Monday, 14 December 2015

Winter Wonderland, Footstool, Holiday Decor, and Ai Wei Wei

Instead of a civilized chat and a coffee, my friend and I decided we would go for a quick ride of the Blizzard and a shout.

It gets bigger every year and now it has a designated entrance which puts me off a bit because I like to glide in and out at will.  Especially with heightened security in the city I wonder why they would encircle people in this manner.  I really must attend those council meetings.

I always appreciate the bright lights and decor around the city 
as it gets so dark early even if it is bright like this.

It's not a vintage year in terms of the holiday decor around town.
This is the Fortnum and Mason decor.
Nice but a bit sparse.
It seemed as if they were on some sort of budget when the only reason I fight the crowds is to have a look at them so I want them to be worthwhile.

The Christmas tree at Claridges which is highly anticipated every year was a let down of a bunch of umbrellas done by Burberry.  I could see where they were going with it but I thought it was depressing.

My favorite tree was at the Beaumont Hotel.

Simple yet seemingly achievable with its cinnamon sticks wrapped in ribbon.

Oxford Street has a simple light decor on the street which is a wasted opportunity considering it is Europe's biggest shopping street so it is a bit weak considering.

I did a one day upholstery course.

I made a footstool but the highlight was finding a great cheap old school Italian place that had great spaghetti.

I love not posh Italian food.
It's something Tony Soprano would have ordered.

I got in trouble because I wasn't OCD enough and I took it as a leisure course but the teacher who ran it was more like Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid.

He was a great teacher but I forgot what a crap student I am.
The footstool is nothing special so the picture above is not too far off the final product.

Ai Wei Wei is a brand now and as quick as the internet because he is always in some new city promoting or doing something.

I think last time I checked he was in Melbourne donating some Lego to the National Gallery of Victoria.

Most of his work is not self explanatory.
He is a conceptual artist.

The work above is the steel remnants from the school that was demolished during an earthquake and needless school children's lives were lost due to corruption of officials cutting corners on the school buildings.  
The names on the wall were all the names of the children who died.

The picture below is to test our value on historical items so the pictures on the wall is Ai Wei Wei breaking a priceless piece of pottery and then him painting over ancient jars.

The most popular piece was this gigantic chandelier.

It was made from old bicycles which is the main form of transport in China.  It was some statement about something but I had museum fatigue and assumed he was mad at the Chinese government about something.

Everyone gingerly stood under it but not for long.

Ai Wei Wei dabbles in everything and he designed this wallpaper that covered an entire room.

It's the middle finger over and over again.

I am loving all this kitsch 1960's and 70's jewellry.
The Piaget gold cuff is so much fun!

I was thinking what an odd time it is to live in Europe.
I went to a talk at the V&A that was supposed to be about how culture might help unite Europe and they had all sorts of illustrious guests on the panels.

My one gripe is that when an academic chairs the talk 
they end up speaking so long and trying to be funny which always meets with polite laughter or some post grad students 
in the audience kissing ass.

The talk ended up not being too cultural but more political and of course the questions from the audience were not questions but just statements.  It was all a bit depressing.
My favorite on the panel was the Danish director of the Royal Opera house who is 42 as he was inspiring and eloquent and passionately believed in Europe.
Who knows how long this Europe entity will last...

The room was pretty though.

Don't you just love Iranian food?
Don't worry that was just the starters.
I have been to Alounak a million times but I only just noticed their thatched ceiling.
Wonder if it is Iranian or it used to be a Trader Vic's in the past?

How gorgeous are Belgian Shepherds?

I stuck some cloves in some oranges as I got possessed and wanted to rationalize watching real housewives of Miami season 2.

And I hung the tinsel I wrapped around my neck for another party over a painting, hung a bauble and bought some winter berries for my holiday decor.

But I know it's the season when I walk by the 
Natural History Museum and see the skating rink open.

I was in Christies the other day and saw the coolest piece of art.

