Fractal Contemporary Gallery is located on St. Giles Street, a few blocks from Norwich City Hall. When I walked in I was immediately reminded of my Aunt Leslie and Uncle Barry’s old house in Richmond. Why? Because I always got the same feeling of awe when I stepped into their main sitting room. The walls were covered in surrealist and abstract art and the way the light filtered into the room just gave everything a clean, soft white glow. The art that covers the walls in Fractal Contemporary is nothing like my Uncle Barry’s collection, but the light is the same, and the soft carpet reminds me of a family room. I immediately felt welcome there. I knew I would have a good experience working with this gallery. I couldn’t have been more right. Ms. Lisa Thurlow is the owner and director of the gallery. Fractal Contemporary has been open for just under two years and while the recession did have some impact on the business, the profits are once again on the rise. Through my interviews with Ms. Thurlow, I gained a great deal of insight into how a small independent gallery operates and where she finds her artists. Usually she travels around to University degree shows and open studio events. She also subscribes to the Art of England magazine. This way she not only finds local Norfolk artists, but artists from all around the world. As a result the art in her gallery is incredibly varied, the gallery sells an eclectic array of art including, paintings, drawings, sculpture, jewelry and even some knitwear. As I would soon find out, working in a gallery requires a lot of patience. Most people that walk in will not buy anything, but the fact that they made the effort to come in and look around gives the hope that they might be back. And as I have learned from my research, the job of the dealer is to help match people with the art. Mrs. Thurlow lets her potential customers have their space and look around before she steps in to negotiate a sale. She only ‘swoops in’ when she overhears the potential customers discussing price of if they ask her a question. This business is all about reading people, their body language and a little bit of eavesdropping. In her own words, “one has to be a bit ‘hawk-like’ and be aware of what people are looking for.” People watching? Art? Sign me up. Most of her business is from people who walk in off the street, so her welcoming window display and friendly atmosphere are working to her advantage. Whilst the gallery does have a few collectors, most of her energy is devoted to cultivating new relationships with the people who come into the gallery and her artists. Unlike many dealers, who put on a façade of non-commercial self-representation, I truly believe that Ms. Thurlow is more concerned with the people rather than the money. Of course she wants to sell the art and make a profit, but I think she is in this business because she loves what she does and she loves the people who she meets by selling fine art. I have learned so much by talking to Lisa Thurlow, and I hope we are able to stay in touch even after I leave Norwich.
Entries Tagged as 'Grace'
May 11th, 2010 · No Comments
May 11th, 2010 · 1 Comment
I had hoped that my interview experience with Mandell’s Gallery on Elm Hill would make up for Mr. Mandell’s poor email correspondence… it didn’t. I began to email and call the gallery after another art dealer that I should go and ask a few questions about the gallery suggested it to me. The first time I went into the gallery (around March), I told Mr. Mandell my name and about my research paper. He seemed interested enough, but said he didn’t have time for an interview at the moment. I told him that was fine (I know his business comes first) and that I would email him the questionnaire so he could fill things out at his earliest convenience. After a few weeks I began to email again, no response. I called to make sure I had the right email address. The woman on the line told me the Gallery was about to open a show of John Kiki’s works and that Mr. Mandell would be more available after the opening…. OK, so I wouldn’t have the interview until after the first draft of my paper was due. OK, not going to panic. After a week and still no response (email or otherwise) I decided to go into the gallery to see if I could get some answers. The way I was raised, this kind of behavior is unacceptable. If you receive email or a call, at least have the decency to respond…even if it’s just to say you’re too busy and to give a date when you WILL be available. Well, after I reintroduced myself to Mr. Mandell he kind of gave me the ‘I think I remember you, but I’m just not quite sure’ kind of look and then searched his inbox for my email. “Ah, yes” he said, “yes, I don’t really feel comfortable answering some of these questions…I think they are a bit leading” Alright, how does one respond to that? I’m sorry? I didn’t think my questions were that leading….just enquiring about the general policies of the gallery and what kind of people buy their art. Apparently Mr. Mandell’s competition is hot for him right now and they will do ANYTHING to learn his secrets. I was a bit taken aback, and although I assured him my research was purely academic, he was still unwilling to answer any questions about how he prices his art or what kind of client he markets for. Mr. Mandell, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but I really don’t think you have any reason