Unpopular Culture


CIA recommends the strangely subdued exhibition at the Harris Museum in Preston. The Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry has selected pieces from the Arts Council Collection. This very restrained and slightly dark collection is predominantly modern and many of the pieces appear to have a curiously ominous quality. Definitely worth the trip.

Harris Museum

Primitive – Rustic – Classical

CiA recommends a visit to Tate Liverpool to see the exhibition GUSTAV KLIMT: PAINTING, DESIGN AND MODERN LIFE.The Klimt paintings, including the reconstruction of the Beethoven Frieze created for the Vienna Secession in 1902, present a necessarily limited selection of his work. The great boon is the display of furniture and artefacts created by Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstatte for many of the same connoisseurs who commissioned Klimt’s radically icon-like paintings.

The variety of Hoffmann’s work, at one point geometric, then stylishly classical, then utilitarian, was matched only by the indulgent eclecticism of his clients. Who, for example, could fail to be charmed by the coal scuttle designed for Ludwig Wittgenstein’s brother?

The Primavesi family had three properties designed by Hoffmann, the strangest being the rustic-classical villa in Winkelsdorf (now Koutny) Moravia from 1913-14. With its two-coloured log construction, painted window shutters, primitive eight column portico and steeply thatched roof it presented an incendiary combination for a modern house which sadly burnt down in 1922.

Material on the building is available at this link…

The catalogue from the Liverpool exhibition contains an excellent essay by Beatriz Colomina ‘Sex, Lies and Decoration: Adolf Loos and Gustav Klimt’. She begins with the bracing assertion “Adolf Loos is the only architect of his generation whose thinking is still influential today.” The contemporary vogue for decoration and ornament perhaps threatens that claim, and the display of Hoffmann material offers an alternative vision for the framing of modern life.


Picture: detail of the Villa Primavesi, Vienna before restoration

Vilhelm Hammershøi


CiA recommend the Vilhelm Hammershøi exhibition at the Royal Academy, London. Hammershøi’s cool interiors and distinctive grey-themed palette have attracted considerable attention for their restrained elegance and quiet power. The calm surroundings of the Sackler Galleries are particularly suitable for this collection of intimate and obsessive examinations of interior spaces.

Royal Academy


Waterhouse and Harris – safe in their hands?

Further to a post earlier this year the potential fate of Manchester Town Hall (Alfred Waterhouse), its Extension and Central Library (E. Vincent Harris) becomes clearer. The Manchester Evening News story about the future of the most significant urban and architectural ensemble in the city should raise fears in the minds of any concerned citizen. Among the questions that occur are

– why does a library and a town hall need shops?

– will cars in the new underground carpark be exempt from the proposed congestion charge?

– what has happened to the spirit of civic pride which produced these great buildings, and why does it have such a faint voice in the deliberations of the council?

Manchester Evening News story

‘Not manly enough’

Monday, 7 July 2008: ‘Not manly enough’: Berlusconi’s verdict on Libeskind work

Perhaps, when the architect Daniel Libeskind produced his grand plans for an art museum and office tower designed to inspire civic pride in the heart of Milan, he should not have been surprised when Italy’s gaffe-prone Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, said the bent structure emanated a “sense of impotence” because it is not manly enough.

See also our earlier item…