You can see and read some of the reviews listed below on this url.url
My first non-antiques feature in Weekend magazine, The Oxford Times’ equivalent of Time Out appeared in early January 2004. The arts editor, Chris Gray, titled it ‘The elegant spirit of our time’.
I had telephoned him in November 2003 asking if I could review the Eric Ravilious exhibition at The Imperial War Museum and he replied, “No” then after a moment’s hesitation, continued “But you can do The Armani at the RA” .
I had deliberately chosen the subject of costume for my first antiques feature in Oxfordshire Limited Edition because it was treated like Cinderella by the antiques trade so maybe Chris thought I was a fashion expert? I didn’t hesitate: I just said ‘yes’ and headed off to London dressed in my vintage tweed jacket. Surrounded by main stream fashion reporters sporting Armani suits, I found the occasion amusing . My opening sentence was…
“A fashion exhibition? Over my dead body,” so said Norman Rosenthal, Exhibitions Secretary of The Royal Academy of Arts.
I watched as a very much alive Norman introduced Giorgio Armani to the assembled members of the press. I presume Giorgio’s donation of a few million pounds to the RA must have persuaded him to change his mind. I tackled the review not with a fashionista’s eye but through the lens of history. Observing how his clothes changed along with women’s role in society was fascinating. The piece looked good, so maybe that was why Chris relented and said I could review the Eric Ravilious.
Until recently I wrote two reviews a month for Weekend. Below I’ve listed a selection from each year to give an idea of the variety .
Weekend Magazine: a selection of mostly full page reviews.( 900 words)
April: The Art Deco exhibition at The V@A
NB My castaway Ray Foulk – an antiques dealer as well as founder of The Isle of Wight Festival (1968) helped furnish the French room.
November: Glass Act lll @ The County Seat: Geoffrey Baxter and Whitefriars
January: Review of The Giorgio Armani retrospective at The Royal Academy.
January: A celebration of Eric Ravilious @ the Imperial War Museum
May: Anarchy to Glamour: Vivienne Westwood @the V&A
June: Bill Brandt Retrospective at the V&A
October: A coming of Age? Black British style @The V&A
November: Christopher Dresser: Britain’s first professionally trained designer.
January: A Cut Above: Matisse @ Banbury Museum.
March: Let’s go to Egypt: The Ashmolean for children.
March: Africa Remix @ the Hayward Gallery –A Mix of Sadness and Hope.
June: A Portrait of an Epic Life: A Stars Art Movement founder, Qu Lei lei @ The Ashmolean.
July: Hidden Treasure: The Pitt Rivers
July: A Picture of Britain: Tate Britain
September: Imagine: Budding Artists @ Modern Art Oxford (Schools Show)
December: T.E Lawrence. The Imperial War Museum
January: China: The Three Emperors @ the RA
NB. This magnificent show was curated by Jessica Rawson who became one of the first women to be appointed Master of an old Oxford College ( Merton). In 2011, I had the privilege of casting her away on Oxtopia.
February: Tom Philips @ the Ashmolean
September: Tiffany at Somerset House
October: An Empire built on furniture: Self-assembly furniture from the days of the Raj! Exhibition @ Christopher Clark Antiques
November: A Portrait of the Artist as Pure Genius: Leonardo’s notebooks @ the V&A
January: Chola: Sacred Sculptures@ the RA
January : Visual Haiku: Michael Kenna @ Banbury Museum
February: Citizens and Kings @ The RA
May: Antony Gormley’s Blind Light @ the Hayward Gallery
June: The Summer Exhibition @the RA
August: Pub Signs @ the Banbury Museum
September: China: The First Emperor @The British Museum
November: The Golden Age of Couture @ the V&A
November: China Prints @ The Ashmolean
(This feature was translated into Mandarin and published in Beijing by Sanping Wu)
January: Oxfordshire Print Collective at Sanders Oxford
February: A Talented Trio: My Ashmolean. Children’s imaginative artistic responses; the best for display on the back of buses and outside the museum.
March: From Russia with Love? From Russia @ the RA
April: Back Home: Jean Preston’s bequest to the Ashmolean: Burne Jones’ Music Room.
May: China Design Now @ the V&A
August: A Light- hearted Look at The Seventies: Oxfordshire Museum
October: Oscar Kokoschka and Jack B. Yeats @ Compton Verney
October: Byzantium @ the RA
January: Darwin @ the Natural History Museum (London)
February: Palladio @ The RA
May: Oxford Brookes University Graduate Art Show
June: Theo Chalmers’ photographs on the forecourt of The Ashmolean
June: A Walk through Bagley Woods
July: Constable Portraits @ Compton Verney
December: Wild Thing @ the RA. Epstein,Gill and Gaudier Brezeska.
January: Britain’s Finest Gardens @ Blenheim Palace
February: In Henry Taunt’s footsteps @ Oxfordshire Museum,Woodstock
February: The opening of the refurbished Medieval and Renaissance Galleries @The V&A
May: Bacon in Camera @ Compton Verney
NB This inspired me to write this poem
Bacon in Camera by Sylvia Vetta
I trod on layer upon deep layer
of canvas and paint encrusted paper;
upon dreams, once vivid now discarded.
Before a bizarre collage, my steps jarred.
Arranged in chaos, deeply ordered
were myriad photo f r a g m e n t s
of models torn, ripped apart; pasted layers
of bent legs, noses and penises.
Hanging here and there were scribbled notes.
leering over me, an image with brushstrokes
of raw emotion: a seated portrait
of George Dyer in his pants, like Podarke.
I had stumbled on a private place, seen a secret;
the artist’s damaged spirit,
wounded by that painted man, his lover.
Francis Bacon caught in camera.
November: Kurt Tong photographs @ Compton Verney
January: Gladys @ Blenheim Palace
April: Cultural Revolution (China) @ The Ashmolean
April: Why Picasso was inspired by African Art: Champungu Sculpture @ Waterperry Gardens.
April: Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson @ Compton Verney
May: Mathematics Meets Art: Oxford Brookes Graduate Art Show
June: Majolica @ Waddesdon Manor
October: Kerry Tribe: Modern Art Oxford
January: John Piper @ Blenheim Palace.
February: A Passage to India: Howard Hodgkin’s collection of Indian art @ the Ashmolean
June: Art on the Edge: Sculpture for the Cultural Olympiad @ the Ashmolean
August: Flight and the Artistic Imagination: Compton Verney
Compton Verney – Flight and the Artistic Imagination
September: Ted Dewan’s Story Loom and Tea with Alice @ The Story Museum.
(Ted was the inspiration behind turning Beechcroft Road into a living room! Zoe Broughton made a fun film to celebrate it)
January: Lights Camera Action: Blenheim Palace as a film location.
March: Xu Bing Landscape/Landscript @ The Ashmolean
June: Making Connections: Steven Willats and the Oxford Community Data Stream
@Modern Art Oxford
August: Sketching from Nature: Turner and Constable @ Compton Verney
Masterpieces of Chinese Painting @ the V&A.
(You can find the copy of some of these features posted on this site)
I also regularly review books for Maggie Hartford’s book page