Last Tuesday I shot off to London at the crack of dawn with my friend Shami. We had big plans and a lot to fit into a day. Firstly we were going to see the Alexander McQueen retrospective, A Savage Beauty at the V&A. Then we were going to eat an amazing lunch. Then we were going to see the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition at the RA in Piccadilly. Then there was bound to be a bit of consumer therapy and more eating to follow.
Regular readers will know that I have already been to see the McQueen exhibition. I have been dying to go back, and Shami wanting to see it was the perfect excuse for me to flex my membership card once again.
The night before we went I began to wonder if it was quite as good as I remembered. I idly reflected on whether I would be bored.
I need not have worried. It was as good. I was not bored. In fact it was perhaps even better, as I managed to see things I had missed the first time around (it is a massive sensory overload, particularly when you enter the Cabinet of Curiosities), and really spend time marvelling at the sheer technical skill of the tailoring.
It was nice to go with Shami and get someone else’s perspective on things too. We agreed that we particularly loved the fact that the shows were all curated to a narrative, and each outfit was also put together in the same way to weave stories within stories.
The exhibition is in its final few weeks and the V&A are doing some round the clock opening hours for it if you want to go. I recommend it.
After we’d spent over an hour marvelling, we decided to hop to another area of the museum and take a look at the shoe exhibition, ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’. I am quite partial to a glamorous shoe, as you know, and the V&A had had a very glam opening for it which I followed on Twitter, like the shoe hound I am.
I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed with this exhibition. After the immersive experience of the McQueen exhibition it was perhaps unfair to judge it, but I did find it wanting.
The narrative elements and theme were weak, and at times downright poorly executed. I’ve seen quite a lot of the shoes before, so there was no wow factor and no real sense of coherent curating here. I found it irritating that the Chinese slippers of the foot binding era made up so much of the exhibition for example. There wasn’t enough variety and the way the shoes were displayed was very ordinary and blah.
It didn’t help that the show had been sponsored by Clarks and Agent Provocateur, who make uneasy bedfellows in all senses.
We exited without further ado and lunched outside in the blazing sunshine at Comptoir Libanais near South Kensington tube station. It’s one of a chain of Lebanese restaurants, and I’ve eaten there before. The fresh juices and lemonades are excellent. The mezze are generous and tasty, and the staff are friendly. The only disappointment was that we waited rather a long time for our food, which given most of it was cold and just had to be dished up was not ideal. Luckily we were happy enough sitting in the sunshine with a cold drink, chatting, and to be fair, they were very busy. The other disappointment was the fattoush, a salad which I’ve had before in a Lebanese restaurant on Edgware road, and which I loved. Here it was small, rather uninspiring and for £5.25 a bit of a rip off.
Having said all that, we had a long, lazy lunch and were pretty satisfied with what we had. I’d definitely eat there again, just not the fattoush.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the RA summer exhibition in Piccadilly. There were so many things to see I can’t tell you half of them. I nearly succumbed to about twelve things but resisted temptation. I loved the Tracey Emin hare lithograph. I fell head over heels in love with an original oil painting of back gardens between London terraces. I lusted after amazing woodcuts.
I also boggled at spectacularly ugly ceramics and a particularly nasty sculpture of what looked like a badly stacked log pile, out of which I confidently expected a tribe of woodlice to be evicted at any moment.
It’s a mixed bag, the RA Summer Exhibition, but that’s part of what makes it so marvellous.
A splendid day.