bethnal Green is a hub for great spaces – while you're here, try the newly opened Motel de Nowhere on Hollybush Gardens and Image Music Text on Cambridge Heath Road.
7a Vyner Street E2, +44 (0)20-8981 9100, katemacgarry.com, open Weds-Sun noon-6pm

Museum of Brands

The Museum of Brands is a product placement time tunnel that snakes from decade to decade, stuffed with everything consumers have filled shopping baskets with since Victorian times. Walls are stacked like supermarket shelves, with the first ever Dairy Milk wrappers, original Marmite jars and 1930s Mars and KitKat bars. The cafe has a looping video showing a history of TV ads since 1955, when they first appeared (look out for Joan Collins getting doused by drinks in the name of Cinzano). Director Robert Opie had a revelation 46 years ago that if he tossed packaging out no one could marvel, retrospectively, at the design hours that went into it. He's been hoarding ever since.
2 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road W11, +44 (0)20-7908 0880, museumofbrands.com, open Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-5pm, adults £6.50, concessions £4, children 7-16 £2.25, family £15

Parasol Unit

Next door to Victoria Miro, one of London's leading commercial galleries, is Parasol Unit, its not-for-profit neighbour. Parasol Unit is housed in a classic old warehouse building that appears run-of-the-mill until you crane upwards and spot the architecturally curious grey-and-glass shoebox perched on top. The interior has impressive minimal design and never mundane multidisciplinary exhibitions. Take in the shows – four a year since 2004 – that spread out in vast rooms over two stories, or peer out of the floor-to-ceiling back windows into the bamboo-heavy courtyard. Parasol also runs an alfresco art scheme called Parasol Public – one to watch.
14 Wharf Road N1, +44 (0)20-7490 7373, parasol-unit.org, open Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun noon-5pm, first Thurs of the month 10am-9pm

The Wapping Project

A post-industrial art-and-dining space in a former Wapping hydraulic power station, built in 1890 to convert Thames water into power for the docks. The Boiler and Filter House galleries have innovative site-specific exhibitions, such as the Yohji Yamamoto show where visitors can rent a rowing boat and paddle out to examine a dress hung in the centre of a makeshift lake. Next door in Wapping Food, the stark brick walls and now-silent mint-green machinery contrast with the modern, seasonal food (definitely book in for brunch). The owners opened a second space in 2009: Wapping Project Bankside, a round yellow warehouse opposite Tate Britain, which concentrates on photography and film.
Wapping Wall E1, +44 (0)20-7680 2080, thewappingproject.com

176

Anita Zabludowicz is one of Britain's leading philanthropists; a contemporary collector; and a global power-patron. She runs three galleries, in the US, Finland and this Corinthian-columned Methodist chapel space that opened in 2007. It's a dynamic place that shows off not just her vast personal collection, but her curatorial nous. There's a programme of residencies and exciting exhibitions, and176 also has weekly £5 life classes for the public, and free performances, talks and festivals. In 2011, The Shape We're In group exhibition sees newly commissioned sculpture take over empty shops throughout Camden.
176 Prince of Wales Road NW5, +44 (0)20-7428 8940, zabludowiczcollection.com/london, open Thurs-Sun 12-6pm

The Crypt

This is an old coffin repository, and there are reminders of its former use everywhere: gravestones propped against walls, a coffin slot and the bones of 557 people underfoot. A faded red sign on the thrum of Euston Road points you in the right direction, but when you head around the moss-entrenched church walls towards the vaults, there's only an "uneven surfaces" sign to signal your arrival. Through the ornate red iron doors and down stairs, you are welcomed into a space full of eerie alcoves, and nooks and crannies that artists use for installations and innovative group shows. The crypt was also an air raid shelter, and it has an old operating theatre, still half-daubed in surgical green to display the blood of bygone days.
St Pancras Church, Euston Road NW1, +44 (0)20-7388 1461, cryptgallery.org.uk


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10 of the best art galleries in Brooklyn & Queens

From the hipster galleries of Williamsburg to a sculptor's zen garden in Queens, New York arts blogger Aneta Glinkowska points out the best draws in the boroughs

SculptureCenter

You are now in Queens, known for its creative street nomenclature and only a handful of galleries, but a variety of other art institutions such as SculptureCenter. Housed in a two-floor, brick, garage-like structure, it is an enormous exhibition space perfect for massive works of art. Recent examples include Ursula von Rydingsvard's monumental cedar reliefs and sculptures. In addition, if you visit on a summer weekend, you might find an art crowd mingling to the sound of music made on a small make-shift stage outdoors. This outdoor area is also an exhibition space. Don't miss the dark, humid, earthy basement often used for installations involving projections and new media.
• 44-19 Purves St, sculpture-center.org, open Thurs-Mon 11am-6pm, suggested donation $5 adults, $3 students

Brooklyn Museum

Manhattan is home to most of the renowned New York museums, but Brooklyn has one of its own. In a classical building, recently restored with a glass facade, adjacent to Prospect Park, architecturally it rivals the Metropolitan. Brooklyn Museum's collection and audacious shows attract critical attention or, in the case of Charles Saatchi's Sensation a decade ago, scandal. Such controversies attract crowds, which are harder to come by here than in Manhattan. The museum pays as much attention to maintaining its vast collection of western and non-western art as to curating contemporary shows, and its Elizabeth A Sackler Center for Feminist Art is also notable for showing and pushing for more women's art.
200 Eastern Parkway, brooklynmuseum.org, open Wed-Sun 11am-6pm; Thurs, Fri 11am-10pm, suggested donation adults $10, seniors, students $6, under-12s free

Smack Mellon

Until recently the neighbourhood of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) was better known for its industry, but in the recent decade it's become home for many graphic design companies, galleries, publishing houses, booksellers and artists' studios. Smack Mellon is one such institution, an art venue which uses its industrial, brick building to show emerging contemporary art and lesser known, mid-career artists. Because of low light and the large open space, it is best suited to showing projections and it does so often. It favours site-specific installations, such as the recent Site 92 group exhibition for which artists were asked to respond to the gallery's industrial space. Smack Mellon is a not-for-profit organisation, with artists' studios which you can peek into under the exhibition space.
92 Plymouth Street, smackmellon.org, open Wed-Sun noon-6pm

Pierogi

Pierogi, founded in 1994, is not an Eastern European dumpling shop, but one of the first art spaces in Williamsburg and the longest lasting of dozens of galleries. The area is now known as a destination for twentysomethings to live and party, and Pierogi might be seen as a catalyst for both gallery and youth migration to this still heavily Eastern European neighbourhood. In its modest industrial building behind heavy metal doors, Pierogi shows a variety of media but is heavy on drawing, illustration and photography. It is also know for vast archives of works on paper from nearly 1,000 artists. Make sure to stop by The Boiler, a few blocks away at 191 North 14th Street, where 40-foot ceilings allow for truly large installations.
177 North 9th Street, pierogi2000.com, open Tues-Sun 11am-6pm

Like the Spice

Another Williamsburg gallery hinting at food in its name but with a slightly shorter history (established in 2006), this ground floor, white cube space shows emerging artists, and has a hippie feel to it in its preoccupation with the fantastic and sometimes difficult work. But there is also room for abstract art and realism, video and new media. Located in the Hispanic quarter of Williamsburg, on sunny days there is often a performance in front of the gallery. Another attraction are the monthly dinners – prepared by artists.
224 Roebling St, likethespice.com, open Wed-Sun 12pm-7pm

Fisher Landau Center For Art

Fisher Landau Center For Art has been known for hosting the enthusiastically anticipated Columbia MFA Thesis Show in the month of May. But it's really the collection that makes the space outstanding. The centre is a former parachute factory and it's one of the older private collections of contemporary art in the US. Heavy on American art dating back to 1960s, some of the big names include the legendary conceptual artists John Baldessari and Jenny Holzer, as well as many other household contemporary masters such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd and Robert Rauschenberg. The Whitney Museum is hosting part of the collection in early 2011 giving it deserved recognition and showing off what Fisher Landau has promised to donate to the Whitney.
• 38-27 30th St, flcart.org, open Thurs-Mon 12pm to 5pm