It is a 3 D piece that is conical in 3 mounds.

This doesn't relay how cool it is because the vantage point is different at every single angle and is the best when you walk by it.

I put a video of it on my instagram feed.

But pictorially this is the best I can do.
I loved it and every one including the builders and movers were talking about this piece which is something considering they see art all day every day.

The blog turned 3 the other day.
As I was saying to Faux Fuschia who is celebrating her 6th that blogging is done in dog years so that means my blog is actually 21 and now legal!

Hope everyone is staying sane out there xx


  1. Your experiences at that talk with the academic flopping, grad students kissing ass, and Q & A statements are oh so typical. You can just feel those schmucks swell with self-regard when it's there turn as if the sound of their voice elevates the human race.
    I love Persian food, especially Persian Dill Rice.

    1. Yes which is why I limit talks!! I love dill rice too.

  2. People just ask questions to make themselves look clever.

    I quite like those Oxford St lights- they look like they are low and make things look cosy.

    1. Wish they were questions but people were just stating which is s bit cheeky as they weren't on the panel.

  3. oh so much fun stuff, especially that spaghetti which looks delicious!

    1. Really good and probably the best in London and great value

  4. Hello Naomi,

    To me, that looks suspiciously like the lobby of Claridges not The Connaught. If it is Claridges, that tree is definitely a big letdown.

    Yes please on the Belgian (I'm all about big and fluffy), and bravo on those oranges. I make them too some years and pile them up in bowls which make the place smell like Christmas.

    I'm not sure what to make of Ai Wei Wei. Is he trying too hard to be "different" and "shocking", making him tiresome? Smashing valuable old pots to make a statement is a bit much me thinks.

    Lastly, well done on the upholstery class! The fact that you are interested in accomplishing something with cloth deserved kudos. Everything I've tried has been quite difficult and getting those lines straight drives me to distraction.

    Your place is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

    1. You are right and don't know why I typed Connaught - will fix tomorrow as I'm on the phone now. Ai Wei Wei is now becoming a real brand rather than an artist but he pulls the punters in and brings awareness so all in all it is good. I would like to do another course but might have to take on a new attitude. Your place is lovely and mind is pretty lacking he he

  5. I think the desire to shock is part of Ai Weiwei's MOD. But I don't think it's just to be weird or clever - seems to me he might be seeking to raise philosophical/existential issues in the minds of viewers, connecting all different kinds of dots: eg what is the real value of the ancient ceramic pots that he smashes or paints over - in comparison with the loss of lives of real people, ie the children and teachers in that school, who died because of corrupt Chinese officials. He seems to be deeply humanitarian, particularly for people in the more abstract sense. He's also very brave because he has already been imprisoned in China - and then under house arrest. It's probably only his international fame that saved him from worse treatment. Loved the look of that bicycle chandelier.

    I'm sure you'd have been interested in the Ken and Julia Yonetani exhibition here at the National Gallery. In creating their chandeliers they did some rather surprising things too. They tried to buy vintage chandeliers in each country they were covering: one of the first was in Paris where they bought a large vintage chandelier, stripped off all the beautiful lustres and drops so they could attach their radium glass beads. As they're very environmentally conscious they didn't want to waste the crystal drops so they took them to give back to the shop where they'd bought it. Only they don't speak a lot of French and couldn't explain whey they were giving back the main features of the chandelier. The shop staff were upset and refused to take them back. You can imagine their horror at having a beautiful vintage chandelier desecrated - as it must have seemed to them.
    Look forward to seeing pics of your footstool when finished. The vintage 3D Venetian scene is amazing! do you know who painted it? Loved your red berries.
    Have never tried Iranian food - sounds interesting. Is it very different from Lebanese? Must talk to my local hairdresser (where I have a shampoo blowdry sometimes) about it. Really sweet Iranian 30 something girl. All her family are well educated with high level university degrees but they're all doing things here like hairdressing (she's v good) or managing retail places (eg carpets and floor coverings - her husband). Will ask if there's a good Iranian restaurant here. Pammie xx

    1. HIs family has a long history of being downtrodden since his father was sent to a prison camp. China like the rest of the governments have a bad track record.But we need these people to bring attention to what the government is doing.

