Monday, 6 April 2009

The first WAG

No, not Posh or Cheryl, but the Whitechapel Art Gallery, which first opened its doors to the people of the East End in 1901. Last week WAG reopened after a long period of refurbishment when the original galleries expanded into the neighbouring Whitechapel Library.

The Guernica tapestry, which usually hangs in the United Nations building, dominates Goshka Macuga's installation The Nature of the Beast, a meditation on human suffering, war and the political history of the space where Picasso's painting, now permanently sited in Madrid and too fragile to travel, was once briefly displayed in 1939 at the invitation of the East London Aid Spain committee. At the preview the full effect of the composition was partially obstructed by a podium on which the pages of Mayor Boris Johnson's inaugural speech still lay and by the throng of visitors. But the muted browns of the tapestry were unexpected and rather inappropriately soothing compared with the harsh blacks, greys and whites of the painting. One can only speculate why Picasso approved such a key modification when the drawings themselves are exactly rendered despite the different medium.

On the stairs we met the Pearly Queen of The Old Kent Road ...

I viewed my office window from the other side of the tracks ...

and got a different perpective on the weather vane ...

We also witnessed a potentially costly accident when a careless visitor scattered the semi-circle of shiny metal chips at the base of Gary Webb's sculpture Cock and Bull, in the Passports Great Early Buys from the British Council Collection exhibition (purchased 2001 for £8,000!). I caught the last few seconds of repairs by gallery staff on my mobile phone.

No comments:

Post a Comment