Sunday, 8 July 2018

The Nice Galleries in Stockholm: Söder with a Map

Stockholm, Sweden, June 1st 2018 and a plethora of previous dates

So, you've arrived in Stockholm from Helsinki via a cruise boat, I presume, and want to see some art during your six hour stay? Good choice! Even if you haven't, you're well allowed to read further. Stockholm's Södermalm, south of the Old City, is a fitting destination, with all its small, mostly uncommercial, artist run galleries and otherworldly nice cafés. You know, Swedish are the world champions in nice, and Söder is the best proof. Galleries included.

A party or a bar? In Stockholm you never know.

The galleries mentioned here are not all open on everyday basis and many of them have an extended summer break. Fridays and Saturdays are the best chances to see at least some of them open. Always check from the websites if there's actually something going on if you want to be sure. Then again, having a nice cup of coffee every time a gallery isn't open is a valid option, too!

The Viking ship arrives in Stockholm at 10 a.m, but it may take some time to get out of it. That's fine, since the galleries don't open before noon anyway. Luckily, there's Fotografiska with superhuman opening times to kill the time in. Turn right from the ship and walk less than a kilometer by the shore and there you are.



Fotografiska, a multi floor exhibition space for photography, takes large clientele seriously and most of its exhibitions are quite, let's say, user friendly. There has been numerous exhibitions lately on fashion photography, for example. Which is fine. Not so fine is how they tend to be camouflaged as something they are not: high art, feminist and distinct, when in reality they're all quite the same, strictly in service of commerce and more or less misogynist. But pretty. And often including celebrities, in front or behind the camera.

On the other side of the coin there are a lot of political, equality driving and even borderline controversial exhibitions, where people are lured to with aforementioned sweet baits. I've seen some great exhibitions in Fotografiska, too! Most of the photographs exhibited are somewhat classically beautiful and technically correct, in any case, no avant garde punk-sassy underground here. The top floor café with its wonderful view over the Strömmen bay and scandicozy furniture is beautiful and technically correct as well. In a good way.

Fotografiska
Stadsgårdshamnen 22
Sun-Wed 9–23
Thu-Sat 9–1 a.m.
Tickets: 145 / 115 kr, children under 12 free

Coffee is good, too

If you didn't have coffee at Fotografiska or want another opinion on the scenery, or are hungry already, or it's not even close to noon yet, stop next in Hermans restaurant. It opens at 11 am and by noon the buffet lunch queues are considerable. Hermans is a vegetarian / heavily vegan restaurant with a slightly mediterranean-middle-eastern touch. The cake shelf proves that vegan definitely is not a synonym of healthy. The space is like a huge summer cottage, where there's always a new terrace to be found somewhere. To get there from Fotografiska, cross the road, climb the exhausting stairs, turn to your left and enter through the garden after a few steps.

Diving is not recommended

OK, the first actual gallery should be open at noon, if the guard is on time, so it's time to move on.

ID:I is an artist run gallery with two small rooms. The running group includes 25 artist, of whom everyone is responsible for the gallery for three weeks every few years. With a wide set of curators, there are a lot of different styles and medias presented, but most of the art is quite minimalistic, subtle and somewhat conceptual. Take your time to absorb, it's worth it! Most of the exhibitions are guarded by the artists themselves, so it's easy to ask if you still don't quite get it.

ID:I Galleri
Tjärhovsgatan 19
Thu–Fri: 12–18
Sat–Sun: 12–16


Centrum för Fotografi, as the name suggests, presents photography, mostly Swedish, from both graduating students and seasoned professionals. The exhibitions are mostly contemporary photography, from a range of different genres, both single artist and group shows. The gallery is run by the Swedish photography association, which aims to educate the public as well, so they have a lot of seminars and other happenings going on, too. The space is one of the neatest and largest on the route, but still quite, well, nice.

The artist run Studio 44 shares the gallery with Centrum för Fotografi, so either one probably has something going on there. The profile of Studio 44 is pretty much same than ID:I gallery, even the number of artists running the place is the same. I've so far missed Studio 44's exhibitions, so no first hand experiences here, but it looks pretty interesting site to see mostly Swedish contemporary art of every possible media!