The Noguchi Museum

The Noguchi Museum is yet another factory building that has been converted into an art space – this time devoted to the life's work of one artist. It's the former studio of half-Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi. A great attraction of the museum is its garden and many half open spaces, so it's well suited to presenting the stone and metal sculptures he made; the ivy-clad walls and garden are dotted with Noguchi sculptures, and it's as if we're transported zen-like to Japan. As well as the stone and metal works, there are also lighter, paper sculptures and lanterns to admire and even buy. A bit of a long walk from the train station, but it's a great space to escape the noisy city.
9-01 33rd Road,noguchi.org, open Wed-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-6pm, adults $10, seniors and students $5, under-12s free

Queens Museum of Art

Queens Museum of Art is probably the most remote venue that New York art lovers have to travel to. It's also somewhat of a vintage sci-fi trip, as the building and the area surrounding it were originally developed for the 1939 World's Fair. The most prominent remnant of the 1939 (and 1964) fair is a giant sphere looming over the flat, massive building. Inside, the highlight of the permanent collection is a panorama of New York City built by Robert Moses for the 1964 fair – a 9,335 sq ft architectural model including every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs. In a rotating show, the museum often puts on contemporary artists who reflect Queens's ethnic composition.
Meridian Rd, Flushing, queensmuseum.org, open Wed-Sun 12pm-6pm, suggested donatiom adults $5, children and seniors $2.50

PS1 Contemporary Art Center

MoMA needs no introduction, but its younger sibling, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, is a bit more remote in Queens, and needs a boost. This former school building is a perfect art structure with three floors of small galleries to show multiple contemporary artists in solo exhibitions, such as Olafur Eliasson, as well as themed expos like the Greater New York exhibition every five years showcasing artists working in the metropolitan area. Another tradition is the bi-weekly Saturday Session of performances happening indoors from January to June. Over the summer, the school yard stages installations, performances and parties on weekends.
22-25 Jackson Ave, ps1.org, open thurs-Mon 12pm-6pm, suggested donation adults $10, seniors and students $5

Bose Pacia

One of the most established private galleries in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighbourhood Bose Pacia is multiple, small galleries squeezed into one building on Front Street. It features exclusively avant-garde contemporary art from South East Asia. The gallery, originally located in Chelsea, is an example of small reverse migration from the area, which on occasions has seen galleries such as this one moving away to more fitting neighborhoods as the Lower East Side or Brooklyn.
163 Plymouth St, bosepacia.com, open Tues-Sat 11am-6pm

• Aneta Glinkowska is cofounder of the website New York Art Beat and editor of its blog nyartbeat.com/nyablog


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10 of the best spots for culture in Paris

French writer Agnès Poirier guides you to Paris's lesser-known cultural highlights, from a puppet theatre to la Cinémathèque

There are good reasons why the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower are respectively the most visited museum and monument in the world. However, we thought we'd go slightly off the beaten tracks and reveal some of Parisians' favourite cultural hotspots. From louche Pigalle to up-and-becoming-groovy rue de Bagnolet, from gritty rue d'Aubervilliers to the leafy Jardin du Luxembourg, we have selected theatres, cinemas, galleries, museums and a médiathèque worth le détour.

Galerie Gagosian

It was only a question of time before 65-year-old American art dealer Larry Gagosian added a Paris branch – his ninth – to what has become the world's biggest commercial gallery network. When la galerie opened last October with paintings and sculptures by Cy Twombly, everything was sold in a few hours, netting the gallery more than $20 million. Having transformed a huge hôtel particulier into a state-of-the-art contemporary gallery, Gagosian has offered Parisians interesting diptych exhibitions such as Rodin and Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, Richard Prince and Jean Nouvel.
4 rue de Ponthieu, 8th, +33 1 7500 0592, gagosian.com. Métro: Franklin D Roosevelt

Le Trianon

Rest assured, Marie-Antoinette's idyllic abode in Versailles hasn't been transformed into a cabaret. In fact, le Trianon Theatre, built at the foot of Montmartre, has known many lives and disguises since it opened as a music hall in 1894. Partly destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt by Art Nouveau engineer Joseph Cassien-Bernard in 1902. By the late '30s, it was dedicated exclusively to cinema and, with its 1,000 seats, offered a great venue for movie buffs. Le Trianon died in 1992 only to be resurrected a few years later as a concert venue. Carla Bruni is among the chanteuses who have recently performed here.
80 boulevard Rochechouart, 18th, +33 1 4492 7800, letrianon.fr. Métro: Anvers

Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP)

Known as "La Mèpe" by Parisians, here is a much-loved and still little-known venue for photography exhibitions which opened to the public in 1998. Sheltered in a 1706 listed hôtel particulier in the heart of le Marais, MEP offers superbly curated exhibitions alongside archives going back to Daguerre. Its permanent collection, however, retraces world photography since the 1950s, from Koudelka to Sieff and Cartier-Bresson to Salgado. MEP organises tours and holds child-friendly lectures about photography.
5/7 rue de Fourcy, 4th, +33 1 4478 7500, mep-fr.org. Métro: Saint Paul or Pont Marie

Hôtel de Ville de Paris

Few visitors to the French capital know that the town hall organises free exhibitions. Walk round to the back of the imposing 19th-century building and more often than not you'll see Parisians queuing patiently for the latest show. Their topics are usually, but not exclusively, capital-related. The most successful have been: Jacques Prévert's Paris, grande-dame designer Andrée Putman's Parisian interiors, La Commune and Communards. Be prepared for the forthcoming one: Paris as seen by Impressionists.
rue de Lobau, 4th, paris.fr. Métro: Hôtel de Ville

Le Lucernaire

With three theatres, Théâtre Noir, Théâtre Rouge and Paradis, three cinema screens, a bookshop, an exhibition space, a bar and a restaurant, Le Lucernaire is a busy cultural hub. Readings, debates, book signings are added to a bursting schedule of matinées and soirées. Created in 1968, Le Lucernaire is conceived as a cultural crossroad between avant-garde art and the classics revisited. Located in a former factory, it has its own cobbled street. We recently saw there a play about Hitchcock and Truffaut, in Franglais. The theatre was packed, and the public loved it.
53 rue Notre-Dame des champs, 6th, +33 1 4544 5734, lucernaire.fr. Métro: Notre-Dame-des-Champs or Vavin

Le 104

Opened in October 2008, le 104 – the city's latest cultural venue – is based in a former funeral parlour. Financed by the Paris municipality, le 104 is a huge space with large and small courts, glasshouses, cellars, stables and galleries where the 200 artists in residence and the public from the 19th arrondissement meet despite differing backgrounds. However, new director José Manuel Gonçalvès seems to have taken the bull by the horns. Last time we checked, it offered an organic market on Saturday mornings, free Qi Gong sessions, a merry-go-round, short films screenings, lessons in urban dancing, workshops with a Paris orchestra and a bal populaire.
104 rue d'Aubervilliers, 19th, +33 1 5335 5000, 104.fr. Métro: Riquet, Crimée, Stalingrad or Marx-Dormoy

Médiathèque Marguerite Duras

Designed by former Presidential candidate and architect Roland Castro, this médiathèque is the largest in Paris and has just recently opened its doors to the "Parisians of the East". Located between the 15th-century church of St Germain-de-Charonne and a sleek but affordable hotel-restaurant designed by Philippe Stark called Mama shelter, la médiathèque Marguerite Duras offers comfortable armchairs and seating for about 350 visitors. It has (almost) all the French press and (a selection of) world publications, as well as a massive selection of books, CDs and DVDs. The is also a little cinema which often has free screenings.
115 rue de Bagnolet, 20th, +33 1 5525 4910, mairie20.paris.fr. Métro: Alexandre Dumas, Porte de Bagnolet, Gambetta or Maraîchers

La Cinémathèque

Since 1955, the French Cinémathèque has nourished generations of world film-makers and cinéphiles visiting and living in Paris. Recently moved from the Palais de Chaillot to the Frank Gehry-designed former American Centre, la Cinémathèque continues to offer some of the best programming in the world, with a screen dedicated to the history of cinema and another to retrospectives. With four screens, two temporary exhibitions, archives, a library and a restaurant (le 51), la cinémathèque regularly organises master classes with the world's best directors.
51 rue de Bercy, 12th, +33 1 7119 3333, cinematheque.fr. Métro: Bercy