to worry…I am NOT going to spill any sort of insider gallery dealer secrets. I think you are probably a nice guy, especially after you told me you used to vent your jeans in the 60s to make them flare out…it’s cool, it was the 60s after all. Anyway…back to the point. While this interview was not as helpful on the specifics of buying art in Norwich, he did have some opinions on the general culture in Norwich. Essentially, Norwich has always been a bit of a hot spot for the arts…the only problem? Geographical isolation. However, this isolation made the arts in Norwich a priority as the people would have hardly been able to travel to London to see a play or a painting. Norwich has always had a thriving theatre (the first being the Maddermarket Theatre) and the Norwich School artists are probably the area’s most famous visual artists. Even today, the Norfolk and Norwich Contemporary Art Circle, the Playhouse Theatre and the city’s recent bid to become a UK ‘City of Culture’ keep this arts-rich area a cultural meeting place. Despite the provincial setting, the isolation has kept the art world in Norwich centered on Norwich. And with so many galleries opening in the last fifteen years, the people in this area still don’t have to travel down to London to acquire great art. Right now, I’d say the traditional subject matter of landscape and portraiture are still outselling the more abstract contemporary pieces, but the contemporary arts are on the rise. The trends in art (and other areas) will come and go, but Norwich will always remain a city of the arts.
May 6th, 2010 · 2 Comments
Horace Blue Gallery is on Lower Goat Lane (which also happens to be my favourite street in all of Norwich) and I can remember passing by a few times first semester and wondering what might be hidden behind all the funky graffiti and funny cartoon faces. In December I got my first chance. Unfortunately, the owner was not around. But I was able to browse the two tiny rooms of the gallery, which was filled with contemporary art from floor to ceiling. The first thing I noticed about the art was the incredible variety. This place had everything from painting to pottery, and all sorts of crazy mixed media pieces on display in a cabinet at the back of the first room. After obtaining a business card from the woman who was looking after the gallery in the owner’s absence, I was able to get in touch with Mr. Keith Webber. Keith is an architect who also happens to run the Horace Blue Gallery. He is currently in Jersey working on a project, so all of my correspondence with him was by email. After a the first few emails back and forth I sent Keith a questionnaire about the way he runs his gallery, the kinds of clients he markets for and other market related topics. I was hoping to receive more of an up beat response after the last word I had heard from him about the Norwich art market (see my previous post for more details). Horace Blue Gallery is more avant-garde than the other establishments I have been in contact with, so I wasn’t too surprised by his answers (just a little disappointed in Norwich). The work in his gallery is mostly by friends of his, or artists he has met through his network of friends. Currently he has about fifty artists that have shown at the gallery. Like the other owners I have interviewed, Keith tended to go for the ‘nice guy’ approach when it concerns potential buyers. He claims he is not willing to cultivate a false relationship just to make a sale, especially if that client becomes a collector… “if I don’t like someone I’m not going to have any sort of relationship with them, so the few collectors I know, I have become friends with.” From my research into the world of the art gallery, this sort of statement is commonplace for small gallery owners who would rather be your friend that your supplier of fine art. Hopefully…eventually that friendship will blossom into a regular sale for the gallery. Unfortunately for Keith, it seems he made the wrong sort of friends (financially, that is). In his own words,
“I show work I like. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t been a financial success. So the people I attract were people who shared my tastes…which is great, because you immediately have something in common with people who come in. I’ve made so many friends by having the gallery. I would have liked it if the people that came in had the money to buy what I was showing. I think the people who have money in Norfolk are older more traditional people, so their taste didn’t match mine.”
As much as Norwich is a city full of young culture and arts, with the UEA Sainsbury Centre, the Contemporary Arts Festival and the Norwich University College of the Arts it seems the gallery could not survive on support alone. As far as my research extends, most of the wealthier art buyers have more traditional taste and Horace Blue has become a victim of this statistic. I think that’s a real shame, because the artists at this gallery are from all over the UK and don’t seem to play into the generally fetishized market that emanates from London and also does not want to conform to the norm for provincial Norfolk. So I am left with the fact that this great little gallery will probably go under and Keith has once again managed to make me question what the art market is all about… how can the people of Norwich let this hip, young and quirky little gallery close up? SAVE HORACE BLUE!
