The Occasional Tales of Ailsa B du Bois

From Ballarat to the world beyond…

  • The Author

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1 other follower

Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

The Palace, an Epicurean Market & the Thyssen

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on June 7, 2009

Spent our last day in Madrid gazing, with dropped jaws, at the extraordinary opulence of the Palacio Real, built for Joseph Bonaparte (Napolean’s bro) several hundred years ago.  It really defies desciption, as it is just so over the top.  The porcelein room is unbelievable, as is the throne room, and the likely value of the bulding and contents is completely beyond my comprehension.  Suffice to say that the current Spanish royals can’t bring themselves to live there, as it is clearly way beyond acceptable levels of indulgence for these curent times  (That said I’ve just spotted a bottle of whisky worth more than my whole home here in the Hong Kong Airport, so I suppose I’m just to poor for words, really…)  In any case, the Palacio Real offers a fascinating insight into the splendour of previous dynastic tastes in interior decorating.  It’s a must see in Madrid.

After that we wandered over towards the Plaza Mayor, and chanced upon a very civilised epicurean market-place at Plaza de San Miguel, on the way there.  You can buy modest sized rations of exquisite seafood bruscetta, or huge individual oysters, and all sorts of delicious delights, with a vermouth to wash it down.  Aside from being  a sort of epicurean fast-food emporium for well-heeled folk on the run, it also doubles as a fresh food market.  After examining all the fare on offer there, we went for a sav blanc in Plaza Mayor, and thought about how much nicer it is to sit in a plaza in the sunshine in Madrid on a Friday afternoon, than it is to spend a Friday working…  As this was our last day in Spain, such thoughts naturally cross one’s mind.  Irk…  That’s right…  Life is not an endless world tour – What a shame!  So, with that disturbing realisation in mind, we scurried off to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum to view yet more art-works while we still could.  A wide ranging collection, with some great cubist works.  What was particularly striking about the Thyssen was the colour of the walls throughout the space.  They’ve used a peachy rose colour throughout, which is an odd choice but it really works.  Being owned by a female entrepreneur, Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, one might presume that this colour choice is her point of differentiation.  It does create a memorably warm ambience, albeit in a slightly claustrophobic 1980s fashion.

For our last night in Madrid, we went to Bar Labra for battered cod and vermouth, both of which were outrageously good, and then on to another tapas bar for the most succulent calamari we have ever tasted.    Madrid has won my heart – quite honestly.  We will be returning to Spain – no question about it.  Viva Espania, I say.  And now, as I peer out over the misty Hong Kong landscape from the confines of this pristine glass and steel airport transit lounge, I look forward to nothing more than a good lie down!  These long haul flights really are hideous.

Posted in Art, Travel | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Arte Reina Sofia, The Crystal Palace & Other Observations…

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on June 4, 2009

This morning we´re off to the contemporary art mecca here, the Reina Sofia, which will likely eat up several hours.  Picasso´s Guernica is the star piece there, but there´s all sorts of other jewells as well.  They have a feature exhibition on at the moment of the sculptural work of Juan Muñoz.  He makes strange and amusing people who are slightly shorter than real people, in dark grey fibreglass, and there is a whole room full of about 70 or more joyous looking Chinese men in Red China uniforms (they´re all sculptures) and you can wak in amongst them, and imagine you´re hanging out with Mao´s army during a uniquely happy moment.  Sounds simultaneously spooky and uplifting to me, so I must experience it.   After that we´re going to check out the Crystal Palace in Parque del Retiro, and then view the antique Railway Station, which is said to  be fabulously  evocative of a far grander period of train travel.   After that Laurie wants to go for a late luch back at our new favourite Huertas taverna, Maceiras, for seafood paella and cerveza.

Last night we had tapas ol fresco, as it was such a  warm night, and the food was outrageously good.  We had mussels in provencial sauce (the best I´ve ever tasted), grilled mushrooms with speck type ham & herbs, and honey glazed aubergine, which was the just the best.  We are also finding the quality of the wine here to be very good; both affordable and deliciously velvety.  I now fully understand why the Brits love Spain.  It is a sort of paradise, it seems to me.  The locals are quite irreverant and quirky, which I like.