Tjärhovsgatan 44 / Kapsylen
Red door in the gangway
Centrum för Fotografi
Wed–Fri 12–18
Sat 12–16
Thu–Fri 12–18
Sat–Sun 12–17

Enter, works from graduating students of Mittuniversitet in CFF

In need of coffee? Right beside CFF there's a vegetarian / anarchist / berlinesque Kafé 44. I'm sure it's the nicest anarchist café ever. I mean, just how nice can an anarchist kladdkaka be?

Kafé 44 also has a tiny terrace in the backyard

Galleri Axl Sund is not really part of this tour, since it opens weekdays at 16 and you should be back in the ship by then. If you're rich enough to visit Stockholm on Saturday or Thu–Fri after 4 pm, pop in, but in other cases, just peek in from the windows. And for that, Dear Mr. Sund, would you mind leaving the lights on for the proletariat to see in properly from the dark, cold, rainy, nice street?

Galleri Axl Sund
Folkungagatan 103
Thu–Fri 16–19
Sat 13–16

Lusine Djanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky: Den Vita Cirkeln  

Steinsland Berliner is my favourite gallery in Stockholm. It has edgy contemporary art, as a proper edgy gallery should, but also abundance and colours – and even humor! The gallery is not afraid to exhibit controversial themes, but doesn't shy away from "old fashioned" plain old paintings exhibitions either – always well curated and displayed. The gallery is run by Jeanette Steinsland and Jacob Kampp Berliner, and with that kind of cool surnames, it would be stupid not to have a nominal gallery. The space is also super nice with large windows and a lot of day light pouring in. Well, video artists might disagree on that.

Steinsland Berliner
Bondegatan 70
Wed–Fri 12 – 17
Sat 12–16

Arvida Byström: Cherry Picking

Galleri Axel is a tiny one room gallery, dedicated to showing details of and new angles to known photographers' works as well as introducing new talents. The style of the art presented is mostly quite classical – but definitely not boring. The gallery is run by the photograph Bea Tigerhielm and it also has a fine web shop. It comes in handy, since most of the photographs can easily be imagined on a wall of a super nice cultural home that Stockholm is filled with.

Södermannagatan 16
Thu–Fri13–18
Sat 11–17


Galleri Axel is probably the tiniest of the tour

Tegen 2 is another gallery that has escaped me, but try your luck and see if it's open. According to past exhibitions, the program seems interesting, comprising mostly of video/media art of political kind.

Tegen 2
Bjurholmsgatan 9b, inner yard (I guess)
Fri–Sun 12–17


Even if the Tegen 2 gallery is not open, the yard is worth seeing.
If you manage to sneak in.

On your way, you'll notice (if you're observant) a funny piece of public art, in Nacka's hörna (Nacka's Corner). The statue See you at the goal (1984) by Olle Aldrin was erected in honour of a Swedish football player Lennart "Nacka" Skoglund. That makes me wonder two things.

First, Sweden has kicked Finnish (among other nationalities) ass in ice hockey for thousands of years, why a statue for someone who kicked ball in the fifties, with one famous goal, and pretty much spoiled his life with alcohol? Isn't this a Finnish thing to do? Second, what's with the nicknames here? In Sweden and Swedish speaking Finland people have the most inexplicable nicknames, whose sole purpose seem to be as weird and far from the original name as possible. There's no logic whatsoever!

Nacka's famous "curling home direct from a corner" kick. I presume.

If you think you'll need some coffee, Älskade Traditioner (Beloved traditions) is handy available by the route, at Södermannagatan. They have all kinds of organic, raw, vegan and other type of good stuff on their shelves, and good coffee, too.



Candyland's ten(ish) founding members are free to invite any artist to exhibit in the gallery, without the consent of the others. So, there's no strict line in curating, apart from a theme of gentle, warm humanity, which may or may not be in my eye only. Most of the exhibitions are comprised of paintings and drawings of up and coming nordic artists, but to not give a too traditional picture here, there also has been shadow theatre, freedom training and a performance about border control in the exhibition program.

Candyland
Gotlandsgatan 76
Opening times vary, usually Fri–Sun 13–16

Building up the next exhibition

Now, here's some street credibility for you: hangmenProjects gallery looks like it's an ex garage, how grunge is that? Surprisingly, the funding of the gallery is less bohemian: there's an exhibition/art producing firm backing the bills, owned by the artists that run the gallery. So, no responsibilities to funding authorities, meaning free hands. What a curatorial dream! That being said, there is no specific curatorial line, if mostly presenting works of the gallery owners and the group of artists working for the company doesn't count as one. In this case, a dash of nepotism of a professional kind is a good spice.

