Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Shopping In York

Good Lord, can someone roll me to the nearest gym please, I'm fit to burst. The festive over-indulgence has already taken it's toll. Forget starting afresh in the new year, it will be nothing but salad for me tomorrow I think.

It's hard to believe I've been away from New York for 9-days already. Time flies when you are laying around watching festive television and scoffing mince pies eh. I've really been a bit of a lazy arse since I've been up at my parents' place in Yorkshire, but starting tomorrow I am hoping to actually use one of the 4 fitness DVDs I brought with me. Yes FOUR, highly optimistic of me eh given I haven't so much as cracked the box on a single one of them.

Anyway no visit home would be complete without a trip into York, which is where my mother, nephew and I went on Thursday last week to do a bit of last minute Christmas shopping.

York is a walled city in the north of England, about 210 miles from London, founded by the Romans in 71AD or thereabouts as the legionary fortress of Eboracum. The city sits at the meeting point of the Foss and Ouse rivers and was a centre of world importance with the Emperor Septimius Severus governing the Roman Empire from the city between 208 and his death in 211 AD, however by 400AD the city lay abandoned owing to frequent flooding, a problem the city still deals with today as can be seen in this photo via the BBC.

The river Ouse could not be more aptly named since ooze it certainly does after heavy rainfall. Do you see what I did there? Ghosts of Roman soldiers are still said to haunt the Treasurers House in Minster Yard.

On November 1st, 866AD York, as it is now known, but Jorvik as it came to be known at the time, was captured by the Vikings when a huge armada of Danish pirates, sailed up the Ouse and seized Eorforwick - as it was then known - under the leadership of Ivar the Boneless - love the monicker. Apparently Ivar was known for his gangling frame - and his brothers Halfdan Ragnarsson (Halfdene) and Ubbe Ragnarsson (Hubba).

In 876 the Vikings made York their capital. The conquest lasted until 954 when the last Viking ruler, the equally colourfully monikered Eric Bloodaxe, the deposed King of Norway, was driven out by the English King Eadred. In between the Vikings had doubled the size of the town and turned it into one of the greatest trading ports in Northern Europe.
Sadly whenever I meet new people in New York they always ask me which part of London I am from. Eyeroll. Seriously that's like asking your average American which part of New York they're from. The last time I looked the UK has a population of almost 62-million while London has a population of just over 7.5-million. Imagine that, a whole 54.5-million Brits do not live in London. Gasp!!

Sarcasm aside I am amused by the reaction I receive from New Yorkers when I start to list cities they may have heard of that are close to where I am from: Wakefield is probably the closest, then Leeds - "oh yes, the who live from Leeds" is the reaction I get from people of a certain age - and finally York, which is some 30 miles north east of where I grew up.

"York???" they always respond completely puzzled, "what a weird name."

"Um...yes York, you know, like New York, but without the 'new' bit. York is the city that this city, NEW YORK, is named after. York!!"


I give up!!

Among other things York is well known for its Minster, built in 1154 AD and is one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe alongside Cologne Cathedral in Germany and also The Shambles, a historic street lined with timber framed buildings dating as far back as the Fourteenth Century and voted the most picturesque street in Britain in 2010.

It was freezing when we drove up the A1 to York on Thursday, cold enough for the Foss river to have developed a layer of ice.

Queuing up to shop for 'fine fodder' at The Hairy Fig, a fabulous delicatessen located at 39 Fossgate.

Many of the street names in York end with gate - Coppergate, Jubbergate, Stonegate etc etc - which is the Viking word for street - I'm not entirely sure what a 'jubber' is - and is further evidence of York as a Viking settlement, however I'd never in my life - and I've been visiting York for some 30-some years now - come across Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate until this visit and I had my suspicions that it was a made up name, but apparently not. According to this 49 second BBC video it was where people were punished by being whipped.

Looking along Low Petersgate from Kings Square. York Minster can be seen in the background and in the foreground there are remnants of the UK's recent snowfall.

For me no visit to York would be complete without a hot mocha - not very British I know - and a Fat Rascal at the renowned Betty's Tea Rooms on St Helen's Square. Mmmmmmmmm!!!!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Shape up Britain!!!

