Saturday, February 21, 2009

Art in the Park

Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens

We are so lucky to have the Serpentine Gallery in our back yard (or back garden, as they say over here. When I first moved to London, I told my super-posh flatmate William that I loved our back yard. I'll never forget the look of horror on his face as he made it clear to me that a yard is a concrete apron outside of factories etc., and this was a 'back garden'. But I digress...)

On my first forays into Kensington Gardens, I was more interested in Kensington Palace or the Lido at the Serpentine Lake. I never even realised that the pretty brick-and-white building was an art gallery until The Man took me inside. Small -- with only 5-ish rooms -- and intimate, the gallery often exhibits one artist at a time, allowing you to feel like you've entered into separate compartments of the artist's mind. Recently, we went to see a collection of works by Indian artists and we were blown away by the massive, brightly coloured paintings mounted around the outer walls of the gallery.

'Indian Superhighway' Exhibition, Serpentine Gallery, December 2008

Every summer, an internationally renowned architect is commissioned to design an outdoor pavilion. We watch it rise with curiosity, wondering what unique shape it'll take on this time. Last year, Frank Gehry created a geometric behemoth of glass and wood, complete with different platforms almost at tree-top level. Outdoor parties, concerts and films are shown there all throughout the short British summer.

Pavilion by Frank Gehry, Summer 2008

The Serpentine feels like our own gallery. As we watch tourists peruse its offerings, we always feel a strange proprietorial air, as if this inauspicious gallery among the trees of Kensington Gardens has done us -- and Londoners -- proud.

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