Art in London – Ai Weiwei to Warhol, African chaos to ‘bad, but good’ in Japan

Tuesday, 8 August 2023

▲ A jumble of Lego

I’ve certainly been catching up with art in London, starting with the Ai Weiwei Making Sense exhibit at the Design Museum in Kensington – too late if you haven’t already seen it, it’s closed. There’s a fascinating linkage between huge numbers of ‘old’ Chinese things – 4000 stone age axe-heads and the like, 250,000 discarded tea or wine porcelain spouts, 200,000 tiny Song dynasty porcelain cannon balls – and then contrasted with an amazing jumble of Lego pieces. Plus a giant Lego version of Monet’s Water Lilies.

▲ And two giant serpents pinned to the wall, made from school kid backpacks and from life vests. Jade seal name stamps of the 5197 school children who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Plus Left Right Studio Material, the fragments of Ai’s porcelain sculptures destroyed by the Chinese government when they demolished his studio in Beijing in 2018. There’s half a container load here and yet the Chinese government let him collect it all up, ship it overseas and put it on at an exhibition like this which shows how bloody minded they can be? I can’t believe it.

▲ Also on Kensington High St, in Japan House not far from the Design Museum, Wave runs until 22 October 2023. It’s display of Wave: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts features heta-uma art, ‘bad, but good.’ The exhibit is inspired by an annual Tokyo exhibit with the same name.

▲ German artist Anselm Kiefer’s Finnegans Wake exhibit at the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey, not far from London Bridge Station, Borough Market and the Shard, is open until 20 August. The exhibit is ‘Echoing the oscillating quality of time that comes to bear on James Joyce’s literary masterpiece, Kiefer’s world sustains a constant cycle of death, regeneration and redemption.’

▲ OK, so it’s huge, puzzling and free, or alternatively it’s a huge bunch of junk piled up in room after room after room. What’s it all about? I have no idea.

▲ Next it’s a short walk to the Fashion & Textile Museum, which is not free at all, for an exhibit of Andy Warhol textiles, from the ‘50s and ‘60s before he moved on to pop art. It’s just about to close on 10 September. It’s amazing that so much of these Warhol creations – materials, dresses and so on – has survived given that he left that career and his fame only came after he achieved his pop art – Brillo boxes, Campbell Soup – reputation.

You can see the Shard to the left from the Fashion & Textile Museum.  ►

▲ En route from Bermondsey to the Tate Modern Gallery I passed Vinegar Yard, at the corner of St Thomas St and Fenning St with art by Joe Rush and the Mutoid Waste Company including Blue Moon ‘a train carriage with ants formed from repurposed scrap metal crawling over it.’ Well I had a Blue Moon Beer on my recent Amtrak train trip on the Coast Starlight from Seattle to San Francisco.

▲ Next stop was A World in Common – photography from Africa – and running until 4 January 2024. I like Andrew Esiebo’s Mutations, photographs of Lagos supercrowds, which really capture the chaos of Nigeria’s super-city. Nigeria seems to be pushing its way up my travel bucket list, perhaps I’ll finally get there in 2024?

▲ Finally a little foray along the Graffiti Tunnel shortcut from Lower Marsh under the Waterloo railway tracks. It used to be just a shortcut, now it’s a tourist attraction due to its end-to-end graffiti work, a London equivalent to the graffiti central Hosier Lane in Melbourne, Australia.