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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts APRIL 2016

One of America's great art collections

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a collection of collections – a glittering patchwork supported by the state but fuelled by generous bequests from Virginian citizens. Since 1936, the museum has blossomed from a regional attraction to a world-class cultural institution that is home to more than 33,000 objects that cover 5,000 years of history.

Generations of donors have filled the hallowed halls of the VMFA with treasures from all over the world. Andy Warhol’s Triple Elvis hangs under the same roof as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse in a glorious array of the art world’s highlights. Pre-Columbian dance masks stare wildly out from glass cabinets; ceremonial garb from Peru, made up of thousand upon thousands of brilliantly-hued feathers, catches the light; classical statues adventure and fight and embrace. 

Lillian Thomas Pratt’s 1947 bequest is a prime example of the VMFA’s relationship with the people of Virginia. Fabergé eggs look like some fantastical bird has laid them – they are rare, wondrous objects that are near priceless in their scarcity and beauty. But Lillian Thomas Pratt bequeathed her collection, and the VMFA is now home to five imperial Easter eggs, the largest public collection of Fabergé outside his homeland of Russia.

And these works belong to the people. The VMFA’s mission is to enrich the lives of Virginians through artwork, and no one can deny that it fulfils this mandate – and then some. Scala’s visitor guide includes striking images of the collections, as well as fascinating background information on each of the items.

Tower Bridge APRIL 2016

A London Icon

Tower Bridge is a London icon. Instantly recognisable and utterly steeped in history, there are few who have been to London without pausing to look at it. On a clear day, it seems to glow. On a foggy one, it looms up from the bleak Thames waters like a great castle. And yet it isn’t a pretty, neglected relic: it remains an integral part of London life, ferrying cars across the water, whilst also allowing river traffic to make its way west along the Thames. It is true that it has changed: there are no longer stables beneath its belly, and it doesn’t open with such regularity – the Thames, after all, no longer serves as the lifeblood of London and the docks are not the thrumming bundles of activity they once were. 

But it still stands, a monument to British innovation; its purpose has changed but it is no less significant. It was built in the 1880s; a feat of engineering second to none, in a city that served as the beating industrial heart of a worldwide Empire. The design was chosen by public competition, and combined the most up-to-date technology with the aesthetics of a bygone age. The steam hydraulics and bascules were set against two imposing Gothic towers, designed to blend in with the nearby Tower of London. 

The bridge was opened on Saturday 30 June 1894 by the Prince and Princess of Wales. Summer sun illuminated the waters of the Thames; boats and barges and wherries, all brilliantly decorated, crowded in for a closer look; and the Prince himself triggered the hydraulics, declaring it open. The Tower guns thundered, trumpets sang out in delight and spectators roared their approval. 

Since then, Tower Bridge has survived two world wars; been witness to jumping buses and soaring airplanes; and watched London’s economy shift from industrial to financial and service-based. The old steam hydraulics were replaced by a far more efficient electrical model; the Victorian machinery is now a valuable museum piece, showcasing past innovation. Tower Bridge has been renovated, repainted and even been lit up for the Olympics – glowing gold every time Team GB brought home a gold medal (if you’ll forgive the smugness, it did glow gold an awful lot in the summer of 2012).

Tower Bridge is more than a landmark: it is a living, breathing chunk of London history. Scala’s new guidebook showcases its glorious past and exciting future, coupling archive images and fresh new photography with engaging, entertaining text. 

 

Bill Jacklin APRIL 2016

An Englishman in New York

‘[In New York] I found my subject. It was a conduit for me to experience all those things that excite me. When I first arrived, every street corner I went round I found something. New York, for want of a better word, is my muse.’ – Bill Jacklin 

Bill Jacklin’s work is a celebration of the magnificence of New York City. He has dedicated the last three decades to painting ‘urban portraits’ of New York in all its moods and tempers, guises and glory – from large canvases of crowds in flux to intimate moments of Seurat-like etchings.   

His paintings are never static: they present a living, breathing moment snatched from the endlessly variable world of New York. The hazy eroticism of Dancers 42nd Street; the fresh summer brightness of Sheep Meadow III; The Battle, Tompkins Square where protestors clash with police and the air is ripe with tension. His series of paintings of Coney Island, where the smell of salt leaks off the page; his depictions of New York Stock Exchange, which are saturated with colour and wealth and hunger. Snow, Times Square II where the viewer feels the bite of the wind, the crunch of snow underfoot, the nibble of cold on exposed fingers. Hot Legs, Times Square: a glorious conflagration of consumerism, dance and music. The peace of Double Road With Birds. All of his paintings capture the heartbeat of the city, ensnaring and tantalizing the viewer. 

Bill Jacklin’s New York is the first full treatment of Jacklin’s New York paintings. Featuring an introduction by Sting, who is a fellow Englishman in New York, and an insightful interview with the artist by the art historian Michael Peppiatt, this new publication will be a significant contribution to the study of this internationally acclaimed artist, and serve as an enduring love letter to New York. 

Scala is publishing Bill Jacklin’s New York to coincide with Bill Jacklin’s forthcoming solo shows. He will be presenting his work at Marlborough Fine Art, London, 6 May – 7 June, and at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 3 June – 28 August. 

 

 

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