You can find the map for today’s 5.74 mile walk here. 38 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.
I loved this walk immensely. I am writing this post after having done two walks since, and I still get a big smile when I think about this one.
I went into Mayfair with a lot of ideas about what the day would be like and I was totally wrong. I learned two big things: Mayfair isn’t as snobby as you might think and there is art everywhere. I had no idea about either of those things.
Compared to the rest of the West End, I have spent much less time in Mayfair than anywhere else almost entirely based on the fact that I thought I wouldn’t feel welcome here, walking around being my totally average self. I hate shopping, I don’t wear heels, I don’t seek out sparkly things, I never wear makeup, I have never been in a Bentley and I certainly carry my own luggage when I travel, normally on my back.
For those reasons, I have avoided a lot of this area and that was really lame of me to do. One of the things I love best about London is that I really rarely feel judged or unwelcome. I walk confidently into places feeling like I have a right to be there. Rather than get a turned up nose from the staff, I end up chatting with them, learning a lot and laughing a lot. So I don’t know why I was so worried that this part of town would really be different. I broke my rule of “If something intrigues you, check it out” because I was so worried I would be judged and gently escorted out. Silly me. I’m happy to have learned my lesson.
That notion about rich snobby people also tied in with my ideas about what was on offer here. I knew there were loads of high-end, luxury stores (Gucci, Cartier, Tiffany, that type of stuff) and expensive cafes. I had NO idea there were amazing galleries all over the damn place. And the art isn’t just Van Gogh and Greek classics that I think of rich people arrogantly showing off to their friends, everything is here (sneak peek at Day 48: I even found a Banksy exhibition that was pretty awesome).
My first taste of the art scene was when I happened upon a great outdoor installation in Berkeley Square by Dale Chihuly, the amazing glass blower. I was so excited to see this and learn that he is making new pieces because I was definitely told a while ago that he died. Happily for us (and him) he didn’t! He’s still cranking out great work. This amazing ball of colour, called The Sun, is eye-catching enough in the afternoon but it also lights up at night for an even greater effect. Wicked. I will definitely be back to check it out.
The Halcyon Gallery is hosting The Sun, and their gallery (just around the corner on New Bond Street) has an exhibition of some other Chihuly pieces that you should definitely see if you can before it ends on June 21st. Here are a couple of my favourites:
This pile of glass filled up a giant canoe in the middle of a room. it wasn’t my favourite piece as a whole, kind of weird and spiky, but I really loved the colours.
These pieces were placed on a glass ceiling that was lit from behind. To see them you walk underneath and look up. Pretty much any picture you take of these shapes and colours will turn out wonderfully.
Also on at the same gallery is an installation by Santiago Montoya (I think he is Inigo’s cousin twice removed). Most of the works here were mosaics, using bank notes that are cut very precisely (very precisely), rolled into an arch and attached to a board. From a distance it looks like this:
And up close it looks like this.
Pretty cool, no?
The mosaic theme was pretty strong with all the art I saw today. The most extreme was probably the one I saw at the Opera Gallery, also on New Bond Street. It is made from bullets. The bullets were set into a board (I am guessing not with a hammer to the back), and then the artist spray-painted an image on the front in very similar colours to the metal (making it actually pretty hard to see).
I wasn’t in love with this piece at all for a lot of reasons (the least of which being the gallery lady told me they can’t hang it because its weight would bring down the wall) but it was cool to see people working with different materials I’ve never seen in art pieces before.
I have been reading The Artist’s Way, so art has been on my mind a lot and stumbling across all this stuff was a really welcome surprise for me. For some reason “art” to me meant I had to be good at drawing or painting and if I can’t do that I can’t go anywhere. Turns out that is total bullocks. Seeing all these different expressions of creativity today was massively inspiring. As was this great quote by Alexander Caulder.
Sparing you a slideshow of all the art I saw on this walk, suffice to say that Mayfair is definitely a great place to go for a quick fix. The staff at the galleries were all really friendly and helpful. One guard and I even had a twenty-minute discussion about our favourite pieces and what they meant to us. I guess if you stand there looking at them all day you develop opinions, and you are happy to finally talk about it with someone who seems interested in hearing it. I felt very free to slowly amble through at my own pace snapping photos to my heart’s content.
If you are looking to get going on your own art stroll, here is a great map from the Guardian with locations for all the galleries. Let me know which ones you like!
On an un-art-related note, I ended the day in Lancashire Court for lunch with a friend. This place always makes me happy. I attribute that less to the overpriced food and more to the fact that it is a perfectly cosy little alley tucked away right behind the busiest streets in London. Every time I bring people here it seems to be new to them so I don’t think enough people know about it. Go here for lunch one day. You’ll thank me later.
A Humble Request
Right. I told you I liked today a lot and while this post is getting a little long, I wanted to ask a favour of you, the loyal reader who actually makes it to the end of my posts!
Serendipity and curiosity have led me on a little quest every day to find the number corresponding to my walk (Day 46=46, for example) to use as the cover photo for my post. It’s been a fun project that has made me pay attention to details I wouldn’t notice otherwise.
My request to you is this: I am looking for ideas of things to keep an eye out for when I walk, the more specific the more fun (giraffes? watermelons? cowboy boots? links to your home town?). I might find it. I might not. It could be a horrible idea. It could change my life and yours (less likely). But it could lead to some fun and unexpected diversions along the way. Let’s see what happens. If you have any ideas you want to add to the list, send them my way.
That’s it for today (finally, right?!). Next time I will tell you a little story about the Queen, Jesus and Wonder Woman.
London is a strange place.
See you next time!
38 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.
Quick update from the future: now that this project is finished, I’m off on another adventure! Keep in touch on my new blog at Three Miles an Hour. See you there!