Treasure Palaces

Treasure Palaces: Great Writers Visit Great Museums is the title of a book I bought at a discount Book Grocer shop in Melbourne recently (edited by Maggie Fergusson). I had seen it at the Te Papa store and thought it looked interesting. The book came about from a series of commissioned short essays for the English magazine Intelligent Life (a “sister magazine” of The Economist.) A distinguished writer – not an art critic – was asked to write about a museum that had played some part in their life and what they liked or didn’t like about it, “weaving in a thread of memoir”. From the eventual 38 essays, 24 have been chosen for this book. One of the ones I particularly enjoyed was Allison Pearson on the Rodin Museum in Paris. I had never heard of her, but one of the things I enjoy with a book of good essays is ‘discovering’ some new author.

Of the 24, I have visited the following six. The photos are mine, when I can find some! I will follow this with my own comments on two museum visits I made on a 2006 art history tour.  Continue reading


Unpacking my photo albums 2: The 1970s

DSC02905 I have found my third photo album and rephotographed (with digital camera) the photos I would like to keep. This is no. 2 in a planned series of blogs on ‘unpacking’ my photograph albums – getting them out of their various storage places and digitising the photos I want and then I can decide which albums to keep. You can read no. 1 here.

This album covers four years of the middle 1970s and like much of the 1970s is a brown colour! Many of my clothes at the time seemed to be shades of earthy browns, yellows, oranges, greens with blues for contrast. It was also the era of the hand knitted (my mother) and hand crocheted (me) garments before clothes became cheaper to buy than make. Continue reading

Dark Imaginings in Melbourne

Recently in Melbourne, I visited the University of Melbourne campus. There are a number of galleries and museums spread around the campus, but I went to only two: the Ian Potter Museum of Art and the Noel Shaw gallery in the library. The name Ian Potter  is ubiquitous in Melbourne – he was a businessman and philanthropist with at least two art galleries named after him and a new part of the State Library will be named after him.

References to Greek and Roman Classical statuary were also rather prominent on this visit. The Ian Potter (at Melbourne Uni) has some trying to escape out the front wall and at the NGV International (National Art Gallery of Victoria) was a large Xu Zhen work with the long title of: Eternity-Buddha in Nirvana, the Dying Gaul, Farnese Hercules, Night, Day, Sartyr and Bacchante, Funerary Genius, Achilles, Persian Soldier Fighting, Dancing Faun, Crouching Aphrodite, Narcisse Couché, Othryades the Spartan Dying, the Fall of Icarus, A River, Milo of Croton. There was also a smaller version (for sale – price on application![1]) in the museum shop. Continue reading

Giorgio Morandi, Bologna artist

Morandi book “One can travel this world and see nothing. To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see.” Giorgio Morandi. [1]

Giorgio Morandi (1890–1964) is one of my favourite artists. I was pleased to read that the artists he listed as his influences are also in my pantheon (Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Chardin, Cezanne and Seurat).[2] Trying to come up with something that encapsulates the work of all these artists, I thought of solidity and stillness (generalisations, of course). When we were in Bologna last September we saw many of Morandi’s works. Since late 2012 the Morandi collection that used to be in a separate museum has been temporarily located at MAMbo (the Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna or Modern Art Museum of Bologna). Continue reading

Jerusalem, Whanganui and maps

 I have just returned from a brief trip to Jerusalem (not the one in Israel! This one is a very small village next to the Whanganui River in New Zealand). I have written about it before (see this post). So here I will just add some photos.

I also stayed a night in Whanganui and bought the book called ‘Maps’ (UK Five Leaves Publications, 2011) at the local Saturday market. This is mainly a book of short essays about places. I haven’t finished it all yet, but it made me think of my trip in terms of maps. I have also written a post about maps before (see this post).

Continue reading

Bulls (the town in NZ)

A few weeks ago I went on a Friends of Te Papa bus trip to Bulls in the North Island (about 150 kilometres north of Wellington). Recent marketing makes puns with the name, for example “Bulls: a town like no udder”; Bulls: unforget-a-bull;  or the sign for the local police station “Const-a-bull”. As some of us were walking the short distance from a morning tea welcome at the local RSA club to the Bulls Museum, we passed a sign for the local physiotherapist. I thought of “bend-a-bull”; a better suggestion was “flex-a-bull”. But as they hadn’t invented any pun, they probably thought the whole idea regret-a-bull. Continue reading

Otorohanga: Kiwiana town

kiwiana town Otorohanga

Recently we stayed a couple of nights in Otorohanga (in the Waikato district, sort of middle-north in the North Island). As we travel about in various places (New Zealand, Australia, America come to mind) we like to see what towns and cities call themselves. I don’t mean their actual names, I mean the little epithets they give themselves (is epithet the right word?: “an adjective or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned”). Perhaps they are just slogans thought up by someone on the local council or tourism board!

Wellington, where I live, is sometimes called Wellywood, a pastiche of Hollywood in homage to the Sir Peter Jackson-led film industry we have here. More often it’s called Windy Wellington, but that isn’t a positive image for tourism so the label “absolutely positively Wellington” was invented. You want positive? Absolutely! Actually, I see it wasn’t meant to be anything big, but caught the imagination and stuck. (click the link to see its origins.)

The silliest one I think I ever saw was “Foxton, the Fox Town”. Continue reading