      That Venetian piece went for 5 times the lower estimate!!

      I love Iranian food - it is the true middle eastern food that does meat and rice and is delicious and is more spiced but not hot and the first time I had it I thought - this is my type of food. You should def try it xx

  6. Ai Wei Wei was in Melbourne last week I think? I saw him interviewed on the 7.30 report on the ABC. He was opening something or another. I'm not sure I'm onboard with the whole smashing of old china to question our respect for history. We have Isis to do that with ancient relics in Syria, so I'm not sure the artists need to join in. Even if on a smaller scale.
    I can't watch the show Q&A in Australia as the questions drive me insane. So many people using their 'questions' as a platform for themselves to make a statement.
    So glad you showed how that artwork actually works. I was trying to work out from your insta what was going on?! I thought maybe it was a hologram. It's certainly very clever.

    1. Ai Wei Wei and his energy is endless but he is also represented by one of the most powerful galleries so that helps.

      It is funny how people state things and these people in the audience were still stating things even in front of such a panel with diverse knowledge but no they were saying what they thought...

      I loved that piece so much and I loved the reactions of the people who worked there and the removals men were talking about it and loving it. It really had quite an effect on everyone and was great to see art interact!

  7. Dear Naomi, another great round up of your whirlwind activities. The umbrella tree just looks a bit charmless. Although I understand the reasoning behind it obv. Ai Wei Wei - I didn't bother with as I didn't have the energy, despite all the eager people queuing at the RA. Instead I went (twice!) to see the Jean Etienne Liotard which was the best thing I have seen in ages. It is quite odd how all the old fashioned Italian restaurants have vanished from view - sometimes you just want somewhere to eat that isn't trying so hard. Was the upholstery class difficult? I am completely unskilled with creative things but I could see how useful it would be to be able to reupholster bits of furniture. My house is full of stuff that is in need of sprucing up. I'm sure you must have triumphed with your footstool - well done.Xsue

    1. I missed that one - is it still on? The queues were better the time I went.

      Yes why is there fewer places where you can get a good simple meal - I don't feel like Locanda Locatelli every night but oddly could eat spaghetti with aubergine all day long. The class was ok - beginner but he was quite serious about it and I think he thought I took it too lightly but I did learn things which I would have never known. Hope you are not too crazy with the holiday season! x

  8. All these festive lights; I must say I don't think I take much notice when I go into town but unfortunately i can't help but avoid our German market which really tells Birmingham Christmas is here. I've never tried Iranian food but I'm guessing it's quite similar to Caribbean food with it's rice, meat and spices. Must try the cloves and oranges thing although i'm not a massive fan of Oranges, I wonder if it will work with clementines! Happy holidays! xx

    1. Without the lights it would be so grim!!!

      You would love it - subtly spiced and just gorgeous.

      I haven't tried it with clementines but it might bet squishy and spill? but it smells nice xx

  9. I just went for a walk and saw a pile of rebar that looked notably like the Ai Wei Wei project, although one hopes that whatever they are building with it will be up to code. It is difficult to make up my mind about Ai. Sometimes he seems to have a sincere and penetrating genius, but other times a touch of charlatanism or vulgarity makes me want to think twice before committing myself.

    That V&A panel on such a general topic was a direct invitation for bombast, both for the experts and the audience. I love the smaller lectures at museums--interesting people talk about their real expertise, and the talks are usually free and under-attended. You still get a certain quotient of annoying audience members, but that is the price you pay.

    1. I completely agree - I can't seem to be consistent in my view of him. At times gimmicky and at times spot on but I suppose as he does so many projects the odds are up on either side. The panel was a good selection but the moderator was a professor who seems to be in the habit of listening to his voice and forgot this wasn't one of his lectures. I am glad I went but I think if it were more frequent then I would probably stop attending because of all those annoyances!