February 17th, 2010 · 2 Comments
Have you ever found yourself in a moment where you question everything? Where you reconsider everything you thought you knew? Well that happened to me today as I was reading one of the books I’m using for my research paper, Talking Prices. This book is an examination into the world of pricing contemporary art. As I read, I began to think about how much the art world is concerned with money… and how much I am not. Now, I know money is important and that it’s involved in almost every aspect of our lives, but I’m not interested in art for a profit. I love art, plain and simple. I love the feeling I when I discover a new artist, or when I see a work in a museum that I have studied in an art history course (ask Kelley about our visit to the National Gallery in London). I’m sure most people who are established gallery owners, dealers or curators thought the same thing, that they would never let their artistic priorities be compromised by commercial objectives or let financial matters interfere with the way they establish relationships with artists, but I’m sure that has changed. In a discipline where one is constantly bombarded with words like ‘provenance’, ‘price’ and ‘worth’ how could you not let it affect the way you see art? I am still leaning how art is priced, and I am still amazed that one painting can sell for one hundred and forty million dollars (Jackson Pollock’s No. 5, 1948). While selling prices at auction houses like Sotheby’s are fascinating, I don’t think it’s the only way to determine worth. One of my big questions is, how does the price of a work relate to its aesthetic quality? Call me naive, but I don’t want to turn into another person who just sees a big price tag instead of a work of art. But the end of my interview session with Norwich gallery owners I hope to have a few of my fears confirmed or laid to rest. In these interviews I have been trying to determine what kind of contemporary art market Norwich has. So far it seems to be a mix of so-called ‘traditional’ and ‘avant-garde’ spaces, quite like the inhabitants of this ‘fine city’. While some gallery owners have said there is a decent market in town, others are less than optimistic. I received an email from one of my contacts yesterday that stated, in fact, there is NO market for contemporary art in Norwich.
“As well as owning the gallery, I am an architect and it is this profession that has kept the gallery going. I’ve been working in Jersey (Channel Islands) for the last year, which is why the gallery has only had 2 shows in the last year…so the simple answer to your question is that contemporary art does not sell in a place like Norwich!”
But I still have hope! We’ll see if my constant optimism proves to be my demise.
Another realization: (and this is one that seems to be true across the boards) the more I learn about life, that more it seems that it’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know. Even with a Dickinson education, networking is essential. The whole art business is a giant web of relationships between artists, dealers and collectors. Lucky for me, I’ve inherited my father’s schmoozing skills and the ability to make friends easily. Now it’s time to put them to good use. People always tell you that best job is one that doesn’t feel like work, and I hope I can achieve this someday. But for now I’m going to have to work my way up the ladder. The art world is no place for introverts and if you want to stand out, you need to start networking early. Sound cutthroat? That’s because it is.
September 14th, 2009 · No Comments
There’s nothing I love more than to be outside on a beautiful day. Growing up on the James River has allowed me to venture down for a “nature walk” whenever I’m home. I’ve been spoiled in that sense. So coming to London, a city full of parks seemed like a happy medium to me. I could participate in the big city scene and still enjoy my beloved green spaces. However, some of the parks have been ‘disappointing’ in that fact that they are so unnatural. What I mean by that is the exact planning and placement of walkways, restaurants, water features, ect. Sure, it’s a great place to exercise and push a pram along a scenic pathway (complete with perfectly manicured lawns!), but it’s not what I am looking for in my ideal park. I can appreciate the effort and money the city spends on these places. It’s a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of London and sit on a wooden bench to read your paper. But I find it incredibly strange that people are almost discouraged from sitting on the grass. Instead, deckchairs are available for hire from April to September. Another thing that really bothers me is the rule against ball games. The parks are great place for a pick-up 5 aside football (soccer) match… oh wait, you can’t play ball in most of these places. Why? I’m the kind of person who goes to open green spaces to relax. When I go to a park I want to be able to run free, lounge on the grass, play games, read and generally cut loose. I feel like I can’t do that here. I’m directing most of this rant towards St. James’s Park and Regent’s Park. Great flowers, too many rules.