Ringvägen 86 
Opening times vary

Gotten so far? Now, go a few step back and to the back of the house



You probably are a bit tired already, so take a bus back to the harbour if you don't feel like walking another 2 km. You can check the timetables from sl.se, the nearest stop to the harbour is Londonviadukten with some 200 m of walking. Be sure to leave at 15:30, absolutely latest, to be in the ship in time. Earlier, if walking. And even earlier, if you like to "save" and buy your own food instead of eating in a ship restaurant.

A good, nice place for snack shopping is Urban Deli by Nytorget. My favourite there is the frozen creme caramel, which I obviously only buy to keep my other (healthy) food cold in the bag. The shelves of the small shop are filled with things you just need to taste or the world will come to a sudden end, and by the counter you'll find why it was necessary to use quotation marks in "save".

But definitely not in nice.

OTHER PEOPLE VISITING STOCKHOLM GALLERIES
• Insinöörin taideopas: Tukholman galleriat (in Finnish)
• Scandinavian Traveler: Stockholm Art Gallery Guide

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Galleries in Helsinki: Kallio with a map

There are a lot of small and/or artist and/or curator run and/or avant garde galleries in Helsinki's Kallio area, nicely situated quite close to each other, all having a distinctive character. I'm a member in a curator group P14, and we ran one of them for the year 2017. We had a gallery on loan, so to say: we took care of Kallio Kunsthalle for a year, as its regular host had some time off.

As a part of our activities in gallery running life, we published a monthly map of the nearby galleries' exhibitions and other interesting spots in the Kallio area. Even though our year in the Kallio gallery business is over, the rest of the galleries still remain, and some new ones have emerged. Changing exhibitions omitted, the map is still useful for a contemporary art (and coffee) inclined visitor in Kallio. So, here you go:



Original-ish PDF format map includes a variety of other interesting spots in the area at large as well, the Google map version (above) concentrates on the recommended route, with food and drink consumption possibilities in the close proximity of it.

Here's even a gif version, just in case


GALLERIAKIERROS IN KALLIO

Strictly taken, not all the listed galleries are in the Kallio area, but too close and good to be missed. Which neighborhoods belong to Kallio officially, which are Kallio in spoken language and which are not part of Kallio at all, is a regular discussion in Kallio (in any meaning) bars and squares and internets, so that you know. Try claiming that your apartment, situated on the wrong side of bordering street of Kallio, is in Kallio, and you'll get your share of snarky comments – probably spiced up with a few words of old working class lingo, stadin slangi, just to show off.

In Helsinki, Instagram blooms with #galleriakierros (Gallery tour, it's a thing) photos during weekends, as veteran and aspiring culture professionals and lovers are having their leisurely stroll amongst the art hot spots of the city. For Kallio Gallery Walk the best day is Saturday, when all the galleries are open, at the approximately same times. The tour takes around four hours, depending on the program of the galleries and the amount of breaks. So, you should start pretty sharp at noon to do the whole tour without breaking sweat. You can cheat a little by using tram number nine for a few stops, see Gmaps version for that. Or rent a bike. Or skip a few galleries.

THE GALLERIES

All the area's galleries are quite small and more or less underground, even literally. The emphasis is on the up and coming artists, though some established artists fit in quite nicely. If you're looking for a traditional lake scenery painting with a moose and maybe a swan, you probably won't find it here – unless you accept a lump of minced moose meat with a dirty brush stuck to it, commenting pollution of Baltic Sea with a dripping toilet seat, with soundtrack maybe by Astrid Swan, as such. Just a random, totally fictional example here.

Entrance to all the galleries is free of charge. The opening times are marked as they are right now and may change. Do check them from the galleries' websites!

Galleria Kuvitus

Recently opened Galleria Kuvitus is maintained by the Finnish Illustration Association. It's the only gallery in Finland, and one of few internationally, to focus on illustration art. It hosts 10 juried and curated exhibitions each year, exhibiting both published illustrations and illustrators' art projects. The space also houses the Association's office. 

