Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

11th May 2015

FAKES, FROCKS AND FOYLES

When I owned the gallery, barely a month went by without an e mail from China’s Art City offering to make copies of any painting I cared to commission. There was a price range from £5 to £1000. Sometimes, as I deleted these offers, I wondered how bad a factory produced copy would be.

Last week I found out when I paid a visit to the exquisite Dulwich Picture Gallery to see their Ravilious  exhibition (which is great).  Three months ago the gallery substituted one of these Chinese fakes for a painting in their permanent collection challenging visitors to pick it out. What a great ploy. Visitor numbers increased and people looked very carefully at everything. Gone was the five second glance and quick perusal of the label before moving on.

My visit coincided with the denouement. The real Fragonard portrait of a young woman which had been rehung beside its copy was impressive but lacked the depth and richness of the original. Some punters had got it right but would I have picked it out among the rest without the original for comparison? Maybe not.

My trip to London coincided with Sarah Hall’s appearance at Foyles in Charing Cross Road to talk about her new novel The Wolf Border which is a great read.  I lost sleep finishing it as the tension built up towards the end. The story starts in Canada but is mainly set in Cumbria and works on many levels. It is about birth,class, borders, limits, conflict, rewilding, set against the background of the Lakes with the Scottish referendum going on over the border.   It has been adapted for BBC Radio 4’s Book at bedtime next week. Sarah Hall is a young woman from Penrith whose reputation as a novelist and short story writer is well established. Since her first novel, Haweswater in 2003 she has picked up many awards as well as being shortlisted and longlisted for The Booker prize. I am certain she will win that prestigious prize too before long.

I managed to pack a lot in that short week while working around meetings. The most impressive for me was Alexander McQueen at the V&A. This is not about frocks – it is about Art. This volatile man was an artist, a thinker, a creator of dramatic pieces and installations.  There are links with his friend Isabella Blow’s post humus exhibition at the Courtauld last year (like McQueen, she also committed suicide). The exhibition delights and horrifies. The curatorial team of the Savage Beauty exhibition has got the music, ambience and balance absolutely right – the long queues it attracts daily pay homage to that. I spent 2 hours in the exhibition before reluctantly tearing myself away. It is essential to book an advance slot which you can do on line. It continues until August 2nd.

Despite seeing the Mackintosh drawings at the RIBA (behind the BBC in Langham Place) and Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern (although I found more depth and emotion in the Marlene Dumas which has now finished there), I still missed a lot of things on my long list. I’ll have to go back soon.

I fell into the train exhausted and glad to be returning to the peace of the fells. The hurrying stressed people on the streets of London who never look up – coffee cup in one hand, mobile in the other, thumb tapping out communications with unseen people,  walking headlong into anyone who gets in their path, are missing a lot as well.  I am glad to be back in the Pink Egg looking up at Skiddaw over a field of new born lambs skittering around on unsteady legs. I will lift mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help.

Eric Ravilious   Dulwich Picture  Gallery until 31st August

Alexander McQueen   Savage Beauty   V&A until 2nd August

Charles Rennie Mackintosh   Mackintosh Architecture   RIBA until 23rd May

Sonia Delaunay   Tate Modern until 9th August

Sarah Hall   The Wolf Border   Faber 2015

 

 

 

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