Category Archives: Culture

➤ London Design Museum’s new home is a wow!

 Design Museum, Deyan Sudjic, Kensington, John Pawson, Architecture, London

New home for the Design Museum: The former Commonwealth Institute’s hyperbolic paraboloid roof brings elegance and light to the museum. (Photographed by Shapersofthe80s)

TODAY THE UK’S WORLD-CLASS DESIGN MUSEUM under director Deyan Sudjic opened its doors at an inspirational new home in Kensington. Founded in 1989, the museum has spent 26 years at Shad Thames, near Tower Bridge, though the collection began in the pioneering Boilerhouse Project, located at the V&A museum as the brainwave of Britain’s giant influence on all things designed, Sir Terence Conran. There, the project mounted 20 exhibitions during its life from 1982 to 86 with the aim of helping to explain what design is to a non-specialist audience.

That ethos continues to deliver its visually stunning message in the former Commonwealth Institute, a listed 1962 building designed by modernist champion Robert Matthew, the elegance of which speaks for itself. John Pawson, a perfectionist and minimalist British architectural designer, led the £80-million remodelling of the redundant Kensington building and has worked miracles beneath the controversial hyperbolic paraboloid copper roof which dominates the sparse interior void. Here newly won access to daylight creates vistas that constantly reward the eye as you move from one balcony to another. The museum enjoys three times more space than its previous home.

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Signage is minimal so you have to hunt for further rewards: permanent collections on top floor (Designer Maker User) and in the basement; also upstairs, restaurant and members’ bar. Temporary exhibition space is on the ground floor and future themes will reflect contemporary design in every form from architecture and fashion to graphics, product and industrial design, digital media and transport.

The museum’s collection is an important record of the key designs that have shaped the modern world. It tells the history of mass production, from the manufacturing innovations of the 19th century up to the digital and making revolution of recent years.

This week’s opening exhibition, aptly titled Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World, presents an eclectic selection of baffling displays – “networked sexuality, sentient robots, slow fashion and settled nomads” – which require hard-working captions to explain some of their seemingly tenuous connections to design. Disgracefully, the museum has over-charged for admission, as if sponsors could not have shouldered the £14-per-head ticket price. Yes, £14! Major own goal for an opener.

Boilerhouse Project, Terence Conran, V&A , Design Museum,Kensington, Architecture, London

First Boilerhouse Project exhibition, Art and Industry, at the V&A: The origins of the Design Museum lie with the collection begun in 1982, which included this Mobil petrol pump designed by Eliot Noyes in 1968

➢ Fear and Love runs at the Design Museum until 23 April 2017. Tickets £14. Otherwise free 10–18h daily

➢ The story of designing London’s Design Museum

CONSTRUCTION DURING 2015:

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➤ Sotheby’s first David Bowie art auction raises twice the expected total sales figure

Frank Auerbach, Sotheby’s, Bowie/Collector, auction

At Sotheby’s Bowie/Collector auction tonight: the pop star’s favourite painting, Frank Auerbach’s portrait Head of Gerda Boehm, eventually went for went for £3.35m. (Screengrab from Sotheby’s live webcast)

PART 1 OF THE BOWIE/COLLECTOR SALE saw its 47 modern and contemporary artworks raise £24m tonight – just over twice the total of top prices estimated by Sotheby’s the auctioneer in advance. So the “Bowie premium” added to market prices for the privilege of owning a memento of the pop icon’s personal collection averaged 105% (with wild extremes either side).

Bowie/Collector, Sothebys, Frank Auerbach

Bowie’s inspiration: Auerbach’s Head of Gerda Boehm (Sotheby)

Most suspenseful bidding came for Bowie’s favourite painting, the Frank Auerbach portrait that the pop star said set his mood every day when he rose: Head of Gerda Boehm was estimated at best to sell for £500k but eventually went for £3.35m when a new bidder popped up at the £2m mark and staged a fight to the end.

