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Serpentine Gallery

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published April 26th 2014
Out of the Box Art & Architecture
serpentine gallery, kensington gardens
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens

Although the Serpentine Gallery is free to visit, it was the need to spend a penny that made me pop in. Situated in the heart of Kensington Gardens, it is in a beautifully tranquil location, despite being in the centre of London.

serpentine gallery, kensington gardens

Although not as grand as the other on-site buildings (it has Kensington Palace to contend with after all), the Serpentine Gallery is modern, but non-intrusive addition to the park. The cobble stoned courtyard blends in well with the Victorian atmosphere, while you look out onto the grounds.

serpentine gallery, kensington gardens, Rock on Top of Another Rock, Peter Fischli, David Weiss
'Rock on top of Another Rock' by Peter Fischli and David Weiss

From here you will see what at first appears to be a natural feature: two boulders. Take a second glance, however, and you will see that their orientation is completely unnatural. Rock on top of Another Rock is a sculpture by Peter Fischli and David Weiss features two large stones balancing precariously on top of one another. Seemingly impossible, it made me think of a tai chi master balancing on one leg atop a mountain at sunrise.

Fischli says about the piece: 'In Norway and here, to put one rock on top of another rock in the wilderness is the first thing you do if you want to make a mark. When you walk and you want to find your way back... you make this mark. It is a very archaic, simple thing, but it is referencing the [Robert] Venturi duck. We wanted to make something that forces you to stop your car and get out to take a photograph.'

Well, it made me stop and cake a picture, and it also acts as a reference point when navigating your way through the park, so in that sense, I guess he succeeded.

serpentine gallery, kensington gardens, gift shop, art books
Gift Shop

Left of the entrance is the gift shop. Unlike most gift hops that sell commercial merchandise like toys, key rings, and mugs, all you'll find here is books. There are a few kids' picture books, but mainly it is serious non-fiction for those studying or practicing the arts.

serpentine gallery, kensington gardens, once again the world is flat, Haim Steinbach, snoopy

If you are in search of memorabilia, then you are in fact far more likely to find it at the current exhibition, Once Again The World is Flat. Open until the 5th May, Haim Steinbach presents a collection of items gathered by friends, which he has assembled on shelves around the gallery.

serpentine gallery, kensington gardens, once again the world is flat, Haim Steinbach

This includes novelty salt & pepper shakers, vintage toys, costumes, cleaning products, and some other sculptural work, such as a human skull. While I found some of these items interesting to look at, I must admit I find it hard to call them art. You could equally call the display on my mantelpiece art, but I doubt it would get shown in a gallery or have anyone come round to see it.

serpentine gallery, kensington gardens, once again the world is flat, Haim Steinbach, doll house

I also failed to see the point of putting doll houses on steel frameworks. I suppose it related to the construction of buildings, but to me, it just made the gallery look like it was undergoing repair work.

serpentine gallery, kensington gardens, once again the world is flat, Haim Steinbach,

The exhibition is meant to be a reflection on Steinbach's early grid-based paintings from the 1970s, and I can see the resemblance in shape, style, colour, and minimalism. But to me, this only emphasises the fact that if Steinbach had started off his career by assembling found objects on shelves, he would probably not be considered an artist. It is only because he began with paintings - a traditional form - that he is able to get away with this out of the box style.

serpentine gallery, kensington gardens, once again the world is flat, Haim Steinbach,

At the exhibit, the blurb states that Steinbach has an interest in the environment in which objects are placed. To me, this makes him an interior designer. As you can see, I'm not really one for modern art; I do find the exhibit interesting from architectural and design point of view though.
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Why? Fun for art lovers
When: Tues-Sun: 10am - 6pm
Phone: 020 7402 6075
Where: Kensington Gardens
Cost: Free
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