Monday, May 21, 2007

Art for Art's sake, Money for ......sake


Think Institute of Modern Art, and I bet Middlesbrough wouldn't be the first place to spring to mind.

But the town has recently acquired a fantastic new, award winning building to house and display it's art collection, the MIMA.

Eldest daughter is taking Art and Design at college, so we made a special effort to get to see the first headline exhibition, DRAW, featuring Picasso (18 works), Matisse, Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst.

There was some pretty good stuff, and some interesting stuff, and, well, some other things! I almost think that the building overshadowed the exhibitions. Perhaps I'll get used to it on future visits. Having said that, I still think 'wow' whenever I see The Sage in Gateshead.

Now if I had to name my favourite artists, then it would have to be Andy Goldsworthy.

He has a major, year-long exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Barnsley. We made a special Saturday-long visit last Bank Holiday to see it, particularly as middle daughter has him as the featured artist this term and eldest is doing a project on him too.


The main car park was full, so we had to park at the country park entrance. This made the walk to the outlier Longsight gallery a little shorter. This 'hanging trees' installation just looks like a rectangular stone wall enclosure at first sight, but peer over the wall, and it's 20ft deep, with oak trees spanning the void, arching from one wall side to the other! Archetypal AG!

After that, we passed 'The Cage', which we all had fun clambering around in,before passing AG's 'Outclosure' in Round Wood - a very high walled, circular sheepfold with no entrance - very Zen!

The exhibits in the Longsight gallery were fine (I read one critic who thought AG was perhaps trying too hard) - the main works were large canvases which had been pinned out in the parkland with a bucket of sheep food placed on them. Result - clean white space surrounded by lots of muddy (!) sheep hoof prints. In summary, the family would have been disappointed if that was it.



However, the best was at the new Underground gallery, a couple of km back across the park. Outside were the 'Striding Arches' made of freestanding red sandstone, and inside were 4 large rooms containing a stacked oak cairn, 11 stone domes, a room whose walls had been covered in clay which had cracked when it dried, and the Leaf Stalk Room.





All were great, but the screen of leaf stalks held together with thorns, hanging from the ceiling and dropping right to the floor, and across the full width of the gallery, is just - spectacular!



After looking at 3 other small galleries with photos of his other work, we ended up in the main centre as everything started to close. On the walk back to the car, passing various sculptures by Henry Moore, we passed AG's other main sheepfold work, with the 'shadow stone' inside one of the enclosures.

AG used the stone to make shadows of his body when it started to rain or snow, photographing the outline left when he moved away. The other visitors we saw just looked at it, and is it was a lovely sunny afternoon with no sign of precipitation, just moved on. But the kids got the idea straight away, and took lots of photos of their sunshine shadows on the stone, in lots of silly shapes!

I think that last 'experience' just about summed it up - with AG's art, you have to think a bit for yourself to experience it to the full - it's not just looking at pretty pictures in frames on a wall in a stuffy museum of an art gallery.

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