London draws the art lovers
Attracted to Rothko? Compelled by Capa? Take a weekend break in the City, says
TWO BLOCKBUSTER SHOWS of rarely seen work by major Jewish artists provide a compelling reason to travel to the heart of London between now and Chanucah. That’s not the familiar and easy-to-reach West End, but the ancient heart of the city, including a significant stretch south of the river which remains a mystery to many North Londoners, let alone out-of-towners.
However, the entire south-central bank of the Thames from Waterloo to Tower Bridge has now become too happening a cultural centre for any serious lover of art and theatre to ignore. Happily, given that it’s a schlep even for suburban Londoners, hoteliers and restaurateurs are making SE1 more comfortable and hospitable by the month.
Tate Modern, housed in an enormous former power station just east of Blackfriars, is one of the world’s premier showcases of 20th- and 21st-century art, thanks to a superb permanent collection.
However, Mark Rothko’s huge, brooding abstract canvasses, originally painted for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York, make the gallery even more of a must-see than usual. The Tate already had a few of these paintings — they arrived in 1970 on the day news came through of Rothko’s suicide — but now the series has been doubled by a loan from Japan to create the art show of the year.
Meanwhile, a couple of Jewish war photographers — whose great works of the ’40s pre-date Rothko’s Seagram murals, as they’re known, by 20 years — take pride of place from this month at the Barbican. Hungarian-born Robert Capa documented the Arab-Israeli conflict which followed independence, though the raison d’etre of this particular show are his striking images of the Spanish Civil War. A long overdue showing is also being given in the same show to his fellow war photographer, and lover, Gerda Taro.
Neither gallery is that easy to reach, but there is plenty to detain the visitor who makes the effort to get to either venue. Tate Modern has both a smart restaurant and a well-priced brasserie at street level, both with riverside views, ditto an excellent espresso bar, and one of the best museum shops in London.
A few minutes further east, London Bridge has become an attraction in it-
The Thames, with the distinctive outline of the Tate Modern — home of the Rothko exhibition — at the centre