Thursday, 24 December 2015

Favourite Music, Books and Exhibitions from 2015 Revisited

So we’re coming to the end of 2015 and I am rounding off with a list of my “favourites” of 2015.

Best Live Act

Skinny Lister – saw them at Cambridge Folk Festival and absolutely loved them, as detailed in my review of the festival. Also really enjoyed their Down on Deptford Broadway album.

Best Album

This was a hard category. I was very tempted to go for a Skinny Lister double, but The Young ‘Uns Another Man’s Ground gets it primarily for the track “You Won’t Find Me on Benefits Street” but is overall a great album, which I reviewed here.

Best New Act

This year I have encountered loads of great new music. This has to go to Lady Sanity though. As this post on the Radio Six Music Introducing event at the Hare and Hounds says I was blown away by her. However, I have to say that Finch and the Moon were great too. Note I am not including Skinny Lister because whilst they were new to me Down on Deptford Broadway was their second album.

Best Festival

Cambridge Folk Festival was wonderful this year. Absolutely loved it. The Birmingham Literature Festival came in very close to this one and I was unsure whether to go for this one in first place. This post links to my review of my favourite Lit Festival Event.

Best Non-Religious Book

The Mistresses of Cliveden by Natalie Livingstone. This one was a bit of an impulse book and it really caught my imagination, as I made clear in my review.

Best Religious Book

Mission on the Road to Emmaus: Constants, Context and Prophetic Dialogue edited by Cathy Ross and Stephen Bevans. This was a deep book which is well worth more than one reading. This is my review from my other blog.

Best UK Exhibition

At Home with Vanley Burke at the Ikon Gallery. This was a full installation and it really caught my imagination, as the obligatory blog review shows. This category was a very close run thing with Provincial Punk by Grayson Perry which was on at the Turner Contemporary in Margate coming in as a close second. This was again reviewed on my other bin a post which also gives mention of Leonie Dawson's Life and Biz workbook which if it had a category would be my best self-improvement tool of the year.

Best International Exhibition

This has to go to the John Paul Gaultier Exhibition in Paris which was amazing. The post where I reviewed this is placed at the bottom of this page and again originally appeared on my other, personal, blog.

The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Grand Palais is both stylish and innovative, as one might expect from an exhibition this designer has a hand in. It mixes media involving photography and music as well as textiles.

It’s not your average exhibition, unlike the neighbouring American Icons. That exhibition which is on in another part of the same venue until 22nd June 2015 describes itself as “60 emblematic works from the SFMOMA and the Fisher collection (one of the world’s largest private modern and contemporary art collections, now curated by the museum).” To be fair it’s not bad containing some works by both Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein which I hadn’t come across in their retrospectives at the Tate Modern but it is distinctly underwhelming compared to the Gaultier exhibition which is an experience designed to draw the visitor into an experience.

There are photos and artifacts which reference Gaultier’s early life and influences but this is minimal because the focus is on his haute couture.

The sailor suit stripes are part of the designers own trademark look and are shown in a variety of ways, most strikingly by a manikin in a  jumper and neckerchief. This was no standard manikin though, as with several others it was an android programmed to speak to you as it displayed Gaultier’s face.

There was a Dr. Who feel to these manikins which, on occasion, were ready to make eye contact with you which Karl found unsettling.

As I said the clothes were the central focus of this exhibition and you were reminded of this as you moved into a room with a revolving catwalk. On one side sat a range of guests he’d dressed including Nana Mouskouri and Conchita Wurst. On the other stood a range of London Punks alongside Bowie and Boy George. This was pure beautiful art.

Wedding dresses, corsets and Madonna cones mixed with bondage style wear and more as you worked your way through an array of beautiful and challenging style.

The architecture of the building housing the exhibition was also used to maximum affect as you made your way up a sweeping stone staircase which was lit and had pumping music to a space where you could watch a film illustrating the sheer diversity of the models Gaultier used.

My one criticism was that on the whole the manikins did not reflect the diversity and inclusion the designer is famous for.

Would I recommend a trip to this exhibition? Certainly, indeed whilst we discovered this quite by accident whilst wandering through the city towards the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triumph I would say that for the true love of fashion and spectacle it may worth a trip to the French capital. This was one of the best curated exhibitions and certainly one of the most innovative I’ve encountered. Also in France you get the benefit of being able to take photos of these exhibitions if you wish, although this wasn’t the case for the David Bowie Is exhibition on at the Philharmonie De Paris  until the 31st May 2015.

The Bowie exhibition was what had initially prompted our trip, having missed it at the V & A but having been memorized it via event cinema. It was a good exhibition with a number of original song lyrics and videos of Bowie’s classics as well as costumes and other memorabilia but after the Gaultier exhibition it had neither the impact or wow factor it may otherwise have done. Indeed whilst technologically advanced in many ways it seemed dated compared to the manikins at the Grand Palais. The venue for the Bowie exhibition in an outlying part of Paris was interesting, yet it required a specific visit. Unlike the Gaultier this was never going to be one of those wonders you unexpectedly come across. 

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