Thursday, 31 October 2013

Brussels art deco - Uccle and Ixelles

Brussels is well known for its large collection of art nouveau buildings, but the city is also rich in art deco and modernism from the 1920's through to the 1940's. Many of the best examples of Brussels art deco are in the suburbs and last Sunday afternoon I was fortunate enough to be able to see several of them on a walk through Uccle

Uccle (or Ukkel if you prefer the Dutch/ Flemish name) was a rural area until the period immediately after the First World War when it became subject to rapid development, including the construction of a large number of art deco and modernist buildings demanded by the grown up children of families that might previously have desired and been able to afford art nouveau residences. This change in demand reflected the changes brought about by the War. These included shortages of materials, money and patience. Clients wanted their homes built in six to twelve months rather than the five or so years it had taken to construct the Art Nouveau gems designed by Victor Horta and his contemporaries. 

My walk began in Avenue L'Echevinage which contains several interesting buildings - the first being a very simple house dating from the mid 1930's and for which the architect is unknown (any information on his or her identity would be very welcome!). At first glance the house is very simple with only modest decorative detail, reflecting the rejection of the earlier art nouveau style. However, a closer look reveals some very clever detailing - the criss-cross brickwork underneath the bay window, the v-shaped metalwork details and glazing in the front door, repeated on the small window to the side and the railings on the external steps. The brickwork is also used to decorative effect with bricks being laid both upright and lengthways on different parts of the facade. The pillar with the light fitting to the left of the door adds further interest to this little house and of course the vibrant red paint makes it stand out on this most elegant of Uccle's side streets.


Art deco house, Avenue L'Echevinage, Uccle, Circa 1935, architect unknown.
Just a little further down the avenue stands a building known as la maison des terraces, built in 1935 and designed by architect Raphael Delville, Admiring this beautiful modernist, white painted cement building in the autumn afternoon sunshine, for just a few seconds I could imagine myself in Tel Aviv. The house has beautiful curved balconies, curved glazing at first floor level and a hidden doorway beneath the first of the terraces. There is also a roof garden, built for social gatherings and sun bathing which became popular in Europe for the first time during the 1930's as part of a new awareness of, and interest in health. Again, I was reminded of Tel Aviv where communal space was provided on the roof of apartment blocks to encourage communal activity as well as to provide space for washing clothes and other practical activities.

Delville worked with another leading Belgian architect - Stanislas Jassinski, in designing a World City proposal for Antwerp in 1941. The World City idea was a utopian vision of another Belgian - Paul Otlet in which a single city, the world city, would radiate knowledge to the rest of the globe, through bringing together major cultural, social and sporting institutions in a single place. The Antwerp plans were not realised but Delville's maison des terrasses vies for being my favourite deco or modernist building in Brussels - albeit with strong competition.

La maison des terrasses, Avenue l'échevinage, Uccle. 1935, Raphael Delville.
Raphael's maison certainly won my heart but I was equally impressed by the work of another architect - Louis Tenaerts. A prolific architect, he was responsible for many of the buildings in Uccle, including at least five in Avenue Coghan alone. As with several of the architects I discovered on this walk, there seems to be very little information about him on the internet or in English language publications. Sounds like a book waiting to be written?

I must confess that I almost missed Tenaerts' best Uccle buildings. The day which had started out in autumnal sunshine had grown darker and heavy rain had began to fall. Cold and wet, I was on the verge of calling it a day when my guide mentioned an "interesting little deco house" around the corner. I must thank him for this teaser which turned out to be an understatement. Tucked away in the quaintly named Rue de la Seconde Reine (street of the second queen) is the other candidate for my favourite Brussels deco building. Dating from 1930 and the only deco building in the street, this beauty has a wonderful glazed facade which runs the length of the staircase. The narrow facade also has a small balcony and three half disc decorative features below the flat roof. Despite the darkness and the driving rain, I managed to get a couple of reasonable pictures of the building. Just great! 

The house in Rue de la Seconde Reine was one of two Tenaerts designed buildings that stood out on my walk, the other being in Avenue Coghan. Also dating from 1930 and another narrow building, it  too has a window that runs the length of the staircase, a roof terrace and a stylish black and white striped surround to the garage door.

Rue de la Seconde reine, Uccle. 1930, Louis Tenaerts.