Hämeentie 28
Mon–Tue 11–17
Wed 11–19
Thu–Fri 11–17
Sat 12–16
#galleriakuvitus

Kuvitus is possibly the most chic of the Kallio galleries

Sarjakuvakeskus

Finnish Comics Society’s gallery exhibits comics, comics based art and art done by comics authors, widely speaking. The artists are mostly Finnish or Finland based, but some international visitors are included in the cast. The premises include also the Society's office and a Turku Comic Book shop's store. And a reading nook. And workshops. And you name it. A comic fan may forget the rest of the tour after entering here.

Porthaninkatu 9
Mon–Fri 15–19
Sat 11–16
www.sarjakuvakeskus.fi

Damn those opening times!

On your way to Kalleria, you'll walk through Karhupuisto (Bear Park). This is a good place for a coffee break, since the park is surrounded with cozy cafés: Kulmakahvio/Bear park Café, Bergga and IPI. During the warmer summer days the super gay, but non-exclusive Bear Park Café operates from the kiosk in the park, with chairs and tables outside. A warmly recommended Kallio experience!

Kalleria

Kalleria is a somewhat curated gallery space, exhibiting mostly young and underground artists from the less refined side of contemporary art, and even outside of it. Anyone can ask to rent the space, so there is not an artistic policy as such and styles, themes and levels vary a great deal.

Kaarlenkatu 10
Opening times vary, but possibly Wed–Sun 12–17
kalleria.fi

Exhibition: By the Sea by Wiebke Pandikow

Pertin valinta

The underground punk band even in the scene of punk, Pertti Kurikan nimipäivät, has changed their art genre of choice and founded an outsider art gallery with a store to match. The gallery exhibits art by/about outsider artists. In the Sekotavarakauppa-store (that's a tricky wordplay to translate. General Distore?) there's a variety of books, music and household items with the weirdest and most wonderful decorations, mostly by the aforementioned artists. Good mood guaranteed!

Aleksis Kiven katu 48  
Wed–Fri 12–18
Sat 10–14     
facebook.com/Pertin-Valinta-2060334154224532/ 
pkn.rocks/en/

Not your regular corner shop

Alkovi

Alkovi (Alcove) is a 24/7 display window gallery, watched from the street, presenting contemporary art exhibitions and projects especially in relation to the  location and the site. The connection the site of Kallio is fitting, since you might have to find your way to Alkovi through a long line of people, queuing for Hursti Charity food rations twice a week. The days of the Finnish welfare are way behind us, I'm afraid.

Helsinginkatu 19
Open 24/7
alkovi.linnake.net

Alkovi, always available

Rupla

Rupla (Ruble) is a café populated by young bohemians, with art exhibitions changing every three to four weeks. The style of the exhibitions is often traditionally provocative; expect to see some vulvas and politicians in campy and colourful situations, or a painting made by a bear. This is an excellent place for a lunch/brunch break, too.

Helsinginkatu 16
Mon–Fri 7:30–20
Sat–Sun 11–17
rupla.fi

The brunch is worth a visit, too!
Exhibition: Tyhjiömatka (Vacuum Travel) by Jesse Avdeikov

Rõõm Helsinki

Rõõm (Estonian for Joy) Helsinki is a little cosy eco-lifestyle shop with a bonsai size gallery space. The artists exhibited are often connected with different areas of design and/or illustrate humans in their environment. The exhibitions change monthly.

Helsinginkatu 17
Tue–Fri 11–17
Sat 12–16
www.roomhelsinki.com

Rõõm's gallery corner is the tiniest!
Exhibition: Kevään eväsretki (Spring Outing) by Laura Havanto

Sorbus    

Sorbus gallery is an artist-run space, organizing exhibitions and events from different areas of art: in addition to art exhibitions, there might be readings, concerts or a 24 hour dance performance in program. Or something else. Gallery's style is experimental and somewhat political. The name comes from Latin name of rowan tree, growing in the neighborhood. It was also the name of one of the cheapest wines in the official liquer store Alko, consumed by the most experienced drunkards of Finland.

Vaasankatu 15
Opening times vary
sorbus.fi

Sorbus (gallery, back) and sorbus (tree, front)

On that note, as you continue towards Free Space for Art, you'll pass first Piritori (actually Vaasanaukio, but Speed Square is the common name) with its ground painted huge balloons and meth heads in their daily chores, and then Kurvi crossing with addicts of more traditional substances, like alcohol. There are some really nice cafés too, though.