  10. I think Ai Wei Wei would quite like your clove-studded oranges;).

    1. Yes the piercing of the orange peel by clove surely must mean some sort of political statement?!

  11. ick...that Burberry "tree" is hideous! You are so spot on with your opinions once again. We must have been born under the same sign ("tasteful")! hee hee

    1. You must have your house of venus in taurus perhaps? technical I know but i recall that there is a sign about your sense of aesthetics too Susan :)

  12. I love Middle Eastern food, that is, I love the appetizers. I could nibble at platters of appetizers all day.

    Come to think of it, that's how I feel in most restaurants, the variety and the creativity are in the starters. The main courses - meat and starch, fish and starch, bird and starch - get rather same-y.

    Love the conical view of Venice. I remember one night when that was exactly how it looked...

    1. I always have dips in my house although the english supermarkets make taramsolata etc but they haven't caught up on the iranian dips and i think it is a business plan sorely missed. I also tend to order two starters because even for the chef grilling a meat is not as fun as the appetisers. The Venice piece went for 95K in the end!

  13. Loved the Beaumont tree too and hated Conaught. My favourite was at one aldwych. Have you seen it?

    1. No I haven't gone to the aldwych but not am curious! Next year I am thinking - only thinking - that I might try and recreate it at home.

  14. Comments coming through?

    1. Yes - I usually approve them so that's why it is a bit late to come through sometimes

  15. WOW. Way sparse compared to last year.

    1. It's like everyone is on a budget this year or something - there is an ever so slight sombreness in the mood - not to surprisingly!

  16. YOU are SO ENTERTAINING!YOU do get around............I admire you for trying the class.I have found the decor depressing here too.No one in the shops and no MUSIC!!!
    It's as if WE all are not in the MOOD!

    1. London is a bit dull and there are no pools to hang around so you have to get out there!!!

  17. Naomi
    I really do think you have quite the genius for this whole blogging thing, beyond the fact that you actually you know, well, blog. There are so many little points to address that I just do not know where to start. So, realizing I am going to miss a bunch, and in no particular order, the color juxtaposition of the grey, grey atmosphere to the carnival/fair rides and lights is simply insane, in a good way. How odd that fame and fortune turn all exposed into a brand. Was that the case one hundred years ago, 50, even 20? You are my kind of Christmas decorator! And when it comes to commercial Christmas decorating, maybe western culture is suffering from a bit of ennui. Cloves in oranges and fabric on wood will keep you humble, honest, and wise. It is true; at least it is down here where I come from. Ice skating is the best, honestly, who cannot enjoy a twirl on skates…

    Oh, and dogs are the best!

    1. Oh GF - you say that to all the girls! But yes half the battle is just putting anything out in truth :)

  18. Okay so I wrote a long comment two days ago and it vanished so in my dear George Michael's Yuletide wisdom, once bitten and twice shy (though it usually takes me about 35 bites to become shy) I'm going to write this as a test comment...

    1. Major postmodern pet peeve is comments not going through!!!!

    2. ! Maybe your blog filter just can't stand my inane observations because I wrote another one after this one about two minutes later and it said it was published! I guess the gist was that I don't like museums and I do like pasta.

    3. No way we all love your observations!!!!

  19. Okay. Where to start? Museum fatigue. Yes. I don't think I've ever been in a museum and not experienced it. Just not my thing. Once my ex dragged me something at the Museum of Natural History that he was so sure I would LOVE. I snuck out after about fifteen minutes and entertained myself with a street vendor selling pashminas. I bought one in every color except brown and sand. Never mind that I hate scarves. He gave me a good deal so I would leave him alone I think.
    That umbrella tree is depressing and lazy.
    In an evil way I'm glad I'm not the only one not in the mood this year. It's a weird year.
    I am now craving pasta, I think I'll make some for lunch. My friend is coming over so why not?
    Isn't it a pity about RHOM? It was my favorite. I loved it how they would often begin an argument in English, go into Spanish, blur into Portugese, and end in French. I loved Adriana's French husband. His Rolls is my dream car. I do hate his boat though. That's a boat for a real boat person and I really into like boats that are obnoxiously luxurious that real yachtsmen make fun of.
    I think that's all.