Guignol

Built in 1933 in the Jardin du Luxembourg, this 275-seat theatre specialises in Guignol and puppet shows for children and adults alike. You can find other Guignol theatres in Paris gardens such as Parc Montsouris or Parc des Buttes Chaumont, but this is our favourite. This is where we understood that Guignol was a clever little fellow and that cheek could get you far in life. Performances last 40 minutes and tickets cost €4.50 per person. The theatre is open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and every day during school holidays.
Jardin du Luxembourg, rue Guynemer, 6th, +33 1 4326 4647 guignolduluxembourg.monsite-orange.fr. Métro: Vavin, Notre Dame Des Champs or Luxembourg

Fondation Cartier

In 1994, the Cartier Foundation for contemporary art moved from the suburbs to its gleaming new HQ on boulevard Raspail. Home to a massive collection by 300 living artists, it acquires 15 new art pieces annually. Look out for the soirées nomades, where a theme given to many different artists create unusual experiences. The Food Lab series, for instance, asked artists of all disciplines to create food as art.
261 boulevard Raspail, 14th, +33 1 4218 5650, fondation.cartier.com. Métro: Raspail or Denfert-Rochereau

Agnès Poirier is a political commentator and film critic, and a regular contributor to the Guardian


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January 29 2011

Five great cities for street art

Explore São Paulo's underground art scene or share a beer with graffiti artists in Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne Street Art Tours are run by artists. Discover the city's underground art scene on a tour around hidden lanes and arcades, finishing at Blender Studios, where you can see artists at work and share a beer with them.
• Around £43pp including refreshments for 3.5 hours; +61 393 285556, melbournestreettours.com

Berlin, Germany

In Berlin, go one better with a street art workshop. Not only are you taken on a walking tour of the city, you're also taught how to create your own art, from simple stencils to 3D murals.
• Around £13pp for four hours, +49 162 81 98 264, alternativeberlin.com

São Paulo, Brazil

Last autumn São Paulo's prestigious sculpture museum, MuBE, hosted the city's inaugural Graffiti Fine Art Biennale. The month-long event featured work by 65 Brazilian and international street artists, and will be back, and even bigger, in autumn 2012.
mube.art.br; more info from graffitifineart.blogspot.com

Stavanger, Norway

Nuart, a contemporary art festival in the city of Stavanger, focuses on street art and the post-graffiti movement (stencils, murals, stickers). Held in September, it is now in its 10th year.
nuart09.blogspot.com

London, UK

Tate Modern was the first major public museum to display street art in London, back in 2008. These days there are often several urban art exhibitions running in the city.
• Visit streetartlondon.co.uk for event details, plus new art on the streets

Round the World Experts (0800 707 6010, roundtheworldexperts.co.uk) has put together an Urban Art multistop flight package, starting and ending in London and taking in Lisbon, Berlin, Stavanger, São Paulo and Melbourne, from £1,979pp, for travel between 16 April and 20 June.


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January 17 2011

Readers' tips: modern art galleries

The best places to get your fill of culture, from a giant sculpture garden in the Netherlands to contemporary art in an Italian palazzo

The Netherlands

WINNING TIP: The Kröller-Müller Museum, Arnhem
In this modern art gallery within the vast Hoge Veluwe national park, culture and nature come together. Its collection is impressive, including work by Van Gogh, Seurat and Picasso, and more contemporary pieces. The sculpture garden, the largest in Europe, has works by Rodin, Serra, Hepworth, Oldenburg and many more artists. You can explore the sprawling park on free bicycles.
+31 318 591241, kmm.nl
Lizwander

UK

Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Love Picasso? Cézanne? Hepworth? Piper? European and British 20th-century modern art? Chichester's Pallant House Gallery has it all, in a fab modern gallery attached to a 1712 townhouse. Ancient and modern in one. A view of the cathedral, friendly staff and guides, a restaurant overlooking a courtyard garden, a good bookshop, an art library, talks, workshops and community involvement. Spend an hour or a day here. Stand and stare, be inspired, perhaps even take part in making art at one of its workshops.
9 North Pallant, 01243 774557, pallant.org.uk
Alocal

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
A small but lovely modern art collection exists on the upper floor of the newly refurbished Ashmolean Museum. It contains pieces by lesser known artists in addition to lesser-known works by famous artists. In addition, until 20 February there's a special exhibition of sculpture by contemporary British artist Thomas Houseago, the Ashmolean's first collaboration with Modern Art Oxford.
Beaumont Street, 01865 278002, ashmolean.org
Bryanstill

Tate St Ives, St Ives
The most spectacular views from any gallery in Great Britain. Northwards from the glazed rotunda over the shimmering sands of Porthmeor Beach, where uber-cool surfers seem to dance on the crashing waves, and east across mediterranean-blue St Ives Bay to Virginia Woolf's brilliant white lighthouse at Godrevy. The St Ives school of painters flourished in the mid-20th century, and their life-affirming take on modernism reflected the ancient landscape and wild Cornish sea. Afterwards, exploring the narrow lanes of the "Downalong" fishing community of St Ives or walking the coastal path to magical Zennor, you will quickly understand why so many creative people have been drawn to this very special place.
Porthmeor Beach, 01736 796226, tate.org.uk/stives/
Christoramsey

Dean Gallery, Edinburgh
The first thing you see as you enter Edinburgh's Dean Gallery is Eduardo Paolozzi's huge Vulcan, a seven-metre high Roman fire god made of multi-faceted metal striding among the cafe tables. The gallery also has a recreation of Paolozzi's studio: you can stand for hours spotting all the little toys and bits of junk he used for inspiration. There's an excellent programme of temporary exhibitions too, and Scotland's best brownie in the cafe.
75 Belford Road, 0131 624 6200, nationalgalleries.org
Cooperteacher

Denmark

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Elsinore
Although Louisiana has some of the biggest names, there is no need to be an art connoisseur to appreciate the uniqueness of the place. There is an incredible alchemy between art and building, which allows us to see the works in a different way. Also a visit to the park is a must – in sunny weather don't forget to take a picnic and enjoy the view over the Oresund to Sweden - if you are lucky! Little ones won't be bored either with the excellent children's wing where they can make their own modern masterpiece.
GI Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk, +45 4919 0719, louisiana.dk
Littlebhutan

Japan

Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo
This is one of Tokyo's best private art museums and was founded by Mr Ishibashi (his name means stone bridge), the president of Bridgestone Tires. It houses a small but impressive collection of French impressionist art. It is also a rare opportunity to see Japanese paintings in the western style dating from the Meiji period onward. Since there are only 10 small rooms of displays, it makes a quick and worthwhile one-hour detour if you're in the vicinity of Tokyo JR station. There is also the delightful, if expensive, Georgette tearoom.
Bridgestone Building, 1-10-1, Kyobashi, Chuo-ku,+81 3 3563 0241, bridgestone-museum.gr.jp
Cristobalosborne

Germany

Kolumba art museum, Cologne
Not only a great building, but a synthesis of the aesthetic and the ascetic. Peter Zumthor's design gives space for reflection. There is no cafe or gift shop to speak of. The few windows are inward-looking, as are we while we focus on the art within. Built over the ruins of a bombed church, this modern building allows its history to breathe. Allow yourself to be seduced and taken on a journey that will satisfy your soul.
Kolumbastrasse 4, +49 0221 933 1930, kolumba.de

Norway

Galleri F15, Moss
One of Norway's most innovative contemporary galleries, with temporary exhibitions covering anything from paintings to 3D installations, sculpture and concept art. The gallery is also home to Momentum, the Nordic festival of modern art, which is held here every other year. Housed in a former manor with extensive grounds, a cafe, gift shop and superb views of the Oslofjord, it's a lovely place to while away an afternoon.
Alby Gard, Jeloy, +47 69 271033, Gallerif15.no
TravellingFrog

Estonia

Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn
I was very impressed recently by this museum in Tallinn. Great modern architecture and an impressive modern art collection for such a small country. Little wonder it won the European Museum of the Year in 2008. Thoroughly recommended.
Weizenbergi 34/Valge 1, +372 602 6000, ekm.ee
TravellingFrog

Lithuania

National Art Gallery, Vilnius
The National Gallery of Art in Vilnius is one of my favourites. Housed in a contemporary building on the bank of the River Neris, it traces the history of modern Lithuania through art. There is no forgotten Picasso or must-see Monet to distract you, all the permanent works are 20th and 21st century Lithuanian. Paintings, photography, installations, video and graphic art combine to show the effects that the second world war, Soviet occupation, the Cold War and revolution had on art and the Lithuanian people. There's some really good stuff here, all for 6 litas (£1.50).
Konstitucijos Avenue 22, +370 5212 2997, ldm.lt
Troutiemcfish

