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Design Diary: Get lost in art in London

One of the UAE’s favourite holiday destinations, the British capital is hosting some exceptional shows this season

Tabloid

If you ever were to ask me where I would like to go for a break, the first answer is, always, London. While I am sure I will never bore of the city’s history and pageantry (and don’t worry, I do love other cities), it is London’s ever-changing roster of gallery shows and exhibits that keeps me coming back for more.

What better time to soak in London’s cultural scene than in balmy July, when the hope for sunshine is not so elusive? If you are still planning your summer break, I suggest you head to London for these shows that no art lover should miss. And then there is that promise of a soft serve cone in Hyde Park afterwards...

THE LONDON MASTABA

Artist duo Christo and Jean Claude made a decision, very early on in life, not to be held captive to the commerce and posturing that surrounds the art world. As a result, all their works are birthed independent of galleries, grants, patrons and governments. Christo’s latest, The London Mastaba, is a 20-metre high sculpture floating in London’s Serpentine Lake. Its name, and indeed the form, is derived from Egyptian tombs and seats found outside homes in ancient Mesopotamia; this particular piece is an ode to the deceased Jean Claude and her steeled resolve to making free art.

The London Mastaba is the latest and most ambition project of the duo that started collaborating on their public artworks in Paris in 1961. Jean Claude passed away in 2009, so this particular work carries a tinge of loss in spite of its 7,506 brightly painted barrels. Christo plans on carrying forward the couple’s legacy; he is still determined to realise their most ambitious plan yet — a 170-metre high barrel mastaba for the Abu Dhabi desert. The London one is until September 23.

FRIDA ESCOBEDO’S SERPENTINE PAVILION

The beauty of creative expression is its openness to interpretation and its ability to reflect our times. So I look at the 2018 edition of Serpentine Pavilion through the lens of the current political climate. As presidents and prime ministers seek to build walls that divide us on the basis of our differences, this Mexican architect has built a space that belies its initial impressions to reveal an inclusive sanctuary.

The Serpentine Pavilion is one of the most anticipated cultural events globally, and each year, a new designer lends their vision to creating a space within the Kensington Gardens. Escobedo’s pavilion is a composition of concrete roofing tiles, held together with a reflective pond below and a curved mirror roof above. The architect drew inspiration from the traditional Mexican courtyards, deploying the reflective surfaces to create illusions and distortions. She is the 18th architect invited to design the pavilion, and the first solo woman to lead the project since Zaha Hadid, who designed the inaugural pavilion in 2000. Until October 7.

FRIDA KAHLO: MAKING HERSELF UP

Through her most personal and intimate belongings, the Victoria & Albert Museum offers an extraordinary testimony to the compelling life story of the beloved Mexican artist and feminist icon. Kahlo died in 1954 but her image, iconic style, and unwavering spirit have inspired a new generation of geniuses — Madonna, Salma Hayek, Ricardo Tisci and Maria Grazia Chiuri, among others.

In 2004, the sealed storerooms of the Blue House, where Kahlo lived in Mexico City with husband and fellow artist Diego Riveria, revealed a wealth of never-seen-before personal artefacts that further determine the person behind the revered name. The exhibition — which includes the artist’s clothing and personal possessions, including her surgical corsets that she painted, make-up, jewellery, photographs and letters — is the first time these items are presented outside Mexico. Until November 4.

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