5 things to do in London this week

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One of the most culturally rich cities in the world, here are a few events going on you simply must not miss!

 1. Pride (2014)

Don’t miss this irresistibly feel-good film! Based on a true story and set in London 1985, Pride recounts the actions of a disparate group of gay and lesbian activists who believe in solidarity for the demonised few in Thatcher’s era. The story is told through the eyes of young and demure Joe Bromley who gets caught in the excitement of gay Pride, parading through the London streets. He soon becomes integrated into a group of opinionated and determined individuals, led by the fun and feisty Mark Ashton.

Mark launches the group ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ (LGSM), leading his fellow activists to the small mining village of Onllwyn in Wales to offer support to those similarly discriminated against. Initially met with some hostility, the unlikely union of LGSM and the macho miners makes for heart-warming bond, and ultimately successful political action.

Highlight: the overwhelmingly charming and flamboyant Jonathan (Dominic West) letting lose on the dancefloor (and table tops for that matter) at Onllwyn’s town hall bonding party (see below).

 

Dominic West as Jonathan Blake in the film Pride.

 Dominic West, Pride

 

2. Horst at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Curated by Susanna Brown, Horst is a feast for the eyes, presenting the endlessly elegant and striking oeuvre of the German-American fashion photographer. The visitor is first invited to idly walk down a rectangular room lined with black and white photographs of 1930s famous beauties, from Coco Chanel to the Swedish model Lisa Fonssagroves. With my interest in all things surreal, I was very taken by the following room exploring Horst’s influence by the movement and his admiration for Salvador Dalí in particular.

As I observed the progression of his career, subtle developments in his attitude to dramatic lighting and composition became apparent, his experimental attitude matched by precisely planned visions. Indeed the exhibition also includes a book of his drawings, demonstrating the photographer’s inventiveness and keen eye for detail.

 

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 Mainbocher Corset, Paris, 1939

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Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli, 1947

 

Highlight: the large colour photographs for the covers of Vogue from 1935 to 1964, a example above.

 

3. Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, The Condé Nast Years 1923 -37 at the Photographer’s Gallery

Historical fashion photography is all the rage in London at the moment! An underrated venue in my opinion, the Photographer’s Gallery presents over 200 vintage prints produced while the photographer was working for Condé Nast’s two major publications: Vogue and Vanity Fair. Not unlike Horst, Steichen held a similarly artful attitude to his compositions and a penchant for dramatic lighting. His ability to render different textures so expressively is truly to be marveled at (see below).

 

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Actress Mary Heberden, 1935 (Vogue, March 15, 1935)

 

Highlight: the exquisitely lit portrait of model Margaret Horan lounging idly against a grand piano, wearing a black floor-length dress by Jay-Thorpe, 1935.

 

4. Sigmar Polke: 1963 – 2010 at the Tate Modern

I can happily say that Sigmar Polke was successful in adding a new meaning to the word ‘eclectic’!

The Tate Modern’s retrospective of this post-war German artist is a disorienting, wildly provocative and deeply intriguing experience. Arranged chronologically, it would be difficult to classify his work otherwise, such is the variety of format, material and scale: from understated yet highly political notebook sized drawings, to wall-covering, hallucinogenic-induced painting-collages, to highly provocative and surreal films… How could I best summarise him? Cynical and satirical, disingenuous yet insightful, subversive yet politically incorrect, distrustful of authority, and even bordering on the psychotic!

 

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seductive Mao..? detail from Mao, 1972

 

Highlight: the giddying totality of such various work, and the fact that it was all produced by the same hand.

 

5. Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination at the British Library

For those who aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to the ghosts of Halloween, head to the British library! This exhibition presents the macabre and mysterious across multiple cultural outlets from literature and film, to art and fashion. It may not come as a surprise that there are many iconic old books to look at, but you are in for a treat with works by William Blake and even a Victorian vampire slaying kit!

While demonstrating the nature of the style and its history, the exhibition poses a question: why are we drawn to the Gothic? I would argue it is powerfully escapist and allows us to confront fears we are secretly fascinated by, and not without a touch of irony and humour of course!

 

 

Gothic British Library Tales of Terror

Tales of Terror by Matthew Lewis, published 1808

 Highlight: definitely the vampire slaying kit, in all its meticulous glory.

 

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