In London, so off to Tate Britain to see the exhibition ‘Queer British Art: 1867- 1967’, held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passing of legislation to partially decriminalise homosexuality. The gallery was heaving with visitors heading for the major David Hockney show; somewhat telling that a gay artist drew bigger crowds than this attempt to show how being gay influenced the art.
I had a few problems with this exhibition, the largest being that not all the artists featured were known to be gay. The suggestion that he or she might have been is just a posh version of what the awful tabloid newspapers do when they want to ‘suggest’ a person’s sexuality.
Having grown up in the 70s when being thought to be gay by others was enough to bring around the abuse, it was a bit disappointing to see the same (but more refined) approach being used on people who are long dead and cannot speak for themselves. Lord Leighton’s work is here which seems to be enough to decide he must have been gay. I take the point, made by the curator, that many paintings were coded to convey messages that would have been picked up by gay people but that does not mean that all the Victorian artists here were gay themselves.
The two paintings I loved rose above the rest, with only the door of Oscar Wilde’s cell from Reading Prison of equal poignancy. Lord Leighton’s ‘Icarus and Daedalus’ and Henry Scott Tuke’s ‘The Critics’ were stunning.
Cordoba impressed me because it celebrated its multi- religious heritage. Around the corner from the statue of Jewish scholar Maimonides, was this statue to Muslim scholar Averroes.
Averroes was a Muslim lawyer rather than a Jewish physician but, otherwise, the two men were similar. Averroes was an authority on Aristotle and wrote a significant work called ‘The Incoherence of the Incoherence’. He, too, was exiled from Cordoba when the Berber dynasty took power and his books were burned. He died in Marrakesh in Morocco.
It is heartening that the city of Cordoba pays tribute to significant figures from different religious backgrounds.
I was struck, when in Cordoba, Spain, by the way three religions lived peacefully together several centuries ago; Jewish, Muslim and Christian believers managed to co-exist without compromising their own beliefs.
The statue to Maimonides in the old Jewish quarter of the city is the perfect reminder that we can learn from the past. He was born in Cordoba in 1125 and found fame as a philosopher and author of the Mishneh Torah. He was also interested in the sciences and in Greek philosophy and Islamic teachings. He lived in Spain at a time when the enlightened rule of the Moors might be considered a golden age but left when a Berber dynasty conquered the city in 1148. The status of Christians and Jews was threatened and Maimonides, being Jewish, went into exile with his family, moving around Andalucia before travelling to Morocco and Egypt.
In London, so off to find the David Wynne sculpture from 1971 called ‘The Dancers’. I have walked along Sloane Street many times and I knew the piece could be seen in Cadogan Square Gardens but I was not sure how public or private it would be.
I was pleased to see it easily from the street.
The sculpture of David Wynne is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
In London, so I walked along the Albert Embankment in search of a statue that was installed in 2015. It is of the Indian social reformer and philosopher, Basaveshwara. My knowledge of Indian history being restricted to the period when British interests intersected (clashed?) with those of India, I knew nothing of this person. I am always on the look out for new sculpture in London so I was keen to see it. Later, I looked up information about him.
Basaveshwara pioneered the idea of democracy in 12th century India, so long before anything like it on these islands. He also campaigned against the caste system and slavery and was in favour of gender equality. It is fitting that he looks out over the Thames nt far from the Houses of Parliament.
The headquarters of this UN body is in London on the Thames near Lambeth Bridge. As I was in London I walked that way to find the sculpture that juts out of the waterfront side of the building. This is the International Memorial to Seafarers which was unveiled in 2001. It is the work of British sculptor Michael Sandle.
I used to walk along the Albert Embankment a lot back in the 60s and 70s. Going back there today reminds me of how much things change but also how much better we have become at exhibiting works of art in public.
In London, so off to find a sculpture or statue that was new to me. Having tracked down a few works by Philip Jackson, I decided to look for his 1994 work of Mozart. It is in a part of London where Pimlico meets Belgravia in a small triangle sometimes referred to as Mozart’s Square or even Orange Square. It is actually where Ebury Street and Pimlico Road meet.
Philip Jackson’s bronze shows Mozart as an eight year old, the age he was when he lived on Ebury Street with his family. It was here that he wrote his first symphony in 1764. Being a fan of Philip Jackson’s sculpture, it was satisfying to find another.