Good Lord it's travel chaos in England at the moment. I was really lucky to fly in when I did, arriving at Heathrow at 9.30am on Friday morning, since as of Friday night the vast majority of flights out were cancelled and people have been sleeping overnight in the terminals. The Eurostar train service from St Pancras has also been affected with people waiting in freezing conditions for trains delayed for up to 8hours. People are understandably miserable!!

Tomorrow I am supposed to take the train north to Yorkshire to be with my family for the festive season, but I've just learned that severe damage to overhead power lines as a result of temperatures dropping to -15C has caused 'havoc' on the East Coast train line with 100s of passengers stuck on trains and no service north of Peterborough. Ugh!!

Chances are Miles and B may well have a guest for Christmas this year :-)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Checking Out The Jelly Babies

Much as I love lounging around Miles' flat drinking copious cups of tea while watching cinematic gems such as Kindergarten Cop and the snow flurries outside I feel like I am missing an opportunity to see how the city's changed since I was here last year and should be out and about exploring, so earlier today Miles and I forced ourselves to go out and took a walk up Kensington High Street, through Hyde Park and along Bayswater Rd to see the Jelly Baby sculpture at Marble Arch at the top end of Oxford St.

On the way we walked through the Kensington Palace Gardens at the west side of Hyde Park and designed by Henry Wise and Charles Bridgeman. The Round Pond at was almost completely frozen over except for a small area at one side where the swans paddled and pigeons pottered about seemingly unconcerned with the cold, unlike myself who was absolutely freezing. Seriously my hands were so cold inside my thick shearling gloves that I thought they were in danger of falling off. I need some of those gel hand warmer sachet things that you pop in the microwave to heat and then inside your gloves. I wonder where I can get some of those.

We continued along the carriage way past the Italian Gardens stand at the northwestern end of the Serpentine Lake. Miles took a great photo of this building with all the pigeons you can see squatting on the roof suddenly flew off in our direction. I'll post it if I remember to get it from him, it's a great shot, he was very proud.

Picturesque trees along Bayswater Road, or the A40 as it's less romantically known

Ta da Jelly Babies!!!

The details are vague, but as far as I can tell, in the run up to the 2012 olympics, Westminster Council is hosting the City Of Sculpture Festival from....well I am not sure, there are very few details online, which I feel is a huge mistake if it's actually happening now, because if the festival is up and running I would have loved to see a map of all the participating exhibits so I could walk around and check them out, but can I find one, no!! However what I definitely do know is that Mauro Perucchetti's Jelly Baby family is part of the shennanigans. Apparently Lorenzo Quinn's Vroom Vroom will also be part of the festival and will be exhibited along Park Lane somewhere, although as far as I can tell from the Halcyon Gallery website it's currently installed in Valencia.

Fun though the jelly babies are I thought this 30 feet high 6-tonne bronze horse head sculpture - Horse At Water I believe it's called - by Nic Fiddian-Green, which is directly across the street was absolutely stunning and definitely worth the walk in the freezing cold.

Christmas Tree, Berkeley Square, London

Is there an actual tree under all those lights do you think?

Light heavy though this tree is, I loved the way it lit up quiet Berkeley (pronounced Bark-lay in English) Square in ritzy Mayfair, a few blocks away from the absolute chaos of the Christmas shoppers on Oxford St.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A Good Day!!

So according to the horoscopes read out on Z100 on Thursday morning my day - for Gemini - was supposedly a 10!!

A ten!! Hurrah!! I never get a 10!! It's usually a 4 or a 5, so a 10 is marvellous news. Not that I believe all that guff of course :-)

To be honest the day felt like anything but a 10, I was completely exhausted after a fitful night worrying about packing for my trip home. I flew to the UK for the Christmas break on Thursday night and while I slept soundly from 11.30pm-3.30am on Wednesday after 3.30pm I kept waking up with a start remembering something I'd forgotten to pack.

"I'll pack it in the morning," said the half of my conscience that knew I needed a good night's sleep
"You'll get up and pack it now or you'll forget" said the other half of my conscience that likes to channel my mother
"Okay, okay, stop nagging, I'll do it now for God's sake!!"

