Telling Time Travel

The Evening Standard (London, England), December 16, 2011 | Go to article overview

Telling Time Travel


Byline: BEN LUKE

GOVERNMENT ART COLLECTION -- SELECTED BY SIMON SCHAMA: TRAVELLING LIGHT Whitechapel Gallery, E1 THE Whitechapel's Collections gallery is a place for curiosities. It houses small exhibitions chosen from different collections -- first, from the British Council's holdings, then from a Greek private collection, and now, a group of shows from the Government Art Collection. You don't come for exquisite, minimal displays, but to see often wildly disparate objects which reflect the purpose and idiosyncrasies of collections public and private. At the helm of the third GAC show is historian Simon Schama. His eye is good and theme convincing -- he looks at the influence of travel on British art, from artists on overseas journeys to British ex-pats reflecting their surroundings to migrant visitors who have influenced our cultural landscape.

Some conjunctions are rather too novel -- Richard Long's lyrical and peaceful text describing a 24-hour journey through Dartmoor atop Grayson Perry's Portrait of an Englishman (2004), a gothic map of his own mind, is a neat meeting of a physical journey and a mental one, but aesthetically jarring. Other pairs work beautifully, though -- Thomas Phillips's portrait of a young Lord Byron in sumptuous Albanian garb converses delightfully with Vanessa Bell's Byzantine Lady (1912). …

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