I made several mistakes on the Haarlem trip but the decision to visit theTeylers Museum was not one of them. The Teylers is running through the winter an exhibition of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. It's a fascinating and informative show, it has to be said that it looks like the English royal family might have scooped up the best of the drawings over the ages, you could certainly drop a couple of these and keep Meghan in frocks for at least one season. The chalk drawings from Windsor are incredible, technically superb and the scale of many of the works comes as real surprise, hatching with a microscope. One of the highspots for me is the inclusion of two drawings by Michaelangelo, they are the first 'live' drawings of his that I have ever seen and the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention, so exciting, beyond brilliant.
As good as the show was, the real joy was the museum, it is everything an old curmudgeon would wish a museum to be. There are acres of cabinets and endless vitrines stuffed with wonder, mammoth skulls, fossils galore, coins and medals, fine paintings and scientific stuff to make your head spin, it's brilliant. Press your nose to the glass and wonder.
'An hours run from Haarlem to the Fundatie Collection in Zwolle. An old attractive and unspoilt town and it's museum has been transformed with an ingenious and intriguing architectural intervention and the current exhibition sounded intriguing and ingenious,
"Giacometti- Chadwick, Facing Fear". Chadwick and Giacometti crossed paths in 1956 when Chadwick won the 'Grand Prix for Sculpture' at the Venice Biennale. Giacometti much the senior of the two and with a considerable reputation in Europe had been considered the favourite for the prize.
At the 1952 Biennale, along with Moore, a clutch of young British sculptors, Armitage, Chadwick, Clarke, Turnbull, Meadows, Butler and Paolozzi also exhibited, they were all rceived with critical acclaim with Chadwick drawing most of the plaudits. Reg Butler's piece however, a maquette for the Unknown Political Prisoner Monument, created controversy and was vandalised by an Hungarian artist who had been a prisoner of war. Chadwick's subsequent return to the Biennale in 1956 was a triumph and made his reputation, he became Britain's pre-eminent sculptor.
And so to the intriguing and ingenious exhibition which I'm afraid was neither. The gallery is large, on several floors, and the large and spacious top gallery with it's scattering of sculpture had the feeling of a clearance sale. The more intimate galleries were a greater success, this in part to the fact that they held the more interesting and fascinating work. A wonderful Giacometti from 1926, Man and woman, and the best of Chadwick's bronzes from the late fifties. The Giacometti Woman of Venice still radiates her charm but the row of standing figures brought to mind a sale of Cotswold boot scrapers. The later stainless steel Chadwick's are truly disappointing, parodies of the work that brought him to eminence and do little for his legacy but would grace the forecourt of any Japanese car plant. So turn your back and concentrate on the brilliant work of the fifties and early sixties, work of great originality that deserves a place in the pantheon, work that stirred the pot of European art.
Sunday to Paris, the evening at the Olympia for Ry Cooder. Monday morning the Thalys for Schiphol and then a hop and jump to Haarlem. Ry Cooder cannot disappoint, he has nothing to prove having reached legend status. The rarity of his appearances brings out the devoted and packs the house, the musicians in the crowd all giving it large. Cooder belongs to the golden age when the guitar was king and great music relied on great instrumentalists. Cooder's playing is peerless and his signature bottleneck brings whoops from the crowd. This concert showcases Cooder's first album release for six years,'The Prodigal Son', it's a mix of standards, spiritual and roots blues. He takes centre stage, circled by his many, some legendary, instruments all of which get played. His voice, live, is impressive and there are several stomping showstoppers that Cooder drives along,'Jesus is on the main line' and 'Everybody ought to treat a stranger right' are stand out numbers. The Cooder crankiness comes through and standards such as 'How can a poor man stand such times and live', highlight the humanity and political anger for which he is renowned. It's a great show, a legendary and very relevant musician meditating on mortality and spirituality in a changing landscape.
AGED AND AWKWARD