As might have been expected, two Jean-Michel Basquiat works went for roughly two-thirds more than best estimates – £2m for an Untitled collage and £6.2m for his large acrylic Air Power. The final lot, a Damien Hirst spin painting on which Bowie collaborated, sold for £625k (top estimate £350k). Hirst’s other work, Untitled Fish For David, 1995, sold for £150k (top estimate £60,000).

Sadly the handful of works that didn’t even reach their low estimates included an exquisite Wyndham Lewis collage, a Paolozzi bronze, a rich Picabia portrait in oil, and a Bomberg townscape in oil. Among many moments of high-speed amusement that enlivened the event was the auctioneer’s unique pronunciation of Lytton Strachey’s name, which suggested this was the first time he’d come across it.

➢ Two more sales of 300 artworks owned by Bowie continue at Sotheby’s London through Friday, live online

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Bowie’s passionate eye for art proves to be not bad at all

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Bowie’s taste in art: respectable, with bargains to be had at Sotheby’s auction

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2016 ➤ On film: two electrifying hours of The Beatles as they’ve never been seen and heard

The Beatles, Eight Days a Week, Ron Howard, documentary, film, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison, Swinging Sixties, live concert, vintage, pop music, Shea Stadium, touring,

Pristine footage: The Beatles play Shea Stadium in August 1965. (Image: SubaFilms)

LAST NIGHT AT A LONDON CINEMA I saw the most exciting live pop concert since the same band played live in the Swinging Sixties. Ron Howard’s new Beatles documentary, Eight Days A Week about the touring years 1963-66, is a sensational feast of long-lost performance footage that confronts us with the Fab Four’s raw onstage energy and pounding tempo – the audio as gorgeously restored as the images. This two-hour celebration of Beatle genius goes behind the clichés of hysteria to give us Access All Areas. It delivers one revelation after another, from Paul’s “Oh-my-God” moment when Ringo joined the band, to the jaw-dropping recording of a top-ten single in 90 minutes of studio time, to their 1964 triumph for civil rights when the band refused to tour in the US until audience segregation was abandoned at their venues.

New interviews from Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney keep dropping gems of insight about this the most commercially successful group in pop history, while vintage footage does as much justice to lippy John Lennon and “quiet” George Harrison who are no longer with us.

Throughout this joyous moptops-into-men odyssey we’re wide-eyed at the sheer cheek of these multimedia superstars, aged between 19 and 22, who created their own interview style by pinging back witty ad-libs to questions from the world’s media. The downside was mass hysteria from teenaged babyboom fans laying siege to hotels and airports where they repeatedly overwhelmed police and security on an often scarifying scale.

Beatle albums sat at No 1 in the charts for 20 to 30 weeks at a time – more No 1 albums than any other musical act. Their 20 No 1 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart remain unchallenged.

The Beatles, Eight Days a Week, Ron Howard, documentary, film, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison, Swinging Sixties, live concert, vintage, pop music, Shea Stadium, touring,

Ron Howard with Paul and Ringo this week: “I love this photo that was taken yesterday at Abbey Road Studios in historic Studio 2 while we were promoting The Beatles: Eight Days a Week”

Everything The Beatles did was without precedent. Among their innovations they launched arena rock and at Shea Stadium Howard’s doc ensures that we hear George’s guitar chords above the screaming audience of 55,000 fans. As a shock reminder of Sixties technology, Vox had built three new amps for the Beatles, each souped up to 100 watts (!!!) specially for touring America, their output being relayed via microphones to feed the stadium’s tinny loudspeaker system!!!

It is a breath-taking source of inspiration to know that during The Beatles’ far from meteoric early years, this Liverpudlian band of brothers had played at least 456 live gigs before signing their recording contract with EMI. Yes, 456 !!! With that amount of practice, it should be no surprise to find that their legacy amounts to 237 original compositions – songs which most people on the planet can hum, while the most radical among them personify the Sixties counterculture. As the best-selling band in history, the Fabs revolutionised all of music for ever.

