Saturday, 27 August 2016

'Jeff Koons: Now' at Newport Street Gallery

This morning I walked to the Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall to visit the Jeff Koons exhibition at Damian Hirst's gallery. It's just a bit further up from the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens (that's seen much better days) in a rather nondescript small street so it's a lovely place to find. It's spacious, light and airy that was busy but not uncomfortable with crowds.

The gallery also has good manners and excellent staff from what I can see. It was really nice to be greeted at the door with a smile by an attendant explaining that there were no labels beside the exhibits and giving me a nice little fold-out leaflet with information about most of the exhibits. I, of course, didn't look at the leaflet until I was safely in the restaurant at the end - if there's one thing I took away from my recent history of art course it's not to look at the labels first, look at the art.

I immediately fell in love with the enormous 'Balloon Monkey (Blue)' which you can walk all the way round and see him shining and gleaming. He really does look like he's a huge blown up balloon (you can even see the tied up tail of the balloon on his head) but he's actually made out of stainless steel. He's an impressive sight. I refer to him as he since he's rather phallic, something that is plainly obvious when you look at him from the gallery above.

No matter where you are in that room you can see yourself reflected in the monkey somewhere, that's how mirror perfect the finish of his skin is. Several people were taking photos of themselves in his reflection while I was there and it is quite magical in that respect. All in all, it seems like it was quite a feat of engineering to fashion this huge piece out of stainless steel. That makes it all the more impressive.

Another piece that made me smile was 'Play-Doh' which is what it says on the tin, a huge mound of colourful play-doh all mashed up together. Which, of course, is exactly what it isn't, it's made of aluminium, but you'd never guess that from looking at it. You can see where the play-doh has cracked and is roughly put together and the only thing you can't see are any finger-prints in the doh. Again. you can walk all round it and the different pieces of doh are presented differently as you move round, as they would be if you made this piece yourself. I wanted to jump into it and clamber to the top. If I had done that then it would've hurt and probably been very slippy to climb to the top. Maybe another day ...

The next gallery included two of my favourites - the little 'Elephant' and a large painting that has no name since it's not mentioned in the leaflet so I'll call it 'Lego' since it feature a big piece of lego in the middle. It doesn't really show up in my photo but this painting is covered in different textures and clever shading - in places you can see the texture of the canvas underneath the paint. It's very big, maybe 10' tall?  It's a lovely blend of colour, shape and texture and just stands there with a painted yellow lego piece slightly below centre. If there'd been a seat in that gallery I'd quite happily have sat down and gazed it for a while trying to figure out what it's trying to say.

It's too big for my living room but the lovely 'Elephant' isn't - he'd fit in a corner of my living room quite easily and cheer me up no end! He's another 'inflatable' that's actually made of stainless steel. You can see me in his tummy taking this photo...

After my mammoth walk to the gallery and then wandering round the place I needed a sit down and a cup of tea so called into the Pharmacy restaurant for tea and a pudding (Earl Grey and summer pudding to be precise). It seems to be themed around a chemists shop with images of pills everywhere, the seats of stools looking like giant tablets and boxes of tablets decorating the back wall. Strange but great service.

It'll be interesting to see what the next exhibition is...

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