Avenue Coghan, Uccle. 1930, Louis Tenaerts.
Jean-Florian Collin was another busy architect from this period. His speciality appears to have been apartment blocks, one of which can be found at 358 Avenue Brugmann in Uccle. This large block has a somewhat austere exterior broken only by some interesting cement beading running up the facade and  an imposing recessed main entrance. The centre of the door sports a sunray motif which is repeated at the apex. Built in 1930, this is one of a number of blocks along Avenue Brugmann, most of which were built as financial investments and some of which are demolished every thirty years or so to be replaced with something more contemporary for the rental market!

Collin worked on into the 1970's, including designing large social housing estates in France and Belgium. Perhaps more interestingly, he was active in the Belgian resistance during the Second World War and was awarded both the French Croix de Guerre and the Medal of Resistance. He went on to become actively involved in politics including serving in the Belgian parliament, holding office as Mayor in a small town near Namur and vigorously campaigning for European economic integration.

Apartment building, Avenue Brugmann. 1930 by Jean-Florian Collin.
While most of the deco buildings I saw in Uccle were residential properties, the district boasts a stunning art deco church, one of three in Brussels. The Catholic Church deemed art deco to be an acceptable architectural style having earlier rejected art nouveau as being too sensual. The Church of St. Augustine sits in the centre of the interestingly named Place de L'Altitude 100. Dating from 1936 and the work of architects Guianotte and Watteyne, the church dominates the skyline of this part of the city. Described as a pyramid, within a circle, within a square, it has many classic art deco features incuding several references to the "rule of three" and the use of geometrical motifs. The church was locked on the day of my tour but I am advised that the interior is also impressive both in size and appearance - and is now far too big for the local congregation.

The Place de L'Altitude 100 draws its name from the fact that this is the highest point in the city. Well, Belgium isn't famous for being mountainous.

Summit of Church of St. Augustin, Place d'Altitude 100, Uccle. 1936, Guianotte and Watteyne.
Uccle is not the only part of the city where art deco and modernist architecture can be seen. The Ixelles district, perhaps better known for its art nouveau (which I will post about later) also boasts a number of excellent art deco buildings.

The Cascade apartment building on Rue General de Gaulle was built in 1939 and is the work of architect Rene Ajoux. Overlooking the Ixelles Ponds, I love the cream ceramic tiled cladding, the rounded corner balconies and the curved glazing on the block's facade. It is adjoined to a pair of equally   beautiful art nouveau buildings, demonstrating the architectural richness of this quarter. One of the art nouveau houses was for sale on the day of my visit. Sadly it was offered for several million Euros. I must remember to buy that Euro Millions lottery ticket.

Just across the ponds from the Cascade is one of Belgium's most famous modernist buildings in Place Flagey. Originally built as the home of the national radio and broadcasting company - the INR. It was for a time considered for demolition but has been reinvented as a cultural centre with cafes, cinema, theatre, music and an exhibitions programme. It has also acquired a new name -  Flagey. Built between 1933 and 1939 and designed by Joseph Diongre, it occupies a long, large footprint on the edge of Place Flagey. It has recessed upper floors and a circular tower with three levels that stand out across the ponds. Guided tours of the centre can be arranged by booking in advance - details are on the website.

Brussels architectural walks are offered by the Action Urbaine organisation (ARAU). Their rich programme includes many styles of architecture across the city with qualified and interesting guides.

You can see more pictures from Brussels here.

You might also like  Art Deco in AntwerpModernist Riga and Marcel Janco and Modernist Bucharest.
Cascade apartment block, Re General de Gaulle, Ixelles. 1939, Rene Ajoux.
Flagey, Place Flagey, Ixelles. 1933-39, Joseph Diongre.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Facing the Modern - Vienna 1900 at the National Gallery

Vienna 1900, was surely one of the most creative places and times in artistic history. The city was host to a stellar cast of architects, composers, designers, writers and artists in such numbers and of such lasting influence that is unsurpassed in modern times.

The cast list included the likes of Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffman, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler, Stefan Zweig, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka to name but a few. This explosion of creativity took place for the most part in an extremely short period, between 1900 and 1918 - the end of the First World War when the relatively benevolent if shambling Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in defeat, giving birth to a number of small, independent states and leaving Vienna a metropolis at the centre of the small Austrian republic. 