Howard’s previous reality epics include the wonderful Apollo 13 and the gripping joust, Frost/Nixon. This week he told The Guardian: “I began to think of the Beatles story as like Das Boot: they’re in it together, they have each other, they know what their objective is, but, y’know, it’s a dangerous world out there.”

WHAT THE PRESS ARE SAYING

➢ Ron Howard trashes the idea that there’s nothing new to say about the Beatles – The Guardian:
This is about the Beatles as live phenomenon, and the fact that their music was all the more remarkable because it had to be heard above the scream – that ambient sound of sex, excitement and modernity, mixed in with a thin chirrup of press envy. The scream was an important part of it. . . an almost unbroken four-year, semi-improvised multimedia performance for which there was no pre-existing template – not simply the music but the giant public spectacle and public scrutiny.

➢ 10 Things we learned from Eight Days a Week
– Rolling Stone:

In February 1964, the band and their entourage occupied nearly the entire 12th floor of the Plaza NYC, including the 10-room presidential suite. But despite the space, the four friends retired to smaller quarters. “The four of us ended up in the bathroom just to get a break from the incredible pressure,” Starr says.

➢ “We were force-grown, like rhubarb,” says John Lennon
– Daily Telegraph:

The film shrewdly draws a line between the Beatles’ mischievous sense of humour and their long-time producer George Martin’s earlier life recording alternative comedy. Martin had worked with the Goons, an enormous influence on the band’s growing lyrical eccentricity in that period, as well as their off-the-cuff ribbing of strait-laced reporters.

REMASTERED UK FOOTAGE, MANCHESTER 1963

Previously at Shapers of the 80s:

➢ No wonder The Beatles changed the shape of music after 456 sessions practising in public

➢ 1963, With The Beatles the day Kennedy was shot: “The second house was distinctly more subdued”

➢ 1966, More popular than Jesus: the fascinating Lennon interview in full

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2016 ➤ Bowie’s passionate eye for art proves to be not bad at all

Damien Hirst,David Bowie, Sotheby’s, auction, art, furniture

In the Bowie/Collector sale: one of Damien Hirst’s first spin paintings from 1995 with a long-winded title, painted with household gloss. Sotheby’s est £250k-350k.

◼ WHAT A BRACING INSIGHT into David Bowie’s creative mind! Only 30 items are displayed in an exhibition of the musician’s art collection in London, yet, whether or not you share Bowie’s taste, his sharp eye for a strong image is indisputable.

This exquisite mini-show at the auctioneer Sotheby’s provides a taster for the sale of 400 items from Bowie’s collection in November. Sotheby’s chairman describes the musician’s taste as “eclectic, unscripted, understated” and there’s not a dud in sight. What is immediately evident is strong work by artists who changed the future, from an impertinent Marcel Duchamp readymade, through Wyndham Lewis, David Bomberg, Harold Gilman, Henry Moore, Peter Lanyon, Kenneth Armitage and Frank Auerbach. The core is clearly driven by Bowie’s love of 20th-century British art, with international detours to acknowledge Basquiat and others, plus dozens of items of 20th-century furniture.

Sotheby’s Bowie/Collector previews in London from 20 July to 9 August, then tours to LA, NYC, HK and returns to London in the autumn for a ten-day full exhibition from 1 November and an auction in three parts.

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The only thing I buy addictively is art
– David Bowie

A spokesman for Bowie’s estate said: “David’s art collection was fuelled by personal interest and compiled out of passion. He always sought and encouraged loans from the collection and enjoyed sharing the works in his custody. Though his family are keeping certain pieces of particular personal significance, it is now time to give others the opportunity to appreciate – and acquire – the art and objects he so admired.”