I participated in the “Parks” tour group last Thursday and I absolutely loved Hyde Park. This 350-acre space in the heart of London still has most of the aspects I just discussed, but it has another side. In parts of this former royal hunting ground the grass uncut and long, the people walk off the path and you can even go swimming in the Lido. Maybe it’s just the sheer size of the grounds, but this park just “feels right” to me; this is how a park should be. I also noticed the large variety of wildlife at Hyde Park. Besides the normal flocks of pigeons, there were also surprising amounts of waterfowl living in the Long Water. The variety of activities was also impressive. One can do anything form tennis to horseback riding in this park! I hope I can go back for a little bit tomorrow after lunch and explore a bit more. Although I have some problems with a few of the Royal Parks, I cannot deny that they are a wonderful addition to the city. I am looking forward to the open air of Norwich… at least I can play some football there.
September 13th, 2009 · 1 Comment
This summer I went to my local bookstore to pick up some of the summer reading for this course. I also decided to splurge on some travel essays and one very large guidebook. One of the books that caught my eye was Kate Fox’s Watching the English. In this tome of valuable information, Fox breaks down the hidden rules of English behavior…everything from food rules to dress code. Fox is not only an anthropologist, but also an English woman and her ability to laugh at herself and her people make her observations both accurate and amusing. I was laughing the entire time I was reading. The way she writes is so witty and entertaining that I found myself both apprehensive and even more excited to come to London. How was I going to survive in a place where it was not socially acceptable to smile at strangers as I walked down the street? I was also particularly worried about my laughter. As most of you now know, when I find something funny, I will laugh… loudly and for a long time. I can’t control it. I was worried everyone in England was going to think I was just the stupid American who is always loud. More about that later…Fox concludes that all these behavior rules revolve around class. You do things the way you do because of your class, plain and simple.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this theory has to do with language. I’m sure most of us have noticed that even though we are in England, there is not one generic English accent. And, according to Fox, “one cannot even talk at all without immediately revealing one’s own social class.” The indicators are in both the pronunciations and word choice. I’ll elaborate on one of my favorites…. ‘Pardon.’ The English apologize for everything, even if it’s not their fault. If you bump into an English person on the street, they will probably apologize anyway. However, the word they use is an immediate indicator of their class. A lower-middle of middle-middle person will say ‘pardon.’ A upper middle will say ‘sorry-what?’ and an upper class person will simply say ‘what?’ Ironically the same response of ‘what?’ is also used by the working class, although they may drop the ‘t’ to make it ‘wha-‘
So, we have leaned that speech is the most immediate and most obvious way to place a person within your class GPS system. In Lee Hall’s The Pitmen Painters, one of the first interactions between Mr. Lyons and the group of pitmen involved differences in speech. Mr. Lyons could not understand their thick accents and different pronunciations. Obviously Mr. Lyons was speaking what is commonly known as “Oxford English” whereas the pitmen were speaking in their own regional dialect. The Ashington group was a group of brilliant artists who just happened to be pitmen. But the people around them would often jump to conclusions when meeting them due to their speech. In Blood Brothers twins Mickey and Eddie were split up at birth and raised apart. Mickey remained with his biological mother in a working class environment. Edward (Eddie) was raised by the upper class Lyon family. Mickey points out the language differences from the first time he speaks with his brother by making fun of Eddie for his ‘posh’ phrases like “shag the vicar” and “smashing.” It’s the little details reveal the most about class differences. Although the brothers were great friend in their youth, it was the struggle between their classes that eventually led to tragic downfall. Your accent and speech does not reveal anything about your accomplishments but it does place you somewhere on that class scale. In a nation where verbal culture is prized over any sort of palpable or physical expression, language is the primary tool for recognizing social status.
