Somerset House is the epitome of what makes us proud to live in London. Magnificent, traditional and with heritage, yet also versatile and incredibly contemporary minded, this landmark venue emits the character of a typical Londoner. Acting as a major arts and cultural centre on the Embankment, the summer months see fifty five fountains dance in the courtyard, and in winter you can skate on its famous ice rink. It's also the go-to for the latest exhibitions in art and design, home to London Fashion Week, Film 4's Summer Screen and of course the Summer Series, both in association with American Express. This summer, Somerset House notably hosted two of London's most hotly anticpated events - Miles Aldridge's I Only Want You to Love Me and elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food. Sadly both events end this weekend, however they do make way for the awesome RIBA Forgotten Spaces 2013 (starting 04 October 2013) and Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! (starting 20 November 2013). Embrace the September sun this weekend and pay a trip to London's holy grail.
Miles Aldridge - I Only Want You to Love Me
A major retrospective of photographer Miles Aldridge's work, to coincide with the publication of the book by the same name, published by Rizzoli. This is the largest exhibition of his work to date and includes large-scale photographic prints from throughout his career including previously unpublished material as well as hand-drawn story-boards, drawings, polaroids and magazines, offering an intimate insight into Aldridge’s point of view and process.
Women and colour are Aldridge’s twin obsessions. His work is filled with glamorous, beautiful women from dazed housewives and decadent beauties to sunbathing sexpots and ecstatic Virgins. Luscious colours dazzle from every image – blood red ketchup splashes against a black and white floor; a mouth drips with gold; egg yolk oozes across a plate. But the technicolour dream world of seemingly perfect women with blank expressions belies a deeper sense of disturbance and neurosis. Look more closely and there is silent screaming, a head pushed down on a bed, a face covered in polythene, a woman pushing an empty swing.
Aldridge’s work has never been constrained by the demands of the fashion world. Working like an auteur filmmaker, his view of the world is wide and deep. His many influences include film directors such as David Lynch and Federico Fellini; the styled elegance of fashion photographer Richard Avedon and the psychedelic illustrations of his father, Alan Aldridge. Each image is immaculately crafted, often starting with story-board drawings so that the final image lies somewhere between cinema and photography.
Born in London in 1964, Aldridge studied illustration at Central St Martins, and briefly directed music videos before becoming a fashion photographer in the mid-90s. He has published his work in many influential magazines including Vogue Italia, American Vogue, Numéro, The New York Times and The New Yorker. His work was showcased in Weird Beauty at the International Center for Photography in New York in 2009, and he has works in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food
An exhibition on global icon of gastronomy, Ferran Adrià, and the restaurant he built to become the world’s best, elBulli. In partnership with Estrella Damm, elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food is the world’s first exhibition dedicated to a chef and his restaurant. The retrospective showcases the art of cuisine and cuisine as art by taking a behind-the-scenes look at the legendary laboratory and kitchen of the internationally renowned restaurant, which delighted diners in Cala Montjoi, a small picturesque bay on the Catalan coast near Roses, for over 50 years.
Charting the evolution of elBulli, the exhibition features an in-depth, multimedia display of each of the essential ingredients that make up the culinary creative mastermind of Ferran Adrià and his team: research (handwritten notes and hand-drawn sketches); preparation (plasticine models, which were made for all the dishes served as a means for quality control of colour, portion size and position on the plate, and the specially-designed utensils used); presentation (original tasting menus, cutlery laid on the tables and salivating shots of the creations taken from the catalogue to be published by Phaidon next year), and plaudits (original restaurant reviews and other press clippings). Combined with archive footage of the chefs and clientele, the exhibition’s ephemera are testament to Adrià’s abundant talent, genius and ambition.
Adrià said of the Somerset House show: “Even though the restaurant of elBulli is now closed, the spirit of elBulli is still very much alive and this exhibition is one of the ways of keeping it so. For some, I hope it will revive good memories, and for others it will give a flavour of a fine dining experience like no other. Overall, it is an ode to the creativity, imagination, innovation, talent and teamwork of everyone at elBulli, but especially the world-famous chefs who trained with us and took these values into their own restaurants around the world.
“I am delighted to be presenting it in London at the prestigious Somerset House, another creative hub which, like elBulli, always invites you to try something new and perhaps a little unpredictable.”
Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R; somersethouse.org.uk