Small art galleries sometimes seem impossible to find. You get to the right street, but there’s no sign of any gallery and everything looks shut. British streets delight in having no obvious building numbers so there’s often no easy way to find the understated brass plaque or small bell label that you are looking for. In such situations an event such as Brown’s London Art Weekend is invaluable. Not only have many galleries put on special exhibitions, but they have all hung green balloons outside their premises. So even if they are on the fifth floor of a virtually unmarked building, you can easily find them! Three big cheers for #BLAW2015.
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The Art Weekend takes place in Mayfair and St James’s. The Flaneur carefully examined the map of the participating galleries and planned a route around those that looked most interesting. That is not the way to do it. Some private art galleries take the Italian approach to opening hours. Just because they have signed up to an Art Weekend doesn’t seem to mean that they will actually be open all of that Art Weekend. Still we could peer through the windows, and anyway there were so many galleries taking part (the map shows 113) that even if a few were closed there was always a nearby alternative.
Brown’s Art Weekend also includes events and tours, such as a viewing of the Bonham’s building with the architect or talks on Henry Moore or contemporary art in Russia. The Flaneur attended an informative talk on Venetian painting at the Fine Art Society, given by Canaletto expert Charles Beddington and full of background information on Canaletto’s career and that of his competitors. We also heard some of Kate Bryan’s practical advice in her talk ‘How to buy Contemporary Art’ at BLAW central, Brown’s Hotel.
The Burlington Gardens Festival was one of the big draws of the weekend, with the street behind the Royal Academy shut to cars and people lounging on beanbags on the tarmac, sipping Pimms and listening to live music. There was also a life drawing class (with a clothed model, this is England) and a screen-printing workshop, along with other art events throughout the Saturday. Some of the goings-on were artily nonsensical (a couple of women on stilts didn’t really ‘encourage a fresh look at the statutes…on the façade of the building’ as claimed in the brochure, but in the sun there was a fun atmosphere and art was brought to a new audience of passersby and tourists.
Most interesting art of the day? Contemporary artists Jonathan Armistead and Felipe Castelblanco put together a popular absurd urban golf course in a rarely seen passage between Piccadilly and Burlington Gardens, but it was the Matthew Smith exhibition at Browse and Darby that won the day, showcasing a great British colourist whose work is still vibrant and affirming.
Verdict – a great success which shows you don’t have to be in East London to have an exciting art scene.