Gallery Visit - The Barbican

Posted on: May 29, 2015
Last bank holiday Monday I fulfilled a promise to myself – that when I went full-time freelance I would make more effort to go to art galleries, especially ones in London. It’s only an hour and a half on the train so there’s really no excuse, plus as someone who’s inspired by graffiti and street art it offers a lot more in the way of urban visuals than the genteel streets of Leamington Spa.

There was an exhibition that I particular wanted to see – Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector at the Barbican, and Monday was the final day. The show was made up of spaces filled with the private collections of artists, such as Damien Hirst’s taxidermy and Andy Warhol’s cookie jars. As someone who’s dabbled in various collections the thought of getting to nose around someone else’s ‘obsession’ was really appealing.

I had also never been to the Barbican before, and found the architecture and interior space really interesting. As it was a bank holiday and I got there before things had opened, I had a lovely half hour of wandering round the lakeside area with pretty much only the ducks for company. My first impression of the complex from the outside was ‘ugly post-war building’ but I came to appreciate the bold design and concept of creating an estate that included residential flats, green space with raised walkways, a library and arts centre all in one. It’s a shame that limited materials meant it had to be built in ugly brown concrete though.

Barbican lakeside
View from the Barbican lakeside
original architect's drawing of the Barbican
The original architect's drawing
inside The Barbican
Barbican arts centre interior

There was no photography allowed in the exhibition so I was forced to deploy my seriously rusting drawing skills. Which was actually a good thing, as it required me to really look at the pieces on display, and I can remember a lot more about them than if I had just taken a few snaps. Plus people taking photos at galleries can be really annoying…

sketch of Magnificent Obsessions exhibition
L - strange piece from Hirst's taxidermy collection - just the head and arms of a monkey!
R - example of Martin Parr's soviet space dog memorabilia
sketch of Magnificent Obsessions exhibition
Awesome zebra-like mask from Arman's collection
sketch of Magnificent Obsessions exhibition
L - Asian 'junk' from the collection of Martin Wong and Danh Vo (there were loads of stamps showing various hand gestures, I loved the simple cartoon-like style of the chubby fingers)
R - some of Andy Warhol's cookie jars. Apparently he was more about the buying than displaying or enjoying of his collection, he'd often leave new purchases still in their bags dotted around his apartment
sketch of Magnificent Obsessions exhibition
L - Swordfish sword on cool spiral mount from Hirst's collection
R - gnarly view of some poor sod's palette in an 18th Century anatomical print owned by Hiroshi Sugimoto
I had planned a visit to Tate Modern while I was there, but by the time I made my way over, I had to turn round and head back to Marylebone so only had about 20 minutes to look at some interesting work by Rebecca Horn. She makes these contraptions that act like appendages to the body, like a unicorn-style horn or sail-like wings, all inspired by her extended stay in hospital with a serious illness. They do remind you of old fashioned medical apparatus, but could also pass for avant-garde fashion (I can definitely see Lady Gaga wearing them). I’ll admit I was that annoying person with a camera phone and did take a few pics.
Rebecca Horn at Tate Modern
'Overflowing Blood Machine'  with original drawing and photo showing how it fits on the body


Rebecca Horn at Tate Modern
L - 'Unicorn' and accompanying sketch and photo by Rebecca Horn
R - 'Finger Gloves' and accompanying sketch and photo by Rebecca Horn
All in all a really good day out that ended with me almost falling asleep on the train home. Now planning the next trip, possibly Great British Drawings at the Ashmolean...

Read more of my gallery visit blogs here


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