These two decades of creativity are the focus of the current exhibition at the National Gallery - Facing the Modern - which focuses on the portrait during this period. The exhibition is cleverly divided into a series of themes including self portraits, the portrayal of beauty, women artists, Vienna's fascination with death and the position of Jews within Viennese society.

Erich Lederer by Egon Schiele, 1912.
The exhibition features a variety of artistic styles ranging from earlier Biedermeier works to Klimt's deliciously flamboyant secessionist painting and the early expressionist works of Schiele and Kokoschka. Many of the portraits are of members of assimilated Jewish families involved in the city's cultural life and although affluent and well-established, not immune to the particularly virulent Austrian strain of anti-semitism that began to assert itself during this period. In 1897, the openly anti-semitic Karl Lueger was inaugurated as Mayor of Vienna, continuing in this role until his death in 1910. Credited with modernising the city and with being an influence on the later development of Nazi politics, a major  street in Vienna still bears his name.

One of the works used to illustrate these issues is Egon Schiele's portrait of the young Erich Lederer completed in 1912. The Lederers were a wealthy, assimilated family, originating from the Czech lands. Schiele depicted Erich as an awkward teenager with an elongated body, heavy dark brows and pale complexion, not dissimilar to the artist himself. Frau Lederer was said to have found the picture disturbing and felt that Schiele was not a good influence on her son. Whether good or not, the influence was lasting as in later life Erich became an ardent collector of Schiele's works, the family having left Austria whilst flight was still possible in the 1930's.

Young Rabbi from N by Isidor Kaufman, about 1910
The Lederers were representative of a particular segment of Viennese Jewish society. Isidor Kaufman painted a quite different picture. His portrait entitled Young Rabbi From N is of a young Jewish man with trimmed beard, fur hat and silk caftan, conforming to then (and now) widely held view of Jews as "foreign". However, this is countered by his good looks and steady gaze set against a backdrop containing a Hebrew inscription, demonstrating his confidence and authority. Kaufman himself would have been familiar with the barriers and prejudices faced by Jews in fin-de-siecle Vienna. Born in Arad (then in Hungary, now in Romania) he had originally worked in commerce before being able to pursue art. Arriving in Vienna in 1876, he had been denied entrance to the Academy of Fine Arts and eventually devoted his time to touring Galicia, Poland and the Ukraine to record the life and stories of the shtetl.

As well as recording the worlds and lives of others, the artists of this period also painted themselves. The exhibition devotes an entire room to self-portraits including those of Schoenberg, the painter later turned composer, Richard Gerstl, Teresa Ries, and my favourite, Egon Schiele. His Self Portrait with Raised Bare Shoulder from 1912 shows a thin, vulnerable young man with drawn expression looking directly at the viewer. It has been suggested that Schiele took this approach to appeal to potential patrons, hoping to instil feelings of pity, protectiveness, even sexual attraction that might lead to   commissions and payment. Some observers consider his interest in self-portraits to have stemmed from the death of his father from syphilis when the artist was still a child, suggesting he was traumatised and that this was played out in his art. However, during this period the public and private lives of artists were inextricably intertwined and the self portrait became a way of drawing art and life together.

1912 was not a good year for Schiele as he spent some time in prison convicted of charges of indecency due to what were termed "indecent drawings" in his studio having been seen by minors. Things were to get worse, in 1918, aged just 28, both he and his pregnant wife died from the so-called Spanish Influenza. More people died from this pandemic than did during the whole of the First World War, amongst them Schiele's contemporary Gustav Klimt.

Self portrait with raised bare shoulder by Egon Schiele, 1912.
Speaking of death, one gallery of the exhibition is devoted to this subject including to the preponderance of suicide in Vienna during this period. There have been several attempts to explain this phenomenon including the difficulties faced by huge numbers of people emigrating from rural areas and small towns to the Viennese metropolis to live in and amongst poverty, alcoholism and disease. In the case of the Jewish population, where suicide was of a particularly high rate, the restrictions and severity of institutionalised anti-semitism may have contributed.