Spain

Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha
A magnificent permanent display of abstract painting and sculpture by some of the best modern Spanish artists, such as Chillida, Saura, Tàpies and, our favourite, Zóbel. Temporary exhibitions of world artists offer further delights, but perhaps the greatest of all is the building itself – converted 15th-century houses hanging over the Huécar gorge. Sympathetic reconstruction provides spacious display areas – and vertiginous views. A surprise and a triumph.
Casas Colgadas, + 34 969 212983, march.es
Jenandbrian

La Tabacalera, Madrid
An alternative to the big art establishments is this community-run gallery/workshop space/music venue/cafe/bar in the multicultural barrio of Lavapies. This old tobacco factory is the laid-back, graffiti-walled hangout for the cool kids, mums and dads of Madrid. If you want to mix with locals and brush up on your Spanish the vibe is friendly, the art is edgy and the drinks are cheap. Any night of the week there is bound to be a salsa class, art exhibition or workshop in session, open to anyone and all for free.
Calle Embajadores 53, latabacalera.net
Songi

Casa-Museu Salvador Dalí, Portlligat
This quirky museum was the summer home of Dalí and his wife Gala. Situated in the picturesque sleepy bay of Portlligat, close to Cadaques on the Costa Brava. You need to book in advance for a timed admission, but will be rewarded with an intimate insight into the artist and his work. Highlights include his studio, themed rooms, sculptured eggs and examples of pop art around the phallic-shaped pool. Don't expect a trendy cafe or extensive gift shop, but you may come away with a smile!
+34 972 251 015, salvador-dali.org
CarolFerguson

El Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands
This art gallery is set in a fortress built to protect against pirate attacks. In 1975 the architect and artist César Manrique restored and converted it into a modern art gallery and restaurant. What is special about this place is that if the art works fail to enthrall then the building, inside and out, has Manrique's wonderful touch applied to absolutely everything and you cannot fail to be affected by his magic.
Castillo de San José, Carretera de Naos, +34 928 807929, centrosturisticos.com
Muffin

Italy

Triennale Design Museum, Milan
Underrepresented in the guide books and slightly away from the heart of Milan, the Triennale, in the gardens of the Castello Sforzesco, is a museum of modern applied arts. There are usually four or five temporary exhibits, covering an eclectic mix of different disciplines. When I was there the standout was a retrospective of the work of Milanese designer and architect Marco Ferreri. A great place to people-watch too, as an indoor alternative to gawping at the fashionistas in the quadrilatero della moda!
Viale Alemagna 6, +39 02 724341, triennaledesignmuseum.it
EnglishExile

Castello di Rivoli, Turin
Standing on the hills outside Turin we found the chicest of contemporary art, beautifully presented in a restored 17th-century palazzo. The exhibitions are very, very cool, and the building is a wonder of old and new architecture. Go in the evening to combine your visit with the breathtakingly expensive Combal.Zero (combal.org), voted one of the top 10 life-changing restaurants in the world and presenting a feast as experimental as the art next door.
Piazza Mafalda di Savoia, +39 011 956 5222, castellodirivoli.org
OtterClaire

Turkey

Istanbul Modern
Istanbul's equivalent to Tate Modern is a stylish conversion of a warehouse right on the Bosphorus with stunning views across to the old city and the Galata bridge. It houses a vibrant exhibition tracing the development of modern Turkish art and temporary exhibitions. Go early on a Thursday, when admission is free, and check there are no cruise liners moored alongside, otherwise the view from the superb cafe-restaurant is ruined.
Meclis-i Mebusan Avenue, Liman Isletmeleri, Sahasi Antrepo 4, +90 212 334 7300, istanbulmodern.org
Floppylion

US

Dia: Beacon, New York
Dia Art Foundation's gallery at Beacon exemplifies what New York does best – converting disused industrial space into space for art. This former box printing factory, an hour by train from Grand Central Station up the river Hudson, houses art on a grand scale. Each gallery is devoted to a single artist – from Beuys to Judd to Warhol. Art on a scale to take your breath away. Follow with a stroll up the river and lunch in the groovy town of Beacon.
3 Beekman Street, +1 845 440 0100, diaart.org
jannettus


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November 14 2010

Art in the park: on Britain's sculpture trails

Britain's excellent sculpture trails present beautiful art works in some of the country's most spectacular settings



June 21 2010

Solstice setback at Stonehenge

Summer solstice revellers disappointed that coalition government will cut funding to new Stonehenge visitor centre

Sometimes the police come in for criticism, while at other times English Heritage attracts the ire of the druids, ravers, hippies and sun lovers who turn out for the summer solstice at Stonehenge.

At today's celebrations there was a political target – David Cameron and the coalition government – following the announcement that government funding for a visitor centre at the ancient monument was being cut.

The outcry from solstice revellers was led by the unmistakeable figure of Arthur Pendragon, a druid who believes he is an incarnation of the once and future king.

Pendragon, who rejoices in the title of battle chieftain of the council of British druid orders, said he was not surprised that the £10m funding was dropped.

"I knew the writing was on the wall. I knew the new government wouldn't stump up the money. It's no surprise but, still, it's a disgrace. This wouldn't happen anywhere else in the world."

Pendragon has campaigned for 20 years for a new visitor centre at the World Heritage site and to close at least one of the busy roads that surround the stones.

Tourists are often shocked at the state of the centre and amazed that traffic is allowed to roar past so close.

Last year Gordon Brown promised £10m towards a £25m scheme to build a glass and timber centre and to shut the nearby A344. The scheme was expected to win planning permission soon and the project was due to be completed in 2012 to coincide with the staging of the Olympics in the UK.

Last week the government announced the funding would be pulled. English Heritage, which manages the site, said it was "extremely disappointed", arguing that transforming Stonehenge was "vital to Britain's reputation and to our tourism industry". It said it would try to find the funding from elsewhere.

Pendragon said he was worried about how the shortfall would be met: "I don't want to see them making up any shortfall with a public-private partnership. I don't want to see Americans going home with T-shirts reading: 'I've been to McDonald's Stonehenge'.

"All they've got to do is go to an investment banker with a decent proposal. Nearly a million visitors come through here every year. Any investment bank will see that it's a money spinner.

"It's not as if they aren't good for the money. Being English Heritage, they've got a castle or three they can put up as collateral.

"We've been 20 years waiting for this visitor centre, faffing about. They can borrow the money and build the bloody visitor centre. That's what I intend to make sure they do."

Rollo Maughfling, archdruid of Stonehenge and Britain, greeted the rising of the sun with a blast on his trumpet – which sounded not unlike a vuvuzela. "It's been a wonderful, warm night," he said.

Around 20,000 people turned up to mark the solstice and by dawn there had been 30 arrests for minor offences. It was also the first time the solstice sun had peeped from behind the clouds since 2003.

While campaigning tends to be left to Pendragon, Maughfling said it was a druid's duty to get involved in politics when the need arose – and it had now arisen.

"You have to tangle with politics to make sure that, for example, our national shrines and temples are looked after," he said.

"Look at any of the stories of druids in ancient British literature and ancient Irish literature, there have been times when the security of the land has been in the hands of druids as well as kings. Druids have taken sides in all kinds of matters. We can't stand apart from it all."

Peter Carson, head of Stonehenge for English Heritage, said he was pleased at how the solstice went but disappointed at the withdrawal of funding.

"But it's not over yet," he said. "Let's see what we can do. Maybe there is a way forward. The project has a great deal of support. It will ensure a suitable setting for Stonehenge and it will upgrade considerably the very poor facilities we currently have."

Sky, a pagan from Devon, broke off from a drumming session to explain how crucial it was that Stonehenge was improved. "It's the most wonderful place and it's a disgrace that we're still waiting for a new visitor centre and for improvements to the roads. I bring people here from abroad sometimes. They're amazed by the stones – but also amazed at how crummy the facilities are. I'd like that David Cameron to come down here and tell us why Stonehenge, our national treasure, is being treated so shabbily."


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May 26 2010

National Trust brings out the bling as stately house the Vyne gets a makeover

Designer Mark Brazier-Jones's flamboyant works to grace Hampshire mansion of Georgian aristocrats, the Chute family

Visitors to the Vyne, a National Trust mansion in Hampshire that was last redecorated in the mid-18th century, will discover some eccentric intruders have got there before them, as a contemporary artist stamps his kitsch character on the place.

