Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I felt like I needed a dose of culture yesterday, so I put on some nice clothes and went to the Tate Modern, the art museum in a converted power station on the south bank of the Thames. It's in a dramatic location, with the Millennium Bridge right outside the back door and an excellent view of St. Paul's Cathedral across the river.
I saw a lot of interesting art -- works by Picasso, Miro, Barnet Newman, Mark Rothko, Giorgio de Chirico and many others. I also saw some newer, more unusual pieces, like Jannis Kounellis' untitled piece featuring shot-through birds over a drawing of an industrial landscape on the wall. The birds "have been seen as symbolizing the death throes of imaginative freedom," according to the exhibit notes.
Do Ho Suh created an astonishing polyester-and-steel replica of the stairs in his New York apartment, right down to the power outlets and the turned newel posts on the upstairs railing.
And Ai Weiwei's work "Sunflower Seeds" just looks like a big heap of seeds, until you realize that each one was precisely handcrafted from porcelain. The artist, recently imprisoned in China, remembers sharing sunflower seeds as a compassionate gesture during the dark years of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution.
I had lunch at the Tate -- I tried a Pimm's, a popular light cocktail in Britain that I found way too sweet for my taste -- and then I walked across the bridge. I found some shiny spherical sculptures in a plaza that made a perfect reflective surface for a self-portrait with St. Paul's in the background.
Finally I wandered over to Covent Garden, where I got some coffee from Starbucks and listened to an opera singer named Seija Knight as she performed for the crowds. She was excellent, at least to my untrained ear, and I bought her CD. I really enjoyed her performance.
Then I made my way back home, arriving about 5 p.m., just before the skies opened in a pouring rainstorm. Good timing!