The one place where all these class rules are put on ‘hold’ (well, I’ll let you decide) is the pub. The pub is a place with its own customs and is the main place of social bonding. Like in most cultures, the drinking-place tends to be socially equal or at least the differences are based on separate rules from the rest of society. Therefore, the pub is not really place of social or class equality, but the class differences are judged differently or are suspended whilst inside the pub. Only the English would have a completely different set of behavior rules specifically for the pub. I can’t believe these people sometimes. In a striking contradiction the rest of England, the pub is one of the few places where you can start a conversation with a complete stranger…as long as you’re not too forward and ask their name. This rule only applies at the bar counter and the fact that you go to the bar to order food and drink (rather than having someone come to your table) forces one to be social. It just keeps getting more and more strange. The art of queuing is quintessentially English. Always respect the queue, at the store, at the tube stop, wherever. But in the pub this rule changes. Instead of the usual neat and orderly structure, the thirsty pub goes all hang around the counter. This is what Kate Fox calls the “invisible queue,” where both the publicans and the customers know their positions in the waiting line. Everyone knows who is next and if you try and get service before your turn, the bar staff will ignore you the rest of your stay. One evening last week was a part of a group who decided to grab a drink at The Court, a local pub on Tottenham Court Road. We accidentally placed ourselves outside the range of the invisible queue to disastrous consequences. Not only were we yelled at in front of the entire pub, it was hard to get service the rest of the night.
That aside, I have had a great time every time I go to a pub. It’s a great place to people watch (one of my favorite pastimes) and see the rare interactions between the English. Of course, all pubs are not created equal. I will agree with my classmates that The Court caters to a younger crowd and is the kind of place where our American volume is somewhat more acceptable, whereas the Marlborough Arms is great place to grab a meal and to catch up with your fiends. Nothing against pubs like The Court, but I prefer places where I can sit down and not have to yell across the table to be heard. I guess that’s my inner 60-year-old woman talking. Besides, the chicken and leek pie on Sunday nights at the Arms is fantastic! Pub culture is a valuable part of life in England, and most people have found a pub that really fits their personality or lifestyle. You can lean a lot about the English by observing what goes on in a pub, and at the same time, you have to leave the pub to fully understand the culture. This place is full of contradictions. While I am yet to become a ‘regular,’ I hope I can investigate more of this strange phenomenon of the England when I get to Norwich… I might even find a football team to support.
To recap, everything is about class. Each social class has identifying elements that place one in a certain class. Don’t say ‘pardon’, avoid using fancy French words like serviette, and mind the invisible queue at pubs. We will all be reading Watching the English once we get to Norwich so now you all have something to look forward to. Keep an eye out for these hidden behaviors. I find it all quite fascinating. Also, if anyone feels like pie tonight, meet me at the Arms.
September 8th, 2009 · No Comments
Identity…. What is that? I honestly don’t know. Just thinking about this topic makes my head spin. How do our surroundings influence our identity? Do we identify with something because WE choose or because of outside factors such as religion and education? From what I absorbed from both the Sikh Gurdwara and the Hindu Mandir both faiths are more of a way of life rather than a religion. Both require life-long practice to even begin to understand. In Sikhism, the devotee is a constant student, trying to liberate the mind from the body to ascend into a state of ultimate knowledge and union with God. In Hinduism the ultimate goal is to break the cycle of life and death to remain eternally in the presence of God. So how do you take responsibility for your Karma in 21st century Britain? Can you take the religion/lifestyle out of its homeland? Certain customs and rituals have to be tweaked to ‘fit’ in the mainstream British culture. Sikhs are not allowed to carry their defensive swords because of certain laws, and some men have to cut their hair for certain jobs. The restrains of modern society make it more difficult for Sikhs and Hindus to observe certain traditional rites, but does this make them less “religious.” Personally, I don’t think so. When you are forced to adapt or willingly relocate somewhere else, everything changes, choices are made.
Some people have formed tight communities that don’t even attempt to make ties to their new environment, like the character Mrs. Suri in Salaam Brick Lane. Mrs. Suri and her network of Aunties have created their own version of India within each other’s living rooms. These people seek a comfort zone full of everything they know. Other people rebel completely and break away form everything they know. The character of Clara in White Teeth completely turns her back on her Jehovah’s Witness background (and her mother) and severs all ties with her former life. Either way, a choice was made. I don’t light Shabbat candles every Friday night… does that make me a bad Jew? I still believe in what in God and I pray in my own way. I have adapted to my situation and made choices. You do what you think is right and then run with it. This is religion for the 21st century. So what about tradition and education for the younger generations? I’m all for it… I think that both the Gurdwara and the Mandir have excellent education and community centers. The Mandir especially has gone above and beyond to provide the children in the area with a top-notch secular education as well as a religious education on the Hindu faith. Learning the traditions of your ancestors is wonderful, and it is important to remember the past. But ultimately, I think it is up to each individual person to decide his or her identity (whatever that may mean). Are you Hindu and British? Sikh and Welsh? Can you be both? Change is hard, but you can either resist or adapt.