One thing I meant to mention when in Paris is how gorgeous it is to find men playing the accordian in the plaza´s and in the metro.  It really adds an overt European charm to day-to-day life, and while I realise its a bit cheesy, I really like that they hold to these traditions.  I also really like the fact that they let real ´live´painters sit in the Prado, and create copies of their favourite master-pieces.  It´s amazing to watch these people work, and really good for the children to witness how its done.  Madrid is a really lovely life-style city.  I passed a jazz band playing ´Summer-time, and the living is easy´in the park yesterday, and I think that sums up the mood here perfectly.  Off to a photographic exhibition in Centro tonight, then for a stroll up into Chueca, the gay barrio of Madrid, with bars galore.  Window-shopping and sight-seeing is always fun.  Even from our little Juliet balcony, outside our 3rd floor hotel window, there are interesting things to see happening down below on the street.  If only we didn´t need to sleep!

Posted in Art, Autobiography, Cuisine, Culture, Travel | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Magic of Madrid: City of the Garden of Earthly Delights

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on June 3, 2009

Here in Madrid, Laurie and I have found a city that we love and claim as our type of city…  Madrid is a lovely size, with gorgeous grand green boulevards, beautiful architecture, happening lane-ways, very warm and sensual climate, and the people are so relaxed and sexy while barely being conscious of it.  The food is delicious here as well, but then we do love tapas, and especially authentic tapas, like we had today at an old socialist institution of a Galecian tapas bar.  The octopus in quality olive oil with paprika was the best thing I´ve ever tasted, and sincerely melted in your mouth.  The music everywhere we go is great too.  Just walking along the streets is such a delight, because no-one cares what you´re doing, and people are just doing their thing, it seems.  The pace of this city is just right, in our opinion.

We arrived yesterday at about 6pm, and from the minute we disembarked at the architecturally hip airport, and taxi´d into the city, we knew that we´d made the right choice in stopping off here, and that this will be a really enjoyable 4 nights.  It actually reminds us a lot of Melbourne, if you can imagine Melbourne being sultry, sexy and Spanish speaking, with Museo Jambon (Ham Museums!) every block or so.  Today we went to the Museo de Prado, and saw their lush collection of classic art, most of it from the 1400s to 1600s.  Goya, Velazquez, Rubens, Raphael, Caravaggio etcetera, and the prize for me was seeing Bosch´Garden of Earthly Delights. I feel somehow that although this complex and intricate painting was by a Dutch artist, it has found it´s home in the perfectly appropriate city for a work of this type.  We´ve seen numerous trannies, tattoo parlours, impressively clean looking street hookers, and Ramones style rockers that look like they´ve just stepped out of the Tardis, along with oh so civilised string quartets busking in the streets, homeless men asleep in door-ways with literature half read in their laps.  Tonight we´re going back into Huertas for tapas then on to a jazz bar.  We´d love to see flamenco but the price is steep, so we´ll do that next time we visit Spain (yes, always planning…).  We went to the tranquil Real Jardin Botanica today, and also saw a punkie girl photo exhibition. All very interesting.

Tomorrow, or Friday, we´re off to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Palace, and I´m running out of Euro coins now, so this blog is about to end abrubtly!

Posted in Art, Autobiography, Cuisine, Culture, Travel | Leave a Comment »

Lower East Side Again, the MOMA & the MET

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on May 20, 2009

On Sunday, we ventured back to the Lower East Side by subway, to see The Tenement Museum and did a fascinating 90 minute walking tour, learning how new immigrants lived 135 or so years ago: not pretty.  However, the tour-guide was clear, knowledgeable and had strong impact, and we learnt a lot.  The part around Orchard & Allen Streets there is quite funky, with stunning gritty heritage street-scapes, and a handfull of really cool cafés.  Walked over to the New Museum after that for “The Next Generational: The Generation Younger Than Jesus.”  The space is amazing, and the purpose of the gallery is to be applauded for this particular exhibition – some interesting pieces, but mostly, I didn’t see much that was ‘new’. Its like yes, I get it: adolescent and early adult-hood angst, anomie and so on… same old stuff.  Nothing new about it at all.  But, still, its kind of sweet to see that the junior art world is still alive with Toyah Wilcox, Siouxie Sioux, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman and Warhol style creativity.   But it is simply not new!

