Yayoi Kusama, Victoria Miro Gallery

Victoria Miro is delighted to announce a new exhibition by Yayoi Kusama. Spanning the gallery’s three locations and waterside garden, the exhibition features new paintings, pumpkin sculptures, and mirror rooms, all made especially for this presentation. This is the artist’s most extensive exhibition at the gallery to date, and it is the first time mirror rooms have gone on view in London since Kusama’s major retrospective at Tate Modern in 2012.

Yayoi Kusama pumpkins

Yayoi Kusama’s lifelong exploration of the self’s relationship to the infinite cosmos has given rise to a highly influential career in which she has continuously innovated and re-invented her style. For the exhibition at the Wharf Road galleries, she has created three mirror rooms:Pumpkin’s Infinity Mirrored Room, Chandelier of Grief and Where the Lights in My Heart Go, all of which place the viewer within a universe of varying proliferating reflections.

Yayoi Kusama

New paintings displayed alongside these immersive rooms continue an enduring preoccupation with multiplying polka dots and dense scalloped ‘infinity net’ patterns – Kusama’s obsessive repetition of these forms on canvas, which she has described as a form of active self-obliteration, responds to hallucinations first experienced in childhood. The pumpkin, another motif that she has returned to throughout her career, is also present in the form of new polished mirror sculptures.

Victoria Miro Mayfair will present new paintings from the important ongoing series My Eternal Soul, which Kusama first began in 2009. Each is a flatly painted monochrome field that abounds with imagery including eyes, faces in profile, and other more indeterminate forms, often in pulsating combinations of colour. Joyfully improvisatory, fluid and highly instinctual, they testify to the indefatigable, paradoxical drive to expression that has unified Kusama’s constantly evolving oeuvre over seven decades.

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama has developed a practice which, though it shares affiliations with Surrealism, Minimalism, Pop art, the Zero and Nul movements, Eccentric Abstraction and Feminist art, resists any singular classification. Born in Matsumoto City, Japan in 1929, she studied painting in Kyoto before moving to New York in the late 1950s, and by the mid-1960s had become well known in the avant-garde world for her provocative happenings and exhibitions. Since this time, Kusama’s extraordinary artistic endeavours have spanned painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, performance, film, printmaking, installation, and environmental art as well as literature, fashion (most notably in her 2012 collaboration with Louis Vuitton), and product design.

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama was recently named the world’s most popular artist by various news outlets, based on figures reported by The Art Newspaper for global museum attendance. Her exhibitions were consistently the most visited worldwide last year, with three museum tours simultaneously traveling through Asia, Central and South America and Scandinavia all drawing record-breaking attendances.

More information here: www.victoria-miro.com

Things to do in Edinburgh 2015

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My brother’s last year at Edinburgh University meant one last family trip up to Scotland for me. Unfortunately the weekend we chose to visit him happened to be coinciding with the annual Edinburgh Marathon. Needless to say every single bed in the city seemed to be booked up months in advance. Never mind, my brother promised a superior experience at his lads student pad!

It is such a pleasure to travel up to Scotland by train. The Virgin trains are speedy and comfortable, with scenic views from the windows and impressive culinary offerings. I try to visit Edinburgh once a year to sample the newbies on the food and drink scene and see the latest art exhibitions. I was surprised and impressed this year to see a real surge of stylish foodie jaunts and characterful venues.

To eat

El Cartel – this new Mexican restaurant already has a cult following. The small eatery is run by the Bon Vivant team and doesn’t take reservations. The menu offers homemade Mexican treats, washed down with tequila and mescal. My favourites were: Quesadillas with chorizo; sweet potato and soft cheese, and; the Duck taco with pecan salsa, pineapple and jalapeno.

Mary’s Milk Bar – if you are craving ice-cream in Edinburgh, Mary’s Milk Bar is the place to get your fix. The cosy café serves the most delicious creamy ice-cream made with no preservatives and is available in a variety of fresh innovative flavours.

21212 – Set in a refined room in a Georgian townhouse, Paul Kitching’s Michelin star restaurant is often applauded for its unusual flavour combinations which always succeed. The restaurant name refers to the menu layout (2 starters, 1 soup, 2 mains, 1 cheese, 2 desserts). We tried the lunch menu where you can choose between 3, 4 or 5 courses. It was the perfect foodie lunch out for a special occasion.

