A couple of Sundays ago, Lorenzo and I were walking along the north bank of the river Thames from Battersea Park towards Covent Garden, where we were going to meet our daughter Carla. It was dark already, which is not amazing at this time of the year. Suddenly, we came across the Tate Gallery and decided to go in. In London it’s not unusual to find galleries and museums open till late, so we decided to go in. The Tate has just opened its door to a newly refurbished building and we were looking forward to seeing it. At that time of the evening, all was quiet and we had the Tate all to ourselves. We could see works by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in perfect solitude, as if they were hanged in our own living room. There was also a very interesting exhibition of the work of Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama. All was quiet and peaceful, nobody disturbed us.
We were thinking about leaving when, all of a sudden, a door opened and a group of people appeared. They obviously didn’t expect to find us there. “How did you get in? The museum has been closed for half an hour”. Apparently nobody had noticed how we had entered through the main gate. They were really worried because we could have been locked for the whole night. Imagine, like in the famous film. A very nice lady accompanied us to one of the side exits and we talked about the renovation. At the end, we had our own little private visit.
Some days later, we decided to go to another museum after dark. This time it was the Victoria and Albert Museum, which celebrates free events on the last Friday of the month. This was the last of the year, as the next one will take place on January 31st and we didn’t want to miss it. This evening the topic was Rules of Adornment and there were installations and performances, workshops, conferences, films, catwalk shows and DJs, all revolving around the topic of body decoration and identity.
When we arrived, we were greeted by the sounds of DJs Sam Peet and Tim Parker. The museum didn’t look as the one we had visited with Darren one week before. It looked like a big party, full of trendy people holding wine glasses and talking among the statues next to the great hall, mixing with a group of waif models that paraded Wha Lim collection, an emerald green dystopic version of Renaissance. Lorenzo took out his camera and started to shoot. There were dozens of people taking pictures at that very moment, but the models decided to pose for him.
Next, we moved to the Sackler centre, where the ilustration, graphic design and image making collective Brothers of the Stripe were holding a workshop.
The artists were decorating the glass surface of the door and the walls of the room with different shapes of letters and illustrations in black and light blue.
In the middle of the room there was a long table where you could choose a poster with a character design by the artists (a thug, a pin-up, an octopus...) and tatoo it using stamps of different shapes. It was really good fun, as you can see in the photos.
Then we left the room and spent some time listening to the best music of the night, played by DJ, sound artist and composer Gyorgy Ono, while having fun in one of the spinning chairs you could find at the hall of the Sackler centre. Here you can see me falling back while holding the octopus I had just decorated.
Ono’s music was hypnotic and we spent some very relaxed and pleasant minutes looking at the people around, most of them in their early twenties but dressed exactly with the same clothes my friends and I used to wear in the early 1980s: black trousers too short to reach the ankles, shoes with thick soles, and long flowery shirts we never tucked in. It was like a blast from the past.
Then it was time to have a break and we moved to the museum cafeteria, where we enjoyed a wonderful piano concerto while sipping a drink. The pianist had the most amazing hands, elongated and curved from the wrist, as if they were a product of millions of years of evolution: hands perfectly adapted to playing at the speed of a cheetah.
We were about to leave the museum when Lorenzo had to take his camera out again. A group of cat women with their faces covered by masks of jewellery was coming down the stairs.
The sinuous movement of the models bewitched the observer.
But the best photo came at the end, when they retired to the adjacent room and sat for a moment to rest. Here you can see the vulnerability behind the mask.
Two nights at the museum, two new experiences.
Photo: Lorenzo Hernandez www.photolorenzohernandez.com