Godelieve de Bree has been Strand Magazine’s Art Editor for the past two years, a colorful time throughout which the journalist offered her readers a moving insight onto the stories & people of London; its funkiest creatives, galleries, museums & exhibitions. Taking us to the Gazelli Art House, the Whitechapel Gallery, Tate, White Cube…Godelieve’s writing captured the city’s creative effervescence in numerous articles, which together, form a dispatched love letter to the Arts, one that concomitantly enticed its readers to the many charms of the city’s art scene.
As I take on Godelieve’s position and reflect on the trajectory of my time as Art Editor, a haunting question has begun echoing in my mind; does art matter? In the spirit of honesty, let’s address the elephant in the room: only a small niche of young people truly read about fine arts, lonely creative orphans willing to face the field’s elitism, intellectualism and inaccessibility, in an aspiration to somehow access its essential purpose: storytelling.
In the process of answering this tedious question, I thought about legacy. The remnants of the past that forge meanings of today. Artists have a thing for legacy, they adore both its preservation, and disruption. Think of one of the greatest disruptors of Contemporary art, Marcel Du Champ, his resistance towards retinal art through the infamous ‘ReadyMades’ broke certain academic traditions of the past, whilst preserving others, such as Joseph Cornell’s sublimation of the object in his narrative dioramas. Whether we like it or not, all of us live in the conflicting tension of legacy preservation & disruption. As Strand’s new Art Editor, I choose preservation, with nonetheless the addition of a few nuances from my own color palette. Amidst our first conversation, Godelieve disclosed the core beliefs which guided her editorial time at Strand, empathy, vulnerability and curiosity. There it was. Why Art Matters.
The snobbish galleries, the illegible critical jargon, the elitist institutions, all constitute a plastic veil which prevents the public from attaining the velvet and satin charms of the arts. Barriers before fields of fantasies. Yet, under the works of student humility and sincere curiosity, Godelieve opened the doors to fantasies for us adventurous readers. How so? By using her position at Strand to spotlight the talent of other writers, such as Maria Dragoi or Irina Anghel, to the enjoyment of bewildered readers. In the spirit of legacy, let’s piece together the fragments of Godelieve’s love letter to the Arts by diving into the tales shared under her editorial reign.
Imagine. You’re in a train. As you gaze out the window listening to your favorite Metronomy tune, lost in your main character mirage (let’s be honest, we all do it) around you a landscape of sculptures, colors, performances, artists, appears. What’s that fluttering in the wind? ancient tapestries of North Africa and vagabond sketches from Henri Matisse’s studio exhibited at the Royal Academy. Behind, standing with statuesque grandeur, Ilya and Emilia Kabakrov’s studio Installation ‘the Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment’ displaying strange metallic objects hanging from the ceiling in a room of bright red walls adorned in Soviet propaganda posters. The train’s fleeting rapidity prevents you from elucidating the mystery of their installation. You swing your head to the left. A woman garnished of a flamboyant bouffant orange dress upon which are painted blue and red flowers. Is it one of Gauguin’s muses? Is it a Mexican painter? No. It’s the peasant woman of Natalia Goncharova’s costume sketch for the opera Le Coq d’Or displayed at the Tate. Enchanted by these phantasmagoric visions, you drift asleep.
See? How in a few lines you were transported in worlds of colors and cacophony? Now, that’s what art is. A tale of Humanity, where artists, curators, critics and audiences unite in a collective spirit to capture the tonalities of a life too grand to confine in words.
Amongst the many reminders I’ve received in the past years as to why art matters, my interaction with Godelieve was one of them. Dear Strand readers, I hope it’s been one for you too.