The A Beautiful Corpse gallery includes works by Franz von Matsch depicting the dead Emperor Franz Joseph, painted in 1916, a posthumous portrait of Empress Elizabeth painted in 1899, Schiele's portrait of his wife Edith as she was dying  and a series of death masks of Schiele, Klimt and architect Adolf Loos. One of the most striking works in this gallery is Klimt's posthumous portrait of Ria Munk, painted in 1917-18. She was from a prominent Jewish family and had committed suicide by shooting herself in the heart in 1911 after an unhappy love affair with German novelist Hans Heinz Ewers.

Her family commissioned Klimt to paint her portrait posthumously. His first painting of Ria showed her as a beautiful, sensual young woman more asleep than dead - an image that troubled her mother and which she rejected. A second attempt showed Ria as being very much alive, bare breasted in a Chinese silk robe and with a riot of flowers in the background. Again, Ria's mother Aranka rejected the portrait. His third version showed a more demure young woman, smiling but deathly white, with robe pulled about her standing against a wall paper of flowers and oriental images. This approach met with Frau Munk's approval but remained unfinished, Klimt succumbing to the flu pandemic before completing it. She kept the portrait until she was deported to the Lodz ghetto in 1941 where she was subsequently murdered.

Posthumous portrait of Ria Munk lll by Gustav Klimt, 1917-18.
Together with Klimt and Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka is synonomous with the art of Vienna during this period. Kokoschka was not Viennese but originated from a small town in Lower Austria. Like Schiele, his work was subject to fierce criticism from the artistic establishment who dismissed it as being representative of a sickness in society. Also subject to this kind of criticism was his Children Playing from 1909, showing the son and daughter of the Stein family momentarily resting from their games. I have to disagree with the critics - for me this is a picture showing affection and innocence - something that was in short supply in Vienna in 1909. Kokoschka's expressionist style was not to everyone's liking but whist his work remains the subject of admiration today who remembers his critics?

Children Playing by Oscar Kokoschka, 1909.
My final choice from the exhibition is Arnold Schoenberg's portrait of Hugo Botsiber. Botsiber, like Schoenberg, a Jewish musicologist gazes directly at the artist and shows tension, suspicion and insecurity. Painted in 1910, Botsiber's anxiety is prescient for what was to happen in the following decades in Vienna. He fled Austria for London in 1938, dying there in 1942. Vienna 1900 was a time of intense creativity, artistic and technological progress. It was also a dark threatening time for many people, but of course the worst darkness was yet to come.

Hugo Botsiber by Arnold Schoenberg, circa 1910.
The exhibition runs until 12th January. It is a great show - and one to return to.

You might also like Jewish Vienna and Ver Sacrum Magazine and the Vienna Secession

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Carleen Anderson at Pizza Express


Carleen Anderson closed this year's ReVoice festival last night at Soho's Pizza Express with a stunning set, ably supported by a very tight band, featuring Tom Cawley on piano, Al Cherry on electric guitar, Laurence Cottle on bass guitar and Simon Lea on drums.

Born in Texas into a musical family including mother Vicki Anderson and with James Brown as her godfather and Bobby Byrd as her stepfather, the young Carleen followed the route of singing in church from a very early age. As well as the family influences she has worked with artists ranging from John Dankworth and Dr. John to Jocelyn Brown, Johnny Cash and Paul McCartney. She came to the UK 23 years ago and had early success as one of the Young Disciples, whose hit Apparently Nothing was a showstopper at Pizza Express. She has also worked with the likes of the Brand New Heavies and Incognito

Last night she treated us to a lengthy work out of her 1990's pop hit, Mama Said (I still have the CD single from back then - you can enjoy this song by clicking on the musical link at the top of this post), the aforesaid Apparently Nothing and a tremendous version of the Deneice Williams hit Free, which brought to mind the much missed Minnie Riperton as Carleen effortlessly reached the song's super high notes. She also treated us to three songs from what she hopes will eventually be a musical based on the story of he grandparents, the first family members born free in the United States, their struggles, successes and enduring love. The influence of her pastor grandfather was especially clear in the third of the songs, a rip roaring gospel number which included Ms Anderson giving a virtuoso performance on tambourine. This is a project still in preparation - more soon please Carleen!

