Month: July 2014

Window on the World by Hugh Cornwell and a Private View at WaterHouse & Dodd

Window on the World by Hugh Cornwell

Window on the World by Hugh Cornwell

Remember the song Golden Brown by the Stranglers, “Golden brown, texture like sun” – well I’m reading the dishy lead singer’s first novel , Window on the World.

The story takes place in the London art scene. We’ve got a botanist come writer called James Thornberry, a sexy gorgeous up and coming artist called Katherine Gaunt who Thornberry falls for (for her or her paintings?) and  Miles Goodfellow, a London gallery owner who’s Jame’s best friend and who represents Katherine. There’s a recurring reference to the act of defenestration which means to throw somebody or something out a window (or a swift dismissal or expulsion as from a political party or office) but it’s clear Cornwell is only concerned with the first meaning.

Passing Waves by Karen Gunderson

Passing Waves by Karen Gunderson

Actually I’m surprised I’m reading it at all because I don’t usually read books never mind novels and especially contemporary novels mainly because I’m a slow reader. The last book I read was in 2012 by Matti Friedman called The Aleppo Codex: A true story of obsession, faith, and the pursuit of an ancient bible – an absolutely brilliant read about the theft of a 10th century bible. In fact I’ll reread it when I finish this, probably in early 2015. Right now I’m on chapter 7.  It’s an easy read with a dark side and I’m always intrigued to know what happens next. I’ve been reading it in bed and on the tube – something I haven’t done in years –  and  another  joy is that the cover has an inside flap which I use as a book mark so I don’t have to bend over the page corners.

Growth Period 5 by Alex Rennie

Growth Period 5 by Alex Rennie

Anyway, that’s what I was reading on the tube yesterday on my way to Waterhouse & Dodd for their private view of works by Alex Rennie and Karen Gunderson.  Both have something going on – personally I preferred Rennie’s work – but what struck me the most was a painting in the back of the gallery out of view by Russian artist Marie Vassilieff. Now she’s someone I would have loved to hang out with.

Femme Assise Marie Vassilieff, 1910

Femme Assise, oil painting by Marie Vassilieff, 1910

Waterhouse & Dodd has recently moved to Albemarle Street from Cork Street – it’s a great new space. Interestingly, I’ve just read in section 2 of The Art Newspaper that they’ll soon to be joined by the Paris gallery Tornabuoni which will open there in Feb 2015. And seeminly, New York based Dominique Lévy is also looking for a gallery space in Mayfair. Albemarle street always had lots of galleries but it didn’t have the same connotations as Cork Street – maybe it’ll become the new Cork Street – for better or worse – who knows? Anyway, the London art scene is the best in the world whichever way you want to look at it.

I’m off to bed now with Hugh Cornwell – can’t wait. If you fancy a bit of him too you can read the first two chapters of Window on the World here.

Quick trip to Liverpool: City of Art, hometown of The Beatles

Paul McCartney's childhood home  in Liverpool

The Art Detective’s Muse outside Paul McCartney’s childhood home in Liverpool

Grey skies, rain, cathedrals, craic, culture and really friendly people. Dublin? Nope, Liverpool.

It was the accent that gave it away. I got off the train at Lime Street Station on Thursday afternoon and hopped in a cab to Hope Street Hotel. I’d come for the Preview launch and VIP Evening of the Liverpool Contemporary Arts Fair 2014 which was taking place that evening at the National World Museum. What to expect I had no idea so I bought a new dress and packed my Jimmy Choos. As it turned out, it was a much more relaxed event than I’d imagined – I think I was getting it confused with the Liverpool Biennial 2014 which is a completely different thing and why sometimes I wish I had an assistant.

Louise Minchin

BBC News Presenter Louise Minchin opening Liverpool Contemporary Arts Fair Thursday 3 July 2014

Still, it was a great evening with art and friends so I’m not complaining in the slightest. The event was officially opened by Breakfast on BBC One presenter Louise Minchin. There was a collection of drawings for sale by Nelson Mandela presented by the London based Belgravia Gallery and Christian Furr (the youngest artist to have ever officially painted the Queen’s portrait) auctioned a portrait he will do to the highest bidder on the evening donating all proceeds to the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital which I thought was a very nice gesture indeed. He also curated the exhibition Liverpool Love which is part of the fair and a must see for some great art works by the likes of Brendan Neiland, Gaston Ugalde, Noel Fielding, Patrick Hughes, Stuart Sutcliffe, Thomas Doran, Christian himself of course and lots more.

Go For Your Gun by Mackenzie Thorpe

Go For Your Gun by Mackenzie Thorpe

An artist I loved was  Mackenzie Thorpe and I really enjoyed speaking to Wendy who was representing him. He’s colour blind which doesn’t surprise me as many artists are. She also told me she’d had dinner the night before at San Carlo supposedly the best restaurant in Liverpool where she’d met – wait for it – Chris de Burgh. Remember ‘Don’t pay the Ferryman‘ and Lady in Red’? A throw back to my teenage years growing up in Dublin. Well after a couple of shots of Agwa de Bolivia (compliments of Agwa de Bolivia and Liverpool Love) and thinking of Chris de Burgh, I decided to jump ship and headed to The Philharmonic Pub on Hope Street before dinner at The London Carriage Works restaurant which is part of Hope Street Hotel. Dinner was yummy – I had the chicken liver parfait followed by the duck and for dessert the sticky meringue. Thankfully I’m starting the 5:2 diet soon or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Anglican Cathedral Liverpool

From the moment I arrived in Liverpool everyone kept saying there’s so much to do and actually there is. The next day I put my tourist hat on and mossied down to Albert Dock where I spent an hour at the International Slavery Museum (from Wiki “By the close of the 18th century 40% of the world’s, and 80% of Britain’s Atlantic slave activity was accounted for by slave ships that voyaged from the docks of Liverpool” – wow didn’t know that) and over an hour at The Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story at the Merseyside Maritime Museum – really fascinating.  Out of a sense of guilt I poked my head into both the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals – not for me – but I did like the pink neon sign in the Anglican Cathedral which reads “I Felt You And I Knew You Loved Me” although personally, I think it would be more suited at the Biennial.


Later that afternoon I went on a black cab Beatles Tour. There was five of us in the cab as the cabby waxed lyrical about John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe – one of his works at the Liverpool Love exhibition. I learnt a lot about the Beatles that I didn’t know before – for example Stawberry Field was an orphanage where John Lennon liked to hang out when he was about 11 or 12. Surprisingly however the tour didn’t include a trip to the Cavern but ended at Eleanor Rigby’s grave site which was a bit of a let down.


My train back to London was at 7:50 pm so after the tour, I had a quick bite in the dining room of The Philharmonic Pub – not bad at all – then headed to the station. It’s a pity I couldn’t stay another night but I needed to be back in London today. Anyway, if you fancy a relaxed, culture-filled weekend away Liverpool is defo worth a visit and if you’re looking for a hotel I highly recommend The Hope Street Hotel – brilliant staff, nice rooms, great restaurant and the girls behind the desk will be able to tell you all you need to know.