Architecture of London review

Art
3 out of 5 stars
Architecture of London review
Out of the Ruins at Cripplegate (1962) by David Ghilchik Image credits: Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London Corporation

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

There’s an etching in this exhibition taken from Christopher RW Nevinson’s oil painting ‘Any London Street’. The joke explains itself: this scene of life in a Georgian terrace could come from anywhere in the metropolis, geddit? LOL. Only… it couldn’t.

What makes London fascinating is how almost none of its streets or buildings look the same. There’s a bit of Roman wall next to some iconic brutalism, a teeny medieval church across from the Gherkin, and a constantly changing skyline of blueprints-turned-real. And that’s precisely what this exhibition of artworks showing London architecture, from panoramas to close-ups of doors, over 400 years demonstrates.

Artistically speaking, it’s a mixed bag. There’s a gorgeous earthy Frank Auerbach of a bombed-out Earl’s Court, a melancholy view of 1970s Paddington from the window of Lucian Freud’s studio, and a Canaletto that makes the Thames looks ever-so-slightly Venetian.

But the fascinating aspect is really what the pictures show, not how they show it. David Thomas’s view down the London Wall road just before the Barbican Estate came up, for instance, gets the geek juices flowing, while the multiple scenes of wartime and Great Fire destruction never stop being shocking. Catherine Yass’s video artwork (the only non-painting in the show and the most recent creation) protesting against the development of Nine Elms is given extra poignancy once you know Trump’s American Embassy relocated there.

What’s noticeable is how few images of this overcrowded city include humans. Interesting as its brickwork is, London is nothing without the people who occupy those brick-and-mortar structures. And the architecture represented here gives a somewhat limited view of who those people are.

St Paul’s Cathedral and various churches pop up time and again, but where are the city’s mosques, synagogues and temples? Central London tourist destinations also feature heavily but what about, say, historic pics of Brixton Market or Brick Lane? All those London streets that really aren’t just ‘any London street’.

By: Rosemary Waugh

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