Sunday, 31 October 2010


You are strolling along Bruton Street when you are stopped in your tracks. Bruton Street is a narrow mild-mannered street in the middle of Mayfair and pedestrians quietly going about their own business do not expect any hindrance. But there in the road is a crane and dangling from its chain is an upended wooden crate being negotiated through the Halcyon Gallery door with the tenderness of a man cradling a baby.   I’ll come back when the new exhibition opens and find out why.
A fortnight later I turn up and a man in uniform opens the door for me.  You need strong nerves to go into galleries where the value of the works is calculated in 5, 6 or 7 figures. It’s not for the faint hearted. Of course everyone is courteously, even warmly, welcomed, for a stranger may be a buyer or a dealer or an artist or a patron or someone useful from the media...
I climb several flights of stairs and start at the top. On the way down I found much to love about Mauro Peruccetti’s work and this elegant, light, spacious gallery. For example, By Prescription Only consists of a black granite base, to which is fixed a row of 7 upended capsules of the sort the doctor gives you to swallow because it’s good for you. Except that these are giant-sized and made from pigmented urethane resin so curvy and smooth and colourful that they cry out to be handled – perish the thought.  Like all good capsules they’re in two halves, the bottom half clear and stuffed full of twinkling Swarovski crystals, the top half tinted, each a different colour: lemon; purple; rose; crimson; orange, lime and mauve.   Along the base, which for a split second looks like a gravestone, the days of the week are spelt out in unrelenting stainless steel lettering.It’s a witty, lively and refreshing take on how we measure out our lives, no longer like T.S. Elliot in coffee spoons, but in something stronger...

 This picture is not in the gallery. It's Piero della Francesca’s Madonna del Parto (Madonna in Labour) which I saw a few years ago in a tiny museum in the village of Monterchi on the Tuscany Umbria border. That was the first time I'd seen a pregnant Madonna and now on the ground floor of the Halcyon Gallery I find another..

Piero's Madonna is drawing our attention to her miraculous pregnancy (unless she's starting labour and her calm unclenched fingers are there to comfort  thousands of women who come to pray to her). She's flanked by two triumphant angels holding back pink curtains in a jolly just-take-a-look -at-this-miracle sort of mood.

Back at the Halcyon, Mauro Perucchetti's There's Something about Mary is very different. Not a painting but a painted fibre glass statue of a  woman shrouded in a head-to-toe veil of chain mail which flows to the floor in rippling crinkles. Chain mail speaks of warfare, but also of protection. The total obliteration of her face and limbs and body beneath it reminds me that there will be some women who pass by in the street outside also shrouded in black. Around her head she wears a circlet of small steel beads. A girdle of the same material coils round her extended belly. She too is not hiding anything - she stands with her back arched so that her swollen belly is protruding, But no sign of an angel...
          There’s Something About Mary could be described as exhuberant. Perhaps she’s not waiting to be rescued.  but ready at any moment to throw off her veil and plunge into life. She is baffling and exotic and challenging. And beautiful.

           As I left, catalogue in hand, I was gently quizzed as to where my interest lay. Was it sculptor? I’m an academic, I said , and that seemed to settle the matter.

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