A shocking-pink chaise longue, trailing silver tassles and ready to scuttle away on scaly legs, has taken up residence in one room, a chandelier incorporating a motorised mirror ball now hangs beneath ornate Georgian plasterwork in another, and a third room sports a chair bristling with Masonic imagery.

"I'm sure they were Masons, they were all up to that sort of nonsense in those days," the designer Mark Brazier-Jones says briskly of the latter.

Pieces by the New Zealand-born designer are in many museums including the V&A – and in private collections including those of Sir Elton John and Courtney Love – but his intervention in a house famed for interiors which have scarcely changed in more than two centuries is a first for the National Trust.

The house near Basingstoke, originally the home of a Tudor courtier, was remodelled in the 17th century with a classical portico inspired by Inigo Jones by Chaloner Chute, who was Commons speaker under the Commonwealth. Then his great-grandson John Chute, who inherited in 1754, refurbished the house in the finest style of the times.

John Chute commissioned many pieces for the Vyne, and added treasures from his years on the Grand Tour – the traditional voyage across Europe taken by wealthy young men of the time. He was regarded by his contemporaries as having impeccable taste and, as a friend of Horace Walpole, influenced the design of Strawberry Hill, the house which launched the Gothic revival, now being celebrated in an exhibition at the V&A in South Kensington.

Ben Boyle, the visitor services manager at the Vyne, said Chute would have approved of Brazier-Jones's pieces. "John Chute was at the cutting edge of style in his day and Mark's flamboyant designs and vibrant use of colour and materials would have been right up his street."

Brazier-Jones, who said he wants his pieces to look like "household pets" in the grand interiors, said Chute "was pretty daring and adventurous for his time, and if he were a client of mine today I'm sure we would get on famously."

The designer feels the most sorry for Chute in his opulent dining room – where he has added a cluster of chairs having a chat in a corner. The man who created the room was never able to sit down to a proper dinner. His health was miserable, and after he developed gout he lived on a harrowing diet of milk and turnips.

"Imagine all the fantastic things there were to eat in his day, and he couldn't touch any of them, poor man," Brazier-Jones said.

Bling Meets Baroque runs at the Vyne from 29 May until 1 August. www.nationaltrust.org.uk or call 01256 883858.


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Waygood Gallery: funding refused after £6m over budget and five years overdue

Newcastle city council and Arts Council refuse to give more cash to beleaguered project still to open and dubbed an 'obscene waste'

Intended as a new public gallery for the north-east, Newcastle's new Waygood Gallery has been labelled "an obscene waste" of money before it has even opened.

The Waygood should have opened in 2005 as a gallery with studios for 50 artists, but now, almost £6m over its original £4.7m budget and more than five years later, there is still no opening date.

Newcastle city council and the Arts Council have now pulled the plug on any further funding.

Mark Wallace, campaign director of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "This is a classic example of an obscene waste of a taxpayer-funded arts project … somebody's incompetence has cost everyone so much money with essentially nothing to show for it."

Nick Forbes, Labour leader of Newcastle city council, said: "The whole project has been beleaguered because of poor project management by the city council and a complete disregard for financial oversight. When problems started to emerge, they simply threw more money at it."

The city council accepts that mistakes have been made. Tony Durcan, head of culture, said that he inherited the project last year and is now seeking new management for the gallery: "I am fully aware that it has cost a lot more than it should have done … We didn't exert a proper management structure at the beginning of the project."

In a report on the Waygood by the Arts Council and Newcastle city council, concerns are revealed about Waygood's "worrying lack of strategic and management skills", and a plan to replace the gallery chief executive Helen Smith when the gallery finally opens.

An Arts Council spokesman said that it had raised concerns with Waygood: "When it was clear the organisation hadn't addressed these issues, we initiated our process for disinvestment."Local people are exasperated by this latest example of public money being squandered. Last year Newcastle commissioned an artist to recreate a hotel bedroom around the city's statue of Earl Grey, only to see it turned down for planning permission having already frittered £250,000 of public money on the "artwork".

A spokesman for Smith and the Waygood said noone from the gallery was available to comment.

Alison Clark-Jenkins, regional diirector of Arts Council England, North East, said: "The capital project was a complex one that took longer than any of us would have wanted … If I'm honest, we've learnt lots of lessons from it. So has the city council. We would never want anything like this to take this long again."


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April 05 2010

The Polaroid revival

Thanks to the Impossible Project, run by three Polaroid enthusiastists, the beauty and banality of film that 'develops in the palm of your hand' is being kept alive

The Impossible Project took its name from a quote by Edwin Land, the man credited with the invention of instant photography. "Don't undertake a project", Land once said, "unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible".

Land co-founded the Polaroid Corporation in 1937 and his film became so successful that by the 1960s, it was estimated that about half of all American households owned a Polaroid camera. In 2007, though, when digital technology had made the mobile phone most people's instant camera of choice, the Polaroid Corporation announced that it had stopped manufacturing instant cameras. The following year, it stopped producing instant film. The final batch expired in November of last year and it seemed as if Polaroid film had finally gone the way of the cassette tape and the seven-inch single.

Enter the Impossible Project. Founded by Florian Kaps, an Austrian businessman, and Andre Bosman, the former head engineer of a large Polaroid plant in the Netherlands. When I spoke to Marlene Kelnreiter, the spokeswoman for the Impossible Project on behalf of the Observer in September, she pointed out that annual sales of Polaroid film were around the 10m mark when the company ended production, and that the project would be reinventing instant film for an existing "huge global niche market". It still sounded like a tall order, though.

A couple of weeks ago, a package from the Impossible Project landed on my desk. It contained the first two Impossible instant films: the extravagantly named PX 100 Silver Shade/First Flush and the PX 600 Silver Shade/First Flush. They certainly looked good in their minimal and stylish packaging.

The accompanying press release says: "Impossible's new PX Instant Films are dedicated to all the people who feel a similar passion for the magic of analog Instant Photography as we do. Carefully manufactured to develop slowly in the palm of the hand, PX Silver Shade Films are monochromatic Instant Films that are designed for usage with traditional Polaroid cameras." Initial reactions to the quality of the film that develops slowly in the palm of your hand have been mixed, though, with many bloggers noting that its does not perform well in cold weather and that the end results look, as one user put it, even more "old-timey" than the Polaroid film. Gone are the telltale yellow tones of the old film, replaced by a silvery sepia hue that looks darkly opaque to the point of ghostly.

Given the right kind of marketing – "The film that develops in the palm of your hand!" – the Impossible instant film will probably succeed, but the bigger question underlying all this techo-primitive innovation is, why do so many of us long for the Polaroid in all its clunky, clumsy, grainy old-fashionedness? Is it, as Martin Parr has suggested, just another kind of "processed nostalgia" and, if so, why do we not settle for the online digital trickery of Poladroid.net, where you can turn your digital images into "Polaroid-like pictures", or the iPhone Hipstamatic App – "Digital Photography Never Looked So Analog".

The answer, I suspect, is to do with the kind of demands a Polaroid camera makes on the user, which are manifestly not the same kind of demands a digital camera makes. One is big, hands-on, clunky, somewhat difficult and, even in an expert's hands, can be hit-and-miss. The other is streamlined, compact, easy, and relatively fail-safe in terms of the end results – you shoot and delete until you capture the image you want. One is somehow "authentic", the other is arguably even more so but does not carry the weight of the relatively recent, thus overly fetishised, pop-cultural past. (Apple understand this but overstate it with their too-knowing Hipstamatic pitch: "Mod Out Your Camera at the HipstaMart." Puh-lease!)

Much, too has been made of what Kelnreiter termed "the beautiful and poetic" nature of the Polaroid image that seems suited to capturing the overlooked beauty and poetry of the everyday, even the banal. Great photographers, from Robert Frank to Robert Mapplethorpe, have made Polaroid pictures that have utilised the limits of the form as a discipline in itself. (Frank famously scratched and wrote over the images in an attempt to capture what he felt, rather than what he saw.)

Interestingly, too, Andy Warhol and Andrei Tarkovsky used Polaroids, one to capture celebrity in all its hollow, brash, trashy transience, the other to convey the intimacy and melancholy beauty of things; what you might call the being thereness that the best Polaroid pictures capture. The Polarioid was all things to all photographers.