A word about the band. Tight throughout, there were especially outstanding performances from Al Cherry on electric guitar (on Free in particular) and Simon Lea on drums. And kudos to Carleen for being generous with her musicians - all of whom were showcased with a series of solos throughout the evening. During the encore she demonstrated her own talents by accompanying herself on piano, performing Don't Look Back in Anger. A great performance from a great vocalist that was over all to soon. Oh yes, and a very big "thanks" to my friend and neighbour Bev for inviting me! 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A night on Finchley Road - Ian Shaw at JW3



Ian Shaw gave a world class performance on Sunday night at the brand new JW3, Jewish community centre for London on Finchley Road. This was the first of a series of monthly top flight jazz concerts that will also feature Tina May, Lianne Carrol and Julian Joseph as part of a humungous programme of music, theatre, cinema, adult education, youth and family activity and much more in this beautiful building. Oh yes, and there is a rather fantastic cafe too - Zest (kosher), which just happens to be led by chefs Josh Katz and Eran Tibi - both of whom formerly worked at Ottelenghi (not kosher!).

But back to Mr. Shaw. He opened with an interesting arrangement of a potentially risky song choice - You've got to pick a pocket or two - Fagin's song from Oliver which received a polite response before things took off in a big way. Linking songs with humorous stories, confessions and reminiscences our Ian had us eating from his hand very quickly. There were a couple of numbers from his  A Ghost in Every Bar album of Fran Landesmann's songs - Feet Do Your Stuff and Small Day Tomorrow, a witty version of Barbra Streisand's I Want Everything from the soundtrack of A Star is Born and another Babs favourite - the Michel Legrand composed What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life. His reference to Michel Legrand as Mickey Big made 'em laugh as did his story of demanding to sing at an Amsterdam jazz club despite being well oiled with beer, being refused and slurringly replying "I've won awards" before storming the stage and singing anyway!

He made us laugh but he almost made us cry when he moved from Harold Arlen's Last Night When We Were Young to a heartbreaking version of Amy Winehouse's Love Is A Losing Game. He manages to do this to me at least once in every gig! But there were other highlights too. A master of improvisation, I loved the insertion of the word "profoundly" into the Billie Holiday number Lover Man Where Can You Be..."when I remember all the little things we used to do, I am so profoundly lonely". Oh yes. And this too was cleverly linked to another Billie standard -What's New

Ian Shaw is one of the few jazz singers that can easily turn from jazz standards to what might be termed contemporary music and he did it again here including his version of Where Are We Now, a David Bowie song from his most recent album - still holding the audience. I liked this too, but the absolute highlight for me was Ian's reading of A Night In Tunisia during the second set. Soaring vocals, gorgeous improvisation and a stonking piano performance (throughout the gig!) from Barry Green.  Ian - please record this! The trio was completed by Geoff Gascoyne on double bass and Dave Ohm on drums - both excellent.

A terrific night on Finchley Road, with wonderful music in a great venue. I know I am going to be back for more...and Mr. Shaw mentioned a forthcoming new musical project, so look out for that too. Sundays might never be the same again...

You might also like Anat Cohen live at Pizza Express or Nicola Conte - more than entertainment at Ronnie Scott's

Friday, 11 October 2013

Picture post 21 - Ethel Spowers, Australian modernist 1890 - 1947

Wet afternoon, linocut, 1929


The current Australia exhibition at the Royal Academy includes a number of works by women artists active from the 1920's to the 1950's including Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith. Together with Thea Proctor, these are probably the best known Australian women artists from this period. I like the work of all three but am especially fond of the art of another, less well known contemporary of their's - Ethel Spowers. I discovered her on my first visit to Australia in 2009 when I saw some of her work in mueums in Melbourne and Sydney.

I was drawn to the movement in her work, the lines and patterns created by groups of people participating in every day activities - putting up umbrellas in the rain or opening newspapers to read the headlines. Her works also have a certain innocence, often featuring children and illustrating a different and possibly kinder, time and place.

Ethel was born in South Yarra, Mebourne in 1890 to her newspaper proprietor father who came from New Zealand and her British born mother. Wealthy and cultured, the Spowers family maintained a mansion in Toorak. Ethel lived there an adult, maintaining a studio there too.

Special Edition, linocut, 1936


She was able to study art briefly in Paris before taking a full course in drawing and painting in Melbourne from 1911-17 at the National Gallery schools. This was followed by a first solo exhibition at the city's Decoration Galleries in 1920, which focussed on her fairy tale drawings. A further period of study followed between 1921 and 1924, this time at London's Regent Street Polytechnic and the Academie Ranson in Paris, whilst two more solo shows in Melbourne in 1925 and 1927 heightened her reputation as an illustrator, although by this time she had diversified into producing woodcuts and linocuts - like many artists of the time, influenced by Japanese art.

