New discoveries

Just back from London. Apart from bringing home fewer people than we started with (due to illness, work commitments and other London engagements) feedback has been very positive.

Highlights for Christine T were 78 Derngate in Northampton and the Victoria Crow/Edinburgh Weavers tapestry on view in the Fleming collection.

Personally the Pérez Simón* Collection exhibition, A Victorian Obsession, in Leighton House was much better than anticipated and Westminster Cathedral is a hidden ‘gem’! The IWM is spectacular but chilling. I really loved Tate Britain with two ‘new’ staircases when I was only expecting one and the ‘new hang’ is terrific, we must go back next year and spend time in the modern to contemporary section which we didn’t do justice to this time.

*Pérez Simón has assembled a collection of over 3000 paintings, including works by Dalí, Goya, El Greco, Rubens, Van Gogh and Monet. In 2010, Paris Match described the collection as the largest in private hands in the world.

Must mention, 2 Temple Place, built in 1895 for William Waldorf Astor as an office, its sumptuous wood panelling the perfect  backdrop to display the illustrated manuscripts from Blackburn Museum and the Tiffany glass from Accrington in the exhibition Cotton to Gold.

Like everyone else I fell in love with the sheep and the wonderful tapestry woven from their wool on display in the Fleming Collection.

A series of sheep portraits by Kathryn Dun

A series of sheep portraits by Kathryn Dun

The making of the Large Tree Group Tapestry

The making of the Large Tree Group Tapestry







Hope it’s OK to publish a couple of pictures taken at the Friends and Family Event. Not sure I can find the right superlatives ….perhaps readers can suggest some?

Portrait Gallery Friends and Family Opening preview 07/02/2015

Portrait Gallery
Friends and Family
Opening preview 07/02/2015

Cold Dark Matter Cornelia Parker

Cold Dark Matter
Cornelia Parker

Unmanned nature installation by Cai Guo-Qiang

Unmanned nature installation by Cai Guo-Qiang









Spent most of Thursday chilling out and reading the long read in the Guardian …….“Ever since its 19th-century heyday, Manchester has languished in the shadow of London. But that may be about to change. Simon Jenkins tells the inside story of the secret negotiations to restore the city to greatness.” This has put flesh on the bones on the wide ranging discussions with fellow travellers on the coach trip home from London. For non Guardian readers this is totally apolitical………honestly.






All the gold stars in my basket are awarded to NPG for two super exhibitions, where it was possible to get really close to the pictures, not horribly crowded like Rembrandt (not even attempted by me) Schiele & Moroni. The Real Tudors with the textiles so vivid you could see every thread preparing us for the much awaited Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell on TV. Don’t forget Waldemar Januszczak, Saturday’s Culture Show at 9.00pm. Still at the NPG, Who Are You? exhibition by Grayson Perry – even better than on TV and there were two I didn’t know about. Especially the ‘Afghan War Rug’ in which I have a great interest.

GP War RugGP chest







However I would award another star to Peder Balke at the National Gallery, haunting Norwegian noire.

Back home now and still immersed in Stanley Spencer but eagerly awaiting momentous events at you know where!


I was thrilled to stumble upon Stanley Spencer’s Sandham Memorial Chapel panels in MAG last Tuesday, when whiling away an hour before a meeting. These painting have been on my ‘must see’ list for years. With a room of their own and seats to sit down, it is possible to spend a long time looking and reading and just enjoying. Manchester is the last stop on their exhibition tour before they are reinstalled in their  restored chapel in Hampshire. But don’t expect the large alter piece, as that is apparently part of the wall and couldn’t be moved, so there is just a poster of that. But the side panels are a visit everyone should make before 1st March 2015.


Kit Inspection, Stanley Spencer Manchester Art Gallery

Following alerts from Adele, I have been reading about Gorgeous George’s present to his Manchester constituents a £78m new Theatre + everything else you need to be a major city for ‘The Arts’.

The venue (on the old Granada Studios site) is to be called The Factory, in homage to the city’s legendary Factory Records label. It will hold up to 5,000 people and provide a permanent home for the Manchester International Festival.The plans were announced by Mr Osborne in his Autumn Statement on Wednesday. The venue is due to open by 2019.