Free Space for Art

Vapaan taiteen tila is a forum for the students in Art University to organize their exhibitions, concerts, performances and other events, so there is a lot more happening than just exhibitions. Here the students can freely try out their weirdest ideas, so you might catch some future trends and exhibitions later mentioned in art history – or just really really awkward student art. Both are definitely worth a visit. The space is in an emergency shelter, which luckily is free from its original use, and the largest of spaces mentioned here. The website usually lists just the name of the event/artist, you'll have to do some googling to find out more about it. Or you can just go to see if there's something going on. It could be... anything.

The entry is opposite of Vilhonvuorenkuja 16
Opening times vary as Hell
www.vapaantaiteentila.fi/en/

Free Space for Art – underground in so many ways
On your way to Make Your Mark Gallery, you'll pass the
lovely pink buildings of Vilhonvuorenkuja and one of the
steepest hills in Helsinki road map

Make Your Mark Gallery

Helsinki is a graffiti city, in a Nordic scale at least. There's even a book about it, dating back from 1998, Helsinki Graffiti by Anne Isomursu and Tuomas Jääskeläinen, the latter being one of the first graffiti artists in Helsinki. It's the most stolen book from the libraries, I've heard, which is quite fitting. Ever since the eighties and nineties' hysteric anti-graffitism a lot has changed and nowadays there are a bunch of sites for so called legal graffitis. One of them is at Suvilahti area, on your way to Make Your Mark Gallery. The area is quite impressive in it's abandoned/gentrified glory, so take your time walking through it.

Some of the graffitis of Suvilahti and an abandoned gas holder.
No idea how that works. Or what it is, actually.

Make Your Mark is a gallery curated by two graffiti artists, working since the 80's. Exhibitions of graffiti, photography and visual arts change monthly. Whatever the genre, the works exhibited usually have a strong connection to graffiti. There's also a graffiti equipment store in the gallery space, and an outdated train line map on the floor.

Kaasutehtaankatu 1, building no 6
Tu–Fri 12–19
Sat 11–16
Sun 12–16
makeyourmark.fi

If you get inspired by the art, remedies are close.
Exhibition: Red Shades by Mason.

Kohta

Kohta is a privately initiated kunsthalle in Helsinki. It has a strong tendency towards minimalistic and conceptual art – at the inaugural exhibition there was just a stump of tree on display. Well, that's not all there is to it, but gives an idea. You won't find naivist art with chubby pandas, flaming with colours here. The emphasis is on the concept, even though visuality does play a part.  Kohta is the only gallery in Kallio area that looks like a real gallery where professionals work and it even has a desk. The name translates both as soon and a spot. The latter as in place, not as in pimple.

Teurastamo inner yard, Työpajankatu 2 B, building 7
Wed–Fri 12–18
Sat–Sun 12–16
www.kohta.fi

Kohta even has an understated, stylish bench. And a visitor.
Exhibition: Works on Paper by Simryn Gill.

The Teurastamo (Slaughterhouse) area is, as the name tells, a former area of slaughterhouses. There are some meat markets left, even if the slaughtering happens elsewhere these days. Also, there are a lot of wholesale markets, but the most interesting thing (for me, at least) are the restaurants and bars popping up to the abandoned industry halls. They are all quite near to Kohta, so this is a good place to be hungry. At least you should have a scoop of ice cream in Jädelino, great vegan options available, too!

A BONUS TRACK

Another trendy hip tip for an eager gallery visitor is of course Töölö – that's where we, P14, are residing this year, at Gallery Oksasenkatu 11. Welcome!

Oksasenkatu 11
Opening times vary, most often:
Wed–Fri 14–18
Sat–Sun 12–16
www.oksasenkatu11.fi/blog/

Part of our group at the opening of Ida Palojärvi's
exhibition Light Misunderstandings

OTHER POSTS ABOUT GALLERIES IN HELSINKI

• The Culture Trip: A street art tour in Helsinki
• Visit Finland: 9 Galeries d'art à explorer à Helsinki (en français)
• Helsinki Side Quest: Niche galleries for more than just fine art


Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Light Art in Unna, Bonus Art Nearby

Unna, Germany, July 6th 2016, and several other cities and dates

For a light art enthusiast, a visit to Centre for International Light Art in Unna is like Himalaya for mountain climbers, just not dangerous at all and really easy to get to. Light art is usually quite approachable, so I strongly recommend the place for all art minded people – and those too, who have heard about art but haven't dared to try it yet. It's a good destination for professionals and beginners alike. Even for kids. Professional and beginner kids.