And that was my beauty sleep shot for the night, because once I got up to retrieve the one item I'd forgotten about the floodgates opened and I couldn't manage to quiet my mind from worrying about whether I'd packed everything I needed, so I was up and down every 30-45 minutes or so retrieving various plug adaptors or going out of my tiny sleep deprived mind for 10minutes looking for my passport and green-card, which of course turned out to be under my nose all along, on the dining table where I'd put it with a pile of important documents - flight booking references and the like - that I needed to remember to take with me. I'd go back to bed in between and try and will myself back to sleep using various relaxation techniques, but my brain just wouldn't co-operate and come 5am I gave up and got ready for my last day of work in 2010!!! The last day in work for the year, bliss, I guess that's a good enough reason the day is a 10, although when I heard my day would be a 10, I was kind of hoping to run across the Creative Cutie* one last time in the cafeteria. Sadly it was not to be, although in hindsight I suppose it's a plus that I didn't, because I looked a fright after my lack of sleep. I did make an effort with my hair and make-up, but what with the dark circles under my eyes and the strange little bumps** on my forehead that are not entirely contributing to my allure, the hair and make up was kind of a lipstick on a pig situation if I am honest.

I did have a good celeb spot at the airport, Jake Gyllenhaal being escorted through the terminal by an airline employee. He passed within about 2 feet of me and when our eyes met he gave me a worried look and ducked his head. Yeah, don't worry Jakey, I'm not about to run up and ask for an autograph or a photo, I'm a nonchalant New Yorker for goodness sake, although perhaps experience of supposedly nonchalant New Yorkers have taught him we are often anything but, because when I texted two friends to inform them of the sighting they both responded excitedly "JAKE GYLLENHAAL, he's on my list." Well look out ladies of New York, because he's in the area and let me tell you he looks just as cute in real life as he does on the telly!!

Unfortunately my airline connections couldn't come through on an upgrade to business class on my overnight flight to London - oooh the bliss of a fully flat bed after my sleepless night - but at least I was able to be moved
from my seat in the middle to an aisle seat, so that's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick eh!! Sitting in seat 44D pre-take-off I kept hoping that one of the flight attendants would come hurrying over and say "I'm sorry madam, there's been a terrible mistake" and whisk me off to business class, but sadly that wasn't meant to be and I was stuck in economy a row in front of the red-headed Felix and his ill-behaved siblings, however since the middle two seats of the central row of 4 were unoccupied myself and my row buddy in 44G did get to enjoy the benefit of the old 'Croydon upgrade' and I managed a smidgen of sleep.

We landed in London right on time and I was at Miles' place come 11.30am and enjoying a disco nap an hour later. I later learned that bad weather had forced the cancellation of many flights into Heathrow and the airport was chaos, so I was lucky to have slipped into the UK when I did. I guess the day was a 10 after all.

It's snowing quite heavily today which has scuppered my plans to head down to Kent to visit a friend as the trains are up the spout, so I am enjoying cosying up on the sofa at Miles' place, drinking copious cups of tea - I usually only drink 2 cups of tea a day in New York, but as soon as I step foot on UK soil I drink hot milky tea on the hour every hour. There's something about being in the mother country which turns me into a total tea-face.

Snow on Miles' balcony

*Now that the paranoia over him staring at me has abated I am starting to see his appeal more and more which is just typical now that he is no longer showing any interest. Men!! Bad timing is the story of my life. Unfortunately there aren't really any opportunities to reverse that situation since our work lives don't intersect at all. In my line of the advertising business it's rare that I encounter creatives of his ilk, art directors that focus on above the line channels. Oh well!!

**I am optimistically assuming the bumps are as a result of an allergic reaction to the new hat I have been wearing, since I didn't have them pre-hat, but there's a nagging little voice in the back of my head that says 'are you SURE its not bed bugs in your hat?'.

Raging paranoia??

Perhaps, but there's nary a day goes by in New York without some infestation scare. It's gotten so bad that I am afraid to go to the cinema as there have been numerous reports of outbreaks at the larger complexes.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Tis The Silly Season!!