Maria Balshaw, Director of Manchester City Galleries, said: “Manchester, at the heart of a wider region, has unique potential to become the cultural counterweight to London that the UK needs for successful economic and creative growth. Today’s announcement is a tremendous leap towards realising that vision”

and on Twitter                                                                                     5.05 train to London but still smiling after news about The Factory Manchester. Will glad when the trains go faster tho……….

One week later……… FOW Christmas lunch at the Lowry went well we had a speaker with a loud voice, who everyone could hear, which was a starting bonus. Also definitely worth a visit is the Akram Khan’s labyrinth of artistic influences (includes work by A Gormley & A Kapoor). Plus a truly wonderful photography exhibition by Andy Gotts featuring portraits of over one hundred international stars, Behind The Mask is a photographic census of actors and actresses who have won or been nominated for a BAFTA since 1954.

Opus Anglicanum

Inspired by the BBC4 programmes Made in England. [Just found this Blog I had forgotten to publish].  The first 2 programmes were about wallpapers and Christine Woods (retired WAG wallpaper curator ) made several appearances. But it was the third programme, about Embroidery, that I found most interesting. Opus Anglicanum i.e. Made in England. I emailed Frances Pritchard (textile curator WAG) to see if there are any embroideries from this period in the WAG collection and received this reply –

Dear Joan. I watched the programme on the opus anglicanum on my computer last Thursday evening before it vanished. It was an interesting approach to the subject. Lisa Monnas who talked about the Merchant Taylors’ pall is a friend of mine. I did, however, prefer the programme on the wallpapers! We only have one cross orphrey that could be said to be opus anglicanum but it dates to the late 15th century so nothing like the wonderful copes and chasubles. Its accession number is T.8297. It was shown in the Textile Gallery case 7, What do Textiles Say?: Patterns of Power and Protection – from March 2006 – 2009. It includes Saint Christopher and St George below a depiction of the Crucifixion. Best wishes Frances

Cross orphrey WAG

Orphrey, is a form of highly detailed embroidery, in which typically simple materials are made into exquisite patterns. In 1182 and 1183 Henry II of England spent lavishly on orphreys. This word comes from Old French orfreis, from Late Latin auriphrygium, from Latin aurum gold + Phrygius Phrygian.

Orphrey bands are often worn on clerical vestments, a tradition that began in the 12th century Roman Catholic church. The finest examples of orphrey can take hundreds of hours of work and sell for thousands of pounds (Wikipedia).

Last Picture Show for Wendy’s Gallery (MEN Thur Oct 24 2013)

The Wendy J Levy Gallery in Didsbury, run by art dealer Wendy Levy, will shut its doors for the last time on December 21st.

Congratulations to Adele for winning a Facebook competition to attend the Turner Prize Award Ceremony in Derry-Londonderry on Monday 2nd December. The prize includes places for two people at the ceremony (she’s taking daughter Holly) + flights and a two night stay in a Riverside Hotel.

To my great surprise our visit to The Turner Prize exhibition on our  trip to D/LD was one of the highlights of the trip. T P refuseniks entered into the spirit and joined with the exhibition staff in the joyous excitement. Adele favours Laure Prouvost for the prize. I’m supporting David Shrigley. However the Art world commentators are all tipping Tino Sehgal

Also well done to Ken Shone for his ‘appearance’ on Woman’s Hour to talk about Whitworth Park and the Archaeological Digs.

I’ve just read a review of a new production of The Island by Athol Fugard. This is the funny/powerful/classic  play we saw in The Market Theatre in Jo’burg, SA, when we were there. I strongly recommend anyone with an evening to spare in London to go to see it at the Young Vic. I wonder if it will tour to Manchester?

Final message from Roy Strong after his enjoyable visit to Manchester to give the Pilkington Lecture. “You were a dream audience. Loved my visit! RS” He was particularly impressed with no speeches at the Dinner!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFriends of the Whitworth visiting the Giant's Causeway

In her recent account of Grayson Perry’s Reith lecture about the workings of the art world, Deborah Orr (21 Sept) describes how the art market operates as a “formidable cartel”, and advises us to recognise it as a “gargantuan practical refutation” of the idea that only free markets create economic growth. She’s probably right. But by bringing money into it, as usual, she is once again pointing a finger at the wrong bad guys.