Unna is a nice small town, easily reachable, surrounded by other culturally inclined cities like Düsseldorf, Wuppertal, Essen, Münster and Cologne. In Unna, there really isn't much to see in addition to Light Art Centre. I know, I asked, and was offered a straightforward answer: Nothing. So, it's a good chance to include some nearby art to your one day itinerary.

Düsseldorf has a wonderful metro line with art included from the beginning of the planning of the stations. A refreshing metro trip break on your way to Unna is highly recommended. Münster, on the other hand hosts an acclaimed art festival every ten years. Unfortunately, the next one is nine years away, but save the date, it's definitely worth it. Some of the art works from festivals past are permanently retained in Münster, so there's a lot to see even between festivals. In Cologne, there's a superb Sculpture park and a lot of small galleries to visit.

Düsseldorf metro station – no commercials, just art
Detail of Hito Steyerl's piece in Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017.
Says all I want to say about the festival.
Sou Fujimoto's magrittesque work in Skulpturenpark Köln

The Light Art Centre's permanent collection has an all stars cast, including works from James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson, Christian Boltanski, Keith Sonnier and Brigitte Kowanz. The works are skillfully curated to the Centre's premises, a former brewery with some of the old walls and constructions still visible. With light art it's pretty hard to hide the surrounding space, and here it has been included instead. Especially in Keith Sonnier's piece the space plays an integral part. There's also temporal exhibitions on display, presenting themed group exhibitions, new names and known masters of light art.

Joseph Kosuth's work welcomes the visitors
with a text by Heinrich Heine
Mischa Kuball shatters the writing and
stops the speed with his mirror balls
Keith Sonnier's neon are boldly colourful and one with space
François Morellet is known for his elegant, space defining neon works

At the time of my visit there was a temporal exhibition called Switch on display, by the students of Hochschule für Bildende Künste Saarbrücken. Very promising students.

Maria Elena Schmidt (detail)
Ingo Wendt
Daniel Hausig
Nicole Fleisch

The visit to the exhibitions is by guided tour only. There are three tours daily from Tuesday to Friday and six on weekends and holidays. You cannot reserve a ticket for the tour, just show up and hope there are places left. Usually there are. The tour takes about an hour and a half and at the time of writing costs 10 euros.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Spots for Staring in London

London, UK, April 29th to May 2nd 2018 and several previous dates

After Mexico, I firmly decided to stop traveling for a while, since my finances had a near death experience. Then a friend from London duly noticed that we hadn't seen for ages and I immediately started browsing for tickets. Which were on sale. Oh, well.

Hooray! I'm in London! Said my wallet never!

So, what to do in London? Whatever you like, it's all there. Personally, I like to observe. I'm not as talented as Kim Jong Un, but I admit that a lot of my travel activities include some looking, staring even. Here's some of the places I use for specific staring purposes in London.

Staring at People: Old Compton & Frith / Dean street corners and Golden Square

Old Compton Street is optimal for people watching: not too much traffic, narrow enough street to see everything, lots of leisurely people to watch, including good amount of eccentrics to keep it interesting and even better amount of cafés with purpose built people watching tables and terraces, especially at the corners of Frith and Dean streets.

People watching at the terrace of Balans Soho Society.
Also recommended for the food.

Another good place for people watching, especially lunch time is Golden Square, also in Soho. You can pick lunch or coffee from the nearby cafes and sit on one of the benches for consuming it. Nordic Bakery is a good choice, even though they serve their laskiaispulla with jam and not with marzipan as is right. The marzipan/jam question is one that divides the Finnish nation, so that you know. Some are ok with both, though. Sluts.

