I love Google Cultural Institute

From time to time we make those tiny discoveries that make us very, very happy. So happy that we want to jump high into the sky, laugh very loud or just share our joy with others at the Speakers’ Corner if our extroversion level is high. Since my is not, I will stick to this post.

So you are probably wondering what made me so happy. Surprisingly, it was… Google. And not because a location on Google maps is matching an actual place. That would not be enough. But Google Cultural Institute is more than I need.

A single web-site full of stories and collections from around the world that you can discover with a single click. And the content is really interesting, just have a look at this article about 10 Amazing Facts About Colour Blue.

They are also working with various museums to capture the finest details of artworks from their collection which means once you fully zoomed in, you can see every single brush stroke! Yes, you can see more than in a museum!

I will not fall asleep today from all that excitement… It is too much…

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Fun with art: the gold age of pee

The best paintings are not the ones that are well-known but the ones that are hidden in dark corners of art galleries. They look very similar to hundreds of other art pieces but if you inspect them very carefully, you will spot that thing that makes them special.

Few years back I found one of them in The Cinquecento Corridor of Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Rather small and shy, the painting looks just as you would expect it – plenty of naked figures in a lovely garden with some swans, flowers and fruits. It just makes you think it is nothing special so you walk by quickly.

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But if you are a bit more patient and you look at the bottom section of the painting, you will see two children, a boy and a girl, happily peeing into a pond.

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The artist, Jacopo Zucchi, used actually golden paint to mark both streams so they are very bright and shiny. And I still wonder if the title, The Age of Gold, has anything to do with it.

How to confuse wealthy people at an art event

Living in London means an easy access to culture thanks to hundreds of theatres, museums, galleries and concert halls. As a result Londoners are quite relaxed about their outfits when setting off for a cultural experience. It is simply part of everyday life.

So when I got an invite from Maryam to join her for an opening evening of an art exhibition, I didn’t spend much time pondering what to wear. A comfy sweater, black leggings, vintage looking white trainers and wind proof jacket. Obviously, I added some accessories –  a woolish hat from Primark and a small plastic bag to accommodate a book I am reading.

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But this time my extremely casual look was or too casual, or the attendees may have suspect I am an eccentric, Steve Jobs-like visionary and art-lover. Why? Because they all were as formal as the event itself and were quite confused how to categorized us, especially when we started moving our hands in front of each artwork to make interpretation more visual.

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So if you ever want to see wealthy people puzzled, take a note of my outfit that evening and wear to every single formal event. Also don’t forget about being quite expressive with your hand gestures. You will make an impact. Or they will not let you in.

Fun with art: God sometimes is a hen

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to offend anyone. I am just referring to Luke 13:34:

34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

This metaphor inspired Antonio Barluzzi, the architect of the Holy Land, when he worked on Dominus Flevit Church on the Mount of Olives. The building itself is very small comparing to churches we are used to but it is also very elegant and lovely thanks to its minimalistic interior.

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The most obvious highlight is a window behind the altar. Instead of religious paintings and sculptures, you can admire a beautiful view of Jerusalem. And that usually means you forget to look around so you never notice the other interesting element of the décor – a mosaic in the bottom section of the altar. Inspired by Luke there she is – God as a hen gathering her chicks under her wings. So different from what we normally see!

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Fun with art: because centaurs want to have some fun

Wandering around Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, I spotted a small painting which from far away seemed to be showing fighting horses. Because the subject was quite unusual I went a bit closer to check what it was really about. What I saw, first surprised me, then caused a grin and finally made me erupt into laughter. The fight was actually… a love struggle or perhaps a fore-play between centaurs.

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The painting is full of tension and you can’t be really sure if the female centaurs are up for an intercourse. On the other hand the males look quite aggressive and greedy, chasing and tightly squeezing the females. The scene looks a bit violent and I still wonder what inspired the artist to depict such an unusual subject. But I guess if you are Peter Paul Rubens (yes,  the famous Baroque painter), you can simply paint what you want so why not Loves of The Centaurs?

Fun with art: suspicius Child vs. John the Baptist

Here is a piece of relief typical of many funerary monuments produced in and around Naples in the second half of 1300s. It is part of the Renaissance collection at V&A so if you really want you can find it in room 50a. The full version shows Virgin and Child between Saints James and John the Baptist but I limited the photo to the most interesting part.

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And that part is showing some tension between Child and John the Baptist. Just look at Child’s pose and eyes – he is a bit suspicious or maybe annoyed with the stuff John is saying. He even seems to be preparing to throw an apple at John; his one hand is on the fruit and the other one holding tightly to Virgin’s scarf to prevent him from falling down. Naughty Child.

Vogue 100 A Century Of Style

I would never thought that a journey through Vogue history can be something of an interest to me. I am not a fashion fan and I have never had a Vogue issue in my hands. But out of curiosity I went to Vogue 100 A Century Of Style exhibition at National Portrait Gallery and I got a chance to learn my lesson.

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The exhibition is part of Vogue centenary celebrations and is structured in a reverse chronology with each room dedicated to a single decade. The journey through time gets more and more interesting the furthers you go in the past.

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The most recent photos look very familiar since that is what we are used to see in everyday life. Then you go through 90’s with young Kate Moss and all the supermodels, to hit 80’s with its very unique approach to style. And things start to get even more interesting in 70’s and crazy 60’s. But yet my personal favorites come from 50’s and 40’s because they bring an interesting insight into the war and post-war times. Instead of hedonistic lifestyle, you witness fashion of scarce resource put into military context. The last two rooms cover photos and illustrations from 30’s and 20’s which, compared to 40’s, look almost like a fairy tale.

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The very end of the exhibition shows evolution of the magazine. At the same time it is a fascinating summary of fashion as well as lifestyle and social changes over the last 100 years. Going from one issue to another, I had an impression they are a great record of hopes and fears of their time. And to be honest it was a nice surprise from a magazine I am not fond of.

The exhibition is on until May 22, 2016 so if you have time and no idea what to do, pop in to National Portrait Gallery and start your own journey with Vogue.