The real problem with the art world is not the money men scavenging in its wake – they’ve always been there – but the pirates who’ve taken over the ship. I am thinking of course of that awful art world species: the curator. When I started writing about art, there were no curators. Now they are everywhere. They go to the same biennales; speak the same meaningless art language; and control the art world from within by privileging their creativity ahead of the artist’s. For 5000 years art survived perfectly well without curators. Now they are its gatekeepers.

What we need is a revolution, akin to the impressionist revolution in 19th-century France. Just as the impressionists overthrew the salon and put artists back at the centre of the art world, so someone out there needs to overthrow the Tate empire. Come on Hackney. Rise up.

Waldemar Januszczak London. The Guardian, Letter & emails, Thursday 24th September 2013

Well then – wow – comments please?

We had a lovely day in Leeds. Harewood had lots of art, Adam (pic 1) with the same troubled history as our own Genesis. Our guide claimed that Lord Harewood bought, and thus saved from Blackpool waxworks, all three of the Epstein’s for an exhibition. Later selling Genesis to Granada and Jacob and the Angel to the Tate. Rosemary & Stuart had not heard that detail before. Some research needed!

Adam by Jacob Epstein, Harewood, Yorkshire

Praxitella by Wyndham Lewis Leeds Art Gallery & Museum

Leeds art gallery had a great exhibition of their own collection – Stanley Spencer and Wyndham Lewis (pic 2 Praxitella by Wyndham Lewis) to name two of the artists. They have a new temporary exhibition from 18th Oct to 12th Jan 2014 ART & LIFE 1920 – 1931, Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis……..just can’t do a FOW trip at this short notice but I will definitely go by train myself.

Hope everyone was watching the TV progs on BBC4 Fabric of Britain featuring Christine Woods and her friend Martha Armitage who talked to FOWs about hand–making wallpaper. Tonight 2 Oct medieval English embroidery.

Don’t forget Grayson Perry’s Reith lectures starting Tues 15th October at 9.00 to 9.45am repeated at a later time in the evening. Third one from Derry.

Oh and the Biennale too! Guided by Mark & Rebecca from Contemporary Art Society. Where to start, Iraq where else, who gave us a warm welcome, brilliant cartoons, soft sofa’s & tea. Followed by a whole day of Collateral Events including a shocking (pink) video from Ireland by a war artist Richard Mosse who managed to follow a band of rebel fighters in Eastern Congo using a photography technique that turns green to pink, making a stark message strangely beautiful. Angola, who happened to exhibit in the Palazzo Cini surrounded by a private collection of Renaissance art. Next day the Arsenale a vast collection of work by individual artists from all over the world. My favourites all seemed to be by dead, outsider artists especially the colourful tapestries by Papa Ibra TallIMG_0286 (pic 1) from Senegal. I did like the plastic strap muscle figures of IMG_0272Pawal Althamer (pic 2). I also liked another video here, by Aurelien Froment, of a mnemonist in the Teatre Olimpico in Vicenza (been there on FOW trip), who demonstrates her own feats of memory and recites from the system devised by Greek lyric poet Simonides…………it’s complicated but reminded me of my own performance with the artist Monica Ross in WAG.

Skip to the Giardini Pavilions, I got barked at by the KGB in the Russian pavilion for not following the rules – but maybe that was part of the installation – either way, I was glad to escape. Leaving the very best till last, our own Jeremy Dellor has made a wonderful show in the British pavilion. I hope it travels and everyone gets a chance to see it. For anyone planning a trip, the one to miss, Lithuania/Cyprus something to do with seven flights of stairs which was greatly improved by one of our group accidently sending a large steel barrier crashing down a flight of stairs making a great noise.

Must mention the 20,000 visitors to Wag on the Final Weekender exhibitions. Maria was happy!

Has everyone been watching Ancient Greece: The Greatest Show on Earth with Dr Michael Scott? Saw some familiar places inc. the cave outside Syracuse and tomb of Philip, Alexander’s Dad at Vergina. Lovely to look at – the Greek theatres I mean.

Anyone who visited the Makers exhibition at CUBE Gallery on Portland St will be interested to learn from Good Woodworking magazine that the “ever evolving Manchester Art Gallery” is offering discerning visitors the chance to buy luxurious items of furniture from the renowned craftspeople who exhibited in CUBE.  Their work was lovely – a couple of us bought!! Available from this autumn.