Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Summertime in the City – a Delight

July 20th, 2017

I just bumped into a neighbour and we agreed how pleasant and tranquil London is in the summer.

No one is here, she said. I can zip around the city, do all my errands in no time.

I couldn’t agree more- no line at my local coffee shop, pilates class is now just me and the teacher. It’s a bit like being on holiday without the jet lag. A staycation is so under-rated. If you  happen to be in London this summer, even for just a few days, here are my tips on what to see while luxuriating in the rare quiet.

Pack a picnic and head to Regent’s Park where Frieze is hosting its first-ever summer Sculpture Park in the very pretty English Gardens. The display includes 25 new and important works by top 20th century and contemporary artists, including, Urs Fischer, Miquel Barceló, Michael Craig-Martin, Ugo Rondinone, Tony Cragg, and John Chamberlain.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Clare Lilley talks about each work for a few minutes on the downloadable audio tour.  Lilley is full of interesting  and fun facts about the sculptors.

Ugo Rondinone’s Summer Moon below is a white enamelled bronze cast of a 1,000 year-old olive tree from where Rondinone’s family came from in Italy. He currently lives in a converted chapel in Harlem.


I loved the plaster Gran Elefeandret by Miguel Barceló. And I thought headstands were hard! Born in Mallorca he now spends a lot of his time in Mali without electricity or running water.


Below is American artist John Chamberlain’s Fiddlers Fortune. Best known for his crushed automobile scrap metal sculptures, this is a finger-sized sculpture made big. Imagine a tiny tinfoil chewing gum wrapper rolled into skinny tubes and twisted into a knot. Then enlarge it.


Next stop is White Cube Gallery in Mason’s Yard in St James. Harland Miller is a British writer and artist who just can’t get his thoughts out of the gutter…


For something a bit more serious, go see Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901-1991) at Tate Modern, a forgotten female artist from outside the conventional American European norm. The Turkish-born painter and princess had been left behind until Tate’s Frances Morris and Jessica Morgan (now at NYC’s DIA) “rediscovered her” at the Istanbul Biennale a few years ago.


I interviewed the show’s curator Kerryn Greenberg about Zeid. She led a fascinating and troubled life including a family murder, death of her first child, a narrow escape from political assassination and two world wars, not to mention tea with Hitler and writing to Donald Trump. Through it all, she kept painting. Here’s my blog in The Women’s Room Blog about the unappreciated artist.

The Victoria & Albert’s long-awaited new entrance and porcelain-paved courtyard has finally opened its doors. The £48 million project by Amanda Levete Architects beautifully connects the museum to Exhibition Road. And come September, the 1,100 square meter, column-free Sainsbury Gallery will open, one of the largest temporary exhibition spaces in the U.K. A new Member’s Room opens in the autumn with glorious vistas of the entrance and London beyond. Worth joining for the view.



Just up the street from the V&A is the Serpentine’s Summer Pavilion designed by Francis Kére, an award-winning Berlin- based architect originally from Gando, Burkina Faso.


The main canopy mimics a tree, the central meeting point in Kéré’s hometown. While you’re there check out cross-dressing artist Grayson Perry’s show, The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever.

And lastly, Matisse in the Studio opens August 5th at the Royal Academy, an exhibition about  the props from which the French painter drew inspiration and the specific paintings they inspired. African masks, Chinese calligraphy, Islamic odalisques and more. Wish I was here for that.

But alas I will be hopping around and reporting back. Stay tuned for more urban centric stories – a blog on a terrific Milanese designer and his gem of a shop, a lovely, contemplative show  in New York and a story on when your friend becomes your stylist. It did not end in tears.

July, 2017