Then again, even the most basic mobile phone camera can do something similar with the right light and shade. Indeed, Joel Sternfeld's latest book echoes the Polaroid books of old in so far as it comprises his mobile phone shots of the shopping malls and consumers of Dubai. It is called iDubai and announces the coming of the phoneur – the photographer as flaneur, forever walking and shooting and, if he has time, daydreaming.

Meanwhile, Polaroid recently announced its onward march into the digitalised future by hiring the ubiquitous Lady Gaga as a "creative director". She has, in her own words, "been developing prototypes in the vein of fashion/technology/photography innovation, blending the iconic history of Polaroid and instant film with the digital era". What that means is anyone's guess but Gaga also posted a photograph of herself on Twitter holding up a Polaroid business card bearing her new title. Compositionally, it looked like an old-fashioned, swiftly taken Polaroid self-portrait – the card obscured the top half of her face – but it was too sharp, too artfully rough and ready to be the real thing. It made me wonder who the Impossible Project could hire as the face of their new analog instant photograph range? Fleet Foxes? Bonnie Prince Billy? Laura Marling? Or, maybe a still-influential cult figure from the not-too-distant past – Alex Chilton, Laura Nyro, Nick Drake …?

Now see this

Robert Adams describes himself as "a palmist" rather than a prophet. He has been photographing America's disappearing wildernesses for several decades. In his new book, Gone? (Steidl £44) he revisits with his camera the rural walks he took as a boy. The result, as ever, is a series of understated and compelling black and white landscapes where the destructive presence of destructive humans is hinted at rather than spelt out.


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February 08 2010

January 25 2010

January 14 2010

London's hidden architecture

Interactive: Jonathan Glancey discovers three exquisite places of worship sitting in the shadows of the Square Mile's financial giants



Reposted bydeepthought02mysoup-aa

Ragpicker's feast

Adrian Searle is captivated by Christian Boltanski's eerie disco of 15,000 beating hearts


December 20 2009

Stonehenge bones may be evidence of winter feasts

Sheffield University archaeologists believe enigmatic prehistoric monument was used for ritual banquets on special occasions

Some 4,500 years ago, as the solstice sun rose on Stonehenge, it is very likely that a midwinter feast would already have been roasting on the cooking fires.

Experts believe that huge midwinter feasts were held in that period at the site and a startling picture is now emerging of just how far cattle were moved for the banquet. Recent analysis of the cattle and pig bones from the era found in the area suggests the cattle used were walked hundreds of miles to be slaughtered for the solstice celebrations – from the west country or west Wales.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield and his team have just won a grant of £800,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, to answer some of the riddles about the enigmatic prehistoric monument.

The grant is to fund Feeding Stonehenge, his follow-up research on the wealth of material, including animal bones, pottery and plant remains, which they found in recent excavations at Durrington Walls, a few miles from the stone circle – a site which Parker Pearson believes key to understanding why Stonehenge was built and how it was used.

His team fully excavated some huts but located the foundations of scores more, the largest neolothic settlement in Britain. To his joy it was a prehistoric tip, "the filthiest site known in Britain", as he dubbed it.

"I've always thought when we admire monuments like Stonehenge, not enough attention has been given to who made the sandwiches and the cups of tea for the builders," said Parker Pearson.

"The logistics of the operation were extraordinary. Not just food for hundreds of people but antler picks, hide ropes, all the infrastructure needed to supply the materials and supplies needed. Where did they get all this food from? This is what we hope to discover."

Stonehenge was begun almost 5,000 years ago with a ditch and earth bank, and developed over 1,000 years, with the circle of bluestones brought from the Preseli hills in west Wales, and the double decker bus sized sarsen stones.

It was too early for the Phoenicians, the Romans or the largely mythical Celtic druids. The Anglo Saxons believed Stonehenge was the work of a race of lost giants, and a 12th-century historian explained that Merlin flew the huge stones from Ireland.

It has been explained as a place of druidic sacrifice, a stone computer, a place of witchcraft and magic, a tomb, a temple or a solar calendar. It is aligned on both the summer and winter solstice, crucial dates which told prehistoric farmers that the time of harvest was coming, or the shortest day of winter past.

Although not all archaeologists agree – Geoff Wainwright and Tim Darvill have dubbed Stonehenge the stone age Lourdes, a place of healing by the magic bluestones – Parker Pearson believes it was a place of the dead, while Durrington Walls, with its wooden henge, was the place of its living builders, and the generations who came to feast, and carry out rituals for their dead, moving from Durrington to the nearby river and on by the great processional avenue to Stonehenge.

He found no evidence that Durrington was permanently inhabited or farmed, and the first tests on the pig and cattle bones support his theory that it was a place where people gathered for short periods on special occasions.

The pigs were evidently slaughtered at mid-winter, and he expects the cattle bones to back this. What the sample already tested shows is that they were slaughtered immediately after arrival, after travelling immense distances.

"We are going to know so much about the lives of the people who built Stonehenge," Parker Pearson said, "how they lived, what they ate, where they came from."


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December 05 2009

Back on the bloc: an architectural tour of East Berlin

Twenty years after the fall of the wall, young Berliners are finding a new love for GDR architecture, which is being reclaimed for galleries, bars and clubs

Berlin has been melded back together so well over the last two decades that there are now very few obvious visual clues to the division that once was: the shiny "golf ball" TV Tower, the East Side Gallery (the longest remaining stretch of the wall), and the odd scattering of blocky GDR buildings, which defined eastern development in the 1960s when the city was in dire need of reconstruction. Although many of these East German government buildings were knocked down after 1989, and many of those that still stand are ugly, cheap monstrosities, the most iconic remaining examples of this era-defining architecture are now winning the interest of a new generation, thanks in part to the current buzz around the 20th anniversary of the wall coming down. Many young Berliners now think of the GDR era with nostalgia; it's no longer something to forget.

The distinctive buildings – clean and modernist, inspired by Bauhaus or grandly Soviet – which did away with the sharp corners and rectangles of Nazi buildings – have been adopted by businesses, and are now home to many of the city's coolest nightspots, galleries and cafes.

One of the city's most exciting conversions is Soho House Berlin, complete with hotel and pool, which is due to open early next year in the "Big House", the former headquarters of the SED, the Socialist Unity Party. The politics may be gone forever, but the form is back in fashion. Here's where you can see it.

Capitain Petzel

This new gallery, housed in a classic Soviet-modernist glass-box which is flooded with light, was designed in 1964 as a showcase for arts and crafts from across the eastern bloc. The name Capitain Petzel comes from Cologne dealer Gisela Capitain and New York gallerist Friedrich Petzel, who joined together to open this gallery last autumn. It shows a roster of celebrated international artists in a building with a huge wow factor.
• Karl-Marx-Alle 45 (+49 30 2408 8130, capitainpetzel.de).

Club Rechenzentrum

This building used to be the technology centre for East German radio (the name means "computer centre") and is hidden away in the woods on the banks of the Spree. The minimal house and techno club is in a vast single-story rectangular prism, with a frosted glass and wood exterior. In the winter, all the fun is in the vast low-ceilinged main room, but on warm nights there is an adjacent man-made beach – both with celebrated sound systems. As well as dancing, you can chill out on deckchairs by the water, eat from a barbecue and when you're done, rent one of 40 tents in the woods provided by the club and sleep off the excess.
• Nalepastr 10-16 (club-rechenzentrum .de). Entry €8-12, tents €10.

Galerie Im Turm

This "Gallery in Tower" sits in one of the two white Stalinist-style towers flanking Frankfurter Tor, East Berlin's grand square. The towers were once the crowning glory of Karl-Marx-Alle, the monumental socialist boulevard designed by the GDR's star architect Hermann Henselmann, who trained at the Bauhaus but was persuaded by the government to design in the Soviet style. The towers now contain luxury apartments, plus the gallery, which opened in 1965, and used to be a space for official GDR art. Today it supports the work of up-and-coming young artists. Be sure to peek out the windows and marvel at how undeviatingly straight Karl-Marx-Alle is leading to the Fernsehturm (television tower).
• Frankfurtur Tor 1 (+49 30 422 9426, kunstamtkreuzberg.de/k_galerieimturm).

Klub Der Republik

This bar/club takes its name from the Palast der Republik, the GDR's showcase building which was a huge glamorous hall for concerts, parties and events that also housed the East German parliament. The original building was controversially torn down last year but this club, which occupies a former ballroom, scavenged some of the fittings and furniture from the Palast before demolition – from multi-bulb wall lamps to Formica tables. A favourite of Prenzlauer Berg locals, the pre-clubbing ambience is relaxed and the music ranges from electro to pop.
• Pappelallee 81, Berlin 10437 (+49 30 4403 5653. Free entry, but €1 donation to the DJ.

