this week

Every now and then I get an email from a reader asking me “Why don’t you write about art and culture?” or “What is your opinion on art and culture?” (Random guess at an answer to the second question : “Umm.. they are both good”?) I suppose I am asked these questions because the byline for this column says “Menaka Raman lives in London and writes about art, culture and motherhood” and so far my column has largely been devoted to the ‘joys’ of parenting. This is primarily because ever since my son made an appearance in my life, much of the art and culture I’ve been exposed to includes Mick Inkpen’s illustrations of Kipper the dog and Wibbly Pig and making up my own words for Incy Wincy Spider.
But this week, after another email arrived wondering if I “…no longer liked art and culture” I decided to venture out with my son in search of some. This is not a difficult thing to do in a city like London where there are enough museums to satisfy every possible interest and passion. Art, modern art, artillery, history, natural history, gardening, design and even childhood have museums dedicated to them.
Which is how I found myself outside the Victoria & Albert Museum with my son last week. With him fast asleep in his push chair I felt bold enough to venture in to the “Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design” exhibition. The 50 pieces explored “the recent trend among European designers for limited edition pieces that push the boundaries between art and design.” Once upon a time, when faced with a vase called ‘Made by Bees’ and a meditation chamber called ‘Sensory deprivation skull’, I would have been tempted to tilt my head back, peer imperiously down my fat, stubby nose and say ‘interesting’. But motherhood doesn’t just change the way you look at hemorrhoid cream, oh no, it pervades every crevice of your mind, so that soon you find yourself looking at Todd Boontje’s Fig Leaf Cupboard and think ‘but where would I keep my burping cloths?’.
Of course, my son decided to wake up in the section titled ‘Heaven and Hell’ (great name for an exhibition on children if you ask me) and began to share his opinions with a gallery mos tly filled with rail thin men and women dressed in black who looked like the hadn’t been out in the sun in the last thousand years or so. While these connoisseurs of art hemmed and aahed, my son, I am proud to say did better. He shrieked. He clapped his hands. He ululated. He clearly approved. Though perhaps the other visitors didn’t so much. Of him I mean. We had a similar experience at the Serpentine Gallery where an exhibition of Jeff Koon’s work that included inflatable rubber floats, monkeys and lobsters cast in aluminium had him jump out of his pram and rush towards the exhibits. Something tells me they wouldn’t have accepted a Pondy Bazaar replacement if he’d broken anything. I’m just glad he didn’t get that excited when he saw the collages of busty naked women. There’s still time for that.


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