Brrr!!! Its cold in New York today my darlings, the temperature indicator on NY1 News declared it to be 22F (-6C) when I left the apartment at 6.45am this morning, although with wind chill it apparently feels like 7F (-14C), with scattered snow showers and 20mph winds. Lovely!! It’s cold enough to slap the hangover right out of you I'll tell you that for nothing. It took me a good 20minutes before I could feel my face when I arrived in the office after the 10minute walk from the subway.

Soooo it was the company Christmas, sorry Holiday, party last night and oooh dear, I am most definitely feeling less than brilliant this morning - if memory serves I do believe I congratulated the CEO for a marvellous party as I gathered my belongings from the coat check last night. Gulp, I REALLY hope that’s all I said, especially with Agency layoffs rumoured in January - although today's haggardness is less about the amount of wine consumed (lots) and more to do with the fact that I woke up at 4.45am this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. Ugh!! This is happening to me more and more when I drink which is definitely one good reason to give up the booze. I feel quite bright and breezy now, but come 11am I’ll probably crash. Anyway since some eejit had scheduled an 8am call with China this morning – seriously, the day after the Christmas party??? C’mon now people!! – I gave up on trying to go back to sleep and got dressed for work. Bizarrely there were already two other people in the office when I arrived at 7.30am, which most definitely wasn’t the case after last week’s client team party – a Mad Men themed cocktail party at the Madison Club Lounge at the Roosevelt Hotel, good Lord they were large martinis – when there wasn’t a soul across our side of the floor until about 9.30am - there's usually something to the tune of 150 people - and I had one of those moments where I thought ‘is it Saturday?’

The creative cutie was in attendance last night, so I am glad to see he is still gainfully employed by the agency. I was kind of hoping that fortified by alcohol perhaps our eyes would meet across the bar and I’d get a Christmas snog under the mistletoe, but sadly that wasn’t meant to be. In fact I didn’t even merit so much as a second glance. Pah!! Long gone are the days when he would stare at me longingly at me from the ping pong table.

Cold creative cutie, cold!!!


Well never mind, I hear that Ryan Reynolds is back on the market.

Friday, 3 December 2010

...And here I am worrying about my muffintop

I heard about this story on the radio this morning. Here's the report from Oklahoma's Can you imagine being so large that you can shoplift jeans and FOUR PAIRS OF BOOTS in your fat folds? Unbelievable!!
Police in Edmond say two women used their belly fat to hide more than 26-hundred dollars worth of merchandise.

It happened in Edmond, where police arrested 28-year-old Ailene Brown and 37-year-old Shmeco Thomas after loss prevention officers at TJ Maxx allegedly discovered the crime.

"These two individuals were actually concealing them in areas of their body where excess skin was -- under neath their chest area, up around the armpits and things of that nature. They were concealing large items."

Some of those items included a wallet and gloves as well as three pairs of jeans and four pairs of boots!

Officers say they also found a knife in Brown's purse. They believe she was using it to cut the security tags off items.

The duo was arrested for shoplifting and felony charges are expected to be filed against them.
Hells bells!!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Oh the glamour!!

I had an almost celeb spot this morning. As I was walking into work at 7.30am I was stopped from crossing 70th street for a minute for filming of...wait for it, wait for it....Gossip Girl. I know, it's hardly a Hollywood great is it, but I was quite entertained at the prospect of seeing Chuck Bass and Blake Lively.

I know something was going down when I spotted a total film worker hottie languishing by the craft services truck outside of the Christian Dior store on Madison Avenue. The actual filming was taking place on 70th st between 5th and Madison and a Film Location Gopher asked me if I'd mind waiting a minute, so I took the opportunity to ask what was going on. I had to laugh when the FLG called to an older hirsute gentleman - who was trying to sneak across the street by walking around the outside of the parked cars - to ask if he'd mind waiting a moment and in response the man turned and gave FLG the finger.

"Nice," said FLG, "he's giving me the finger while he's on his way to synagogue."


I smiled sympathetically, but to be honest I also understood the perspective of Synagogue bloke. It sounds exciting to come across a film shoot, but it happens so damn often in New York that the novelty quickly wears off and it becomes annoying when you can't go about your daily business, they filmed a short scene from the Hugh Grant/Sandra Bullock movie Two Weeks' Notice on my block a few years back and for that teensy 5-minute scene they cluttered up the street for almost a week. At least Synagogue man didn't go off on one like this guy.