KMA 36

This is a great, unheralded bar that has no signage – but you can see it's a bar as it is housed in a stocky glass cube of a building that was formerly a cosmetics showroom and shop for GDR make-up and hair products. Barely furnished, with an upstairs mezzanine level resplendent in mirrors, on warm nights there are plenty of wooden cinema-style chairs lined up outside for drinking on the wide pavement.
• Karl-Marx-Allee 36. Free entry.

Restaurant Schönbrunn

One of many brilliant outdoor spots to while away a sunny afternoon in Berlin, Restaurant Schönbrunn sits bang in the middle of the Volkspark Friedrichshain with a prime spot by the fountain pond. The building, a low glass-fronted construction with its original sign, was a pavilion in GDR times. While open until late, the best time to visit is during the day when you can take advantage of the large terrace or the beer garden that snakes alongside. The food is waiter-served Bavarian fodder with a twist, such as chicken with beer risotto, or spätzle pasta – or you can just take advantage of the beer selection. Inside, there are retro 60s-style details, including the ball-chair bar stools, and cluster ceiling lights.
Volkspark Friedrichshain (+49 30 453 0565, schoenbrunn-berlin.de).

CSA Bar

A super-stylish cocktail bar that was formerly the ticket office for Czech Airlines, though you can be sure the offices didn't look half as good back then. Now there's a minimalist retro interior – glass panels, low leather seating, sculptural lighting – very James Bond film set. There are myriad cocktails on offer and this is the kind of place you could happily challenge the bar staff and order off menu.
• Karl-Marx-Alle 96 (+49 30 2904 4741, csa-bar.de).

Air Berlin flies from Stansted to Berlin from €60 one-way including tax. The new Cosmo boutique hotel in Mitte opens 2 January 2010, from €99 per room per night through designhotels.com.


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December 03 2009

Towering follies

The kilometre-high skyscraper, the underwater hotel, the cloud on stilts ... Steve Rose mourns the eye-popping erections that should never have been commissioned

Pundits have been lining up to say "I told you so" over the bursting of Dubai's construction bubble, so now it's my turn. I did tell you so, a year ago. But what now? In architectural terms, Dubai has surely been the story of the decade. We're just not sure if it's a comedy, a tragedy or some surreal, hallucinogenic fairy tale.

On the other hand, the Dubai experiment has undeniably expanded the realms of what it is possible to build. Before the Palm Jumeirah and its ilk, or The World, who would have contemplated works on such a scale? Reclaiming land from the sea is nothing new, but only Dubai had the imagination to make pretty patterns with its coastline, to shape the earth to such a colossal degree that you need Google Earth to appreciate it.

Other countries have evidently been eyeing Dubai's coastline, too. In Russia, for example, Eric van Egeraat has designed Sochi Island, an artificial resort island in the Black Sea. Bahrain is developing a similar type of offshore resort, and Abu Dhabi is making good use of its previously undeveloped islands, such as Saadiyat Island, which will soon house a very different collection of wonders to Dubai in the form of new museums and galleries designed by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel and Tadao Ando. Even Boris Johnson's recent proposals for a new airport in the Thames estuary had a touch of Dubai about them.

Foreign architects have had a riot in Dubai, at least until recently. It's been the place where you can get away with anything. No matter how outlandish or oversized the idea, no one seemed to be saying no, and somebody else was always paying. As a result, the emirate has been waging some sort of architectural arms race with itself, each new development trying to outdo the last, while the rest of the world looked on with a mix of disdain and envy.

The Dubai dream was ultimately unsustainable on many levels, environmental as well as financial, and it's safe to assume that most of the crazy ideas proposed for the city will never happen now, given Dubai's dire credit situation. So here are some of the craziest highlights from a future that will probably never arrive – but, you never know, still just might.

Nakheel Harbour and Tower

Bad timing for SOM's Burj Dubai, which is due to open on 4 January 2010, just when a conspicuous symbol of Dubai's hubris was needed. But in the Dubai spirit of one-upmanship, plans were afoot to build an even taller skyscraper with an even shorter name: Al Burj. Originally designed by Pei Partnership, the tower was taken over by Australian architects Woods Bagot, and renamed Nakheel Harbour and Tower after its backers, the state-owned property group Nakheel, which is at the heart of Dubai's current woes. The sentiment behind this stupendous tower seemed to be: "I see your 800-metre-high Burj Dubai, and raise it to over 1km. How d'you like that?"

Trump International Hotel and Tower

Surely a frontrunner in any competition for the ugliest skyscraper the world has ever seen, this 60-odd-storey atrocity, designed by Atkins, was supposed to be the centrepiece of the famous Palm Jumeirah and super-luxurious addition to the Trump brand. It looks like it was inspired by one of those 1980s vases you find in a pound shop. Mercifully, construction has been on hold for a year or so.

Dubai Towers

In the same way the peacock's tail evolved into a flamboyantly useless appendage, Dubai skyscrapers have had to resort to ludicrous contortions to stand out. From the "ignore them, they're just trying to get attention" school of design comes a quartet of bendy skyscrapers supposedly inspired by the movement of candlelight – or perhaps Jedward's hair.

Hydropolis Underwater Hotel

Why reach for the sky when you can plumb the depths? This German-designed scheme would offer 220 bubble-shaped transparent suites, 66 metres below the surface, so guests can enjoy a privileged view of Dubai's spectacular coastal dredging operations.

The Dynamic Tower

A nice idea: each of this tower's 70 floors revolves independently around its central core, so everyone lives in a revolving apartment and gets a 360-degree view of Dubai's cranescape. And from the outside, the building changes shape all the time. And it's all powered by green energy from wind turbines and solar panels. All perfectly possible, architect David Fisher assures a sceptical world.

The Dubai Opera House

Not even Dubai had the stomach for French superstar Jean Nouvel's idiosyncratic formal experiment – a strange cross between an oil rig, a greenhouse and a psychedelic light show. Nouvel's pretentious accompanying text didn't help: "It is a little like the clouds. Each person can see what attracts them, what makes them question. The architect plays only the role of provocateur, claiming innocence." Nouvel is at least building the new Louvre, in neighbouring Abu Dhabi, which promises to be stunning.

The Cloud

A poetic but preposterous scheme imagining a resort landscape of lakes, palaces and floating gardens, raised 300 metres in the air on slanting columns. The brainchild of Lebanese architect Nadim Karam, it's been described as "a bridge suspended between dreams and reality". Why not put a gigantic pie on stilts instead?

Waterfront City

A whole city for 1.5 milliion inhabitants on an artificial island twice the size of Hong Kong. Rem Koolhaas's OMA were behind the plan. Reckoning that nobody in the Gulf watched Star Wars, he put a replica of the Death Star as its centrepiece – or was that his idea of architectural satire?

Dubailand

A vast landscape of leisure, twice the size of Florida's Disney World, proposed for the interior of the emirate. Highlights include four theme parks, five golf courses, life-size replicas of some of the world's landmarks, a zillion hotels, a Beauty Museum, and, of course, another "world's largest shopping mall".


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November 25 2009

'The picture was damaged in bombing'

Anne Robbins of National Gallery on the rediscovery of Charles the first's Delaroche masterpiece


November 15 2009

Lumiere, Durham | Art

Sixty artists have painted the historic northeastern city in light to seal its bid to become a capital of culture. And the results are simply dazzling

Some cities, some places, suit their clothes. Edinburgh has always struck me as perfect for the fringe, not just because of its own culture but the warrens, the basement mysteries tucked under tenement stairs. The Louvre pyramid simply couldn't sit anywhere but Paris: nor the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Newport Pagnell wears, well, its… service station.

And Durham – this now just seems so right – was made to be lit up. Dark here by about five, deep dark. A mist comes off the Wear and floats, clogging the dells, snaking high up through the cobbles, darkening the world further. Then, gradually, on come the lights: so many clever lights, in the biggest such show England has known, and it is a triumph.

Lumiere, a collaboration between 60 light-and-sound artists, staged as part of Durham's bid for UK culture capital in 2013, was everything it's been billed as: a clever mix between art and science and simple engineering, just to keep dry the machines that make the magic. The city itself doesn't feature in the artistic credits but played a huge part: its shadows, its high walls, its dark dog-leg river banks and fat old stone memories.

