Lego scuplture

I seem to have found myself on Brick Lane three Saturdays in a row. Not deliberately of course, but things like that seem to happen when you live in London; in this wide expanse of city you keep returning to the same familiar spots without thinking. After walking past the ‘Art of the Brick’ three times I finally decided to check it out. I almost went to the exhibition when it toured through Brussels, but got a little distracted by endless waffles. As to why it took me three attempts to finally go, well… in a city with incredible art for free I really resent paying for an exhibition. But hey ho, of to the Art of the Brick we go.

Starry Night Lego

The Art of the Brick is the work of artist Nathan Sawaya, he creates unique sculptures entirely out of lego. The promotional image for the exhibition is the bust of a man, pulling open his chest to allow the lego bricks inside to tumble out – very cool. Based on this I had high hopes for the rest of the sculptures.

The exhibition starts with a video about the artist, and all the countries that the exhibition had toured to. I liked that it explained the artists process/rational, he essentially is trying to create art out of everyday objects. What I didn’t like however was that it was a bit too much of a pat on the back, almost prepping you that this was a fantastic exhibition because of all the places it had been. Like a much hyped movie it was bound to leave me underwhelmed by the art.

Lego Dinosaur Full Sized

And underwhelmed I was. The problem in a nutshell was Logo Land. Its not that the sculptures lacked creativity or imagination its that I could see a massive corporation creating the same thing in a planning meeting for a childrens theme park. Giant pencil drawing a line… tick, recreation of a classic sculpture… tick, dinosaur skeleton… tick. The ones I got the most joy out of were where the lego bricks had been used to create a pointalist version of a couple of my favorite paintings (The Scream, Starry Night). But again, this was just something that appealed to me rather than what I consider to be a great work of art.

The families at the exhibition however clearly had a different opinion. The kids were going nuts for the lego sculptures, they were sparking off something that I couldn’t appreciate. Maybe this was the cheaper version of going to Lego Land, one where the kids would not be distracted by sugar or rides. They saw art that was within their reach, here were sculptures in an exhibition that they had a chance of creating at home.

The Art of the Brick Human Condition

The closest the Art of the Brick came to art I could appreciate was in the Human Condition section where the sculpture on the promo materials was located. In these the fact that they were created out of lego added to the sculpture; showing suffering, redemption or love out of bricks somehow felt like an ironic take on our modern cookie cutter lives.

The Art of the Brick might just be the perfect compromise for families. The children will go nuts to be able to see something they play with elevated on an artistic pedestal. The adults will at least get to walk round an art gallery without wining disinterested children asking when they can get a babychino. And adults might even find a couple of sculptures that they love.

Brick Bay cafe

I personally think Brick Bay is one of the coolest spots in Kiwi land. It is a vineyard just a little further along the road from Matakana, and not only is it a good spot to drink a few glasses and try one if their cheese boards but it also has a very cool art walk. Now, last time I was up there was for my 22nd birthday – and shall we say things got a little bit entertaining.

After a strenuous (not strenuous in the slightest) walk around the art trail, I may or may not have had a few too many glasses of rosé. Then on our way back home I may or may not have had the brilliant idea to stop and empty my bank account by buying myself a laptop… for my birthday you know. After the nice man in the shop telling me about dual core and ram I squealed ‘that ones pretty!’.  So in a way this blog post has Brick Bay to thank, because its being written on that pretty laptop.

Sheep invading the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail

Aside from the awesome technology after effect, Brick Bay is more than worth a visit for the sculpture walk alone (even when the sheep decide to invade!). Set along a winding trail that goes through forest and fields, art is just dotted along waiting to be discovered. And some of them did take a bit of effort to discover. While my fellow winos walked past the small metal plaques, I stopped to take a gander and turns out it was actually Commemorative Plaques 1-4 by Dane Mitchell. I found them both endlessly entertaining and hopelessly poignant.

Commemorative Plaques 1-4 by Dane Mitchell

Some of the art was seriously creepy, soft whispering voices that call to you as you cross a bridge in the forest. While others were just perfectly, perfectly placed. I think that if you went and purchased Live Wire by Mary-Louise Browne, or Golden Bough by Jim Wheeler (most of the art is for sale) you might need to buy the entire forest to put them in. Although dare I say, Incendiary Artwork by David McCracken would look fabulous pretty much anywhere (hint hint… Christmas is coming and I have an incendiary shaped hole in my life!).