I hope I will live to see the day when the world accepts everyone’s religion but right now that does not seem likely. People will keep being prejudiced and ignorant until they are otherwise educated on the subject. However, as Sikhism teaches us, this is a momentous obstacle. The Gurwara and the Mandir are helping the process by opening their sacred places to visitors off all backgrounds. Both faiths seem willing to teach outsiders and I felt that I received a warm welcome from both establishments. When you live in the modern UK adjustments have to be made due to secular laws. However, you are still free to practice whatever it is you believe. I still am not sure as to what identity means. All I know is that I have to be true to myself.
September 5th, 2009 · No Comments
Yesterday afternoon we decided to walk to the Sir John Soane Museum rather than taking the tube. It was only a few blocks past the British Museum and I was able to see more of the Bloomsbury neighborhood. When we arrived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, it was easy to spot. First of all, there was a queue of people outside the gates and second, who else would have caryatids on the façade of their house but a classics-loving architect? While I appreciated the concept of the museum, (Sir John wanted to leave his home as a showcase for his antiquities and works of art) I thought it was SO crowded with his artifacts that I could barely focus on the actual architecture of the house. It was like walking into an “Antiques Roadshow” dream house. Ironically, my two favorite rooms were the ones that contained the least amount of classical antiquities, the library and the upstairs sitting room. I loved looking through his books and his paintings (the Turner on the second floor is exquisite!) because I felt that was a better way to try and gage what kind of man Sir John was. You can tell a lot about a person by what he/she reads. I loved the yellow sitting room because it was whimsical and light in the midst of all the dark wood and ancient Greek artifacts. The stained glass and the bright saffron-colored walls provided a nice contrast against the rest of the museum/house. I imagine that Sir John’s wife had a hand in decorating this area (although I can’t be sure) and he left it this way after she passed away. I only wish that there had been some sort of guide that I could have used to navigate through the house or a curator I could have talked to. Obviously, Sir John loved classical sculpture and architecture, and his collection is truly impressive, but I would have liked to see more of the floor plan. Also, I wonder what Soane’s sons could have done to persuade him to even turn the home into a museum. On the homepage all it says is he was “deeply disappointed by the conduct of his two sons.” Any thoughts on that? I really enjoy exploring the places where people lived. It’s fascinating to me… What were they like? What was their daily schedule? What room did they spend the most time in? To any future visitors, make sure you venture down into the basement aka “the crypt” to check out the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I. This is definitely a non-conventional museum. To be perfectly honest, what it lacked in curatorial flair, it made up for in dedication to preservation. The Sir John Soane museum was a welcome change from the halls of slick marble and crowds of tourists that have been a staple of the larger institutions. Sometimes it’s the places off the beaten track that make the biggest impression. While this museum was not my favorite attraction of London, It does showcase the importance of exploring the smaller, less popular areas. Next stop—Chancery Lane!
September 2nd, 2009 · No Comments
London is home to one of the most vibrant and varied theater districts in the world. So far, I have been able to experience three different performances. First of all, Shakespeare’s Globe may be a Disney version of its former glory, but I still enjoyed the experience. Upon entering the groundling area and positioning myself as close to the stage as possible, I had a great spot for Trolius and Cressida. Although I did not enjoy the play while I was reading it, I found the performance extremely entertaining, and much more comic than I expected. While my feet were aching by the end of the play, I intend to return for another show. Friday night we traveled to the Duke of York’s Theater to see Tom Stoppard’s, Arcadia. I was familiar with one other Stoppard play (Rosencrantz and Gulidenstern Are Dead) and I was excited to see how this would compare. The play was the perfect blend of wit, science and emotion. Although some of the concepts were hard for me to understand (chaos theory?). I really enjoyed the fast-paced dialogue and the relationship between past and present. One of the main characters, Septimus Hodge, says, “We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it.” This quote really made me think about the future. What if someone finds an article of mine… say my travel journal. What will they think? Will they try to uncover my story? Granted, I’m no Lord Byron but does that make me less important? Will I even be remembered? Will I make any sort of significant impact on the world? I probably sound selfish, wondering about how people will think of me (if they do) but I’m curious.
