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    Entries in nicky mallows (2)


    To Bau or not to B?

    I have spent a lifetime banging on about Bauhaus to my long suffering children: its practice and philosophy, design ethics such as ‘Less is More’ (Mies van de Rohe) and the merits of Functionalism over Frivolity, etc, etc, and I am proud to say that they have rewarded me with stalwart creative thinking and  a flotilla of unsound projects, most  of which have proved amusing one way or another.  

    So I cant believe that I’m saying this, especially since I waxed so lyrical last week about the merits of membering my way round the country in search of culturetainment:  but unfortunately it’

    ’BOO’ to Bauhaus at the Barbican!

    Not only did it cost too much (even with Artfund membership the indigestible £12 entry was only reduced to a semi-realistic £8), but also I found it sparse and surprisingly hard going...and I am an Art addict! 

    Granted:   it is still pioneer stuff - nigh on a 100yrs after its heyday, it is the philosophical basis for all Art School education, and even today the biggest influence on our design thinking since Arts and Crafts. Why? Because good design, as we learnt from a TomaxTalk last summer, is a pleasure. It is a mode of thinking and a way of life. Bauhaus came out of an era of architectural overload and excess, offering a conceptual solution and rational that was so refreshing that it became our modus operandi for the C20 – and beyond. 

    The Barbican is a design icon itself of course, and so the right place to show Bauhaus reliquary, particularly because much of what survives   is small by nature, being either photographic or works on paper.  This is always my dilemma – would a good book be just as enlightening as going to see the exhibition?  As is my wont I dislike museum hush, and came away wanting more atmosphere and antics. Music? Film? Voices?  That is the sprit of Bauhaus. This show felt a bit reverent. Sadly, at £32, the catalogue was un-affordable. Instead I suggest you buy a book (Bauhaus/Frank Whitford Thames and Hudson classic is available on Amazon for £8.95) or go to Berlin to experience the real thing - better! 

    So... What do I recommend this week?  Both of the following are FREE, on until `May 27th, and worth the Oysterage (or Shanks Pony).

    SONG DONG – in the Curve at the Barbican: (a grief stricken elderly Chinese widow lays out  her lifetimes possessions  with cathartic  precision – a lesson in hoarding and history through objects)

    LEATHER FOREVER – Hermes, at Burlington Gdns (behind the RA): This is an absolute delight:  fancy leather goods in a fantastical setting



    To Member or not?


    How do I hold my head up high when I’m up from the Sticks for my weekly London fix?  One way is to whizz into an exhibition at breakneck speed during the day, in order to achieve something other than trying on unsuitable designer outfits and eating Yo! Sushi.


    By alternating culture with shopping I get a glorious (possibly delusory) sense of purpose, and by belonging, as I do, to a variety of arty memberships (Tate RA V&A ROH NT and the Artfund) this Artfix is made as easy as pie.

    Annual cost?  £50 -£70 a piece (or £350 pa for all of the above): a snip in the grand scheme of things because suddenly the Art World is your Oyster with sell out shows, secret houses, free talks, ballet rehearsals, and members rooms offering respite and focus all over town, at the drop of a hat.


    The trouble with Art nowadays is that it has become so deadly serious and far too much of a mission. Why, oh why, when a ten-minute visit will do the trick just as well?  A recent research-led memory-lane whistle-stop tour of Damian (Tate Mod) reacquainted me with the delights of tobacco: by sticking my head into a mega-size ashtray full of Silk Cut fag ends I probably experienced enough to hold conversational sway later in the day. That’s half the fun isn’t it? And when I found myself carelessly asleep on the leather sofa-bench of the upstairs members' room at the V&A, I quickly realized how reassuring membership actually is:  where else in central London can I grab forty winks without causing a sensation?  That’s one of the bonuses of being a Friend: knowing that no one minds if I drop off quietly in the corner or chew/paint my fingernails before an evening’s onslaught. The rest of the perk (of being a serial Friend) is the opportunity to dip ‘n’ dive, all round town, from show to show, without agenda or financial reservation. 


    My modus operandi:  If I can come and go with alacrity, and don’t have to fork out  £8 – 12 every time I go into an exhibition, I see more shows more often. I come away feeling pleased with myself, sated, possibly informed. No more Art oblige. No more trying to reconcile the cost of entry with the level of enjoyment (not always equal). And no need to rationalize yet another curatorial fantasy or expose myself any longer than is absolutely necessary to the Emperor’s New Clothes School of Art. Call it Cultural Philistinism if you like, but little and often is my new rule, and a welcome end to Art Overload. Stay fifteen or fifty minutes - either way I enjoy.


    I LOVE being a card-carrying member –Tomax included.  It offers me FREEDOM: freedom to pass, to roam, no plan, no fuss - a modest thrill in this day and age, and almost as satisfying as returning home from a day’s shopping in London with only a loaf of bread to hand.


    Why not join the ToMax. Or give it as a gift.