Gardener’s Cottage – The Gardener’s Cottage in Edinburgh is an idyllic place to eat and spend time. It is found up a little path surrounded by shrubs and vegetable patches. It all seems too good to be true. We creaked open the wooden door to reveal a tiny eatery with long communal tables and homely smells wafting in from the kitchen. In the evenings it is compulsory to have the daily seven course menu which costs £35, but for lunch or brunch you can choose from the reasonably priced a la carte menu.

To drink

Filament Coffee – The independent coffee scene in Edinburgh has exploded in recent months. This speciality coffee shop only opened a few weeks ago, after the success of a pop-up and serves single origin coffees to Edinburgh’s south side. I loved the industrial-chic décor and the delicious coffee.

Cult Espresso – Nearby to the student union, this father, son and friend team of three have a cosy and cool coffee hang out. I enjoyed a strong and creamy flat white here before heading home to London.

Devil’s Advocate – this glamorous and moody bar and kitchen serves some up of the best cocktails I have tasted in Scotland. The menu has a variety of carefully chosen recipes, both original and inspired by bars around the world. I loved the Whiskey Rebellion which is made with bourbon, Cocchi Americano, black tea maple syrup, absinthe, and rosemary.

Brew Lab – This is the perfect place to stop for coffee and a croissant before setting off for a day of sightseeing. The trendy coffee-house offers single origin brews and artisanal produce. The company also arranges coffee training courses for home baristas and professionals.

To do

Ingleby Gallery – this trendy gallery is found beneath the main city station tucked around an unassuming corner. Founded in 1998 this private gallery is renowned for the high quality of its exhibitions and publications. We saw a selection of lovely little paintings by Craig Murray-Orr. Look out for the permanent snail trail of mother of pearl installed by artist Susan Collis.

One Spa – A rainy Sunday morning was the perfect excuse to spend a few hours at One Spa. Part of the Sheraton Grand Hotel (but also operating as a stand-alone spa) they offer a range of treatments and experiences. We enjoyed ‘Escape at One’, which allows guests a few hours to try all the thermal suite and hydropool facilities.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – It is a bit of a walk to the main modern art museum in Edinburgh, but there are picturesque routes to take to get there. The two gallery spaces house a permanent collection of contemporary pieces and host regular temporary exhibitions. When we visited there was a small show of Lichtenstein works. Look out for the neon slogan works on the lawn. Entry is free.

To shop

Life Story – I loved the look of this concept store from the exterior and interior. This little design shop stocks a range of brands from all over the world, including interior items from Ferm Living from Copenhagen, Washi Tape from Japan and knitwear from Hilary Grant.

Dick’s – A stylish menswear shop offering a carefully curated collection of clothes, accessories and homeware. Chic men can completely kit out their wardrobe and homes here with striped naval jumpers from Andersen-Andersen, crockery from Koninklijke Makkum Tichelaar and notebooks from La Compagnie du Kraft Mikro.

Hannah Zakari – This wacky shop sells affordable and fun handmade jewellery by Hannah Zakari. The perfect place to pick up a unique gift or souvenir of your stay in Edinburgh. I loved the perspex weather stud earrings, depicting varying weather conditions. The shop also sells art work, look out for the quaint prints by Kate Broughton.

Walker Slater – This beautiful shop stocks the finest tweed in Edinburgh. Promoting the heritage of Scotland but offering modern tailoring and bespoke suits, this is the place to get stunning Scottish outfit. Walker Slater also have a range of sophisticated accessories and sell a few select British brands like Albert Thurston.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled to Edinburgh with Virgin Trains, more information here.

Things to do in Florence

Florence is filled with fantastic food and staggering art; much is still the same hundreds of years after the masters lived and worked here. From the top of the startlingly huge Duomo, the city seems quiet and calm but, down on the cobbled streets, tourists flood the cafes and galleries, everyone eager to get a glimpse of authentic Italian life and history. Everything is within walking distance and in just one weekend I managed to see many of the main attractions, and tried at least six gelato shops!