In 1929 she studied with Claude Flight, the leading exponent of the modernist linocut at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London, together with her friend Eveline Syme. Throughout the 1930's her linocuts attracted attention for the bold, simplified lines and rhythms and distinctive use of colour that continue to delight today. Ethel's work was considered sufficiently important for the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum to purchase several of her linocuts. As with many new movements, the modernist movement had its critics and detractors. She responded to them in an article in the Australasian in April 1930 where she asked "all lovers of art to be tolerant to new ideas and not to condemn without understanding".

In the late 1930's Ethel stopped working as an artists due to ill health but continued doing voluntary work at a children's hospital. She died of cancer in East Melbourne in 1947 and is buried in the Fawkner cemetery. Despite having destroyed many of her works in a bonfire, a memorial exhibition of her work was held at George's Gallery in Melbourne in 1948 whilst her prints can be viewed at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, State galleries in Melbourne and Sydney and also at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in Victoria.
Swings, linocut, 1932

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Novi Sad - another Serbian surprise

Serbia's second city, Novi Sad, is just one hour's drive away from Belgrade. With a population of about 260,000 this is not a large city, but it boasts three cracking art galleries, some architectural treasures and a growing number of niche shops and boutiques that means it punches above its weight.

Synagogue, Jevrejska Street, 1909, designed by Lipot Baumhorn
The city centre is quite small and is centred around Trg (square) Slobode and its surrounding streets. My short stay in Novi Sad began with a visit to the synagogue on Jevrejska Street. Thinking I would only be able to see the exterior of the building since it was Friday afternoon I was lucky enough to coincide with a pre-arranged group tour and managed to gain entry. Built in 1909, it is the work of Hungarian architect Lipot Baumhorn. A three-naved basilica it has numerous beautiful stained glass windows and a large rose window facing the street. 

As with Serbian Jewry generally, the community was decimated in the Second World War, with 75% of the city's Jews being murdered by the occupying Germans and their allies. After the war many Jews left for Israel and today's community is estimated at 4-500. The synagogue, which was used as a collection centre for Jews scheduled for deportation during the war,  is no longer regularly used for religious purposes. Having been handed to the City in 1991 it is a concert venue for classical music and jazz but is still used for services whenever it is needed. The community still maintains one building adjacent to the synagogue for various welfare purposes.

Stained glass windows from the synagogue interior
Menrath Palace on Kralja Aleksandra, 1909, designed by Lipot Baumhorn.
Lipot Baumhorn was also responsible for another outstanding building in Novi Sad, the art nouveau style Menrath House in Kralja Aleksandra. Built in the same year as the synagogue, 1909, for wealthy merchant Josef Menrath, it's green facade and art nouveau details would not be out of place in Budapest or Vienna. Baumhorn, who was Jewish, designed at least 25 synagogues in Hungary and is buried in the Kozma Utca cemetery in Budapest. Of course, Novi Sad was part of Hungary until after the First World War when the new Kingdom that became known as Yugoslavia was established. 

Just around the corner from the Menrath House, at Pozorisni (theatre) Trg, is the Serbian National Theatre which is extremely large, with a ground area of 20,000 square metres and boasts three stages, the largest of which seats 700 people. Built in 1981, it reminds me a little of the complex of cultural buildings in Tel Aviv that includes the Opera House and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Serbia has a vibrant theatre scene and there is an extensive programme of drama and musicals here Novi Sad. 

Serbian National Theatre, Pozorisni Square, 1981.
As well as art nouveau and more recent architecture, Novi Sad has a couple of excellent examples of modernism from the 1930's in the Tanurdzic Palace at 1-3 Modena Street which dates from 1933-34 and the monumental Palace of the Danube Regional Government built from 1936-39. Designed by Serbian architects Dorde Tabakovic and Dragisa Brasovan respectively, you can read more about these buildings here.