The highlight, for many, was the phenomenal lighting up of the cathedral, with pages from the 7th-century Lindisfarne Gospels. Pages borrowed from the British Library, and photographed, and somehow rendered in a slow-moving panoply, 100 metres wide and crawling up those impossible spires, by projection artist Ross Ashton, with impossible detail. This simply delighted everyone: won warm astonished applause from the happy bemuffled and be-brollied crowds on Thursday, the opening night of four. It was lovely, enthralling.

Personally, though, the highlight of the whole evening came in the kind of interval-thing, when the gospels weren't being shown: Ross has simply emblazoned, on this huge and fantastical cathedral, a semi-random bricky tapestry of russet. The honeyed old stone takes on ancient impossible tones, the murmurings of ivies, which makes us feel as if we are on the set of the greatest film never made: there are gasps.

And then there's more, so much more. Inside the cathedral, Chorus stops you fairly dead in your tracks. Eight huge pendulums, white traffic-lights really, swing and dance in the darkness, swapping their on-offness as they pass, like that hands-on-knees swap-dance. (So glad I am so articulate. You know what I mean.) Choristers and under-bishops, if there's such a thing, gawp.

Next door, in the cloisters, setting for much of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, there's an installation called Dune, from Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde. Illuminated white "flowers" jiggle and twinkle in the dark, responding to your presence, and to sounds. Somewhere above, incidentally, there is a colony of pipistrelle bats. Reality, and one's internal sense of centuries of time, take several long blinks. It is weird, delightful, faintly unsettling: the walking audience feel an odd drive to somehow "please" the flowers, make them go on for them, rather than stay dark. Perhaps that's just me.

Nine Men Drawing sits outside, in the soft Durham drizzle: Ron Haselden has taken drawings from offenders at Durham prison and rendered them huge in white neon. There are bars. There is alienation. There is humour, and Christ. In neon. In the grounds of the cathedral, drawn by convicts.

Round a tiny corner, seen only through a gate, Ron has created his Echelle, a seemingly endless neon ladder stretching to the sky: you cannot but think of Blake's fabulous etching, of the ladder reaching for the moon: "I want! I want!" This was all terribly sharp, different, affecting.

Back down the hill, your shin-splints starting to kick in, there are, it seems, just happy throngs, grabbing coffees and giggling with each other. But there are, always, surprises. A darkened window beside a charity shop – and then you see sitting at the back there's a fabulous shining dress of a million fibre-optics, solid and liquid at the same time. Sudden swirling lights from high, projected down on to the cobbles, which dance, differently when you stand below: old men with hats and wives and shopping-bags are dancing. A garden flashes and whispers and sings to you. A sudden neon sign in a shop beside a Jobcentre or SupaSave, declaring, simply: "Wait here I have gone to get help" or "Let's pretend none of this ever happened."

Beside the Elvet Bridge, a thousand swaying crimson and purple tubes. A green piercing laser. And, above it all, all night, there's Starry Night, from Air Vag: massive inflatable glowing sculptures of the moon and the stars, perched atop ancient buildings, which wobble gently in the breeze and glow first yellow and then red, and when the upturned crescent moon glows red it resembles a pair of horns, and is seen throughout the city.

This is, also, physical art. I realise that light artists are also artisans, the best kind of artists: there is waterproof cladding, and pipes over the grass wrapped in duct-tape, and the quiet reassuring thump of generators.

I don't know what this will do for Durham's culture bid, for whatever that counts – don't these things always cause as much controversy as happiness? – but I know that these will have been four very special nights which no visitor will forget. And that Durham, dark Durham, was made, at night, for this light.


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A tale told in pictures

Nottingham Contemporary

Nottingham has a brand new gallery for contemporary art. This is by no means just regional news. Of all the comparable openings in recent years – Gateshead, Milton Keynes, Walsall, West Bromwich – only the Baltic has consistently mounted exhibitions to draw audiences from across the country. I think – hope – the same will be true of Nottingham Contemporary.

The building itself is modestly funded, strategically positioned to add lustre to the Lace Market quarter and entirely free to all-comers. Designed by the renowned architects Caruso St John, it has strong community ties, an international programme and enough pulling power already to be first port of call for next year's British Art Show before it goes to the Hayward Gallery in London.

About the building itself, the news is not so great. Caruso St John have designed some of the most beautiful public spaces of late, notably the New Art Gallery in Walsall. Nottingham Contemporary is not among them. The exterior is fetching enough – fluted concrete surfaces, evoking waves and organ pipes and gently riffling pages, some in gold, some in pale green imprinted with a pattern of Nottingham lace.

And the whole edifice slips very subtly into one of the most awkward sites imaginable: a chunk of sandstone cliff once topped with a park that it had its share of the city's drugs and muggings. Viewed from the street-level entrance, it looks like a modest, one-storey building. Descend by the steep steps down one side to the trams below and all four storeys become suddenly visible.

But the elegance is all on the outside. Inside is bare concrete, apart from ceilings soundproofed with what looks like fungal growth in hues of oxblood and plum. Nothing seems rationally orientated, there is no sense of seclusion in the uppermost galleries, no clear flow between them and these four oddly angled rooms turn out to be the prelude to nothing.

For the largest space by far is a theatre downstairs – vast as a basketball stadium, complete with bleachers – designed for performances and lectures. Having no natural light, it is useless for any kind of art except video (and even then the double height is too lofty), bringing into question both the choice of site and the project's original priorities.

None of which was decided, incidentally, by the current director, Alex Farquharson, who is responsible for the good news – namely that the opening show of Hockney is tremendous.

Now you might say that Hockney is a safe choice – conservative yet radical, figurative yet advanced. Which other British artist is so skilful and ingenious, so popular, stylish and appealing? Which other living painter has created images like A Bigger Splash – that stunning diagram of Sixties California, of blazing sunlight and cool water, of liquid blossoming into frozen chaos – that have so completely entered the public imagination?

But there are better and worse phases in any artist's career and the virtue of this show is that it concentrates on what are arguably Hockney's greatest – certainly his most inventive – years, following his life story from the Royal College of Art in the early Sixties to Los Angeles, Africa and Europe and ending, fittingly, on the crest of A Bigger Splash.

And it is a tale told in pictures: a portrait of the artist as a young man in love with other young men when homosexual acts were illegal, trying to find male models to paint, going to the movies, to Soho parties, reading Walt Whitman and CP Cavafy, pondering Renaissance painting while dancing lightly through the latest American art.

It is wonderful to see We Two Boys Together Clinging, painted when Hockney was only 24 but already famous. The boys in question – inchoate, potato-shaped, innocently child-like – are half-scrawled on a wall, with all the obvious connotations. But they are also embraced within the title words, quoted from Whitman, and a scarlet heart fluttering against the surface keeps the issue of perspective – as well as high and low art – in play. Ancient and modern, cave painting and pop masterpiece, this remains one of Hockney's most poignant works.

A year later and he's in America drawing palm trees and pools so dextrously one senses the Californian colours even in sharp black and white. In Wilshire Boulevard, two figures are silhouetted against a wall by the eponymous signpost: shadows at high noon or real people paling in the heat? In Santa Monica, water pours into the pool with all the silent poise of a Piero. The paintings sparkle with humour – vaudeville, slapstick, sight gag and pun, running all the way through the satire of A Rake's Progress to the attic wit of Egyptian Head in which the ancient profile, in all its hieratic fixity, is being gently softened – undone? – by an amorphous Constable cloud.

Pictorial conventions are Hockney's passion. In a journey to Switzerland, two figures hare along in a car as the mountains behind them transform into flag-edged maps. A Bigger Splash takes off from both Seurat and Leonardo. Not the least pleasure of this show is watching Hockney invent new equivalents – new pictorial notations – for everything he observes.

A Lawn Sprinkler shows this to perfection: the grass a mesh of systematic lines (and what is grass, after all?), the sprinkler's spray a million motionless particles lying semi-transparent upon the canvas. You can see the jets are getting out of hand, but the disorder is exquisitely analysed even as it erupts. The picture's drama lies in describing chaos with mesmerising control.

The work is an inspiration –and so is the show, with its infinite variety of mark-making acts. It stands as an encouragement to each and all of us to draw the world for ourselves. In this respect, as in many others, Nottingham Contemporary could hardly have made a better start.

Portrait of the old master: Tim Adams interviews David Hockney earlier this month


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