Quick and slow lunches at Golden Square

Other writings on people watching in London: Londonist's list of cafés and bars, Foursquare recommendations

Staring at Shoes: Selfridges Shoe Galleries

The visit to Selfridges department store at Oxford street a couple a years ago was a pettymys (disappointment in Finnish). But even when bad, the Selfridge's shoe department is an experience. And when it's good, it's ecstatic, even though I'll never have the means or calf muscles to wear most of the shoes there. Yes, you have the boring nude heels, too, but the main attraction are the flashiest, most colorful and imaginative shoes of top and upcoming designers. The further you go, the more interesting shoes you'll find. The decoration is equally flashy and changes according to season. I mean, come on, who wouldn't love a two meter tall mirror ball shoe?

My previous reports on Selfridge's Shoe Galleries (in Finnish): Kummat kengät: May 2016, September 2013

Sophia Webster's trademark butterflies
As soon as these shoes found out their prices, they fainted.

Staring at Windows: also Selfridges

These guys sure know what to do with a display window! They're practically pieces of art, I'd say. The lighting is usually an important part of the composition, so you should see them nighttime. Also, way less people then, Oxford street becomes your own private art gallery.




Staring at Art: Rothko Room in Tate Modern

There are a lot of options to see art in London, but this is an exceptionally good place to stare at it. Dim lights (demanded by the artist), benches at an optimal distance, meditative abstract art requiring some staring to really get something out of it.

The so called Seagram series, originating from the 50´s,  was originally intended to the Four Seasons hotel's restaurant in New York's Seagram building, but the artist Mark Rothko (1903–1970) withdrew from the commission after finishing the paintings, possibly realizing that the luxurious restaurant was way too shallow environment for them. For me, the weirder part is why he accepted the commission in the first place, being quite a leftist person and the restaurant being everything but. My favorite version of available explanations is that with his paintings, he wanted to ruin the appetite of the rich diners. A visual revenge, so to speak.

Anyhow, by the end of the 60's, he decided to present the series to Tate, with strict terms that the series must always be exhibited together, in a certain kind of room, in a dim lighting. The cargo containing the paintings reached London the same day as did the news about Mr. Rothko's suicide.

More on the Rothko Room: Darren Lyons in Abroadblogs



Staring at Tombstones: Highgate Cemetery

Ok, this a short term staring only, since the West Cemetery of Highgate Cemetery is to be visited in a guided group. As we were starting the tour, the guide reminded us to keep the pace and not be the one everyone else had to wait for. I was so sure that I wouldn't be one of the stupid tourists the guide referred to, but there were just too many beautiful, slanted tombstones and I obviously had to take picture of every single one of them. I could use them in a book cover! Or a birthday card!

More info on Highgate: Highgate's Lost Girls by Spamosphere, BBC on tombstone tourism



Staring at Scenery: Sky Garden

Sky Garden is a combined bar/restaurant area and a 360° lookout spot near Monument. The garden is an area of plants and bushes, but the main thing is the view here.

The entrance is free, and you can either book a visit beforehand (if you're quick to reserve tickets) or you can just walk in during certain times. Well, not just walk in. As I saw the lines ten minutes before the 18:15 walk in time's start, I was about to turn around and climb on a ladder instead or something. Luckily, my company insisted we stay and the queue turned out to move quite swiftly. The view is fantastic for staring and after visiting, you can tell your friends that you've seen most of the sights of London.

For properly staring, not just looking, you should be among the first visitors at 18:15 and rush to Sky Pod Bar's plastic sofas right in front of the first window you'll see. Obviously, via the bar counter, since these are customer seats. Yes, it's a horrible sacrifice to drink a glass of bubbly just for the view. You can wander around for the whole 360° later, first things first.

Other people tell about Sky Garden: Tuula's Life (in Finnish), Charlotte Brown, My Baba




Staring at City: Buses

Obviously, you need to go to the upper deck for this, preferably to the first row. Wobbling through City's narrow streets between high, distinguished buildings is an experience, and other parts of London, too, are well observed from the high angle the bus provides. Mind the rush hours, though, or you'll end up staring at St. Paul's for half an hour as I did. I'd recommend east to west direction in the early afternoon, since the light is at its best angle at that time. If it has been raining, as it often has, all the better!

Yea. There it is. Still.
And oh, do you know that you can pay for the trip with your regular contactless card now? The good'ol Oyster card is becoming obsolete, which sucks since I have three.

Watching the fleeting buildings is like
a slow, cubistic Monty Python animation.

The rain may make the scenery very gerhardrichter
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