Chuck Bass knows how to smolder ladies. What is he, like 12-years old?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Chelsea Gallery Tour - December 2010

It's been a while since I've done a gallery tour and even longer since I've been inspired to post about one. I was going so regularly I was getting a little bored of them to be honest. I felt like I was just repeating the same things over and over again, but I also felt like getting out and about yesterday, so I left my apartment at 11.30am and walked across the park and down 9th avenue to join Rafael Risemberg at the meeting point on west 26th street for his 1pm Chelsea gallery tour.

First on the tour was an exhibit by the artist Peter Campus at the Cristin Tierney gallery on west 29th street. I'll fess up, I'd never heard of Mr. Campus before, but apparently he is an artist of considerable renown, a video art pioneer.

Peter Campus' current exhibit 'Calling For Shantih' consists of seven video installations of his local Hampton Bay landscapes and he has apparently patented the technique used for these pieces which are difficult to convey in a photo, especially as the gallery lighting made it impossible to get a decent photo on my tiny point and shoot which didn't have some sort of reflection marring it, however the gallery website has this infinitely better photo of one of the pieces.

Image courtesy of Cristin Tierney

Mr Campus begins by recording a landscape with a camcorder for about 6-9mins each, choosing a windy day to get some movement, and then manipulates the video to create the 'painting' above. Speakers are positioned on the floor beneath each piece playing the sound of the wind.

You can't tell from a still photo, but the pixels flutter giving the impression of movement. The pieces are apparently inspired by the work of post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne and sell for $30,000 each which Rafael thought was a relative bargain given the renown of the artist. He indicated that the fact that the gallery is selling 6 of each piece may be the reason for the 'low price'*. The exhibit closes on the 18th December 2010.

At the James Cohan Gallery is Distillation, the most recent work by 44year old American artist, Roxy Paine, whose career is apparently 'skyrocketing'. Last year his piece, Maelstrom, was the rooftop installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The video below shows Mr Paine and friends installing Maelstrom on the roof of The Met. The artist is the cute one with the humungous lambchops.

Distillation continues the artist's Dendroid series, which also includes Maelstrom, and is a single piece which begins at the front of the gallery and snakes back into the offices.

Like Maelstrom, Distillation is tree like, but also includes parts reminiscent of the human body - blood vessels, organs and the like. The gallery press release states...
"Paine's extensive body of work explores collisions between the natural world and the industrial. Distillation is an amalgam of structures that refer to vascular, neural, taxonomic, arboreal, mycological and industrial systems. The sculpture includes elements such as valves and flanges from petro chemical plants, tanks used for food processing, and glass vessels from the pharmaceutical industry. These seemingly standardized elements coexist with constructed parts such as blood vessels, neurons, hallucinogenic fungus, mycelium, bacterial formations, tree branches, a pair of kidneys, and a black box—all of these elements have varying levels of finish, from polished to raw steel to the introduction of paint."
The kidneys!! Ta-dah!!

The installation was built in Mr Paine's barn at his home in the catskills with 6 assistants. The gallery refused to divulge the price, except to say that it's well over $1million, so if you have a bit of loose pocket change and a few acres of space in need of decor then hot foot it over to the James Cohan gallery and it can be yours. The shape of the installation will conform to the space it eventually calls home.

The gallery also had a couple of other works by Mr Paine, like this piece made from plaster and resin. Realistic isn't it?

Even close up it's hard to tell it's not real.

And these poisonous fungi made of steel - yup, steel - from the artist's Replicant series. The exhibit closes on December 11th.

Lori Nix's The City is currently showing at ClampArt on W 25th St.

Lori Nix is a New York based photographer who makes these beautifully intricate table top sized models and then photographs the results. According to this 2007 interview with the artist the models take anywhere from 3-months to 2-years to complete and apparently once she is done with a model she destroys it. Eeek!! That seems like such a shame, but it is NYC after all and space is at a premium.

The City depicts a city - duh, you don't say - following a cataclysmic event when human life no longer remains - dead or fled I'm not sure. I like the slightly sinister tone of her work which reminds me a little bit of the snow globes created and photographed by the artists Paloma Munoz & Walter Martin.