Live Wire by Mary-Louise Browne

Golden Bough by Jim Wheeler

Incendiary Artwork by David McCracken

Then after a final climb up among the kauri trees (well worth it, even if the sign ominously warns about ‘many’ steps), we headed back down to the real world to catch up over wine and cheese. If you do head up to Brick Bay keep driving up a little further and go to the actual Brick Bay that the vineyard if named after. Not a person in sight and nothing but you and the waves, heaven.

Brick Bay

Superman Peter Gibson Smith

My trip to New Zealand wasn’t all about cafes*, I also went to the Wallace Collection. The Wallace collection is a private collection by Sir James Wallace that has been put on display in the beautiful surroundings of the Pah Homestead. Wallace has so far managed to accumulate over 5000 works of art , so it is an incredible gift that they are now available for the public to view. Europe and America might be more familiar with this type of large scale public donation, but for Kiwi Land it is sadly quite rare.

Now here is where the runawaykiwi awkwardness shines through. When I rocked up to the Wallace Collection the car park seemed slightly empty. And then when I walked through the doors I was greeted with the bird like cacophony of 30 high society ladies drinking champagne. Nothing will stop me when there is the smell of art in the air, so I used my most advanced secret spy manoeuvres to get through the group and start my gallery haunting.

So turns out that the gallery is closed on Mondays and this group of chattering grandmothers had actually hired it out for a private function. Oops.

But when in Rome. I hussled through, one room ahead of them at all times and managed to get my art fill before running the hell out of there before I got told off or my cheeked pinched. My favourite couple of pieces this visit (the collection is rotated regularly so you never see the same thing twice) were the massive Superman head at the top of the staircase and the stunning charcoal drawings.

Ringmaster by Lorene Taurerewa

Superman by Peter Gibson Smith looked just like a fallen Greek statue that had somehow found its way to Auckland. Even if it was made out of the slightly less expensive version of marble (paper and wax), it had serious impact and just had a really pleasing and touchable form to it (don’t worry, I may be a rule breaker but I don’t touch art!). The charcoal drawings were a complete surprise, I haven’t actually seen any in that material that were not only appealing but also looked finished. But these large scale creepy circus drawings by Lorene Taurerewa were frighteningly perfect and intriguing… I am totally open to one as a Christmas present from any of my millionaire suitors.

If you are in the neighborhood I would recommend swinging by the Wallace Collection. When it is not inhabited by champagne swigging grannies it is a really nonthreatening way to view contemporary art, hell you can just go for the architecture and surrounding park if you really want to. I am endlessly grateful that this gallery is now part of the Auckland art scene, thanks Mr Wallace.

*complete lie! It was totally all about cafes and will be back to cafe adventures tomorrow!

Mona Lisa

One of my main dreams about going back to Paris was to spend more time at the Louvre. I had been a couple of times before and had done the mad dash just to see the highlights. This time I wanted to take my time and breath it all in, I wanted to enjoy and appreciate the art not just see it, and most of all I wanted to discover some of the hidden gems that I had missed before.

Turns out this dream was an unachievable nightmare.

With the amount of people in the Louvre there is no way I could even start to appreciate the art. I was jostled, pushed, barked at and that wasn’t even in front of anything famous.  So here is what a visit that was meant to be the highlight of my trip actually looked like:

Tourists at the Louvre

The only good thing about the visit was that it made me think about why we all go and take pictures  of the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and the statue of Cupid and Psyche. Most of the people crowding in front of these beauties will have never studied art, hell they may have never been to a gallery before. They are in the Louvre because it is their first time in Paris and its just what you do.

They have two hours off before they have to get back on the bus and so they visit the art landmarks as set out by the thousands of visitors before them. But why oh why do they ignore all the other art on the walls in favour of the famous ones?

My theory is that is grounds the participant in history just for a moment. There is too much art for the casual viewer to understand or enjoy, but they want for a moment for time to freeze and to be linked to this ancient painty history. So they go to the Mona Lisa and take a picture; and in that moment they are linked in a way that is enough to satisfy them.

Cupid and Psyche tourists

So I guess in that they Louvre satisfies a need. It is perfect for the visitor with two hours to spare who just wants to see some famous stuff. But woe betide anyone who actually wants to enjoy any of the other art on the walls because you will have the history seekers to contend with.

Not a fun time.