Saturday, August 13, 2011

Weirdest Art Exhibit Ever

We didn't have a specific goal in mind when we set out today, so we certainly didn't intend to end up at an exhibit of sculpture made of animal fur, dust, and Styrofoam -- among other things.

Josh did want to visit the pilot shop we happened across back in March, so we took the train to Vauxhall and walked across the bridge into Pimlico and found it again.
 The cute South African guy who was working there was very chatty, and comiserated with us about how expensive everything is in London.  He said this was probably the most expensive pilot shop in the world.  Not the world's best salesman, but we appreciated his honesty, and Josh bought a couple books he'll need to study if he wants to get a UK pilot's license.  (He already has one in the US.)

While I was waiting for Josh to find what he needed, I spotted this:
The Lady J (for troglodytes?)
The Little John
 Um, no thanks!

After Josh paid for his books and we finished chatting with the pilot shop clerk, we decided to head north towards Sloane Square, where I had heard they had a nice outdoor food market on Saturdays.  Our journey took us through the swanky neighborhood of Belgravia, where Chopin gave his first London concert.
 It's also where the TV drama Upstairs, Downstairs was set, at 165 Eaton Place.  I didn't get a photo of the house, since I didn't know the street number at the time -- and ALL the streets seemed to be named Eaton Place, or some variation thereof.
 When we reached Sloane Square -- or more specifically, the adjacent Duke of York Square -- the food market was in full swing.  There were several tents set up with vendors selling a variety of ethnic foods, cheese, produce, baked goods, olive oil, and other edibles. 
Duke of York Square market
 Since it was lunchtime, we feasted on Indian and Malaysian food and giant cookies.  Afterwards, we decided to check out the Saatchi Gallery.  We'd never been there before, or even heard anything about it, but it was right there and admission was free.
The Saatchi Gallery
It turned out that while they didn't charge admission, but they did charge £1 for a brochure explaining the current exhibition, or £10 for an exhibition catalog.  Since we had used up all our £ coins at the food market -- and we're cheap -- we forged ahead brochure-free.  We didn't know what to expect, but it certainly wasn't this:
Disco-ball Yeti?
Plaster Orgy?
Crumpled Mitsubishi Eclipse
Taxidermied Horse?  With real horse hide!
"The Dance" With pink styrofoam!
"The Shooting Lesson"
Clay Boobies!?
Are those real plants?
"The Milky Way"
Dollar Store Tree with Neon Barf
Many of the sculptures were created from bizarre and oddly specific materials, including (I kid you not!) blood, household dust, treated cow's stomach, horse hair, and brain matter.  But I think this piece won the prize for the most unusual assortment of ingredients:

Hangin' with Troglodytes
The basement-level gallery was an entire room filled with oil.  The entire experience was a bit surreal, but probably worth seeing, if just for the weirdness of it all.   (I clearly made up names for some of the sculptures as the labels were not always easy to find, but you can find details here if you're interested.) 

From there, we walked north through a gauntlet of high-end shops -- Cartier, Prada, Dior -- through Knightsbridge and into Hyde Park.  We sat and watched people boating on the Serpentine, and noticed that they had set up for an Olympic test event.  Apparently, the swimming portion of the Triathlon will be in the Serpentine, despite all the signs prohibiting bathing in the water.
Swimming in the Serpentine?
These have been going on all over the city as they prepare for the 2012 Olympics.  Tomorrow there is a long-distance bike road race that is anticipated to cause major traffic and public transit problems, so they have been posting warnings for the past couple weeks in tube stations and online.  That's another reason why we went into central London today, since we'll probably have to stick closer to home tomorrow -- at least until the bike race is over. 

We continued through the park to the Princess Diana memorial, which is sort of a circular stream with running water.  It wasn't a particularly warm or sunny day, but it was full of small children stripped down to their underwear.  I'm not sure this is what the designers intended, but like the FDR memorial in DC, it's hard to resist taking your shoes off and sticking your feet in the water. 

We eventually made our way down to the South Kensington tube station and headed back to Wimbledon, stopping at Nando's for dinner.  While we were eating, we saw more than a dozen police officers patrolling the streets wearing Kevlar vests, so we decided to go straight home after dinner rather than lingering in the town center.  It's been pretty quiet, so I think they were just renewing their efforts to dissuade potential looters who might be out on a Saturday night, rather than expecting anything specific to happen.  So far, so good...  Here's hoping this is all behind us now.

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