Novi Sad has many churches. The Roman Catholic Cathedral in Trg Slobode dates from 1893-95 and is on the site of a previous church. It has three naves, a 76 metres high tower and roof tiles reminiscent of the St. Matthias Church in Budapest and the Stephansdom in Vienna, again emphasising the Hungarian and Austro-Hungarian link. Actually, it is not a cathedral but the parish church of St. Mary. The bishop's seat is in Subotica, but over the years its impressive size has led it to be referred to as "the cathedral". The surrounding square is the hub of the city's social life and is packed with locals day and night, going about their business, enjoying a drink or taking part in the evening passagiata.

Roman Catholic Cathedral, Novi Sad
As well as having an outstanding built heritage, Novi Sad is also rich in art. The city has three important art museums, adjacent to each other in aptly named Trg Galerija, or Gallery Square. The star of the show has to be the Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection housed in a purpose built pavilion constructed and opened in 1961. Beljanski was a collector of painting, sculpture and tapestry which he donated to the state in 1957, continuing to add to the collection afterwards. The collection has many highlights including paintings by Petar Dobrovic, Ignat Job and Ivan Radovic (one of whom's works from the 1930's is pictured below) and sculpture by Risto Stijovic and Sreten Stojanovic. The collection includes a range of modern styles from impressionism to expressionism, cubism and works with fauvist references. The gallery also has a good shop with books, cards, pottery and other items reflecting the collection. The Beljanski Collection is a real treasure in a city of this size.

Ivan Radović

Just across the square stands the Gallery of Matica Srpska, a collection that was began in Budapest in 1826 and transferred to Novi Sad in 1864, coming to the current building in 1958. Spread over 19 rooms, the collection contains a wide range of Serbian art from the 18th century to more recent times. At the moment, a number of the galleries are closed for renovation but there is still a programme of temporary exhibitions on the ground floor. The third art museum in Trg Galerija is the Collection of Rajko Mamuzic, another collector. The Mamuzic collection focuses on Serbian and Yugoslavian artists post Second World War as well as temporary shows.  

OK, so that's art and architecture which must mean its time for shopping and eating. The city's main streets are home to countless clothes shops, shoe shops, cafes and restaurants, book shops and more but the narrower back lanes offer some more interesting choices. Quite by chance I came across Eugen, a chocolatier, established in 2007, producing high quality chocolates and selling them at 13 Pasicevoj ulici. This little shop offers milk, dark and white chocolate often with interesting ingredients including almond, ginger, lemon, honey and poppy. The packaging is also of high quality with boxes featuring reproductions of vintage postcards from Serbian cities and quotations from Serb writers including Bora Stankovic, Miroslav Mika Antic and of course Ivo Andric. The staff are very knowledgeable about the products as well as being very friendly. Eugen is a must for any future visit I make to Novi Sad!

Still on the subject of food, I had dinner at a restaurant called Fish and Zelenis at Skerliceva 2. My friends know that I do not eat fish, but this restaurant also offers chicken and vegetarian dishes, salads and pastas. I was attracted to the restaurant by its Mediterranean style decor and the great jazz music being played in the background. Skerliceva is a narrow street and the restaurant has premises on both sides of the road, with one side seemingly used for cooking and the other for eating. I don't know how they cope when it rains! I enjoyed my very fresh mozarella, tomato and basil starter followed by chicken with polenta and would definitely return. 

Just a few streets away from the restaurant, I discovered a small but interesting home design shop called  Zanart at 25 Svetozara Miletica. Recently established by architect Marko Runjic and his designer partner (whose name I noted and lost - please let me know if you read this!), it is filled with quirky and cool items for the design conscious. I especially liked the cardboard chair and the tableware. There is no website yet, but you can see their facebook page here. It was great to see small independent businesses such as this, stimulating the city's economy and offering something a little different for both locals and visitors.

Zanart design shop in Svetozara Miletica
My final shopping experience was at the book shop Serendipiti at Ulica Zmaj Jovina 15, back on the main drag. It is packed with books, cards, films and music as well as having a small cafe/ bar. This is probably the best place in Novi Sad to find books in English. They have a good collection of guide books including a great little book, packed with photographs called The Novi Sad I Love, of which I am now the proud owner. They also have larger, more expensive photographic books including Subotica, Then And Now which is a fantastic photographic record of the passing of time in that city. Sadly, it was too large for me to carry back this time - but I've made a note of it. Serendipti has a website and a facebook page too.