On Monday we went to MOMA expecting it to be good.  We were excited and inspired by the first two floors (working down from the top), and feeling really energised by what we saw, but then it just kept going, and going, and it began to blow our minds to sawdust.  We have never, ever seen such a comprehensive collection of modern art in one gallery.  It was really too much, a complete over-load, but oh, what a gallery.  All the greats, and loads more to boot.  We would highly recommend the MOMA – it is unquestionqbly the best collection we have ever witnessed.

On Tuesday, our last day in NYC we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: NY’s pride and joy (justifiably) housing the largest and most comprehensive collection of all genres of art, in the English speaking world.  Sensibly, I elected just 3 wings to inspect: Modern, American and Medieval.  The Modern wing contained select Warhol, Pollack, Johns and so on.  This is an enormously gracefull building, with a stunning roof-top terrace with sensational views of Central Park, and a sprawling silver installation across the top.  Fabulous!

Posted in Art, Autobiography, Travel | Leave a Comment »

The Guggenheim, The Whitney & Hell’s Kitchen

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on May 17, 2009

What a lovely day we had – grabbed a cab (as they are very cheap here) to the Solomon Guggenheim (an art gallery to die for) and saw a bit of the permanent collection, which was out-standing.  However, what was really breath-taking was the space itself of course.  This is the iconic, bright white, circular 1959 gallery designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (one of my most favourite modernist achitects’, and the man who most inspired Australia’s Harry Seidler).  Incredibly, we lucked in on the 50 year anniversary retrospective of Wrights’ work, built and unbuilt (sketches, plans, elevations, models, film, the lot!).  This was an absolute feast for an architectural freak, such as myself.  My Grand-father was a builder, and so as a 7 year old I spent many a day studying 1960s architectural magazines, which were all highly modernist and ‘futuristic’ at the time.  I even attempted my own innovative triangular floor-plans, but nothing like Wright’s!  His is the genius; no question!  Following a glorious 3 hours at the Guggenheim, we lunched in the cafe there, on tuna and caper brioche, which was mouth-watering, then popped over to Central Park to have a peek at the most familiar, but still unreal, vista across the Jacquie O Reservoir to the condo’s on the Upper West Side.  We then taxi’d to The Whitney, which really knocked our socks off.  The merits of its giant box like quality only become truly apparent from the inside.  We saw some really great stuff; amazing works by several highly accomplished contemporary artists; a lot of it political in one way or another.  This gallery was a real surprise to me; much better than I was anticipating.  After 1.5 hours there, we wandered through Central Park, past the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party monument, the toy boats on the Conservatorty Water, and past the Children’s Zoo.

After a brief interlude back in our ship’s cabin like room (it’s only 3.5 x 3.5), we noticed a street fair happening outside, 10 floor’s down, so ventured out again.  Wow!  This was a lovely surprise experince, that we could never have found out about from any guide book.  We walked ultra slowly down through 9 blocks into the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, among an endless ocean of locals, enjoying roasted corn on the cob, fried onion flowers, Italian sausage, curly fries, epinada’s, caramel corn, deep fried Oreo’s and gosh only knows what else.  The whole of 8th Street looking down was populated by the multicultural colours, sights and sounds of NYC inhabitants.  There was a massive range of side-stalls with games for kids, and gold-fish for sale, and even 600 thread count Egyptian cotton bed linen for $20 (so naturally we felt compelled to buy a pack).  The whole street fair thing went for about 15 or more blocks I’d guess.  So many people.

In the evening we caught up with a woman I work with, who’s just moved to Chelsea, from Sydney, and we had a really lovely evening of cocktails and tuna sashimi, tempura oysters, chicken tepinyaki and so on.  It was great to spend time with her.  Came back to the Patio Bar here afterwards, at the Hudson, among the vined walls, and thought about how mind-blowingly wonderful this city is to visit.  We are having a spectacular time.

Posted in Art, Autobiography, Culture, Travel | Leave a Comment »