Monday, June 23, 2014

The British Library at Brighton Museum

Yesterday Russell and I went to Brighton. We do love the place for it's colour, food, antiques, queerness and as a general dose of culture on the south coast. The Brighton Museum is one of the best in the country for the decorative arts and they often have extremely interesting temporary exhibitions. So we used the Keith Vaughan exhibition currently showing there as an excuse for a trip along the coast. And the Keith Vaughan was, as always, fascinating and beautiful and a little sad... but these photos represent the book-related surprise of the day. This is a site-specific installation by Yinka Shonibare. It is in the Old Reference Library in the Brighton Museum and it was both fascinating and beautiful. Every book is covered in beautiful cloth (Indonesian design and Dutch manufacture) and each with the name of an immigrant to this country who has made a significant contribution to what we think of as British culture gilt stamped onto the spine. Obviously its an artwork with a 'point' but unlike many such pieces this is also beautiful and, because there is just so much external reference through the thousands of names, it becomes almost meditative and is a very long way from self-regarding as some 'political' art work can seem. The names are those of both the well-kown and the unfamiliar, among them: T.S. Eliot, Henry James, Hans Holbein, Kazuo Ishiguro, Zaha Hadid, Mick Jagger, Darcey Bussell, George Frideric Handel, Hammasa Kohistani, Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher, Amartya Sena, Anish Kapoor and many more. The installation is, of course, called "The British Library".

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