➢ David Bowie’s personal art collection to feature in three sales – at Sotheby’s

➢ Works the late singer quietly collected over the years go on display – feature and gallery at the Guardian
The singer, who died in January, studied art and design at technical college and once confessed to buying art “obsessively and addictively”, but the scale of the addiction had not been realised. His family say they are selling because they have not got the space to keep the collection.

➢ Bowie’s Art and Furniture Collection – New York Times
“. . . his collection of modern and contemporary British art [includes] paintings by John Virtue, Stanley Spencer, Leon Kossoff and Patrick Caulfield, as well as work by contemporary African artists and pieces of outsider art. Mr Bowie also owned pieces by major international figures: Duchamp’s sculpture À bruit secret, two Hirst “spin” paintings and … a 1960s stereo cabinet by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni.”

➢ Starman in the saleroom – Antiques Trade Gazette
The top lot is expected to be Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Air Power, an acrylic and oilstick on canvas from 1984 that has an estimate of £2.5–3.5million. Prices for the artist have increased dramatically since Bowie bought the 5ft 6in high painting at Christie’s for a premium-inclusive £78,500 in November 1995.

David Bowie, Sotheby’s, auction, art, furniture

In the Bowie/Collector sale: Italian Brionvega Radiophonograph (model RR 126) by the Castiglioni brothers from 1965. Sotheby’s estimate £800-1,200

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➤ A sensational portrait of Bowie as the man who shaped our responses to an age of shattered dreams

David Bowie, genius, pop music, obituary, Major Tom, The Economist, alienation, annihilation, 1970s, Space Oddity, music videos, Apollo 11,

1969: “This is Ground Control to Major Tom / You’ve really made the grade / And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear”

➢ Today’s issue of The Economist pulls out the plum – a superb obituary casting David Bowie as a wonderful epitome of alienation who saw a way through the world’s fears of imminent annihilation:

IN JULY 1969 men walked on the moon, a technological leap all but unthinkable 50 years before. Three years later they abandoned it, and have renounced all return ever since. What boosters saw as the great opening act of the space age turned out to be, in effect, its culmination. Within a few years presidential corruption, economic stagnation, military ignominy and imagined catastrophe had warped post-war America’s previously impervious belief in progress, a belief that had resonance across the then free world. After Apollo, the future would never again be what it used to be.

The Economist, Space Oddity, David Bowie,tributes, David Bowie’s greatest years began nine days before Apollo 11 touched down in the Sea of Tranquillity, with the release of his single Space Oddity; they ended 11 years later, with the single Ashes to Ashes. Over that decade he used imagined futures to turn himself into something contradictory and wonderful — an epitome of alienation with whom the alienated flocked to identify. In doing so, he laid bare one of the key cultural shifts of the 1970s: the giving up of past dreams. . . / Continued online

“In Space Oddity Major Tom, floating in a most peculiar way, had been an isolated spaceman;
by Ashes to Ashes his isolation was a junkie’s”
– The Economist

David Bowie, genius, pop music, obituary, Major Tom, The Economist, alienation, annihilation, 1980s, Ashes to Ashes, music videos,

1980: “Ashes to ashes, funk to funky / We know Major Tom’s a junkie / Strung out in heaven’s high / Hitting an all-time low”

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: “I’m not a rock star” Bowie often said – No, David, you were a messiah

OVER TO YOU, MAJOR TIM:

➢ Update on the first Friday of the new era AD (After David), Britain’s first official astronaut Major Tim Peake takes his first walk outside the International Space Station

International Space Station, ESA, NASA, British, astronaut,Union Jack,

2016: The British astronaut Major Tim Peake – sporting the Union Jack on his shoulder – takes his first spacewalk at 2pm today from the International Space Station (via NASA Television)

NOT FORGETTING COMMANDER CHRIS HADFIELD


❏ This is the cover version Bowie called “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created”, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station in 2013.

Today’s hits on mainstream media!

➢ Tim Peake on live NASA Television

➢ David Bowie Breaks Adele’s Vevo record

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