    1. I have walked by "the great masters" more than I care to admit due to overload. Like snacking a little but often is my motto.

      That tree was done by Burberry so I guess it wanted to be British or something - no one really went crazy over it and was a let down because it is a London thing to check out the tree every year and have a drink.

      Agree - very odd year and to think there is a full moon for the first time in 30 something years on Xmas - bite your tongue I say. Let it go whatever it is should be the mantra. The sidewalks might be full of people going for walks at around 5 pm!! hehe

      I do love how every one has their own dialect even in English and they are more blatantly aware and trying to be good tv. That French guy is interesting because initially he seems like a failed South of France eurotrash wannabe playboy but his parents were so respectable! I like obnoxious gin palaces as well - you need to go to Monaco and compare helipads on the yachts. Good fun. and it's so funny when you over hear all the "sailors" going on about how good it is to be on terra firma...It is reason enough for you to fly I tell you!!

  20. Gorgeous photos, there is nowhere, nowhere like London in the holidays. I really miss it right now. Here its cold but not cold enough for snow and not really lit up. Have to say, Thanksgiving seems more of a big holiday here.

  21. Thank you for sharing all your wonderful pictures of the season as well as of the art. Christmas decorations around here have been a bit underwhelming in the CBD.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

    SSG xxx

  22. I loved the idea of the cinnamon sticks tied in ribbon. How wonderful would they smell? Especially as I relented and bought a fake tree this year. Practical as hell but none of that lovely aroma. Our Christmas was spoilt by a huge family drama at the end of the day. Anyone else had that kind of Christmas? Not fun and left me feeling a little depressed and deflated. Sorry to bring the mood down. Kate Cardio

  23. What a wonderful post! I always love how much you explore and "do". Thank you for sharing with this arm chair traveler. Firstly, the Burberry tree - wtf were they thinking?! I was just having this convo the other day about how we can't seem to avoid marketing these days - and worse, it's "native marketing" so half the time you need to actually step back and try to work out what is an advertisement or not. This consumeristic materialistic world is too much sometimes - the Burberry tree seems so representative of this.

    Speaking of which - I watched "the true cost" on Netflix. It made me think a lot. I do think it's awful but playing devils advocate I told my fiancé that didn't all currently " developed/westernized" countries go through similar atrocities against the working class during industrialization and the early 20th century - the sewing factories of New York as just an example. So I asked, found in some way we justify this by saying "it's part of the development process". His response was that the fact we are aware of these terrible working conditions and have the power to pay more by just sacrificing a bit of profit - yet do nothing - makes the circumstances downright unacceptable and unethical. No excuses. I'm inclined to agree...I certainly am glad I tend to avoid "fast fashion" but I would be keen to know if any expensive designer brands also engage these terrible factories.

    On a lighter note - cinnamon sticks tied in ribbon are so classy! Love it as a xmas decoration! Also Iranian food...oh my....I love! Dated two wonderful Iranian men in my past and developed a love of the people, their history and their food. I have written down the name of that restaurant and might pay it a visit in June when we pop by London on our European honeymoon! That bowl of cheap Italian pasta also looked divine! Thank goodness I'm going out to Italian tonight to satisfy that craving :)

    The national gallery of Vic has an Andy Warhol /Ai Wei Wei exhibition thingy on at the moment which a friend told me was utterly fantastic. I must have been living under a rock because I had never heard of Ai Wei Wei. I shall pay it a visit though as need to expand my artistic knowledge beyond 1900!

    Merry Christmas and a happy new year!


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