So it has been fairly quiet on here these last few months…sorry! I took up an exciting opportunity at Art15, London’s Global Art Fair, and it slowly took over my life – my fault rather than their’s. The fair opened for a third year at Olympia on the 20th of May and closed this past Saturday on the 23rd – a complete blur of a weekend, and I’m still not really sure what happened to be honest. I thought it would therefore only be appropriate for my first 2015 post (ahh, it has actually been so long since I last posted something on A Collection of Curiosities!!) to be Art15-related, and have pooled together my favourite pieces from this year’s fair – where 150 modern and contemporary galleries from over 40 countries came together to show all types of work in one place.
The newly opened exhibition at Autograph ABP, Black Chronicles II, explores black presence in nineteenth and early twentieth-century British studio photography. Bringing together over 200 photographs, some of which have been unseen for 120 years, the body of curated works sheds an interesting light on the black subject in Victorian Britain. As the co-curator, Renée Mussai, explains: “Black Chronicles II is part of a wider ongoing project called The Missing Chapter, which uses the history of photography to illuminate the missing chapters in British history and culture, especially black history and culture. There is a widespread misconception that black experience in Britain begins with the arrival of the Empire Windrush and the first Jamaican immigrants in 1948, but, as this exhibition shows, there is an incredible archive of images of black people in Britain that goes right back to the invention of photography in the 1830s.”
Mussai notes that there “are several intertwining narratives – colonial, cultural and personal – embedded in these images, but what is often startling is how confident and self-contained many of the sitters are as they occupy the frame.” Above all, these precious windows into Victorian life present images of British colonialism in all its contradictions – the Ethiopian prince in exile, the black companion-servant to explorer Henry Morton Stanley and the celebrated, imprisoned “gift to the Queen of the Whites”.
The African Choir were a group of South African singers who toured Britain between 1891 and 1893. They were brought together to raise funds for a Christian school in their home country and performed for Queen Victoria at Osbourne House in the Isle of Wight. At some point during their stay, the choir group visited the studios of The London Stereoscopic Company to have group and individual portraits made. The London Stereoscopic Company specialised in producing carte de visites, small photographs printed on cards that were traded by collectors or used by performers for publicity purposes. These long-lost images, last shown in the London Illustrated News in 1891, make up the dramatic centrepiece to this exhibition.
Autograph ABP is a foundation that focuses on black cultural identity, often through the use of overlooked archives. Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA. September 11th 2014 – November 29th 2014.
Image sources: The Michael Graham Stuart Collection; The Hulton Archive; The Jenny Alsworth Collection; The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography; The Paul Frecker Collection; Autograph ABP; The Guardian Newspaper.
From above and afar, you would be excused for mistaking this great work with the lavish furnishing of a tiger skin rug. However, it’s when one steps closer that they notice the unusual material making up this 40-foot work of art – 500,000 cigarettes. The Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing began working on his tobacco project in 2000, this 440-pound rug forming the climax of his ensuing exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2011 – The Tobacco Project. The entire study explores the international trade, packaging, marketing and seduction of a deadly smoking habit. Bing chose Virginia to exhibit his work, as the eastern American state is traditionally known as the home of mass produced tobacco products. The artist visited tobacco farms, warehouses and cigarette factories in Virginia to create the work for this exhibition, which also includes pieces from his previous projects on the same topic. Using tobacco as both a material and a subject in which to explore a wide range of issues, Bing’s work relates to issues from global trade to the exploitation of tobacco. His interest in ‘tobacco culture’ extends further to the historical impact of China’s large-scale exportation of tobacco products from the United States, which originally began in the late 19th century.
For more information on the making of Bing’s Tiger Skin Rug: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfygs7A-Nb0
Image source: My Modern Met
New York Fashion Week, September 2014: Looks like stripes are making a strong come back, but attitudes and egos need to be left behind.
“Fashion is too much like high school and that needs to change. We need a principal that puts their foot down and accepts vision and creativity above all.” – Faustina
“There’s not enough brand loyalty.” – Jamal
Maeve: “I don’t like the ‘who wore it best’ columns.”
Beagy: “I don’t like THE ATTITUDES.”
Photo credits to Lauren Zasar.
“By the end of the First World War there were very few people in the countries that took part who remained unaffected. The war reached out and touched almost everyone’s life in some way or other.”
Yesterday marked the centenary of Britain entering the Great War (1914-1918) – the first global conflict of the Industrial Age. Artists and historians have been commissioned for various projects to mark the start of the First World War and to commemorate all those who fought in it. The Open University enlisted the help of a restoration expert to colourise a selection of photographs taken during the conflict. The original black and white images have been completely transformed and brought to life, presenting windows into the lives of the many soldiers and civilians affected by the events of World War I.
(For those wanting to learn more about the events that shaped the First World War, a short BBC video by Dan Snow, giving an overview of the whole war, can be found here)
Norman Foster’s vision for a network of bike paths suspended over London’s railway lines, could see commuters gliding over the city as they travel to and from work. Unveiled earlier in January, SkyCycle would allow cyclists to move through the city completely liberated from the roads. The plans have already won the backing of Network Rail and Transport for London and would see the installation of over 220km of elevated, car-free routes suspended on pylons over the suburban rail track lines, with over 200 entrance points, ultimately accommodating 12,000 cyclists per hour. Lord Foster, for whom cycling is a great passion, describes the plan as “a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city…By using the corridors above the suburban railways, we could create a world-class network of safe, car-free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters.” The idea gained the approval of the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, by complete accident after Foster’s team bumped into Boris in the lift on their way to a meeting at City Hall. The addition of SkyCycle to London’s already eclectic skyline would present yet another innovative way in which the historic city has continually evolved and adapted to its growing population and to changing fashion.
Google Street View specialist Halley Docherty brings life to old pictures by combining aged photos with corresponding Street View images. In these photos Docherty takes us back to cities of the second world war, giving us a glimpse of life then and now.
Photographs all by Halley Docherty.