My most recent theater experience was yet another different feeling. While the Globe and the Duke of York were both smaller scale and more intimate, the Olivier Theater at the National Theater was grand and hi-tech. Earlier that morning I was able to take part in a backstage tour of the Theater and therefore had a greater understanding of all the behind the scenes work that goes into a large scale production. Shakespeare number two of the trip, All’s Well that Ends Well has often been considered one of his “problem plays” because it is hard to classify as a comedy or tragedy and the viewer is conflicted as to what to think. Personally, I couldn’t make up my mind as to whether Helena was silly and submissive girl or a clever woman who refused to give up. Although I found myself believing Helena was more of a ‘doormat’ more than a heroine. Ultimately, I believe that all did NOT end well. Both Helena and Bertram are still unhappy… but now they have a child on the way. Despite the ending, I thought this play had some brilliant acting (I especially enjoyed Conleth Hill’s portal of Parolles), incredible sets and wonderful lighting. It was a great way to spend an evening in London. Also, as I was not able to procure a regular ticket and had to rely on the “student standby” system. I simply arrived 45 minutes early and asked if there were any available seats. If you are willing to take the risk, you might end up with a great seat for only 10 quid. I was lucky. The room was packed and I was wonderful to see all the different people who came to se Shakespeare. Even in my own row I had a sampling of almost every class in London. I am very excited to return to the National Theater for The Pitmen Painters.
How wonderful is it that the theater is actually affordable here? If I had this opportunity in the States, I don’t think I’d do anything else. I love that spell the Theater puts on its audience…. We become so absorbed in this little world on stage that we are able to forget who we are, whatever problems we have and just live in the moment. If you’re anything like me, the imaginary world is the place to be. I can just exist in my own little seat and leave everything else behind. It’s a great escape.
August 31st, 2009 · 1 Comment
Anyone who has had a class with Professor Maggidis will know the Greek side of the Elgin Marble story quite well. According to him, the elaborate carvings were forcifully taken from the sides of the Parthenon by Lord Elgin, who did not have a right to them. The British Museum told a very different story. The current position of the Museum is that the Marbles were removed legally with the permission of the Ottoman authorities. However, the Greeks were not asked their opinion. Since the early 1980s, the Greek government has argued for the return of the Marbles to Athens. The British Museum believes that they are “a unique resource for the world: the breadth and depth of its collection allows the world to re-examine cultural identities and explore the complex network of interconnected world cultures.” This same mission statement also applies to the other artifacts of the Museum. However, “the Trustees’ view [the Elgin Marbles] are part of everyone’s shared heritage and transcend cultural boundaries.” To them, the splitting of the Parthenon Marbles between six major museums of the world allow for different interpretations to be examined. We are not so sure. What gives the British Museum the right to possess the sculptures after the Ottoman Empire dissolved and the Greek government asked for them back? Would they appreciate capstones from Stonehenge appearing in the Louvre or another major art museum of the world? Where’s the line between exhibiting cultural artifacts and claiming them as your own? You might ask us if we benefited from seeing the Elgin Marbles for free in the British Museum. Of course we did.
Continuing on our critical journey through the British Museum, we were struck by the assumption that every culture that the British encountered became part of the British cultural heritage. This was especially apparent in parts of the former Empire. This attitude was even expressed in places that dissolved from the Empire centuries ago. For example, after Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in London, Queen Victoria was talking to Black Elk (a Native American chieftain) and said “I wish that I had owned you people, for I would not carry you round as beasts to show the people.” Although Queen Victoria probably meant well, this statement is preposterous! We think she meant that she didn’t approve of the Native Americans parading around making a parody of their culture for the entertainment of others. However, there seems to be a discrepency when looking at the colonies under Victoria’s control (India, Hong Kong, Africa, etc.).
The British Museum has made us rethink who should have posession over a cultural artifact. We believe that it’s a major grey area. Does a British archeologist digging in France have the right to the objects found, or does the French government? There are too many variables. We enjoyed almost everything we saw at the Museum and it was a great learning experience, but we couldn’t help but feel an uneasy sense of awe in the rooms where the decoration was in Britain, but the structure was elsewhere in the world.