To stay

Residenza d’Epoca in Piazza della Signoria: this charming little B&B is perfectly located for a weekend of sightseeing… just at the corner of Piazza della Signoria. The rooms are spacious and grand, bathrooms are filled with Etro toiletries and breakfast is served at a lovely communal table with the other guests.
Il Salviatino: this heavenly five star hotel is just outside the main city, but is so worth the fifteen minute drive. A 15th century villa perched on a hilltop – the views are beautiful and the facilities are divine. Memorable and magical.
JK Place: this is the ideal small boutique hotel for those hoping for a place with both five-star luxury and character. A few minutes walk from the main train station and the main attractions, it is as convenient as it is lovely.

To eat

Il Palagio, Four Seasons: The hotel is in the Santa Croce area slightly removed from the main city centre. It is one of the most special Four Seasons I have ever visited, with huge private garden and a top notch Michelin star restaurant serving wonderful Italian dishes and wines.
Il Pizzaiuolo: hands down the best pizza in town, this little eatery is always packed. Locals and the odd tourist huddle round tables gorging on the freshest Neapolitan pizzas. Opt for a glass of Prosecco to wash it all down.
Ice-cream at Grom, Perche No! and Emporio: we tried all the gelato we could find, indulging in several cones a day. Every shop is slightly different, offering their own special flavours and using particular secret techniques. For luxury creaminess Grom is the place to go, Perche No! offers incredible flavours and Emporio is a lovely stopover on the south side of the river.

To drink

Rivoire: this busy café is a landmark chocolatier and pasticceria. Enjoy your coffee while watching the chaos of Florence’s most popular square, Piazza della Signoria.
Volume: sit at the bar and observe the weird and wonderful surroundings while enjoying a fruity cocktail or a calorific crepe. Located in the hip area of Piazza Santo Spirito.

To see

Michelangelo’s David – housed in the Academia, expect giant queues for this famous statue. For express entrance invest in a Firenze card which will get you in super fast!
The Uffizi: holding perhaps the most famous collection of art in the world and it should be the first stop on your Florence to do list. Room 10 holds the most familiar paintings, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera.

To do

Climb to the top of the Duomo:  You will be quite taken aback when you first see the great Duomo, an amazing architectural feat. Climb to the top (prepare for several hundred steps) and enjoy the views of Florence.
Wander across the Vecchio bridge: The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval stone “closed-spandrel segmental arch” bridge over the Arno River. Try to visit early in the morning to avoid the painfully slow dawdling tourists, and grab a bargain from one of the numerous gold jewellery shops. If you are very lucky you may be able to arrange a walk though the special passageway from the Duomo across the bridge.
Take a photo: much to my delight we stumbled across this vintage black and white Fotoautomatica machine on Via Dell Agnolo. For just 2 euros you can take four different shots, which appear a few minutes later in retro black and white. Strike your best Italian pose!

To shop

Mio Concept Store: this shop is designed by Lenotta Studio and sells a fun collection of bits and bobs, ranging from designer gifts and jewellery to unusual kitchenware.
Il Papiro: is the one of the oldest stationery shops in Florence and is so popular with British tourists that they are soon opening a branch in London. Offering personalised alphabet stationery and beautiful hand marbled paper, it is very easy to spend a fortune in this beautiful shop.
Pharmaceutia: Opened in 1612 by Dominican friars this pharmacy is certainly one of a kind. Here you will find ornate bottles of colognes, oils and elixirs all concocted from historic formulae. If you want one souvenir I’d recommend the Acqua della Regina perfume.

To visit

Gucci Museum: A stylish and slick alternative to the work of the great masters, for fashionistas this museum is a must. See all the fashion triumphs and admire the leather bags, gorgeous accessories and Gucci frocks, all arranged beautifully.
Museo di Palazzo Vecchio: This massive, Romanesque palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany. Overlooking the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo’s David as well the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public squares in Italy.
San Marco Monastery: This lovely convent is free to see but is open at odd times. Admire the Madonna and Child alterpiece by Fra Angelico and light a candle for a loved one.

Out of Town: Conquer two cities by flying in to Pisa and pop over to see the leaning tower before travelling home.

Many thanks to Firenze Cards and the Florence Tourist board for their help with this trip.