Elena Bowes

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

Tate Modern Fatigue – Wanna Save the Tate for a Later Date? Then Read On

June 17th, 2016
Town & Country
Lovings: Art, Design & FashionWanderings: Europe

I know, I know,  the new Tate Modern is a must-see.  Switch House, the 10-story twisted pyramid of latticed brick is as mesmerising as it is overwhelming. The panoramic views from the 10th floor, the gorgeous Louise Bourgeois watercolours on the 4th  floor, the vast exhibition spaces with eye-popping installations,  the industrial concrete walls throughout, the interactive, sweeping staircase from top down, it is all utterly fantastic.

Last night at the opening dinner Tate Director Nick Serota got a well-deserved standing ovation,

 and I got a selfie and  some chocolates.


I want to go back and explore, just not this weekend. Mob scenes aren’t my thing.  If Switch House and Boiler House (the original Tate Modern next door where the art has been completely rehung) are Britain’s cultural cathedral then I’ll visit Mecca when the path clears.

In the meantime, there are two shows which promise to please and be a tad more relaxing. For the city mouse,  don’t miss terrific Nigerian fashion designer Duro Olowu’s curated “Making & Unmaking” opening this weekend at the Camden Arts Centre.

How, you might ask, do I know Duro’s show will be great when it doesn’t open until tomorrow?

Simple, I answer, his dresses make me feel fabulous.

(My horoscope told me not to overthink things.)


Duro delights in blending bold pallettes of pattern and color into beautifully-cut, flattering dresses. Image below is from Duro’s shoebox size, treasure trove of a shop in Mason’s Yard near Piccadilly.


Similarly, Duro is mixing it all up in Camden – antique West African textiles and Bauhaus tapestries are placed alongside contemporary works and new commissions. He has selected over sixty international artists that inspire him from household names like Fernand Leger and Brice Marden to lesser known talents like Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou’s Untitled (Musclemen series)


and Wangechi Mutu’s Panties in a Bunch.


For the country mouse, we move from edgy Camden to cosy Cotswolds, where On Form, a biennial exhibition of sculpture in stone  at Asthall Manor has just opened.

unspecified (1)

Once owned by writer Nancy Mitford’s family, Asthall Manor is set in gorgeous  gardens designed by Isabel Bannerman  whose green thumb has worked its magic on Highgrove and Arundel Castle. Her stunning botanical photographs are being exhibited at On Form and can be purchased through her London dealer Jonathan Cooper.


Asthall Manor owner Rosie Pearson explained to me how she hopes On Form will make sculpture accessible.

I want people to touch the works, explore them and not be put off by over intellectualisation.

 About 270 stone sculptures are scattered throughout the property.

unspecified (4)

as well as is in the Ballroom …


This was my favourite by Tom Stogdon.


The Cotswolds can be very social. Asthall is no exception. My hosts Sebastian and Thomas Gibson (below from the left) seemed to know everyone there. Meanwhile, I bumped into my son Thomas (right), who was there with friends. Thomas has always operated on a needs-to-know basis.


Also at Asthall are the Mad Hatter bookshop with a packed schedule of events and  the Potting Shed Cafe with a guest chef  every  Saturday night until the sculpture show closes July 10th.

June, 2016