Friday, 24 February 2017

Steve Reich's Different Trains with Video at BBVA Foundation

It's been three years since I attended the concert at the Teatro Real (Madrid's Royal Theatre, the main opera venue here) of music by Steve Reich, to coincide with the BBVA Foundation's "Frontiers of Knowledge" prize-giving event. Reich was one of the recipients and the concert brought together a number of groups of the younger generation who are performing his work today.

So, I was pleased to discover that the same BBVA Foundation has staged a different kind of performance of Reich's work, namely "Different Trains." This time the Kronos Quartet recording is accompanied by a video installation by Spanish video artist Beatriz Caravaggio (website for the Different Trains installation). I was surprised at the way the careful selection of film footage from the periods covered by the piece really contributed to my understanding of the composer's intention. The material is projected onto three screens, with relatively unintrusive captions making the speech more intelligible.

Reading again the sleeve notes from the Kronos Quartet CD (from back in the late 1980s), Reich says "The piece thus represents both a documentary and musical reality, and begins a new musical direction. It is this direction that I expect will lead to a new kind of documentary music video theater in the not too distant future."

The installation is on at the palatial premises of the BBVA Foundation on the Paseo de la Castellana, just up from the Plaza de Cibeles, until 10th March. Free entry.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Opening of Exhibition of Contemporary Gold and Silverware and Jewellery

Last night I attended the opening of this exhibition at the National Museum of the Decorative Arts here in Madrid, of gold and silverware and jewellery by living craftspeople from Spain and other countries. It’s one of the fringe activities for Madrid Fashion Week which is ongoing as I write.

I was glad to see the museum engaging with the contemporary crafts community and attracting people from the fashion world who may not have been there otherwise.

Organized by the Association of Contemporary Jewellery and Goldsmithing Designers (Asociación de Diseñadores de Orfebrería y Joyería Contemporánea).

Specialist jewellery publishers Grupo Duplex, have published an article about the event in Spanish, which has some interesting pictures of some of the exhibits.

The flyer is available online in English and in Spanish (PDF).

It's open Tuesday to Saturday 9:30 to 15:00, and Sundays and holidays 10:00 to 15:00. Thursday afternoons 17:00 to 20:00. Admission Free. On until 26th March 2017. It’s on the fourth (top) floor.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Recent Acquisitions at National Museum of Decorative Arts

A few weeks ago I attended the official presentation of the new exhibition at the national Museum of Decorative Arts here in Madrid, which displays a selection  of the more than seven thousand items the museum has acquired, has received in donations, or has been assigned since the start of the millennium.Unfortunately I found it hard to follow the explanations given by the museum director and the experts, so I was glad to be able to attend this guided tour in a smaller group.

Our guide Javier explained the different mechanisms that allow objects to be acquired, such as payment in lieu of taxes, or an irrevocable offer of sale submitted to the Junta de Calificación (Board of Classification, Valuation and Export of Historical Heritage Assets). Giving in lieu of tax liabilities has declined since the economic downturn in 2008 left the Spanish government (and many others) more in need of liquidity than art objects.

There is only very limited space for display at the museum so most pieces will sadly have to join their 60000 odd brothers and sisters in the museum's different warehouses and at other museums.
One of the most notable pieces for me is the huge Ezekiel tapestry made in Flanders for the Medicis, and purchased a few years back by the Spanish government. Spectacular for it's size and even more for its remarkable state of conservation and not having suffered the distortion that so often spoils the figures, and which no restoration can cure.

Amongst the more recent items are furniture and fittings from the from the iconic Torres Blancas (white towers) apartment building seen by visitors arriving in Madrid by car from the airport. These are classic seventies design that must seem like antiques to young people today, but can serve as an inspiration to contemporary designers. There's also a prototype plastic mop-wringer bucket from the 1950s, now a design classic.

Yesterday was the first tour of the exhibition, but it is available again. I'll give the details here, although the event, like all the labelling and signage, is in Spanish. It's at 12 noon on Tuesdays and in the afternoon at 17:30 on Thursdays in January and February, booking required (telephone 91 050 57 55 from 9:30 to 14:30). Otherwise, you can just go there and explore the exhibition by yourself; it's on the first floor.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Ballet Le Corsaire at Madrid's Teatro Real

Last night we went to see this production of the ballet Le Corsaire (The Pirate) by the Wiener Staastballett. There is  more information about Le Corsaire on the Teatro Real website, including a video trailer. I enjoyed the costumes, but the set design was rather spartan, I thought. Unfortunately I found it impossible to follow the plot even though I had read a synopsis beforehand.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Visit to the Royal Tapestry Workshops in Madrid

Yesterday I visited the workshops of the Real Fábrica de Tapices (Royal Tapestry Workshops). This is quite close to where I live (behind the Atocha mainline train station) but until now I'd never been there.

The Façade of the Workshops

The workshops were founded 295 years ago by King Philip V in another area, and moved to the present site in 1888. Until 1995 it was a family-run business, but since then it has been managed by a consortium comprised of the Ministry of Culture, Madrid regional government and the city council. It has had severe financial problems for many, many years, but the workshops were saved from financial ruin a few ago by a series of commissions for restoration of existing tapestries, and creation of some new ones. One is to recreate thirty-two tapestries for the Elector’s Palace in Dresden, Germany, which were destroyed by allied bombs in 1945 (the biggest order in 250 years). Another is tor create 32 for the government of Saxony, also in Germany.

But perhaps the most notable commission has come from Palestinian businessman and collector of Arab art, Ramzi Dalloul, for whom the workshop are to transform a large drawing by Iraqi artist Dia al-Azzawi of the massacre at Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon in 1982 into a wall hanging. The original drawing was bought by the Tate Gallery in London in 2014. There are plans to display the completed tapestry in the Reina Sofía Museum alongside Picasso’s “Guernica.”

Other workshops have either stopped production or produce work of inferior quality (or so I was told). There are samples on display, one from this workshop and one from Aubusson in France that were produced for the Dalloul commission, which show very clearly the superiority of the work of the Madrid workshops.

I also saw the work on the restoration of large carpets, and the embroidery workshop. It was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited in Spain, and something not to be missed if you get the opportunity. It’s a guided tour only, once an hour, and you should book in advance. And only €5. Thank you to to our volunteer guide.

Some references for further reading:

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Bargello Sampler Panel Six

Panel six is now complete, so only seven more to go. The sampler is from a twelve-page leaflet from 1977 called "Bargello Basics" that my mother had stored away in a wardrobe (thanks Mum). I'm really pleased I chose to do this as my first project as I'm learning new patterns and techniques and at the same time producing a very impressive piece of work (to my eyes, at least). There's a kind of magic in following the instructions and see how the whole piece gradually materializes panel by panel. The illustration on the cover isn't very large and colours seem to have faded with time, so each panel is a revelation.

The five coloured bargello embroidery in the context of the other panels.
The stitching is 4-2 step: stitch over four threads, and step up or down two threads at a time. It has two kinds of motifs, with shared sides. It's done using DMC tapestry wool yarn, 7452 (light medium camel in the instructions) , 7027 (light blue), 7303 (dark rust), 7823 (dark blue) and 7746 (light camel).