I had just twenty four hours in Novi Sad on my way from Belgrade to Subotica further north. It was twenty four hours that I thoroughly enjoyed...and yes, I did bring back chocolates from Eugen...might finish them off now with a nice coffee...

Street scene, Novi Sad
You might also like Belgrade - secret star of the Balkans and Serbian modernism - a forgotten heritage which includes more on Novi Sad

For more pictures of Novi Sad click here

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Popular pictures on flickr

Its now two years and 96,372 views since I opened my flickr account in October 2011. I am still hooked on flickr, not just for being able to post and share my own photographs, but to be able to see great pictures from all around the world for free.

Since my previous annual round up of flickr stories, I have been surveying London's remaining art deco buildings, bit by bit and a number of these photographs have been very popular, attracting many views. A small set that I did on Florin Court near the Barbican has been particularly successful with the picture below receiving 353 views. Florin Court was the location for some of the popular TV series Poirot, based on Agatha Christie's novels. You can read more about Florin Court here.

Florin Court, London
Another popular photo in my London art deco series is the clock that sits proudly above the enhance to Selfridges department store in London's Oxford Street. I took this picture at the end of a long morning of touring north and central London, capturing images of some of the great art deco stations on the Piccadilly Line as well as some of the gems tucked away in the West End. So far, it has received 371 views on flickr. 

Art deco clock, Selfridges, London

The Royal Academy of Art has staged some great exhibitions this year. I especially liked the recent Mexico show. When I went to visit this exhibition, a huge wall hanging sculpture, the work of West African artist, El Anatsui was on display in the front courtyard of the Academy. I took a series of pictures of the sculpture which soon garnered more than 200 flickr views each. Made from aluminium bottle tops, printing plates and roofing sheets, it stopped visitors in their tracks as they came through the entrance to the courtyard.

El Anatsui hanging sculpture, Royal Academy, London
Over the last twelve months, some of my older photographs from Russia and from Odessa in the Ukraine have begun to attract lots of extra views. This has changed the profile of my most popular photographs which for the first year on flickr were dominated by pictures taken in Eritrea - especially in and around Asmara. The three most viewed pictures on my flickr account to date include my interior shot of the beautiful Choral synagogue in St. Petersburg, taken in 2008 is the third most viewed picture with more than 500 views. I remember very well my visit to St. Petersburg and my excitement at walking along the great boulevard - Nevsky Prospekt, stopping for coffee and cakes on my way to the Hermitage.

St. Petersburg by Yekkes
Choral Synagogue, St. Petersburg
My picture of the young Orthodox Jewish boy and his mother taken in Jerusalem's Shuk Mahane Yehuda in 2010 is my second most viewed photograph, also with over 500 views. It is one of my favourite pictures, captured on one of my many strolls through the Shuk, taking in the sites, sounds, smells and colours of this wonderful place. And look at those pastries too!

Israel ישראל by Yekkes
Shuk Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem
The most viewed of my pictures is of the ceiling in the Rishelevskaya Street synagogue in Odessa. The ceiling has a beautiful large scale gold coloured menorah set against a lighter coloured background. It has now amassed an amazing (to me) 950 plus views - although, it should be noted that many other flickr photos have thousands of views

Odessa by Yekkes
Ceiling of synagogue in Rishelevskaya Street, Odessa
I have been lucky enough to visit several cities in the last twelve months, always with my camera. The sets of pictures from Vienna, Belgrade and Riga have been particularly successful. Some of the Riga pictures were used in Spirti of Progress, the Australian Art Deco and Modernism Society's magazine. One of my favourites from Vienna is below. It is an art nouveau detail from the facade of the Engel Apotheke, in Bognergasse, central Vienna, from 1901.

Engel Apotheke, Vienna
128 of my more than 2,500 photos have now received over 100 views. Several have been favourited by other flickr fans, and three of those most "favourited are below. Being able to "favourite" the pictures of other members is part of the fun of flickr and a great way of finding your way back to pictures often discovered by chance. Now, not far to go to 100,000 views...

Eritrea by Yekkes
Former Tagliero garage, Asmara, Eritrea

Subotica, September 2013 by Yekkes
Raichle Palace, Subotica, Serbia

Sarajevo by Yekkes
Art nouveau building, Sarajevo
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