The models must be unbelievable. It would be great if they had at least one in the gallery alongside the resulting photo. Apparently Lori and her girlfriend work on the models when they get home from work in the evenings and on weekends. Rafael estimated that about two thirds of the artists showing in Chelsea also have day jobs, and there I was thinking artists had made it and were working at their craft full time if they were showing in Chelsea.

One artist that most certainly doesn't have a day job is Anselm Keifer whose most recent work is showing at the Gagosian Gallery on West 24th St.

Anselm Keifer is a German artist born in the last year of World War 2 to a father who was a Nazi soldier. His work calls attention to Germany's past and doesn't shy away from depicting controversial historical events, especially the human cost of World War 2.

The focal point of the Gagosian exhibit, titled Next Year In Jerusalem and the artist's first in New York since 2002, is a large steel container inside which hang 76 large scale photos of the artist as an art student in 1969 in which he makes a Nazi salute in front of European sites of historical significance while wearing his father's old uniform. The container doors are open both sides - which some visitors mistakenly took as an invitation to walk through the container, although they were quickly stopped by the numerous security guards - to show the hanging photos.

Surrounding the steel container are a number glass and steel vitrines inside which are what appear to be various items dating back to WWII, although they're not, they're just made to look that way.

My favourite piece - if favourite is the right word for an exhibit like this - is the white plaster wedding dress punctured by shards of glass topped with numbered glass disks to represent Kabbala markers of spiritual presence.

And this piece representing Jacob's Ladder to heaven.

You can find the NY Times review of the exhibit here. As sombre as it is I highly recommend seeing it. The work is very powerful when you see all the pieces together, however they will be sold as separate pieces so chances are this is the only opportunity to see them as a single collection. The exhibit closes December 18th.

Phew. By contrast the next exhibit at the Yancey Richardson Gallery, Lost In My Life by Rachel Perry Welty, was entirely more playful, although still with a serious message concerning consumerism. The artist photographs herself camouflaged among leftover consumer materials: fruit stickers, bread tags, twist ties, price stickers, cereal boxes, foil and egg cartons

This is the artist camouflaged by twist ties.

By fruit stickers...

A close up of the fruit stickers...

And by pricing stickers...

The photographs are $7,000 each and with over half of them sold already you had better get a wriggle on if you are looking for that perfect gift for the art appreciator in your life.

Next up was Brice Marden's Letters which is exhibited at the Matthew Marks Gallery. Brice Marsden is apparently one of the world's most famous living abstract painters - psst, I've never heard of him - who was the subject of a MoMA retrospective in 2006.

Rafael prefaced this exhibit by saying that Mr Marden's work is 'an acquired taste'. I can see what he means. They are very nice, but I can see how people might take one look and think "they're just squiggles, my 5 year old could do that."

Apparently understanding of his paintings are greatly aided by first seeing the drawings. In this case the paintings are abstracted versions of Chinese letters per the drawing below. It is not about the words, but the visual aspect of

Now if you were gagging to snap up a little something from Mr Marsden's latest collection for a high 6-figure sum well I'm afraid you've missed the boat since all the pieces sold as he was creating them - sight unseen.

Did you know that the galleries - as agents of their artists - get 50% of any sale? I didn't realise it was that high. I'd assumed the 15% per Hollywood Agents, but apparently not. The high percentage is due to the high overheads that galleries have to account for such as the space and the staff.

Last on our tour was Nigerian artist Odili Donald Odita whose exhibit, Body & Space, was showing at the Jack Shainman Gallery.

In the words of the artist...
The ideas behind Body & Space came to me in 1999 in the middle of my own aesthetic investigation on the term, ‘Black.’ Since that time, I have wanted to move beyond what I found to be the abstract nature of black, and find a space that could be more real, and more specific in the many implications and directions created through this term. I eventually found my way through Color. For myself, color is the way to become specific about black, i.e., black as skin, as a social construct, and as real experience.

Each piece is priced in the range of $26,000 to $35,000.

All the above exhibits are open until at least December 18th, with the exception of Roxy Paine at James Cohan which closes December 11th, so if you are looking to avoid the consumer throngs doing their holiday shopping you could do worse than head over to Chelsea.

*Bargain, I'll take 3!!