19 January 2016

London Lumiere – a review

Malcolm and I decided to spend two evenings taking in as much of this event as possible.

Friday 15th January
We first went to see the installation at Oxford Circus. It was marvellous and we admired the colour-changing mesh for perhaps ten minutes and then moved off to find new things, thinking that everything would be up to that standard. But no. I think we peaked too early...

We looked for something at Liberty's. We spotted a crowd of people at a window and could make out what we think was a dress in a window. The pic shown here isn't mine; it's one from their website that was at Granary Square (see also KX later on). So we moved on to Brown Hart Gardens where some cute little bird boxes edged the upper level, but that was it. Did we miss something better?
In Grosvenor Square lots of people were queuing to get inside the square at each of the four corners. Peering over the hedges it didn't look very busy in there and from what we could see it didn't look worth the scrum, so we gave up and went to see what everyone was crowding around on the south east corner; an illuminated old telephone box containing fish. This looked good (see pic above from Lumiere website) but, again, being a small installation it was hard to get anywhere near it. Shame.

And so to Piccadilly. A Tracy Emin-style neon script saying something supposed to be clever was on each end of Piccadilly Arcade. Hmmm. We moved swiftly past and stopped to watch the colourful projection on the Bafta building. The short looped animation was good and showed famous actors and relevant motifs about them and their films, but apart from Tilda Swinton and only a few others it was really hard to make out who the people were as we were too close to view it properly even though we rammed ourselves up against the shops on the opposite side of the road. For instance, just who is that woman above left? Basically, the thing was too big. We, and the people around us, all agreed it was better to see what was going on if you watched it through a camera screen to get a better/smaller image. I thought the light well below my feet was also worthy of a pic.

I did like the lovely lanterns and flying fish kites at the eastern end of Piccadilly. Simple, mesmerising, effective and easy to see from a distance. It was this kind of thing that always made the parade at the end of The Mayor's Thames Festival such a delight.
We really enjoyed being able to walk in the road, as at Oxford Circus and Regent Street.
The loud trumpeting of an elephant pervaded the air. And above Air Street (see what I did there?!) there was an animated CGI projection of an elephant's arse swaying left and right.

We walked through to Regents Street to view the front of the elephant. The street was rammed with people watching it. I stood and wondered what the point of it was. This was a recurring thought over both evenings. I mean, what relevance did an elephant have in that place? It wasn't even a real elephant. Had it not been there in that position on that night would anyone have given it a second thought?
We forgot to look in at St James Square and somehow bypassed the light flowers at Leicester Square and headed for Trafalgar Square.

Here, the letters from the top of Centrepoint, which is being renovated at the moment, were placed against the wall of the National Gallery. Watching the people, I noticed the thing to do here was stand against it and either take a selfie or get a friend to take a shot. It's all about the me me me these days. Intrigued how all these these idiots would get would be themselves as silhouettes against the bright light (pic1) I attempted to do better myself (pic2), but found it more effective to use the lights properly (pic3).
The fountains in the square also had installations:

One was filled with empty plastic water bottles; rubbish as art. The other had two rings of light strings and some chicken wire mesh that I couldn't see the point of. Both looked as if someone had thought, quick, quick, we need to think of something for Trafalgar Square...!
At Coutts Bank, just around the corner in the Strand, there were some neon dogs that looked like bows. We couldn't see them; again, the installation was small and the crowd blocked the view. I wasn't bow-wowed.
Enough for one night. A beer in the Nellie Dean to warm up and discuss the above and then home.

Saturday 16th January
We met at Victoria and walked down to see the projection on Westminster Abbey.

WOW!  A lot of work had gone into this. Very clever. The front façade changed by the second and the sculptures of the people around the door had been carefully coloured in and then accurately projected onto the building to marvellous effect. Really beautiful. I was actually inspired; for I think that was the point of all this
And so we made our way to Kings Cross. The tube station was closed (due to over-crowding?) so we exited at Euston and mooched along with the crowds. At KX the first thing we encountered was the birdcage, a permanent feature, which had been given a simple rainbow light treatment. On the rear of the German Gymnasium (now yet another eatery; I liked it when it was an art space) there was a projection consisting of series of moving dots that on closer inspection were people in the gym. A nice idea, but it seemed to be lacking something.

There were lots of people there and it took a while to access Granary Square, but we felt it wasn't what has been reported as 'crowded'. I suspect this was just on the tube, in the station and in the narrow access sections and pathways.
A large-scale animation was being projected onto what is now St Martin's School of Art. This was like the one when Madness played Our House on Buckingham Palace for Queenie's birthday except that it had no relevance to art, Kings Cross, or much to do with London except a few tube stations and hints about Hyde Park. It was circus-themed with hybrid 2D animals and birds performing tricks. I felt it was kooky French(?) humour mixed with Peter Blake and I got bored with it about half-way thorough. Again, what was the point? Was it promoting? What was it trying to achieve?
Between the art school and Waitrose was a strange satellite dish thing; it moved around, it spun slowly, it reflected lights. The roof there is angled and so I think a lot of its impact may have been lost in that placement. The music was oooooh-aaaa and it evoked sci-fi films and having stood there for what seemed ages, we rather hoped that an alien might appear, or that lasers would shoot out from it and decapitate people. Now that would be art, and we had our cameras at the ready. But no.
Later we read that the thing reacted to movement around it. Well, had they made that clear on site perhaps people might have moved about instead of just gazing gormlessly at it waiting for something to happen.

At the northernmost point there was a neon art installation of a person diving. Hmm. Seen better. Move on. And then we found that colour-changing dress (like the one at Liberty's, mentioned above). We could only see the straps of it due to the amount of people there.
Inside St Martin's was a lovely installation – a light tunnel made from recycled plastic bottles filled with water. This really appealed to me, both artistically and ethically, and I felt I'd finally found something with a message and a function. Truly inspirational. We didn't bother queueing to walk through the tunnel as it looked so nice from the outside. Again, it was selfies-a-go-go, so I joined in.
On the walk back to the station we bypassed the colourful lights being reflected onto people though they did look good and would have been better placed in a larger environment. It reminded me of a a rave party (not that I have been to any) or that Indian festival where everyone throws paint powder, But the path was too congested so descended the stairs to he new foot tunnel that leads to the tube station.

And I like it. I think this one will remain. Seems daft if it doesn't stay cos the softly-changing coloured lights are all embedded behind white walls. Looking straight at a wall it just looks white, but look along it and see vertical panels of colour. Ooh – a vast improvement from those horrid little off-white bathroom-style mini tiles they have put everywhere else in Kings Cross tube station; they were poorly installed and have become so mucky so quickly.
And so our two evenings ended.

So, in no particular order, my favourite things were Westminster Abbey, the flying fish, the mesh at Oxford Circus, the bottle tunnel, KX tunnel, and being able to get up close to the Centrepoint lights.
Did I feel enLIGHTened by all this? Yes and no, but mainly no. Ultimately I was more impressed looking up at the beautifully-designed ceiling at Kings Cross station.


  1. Good Compilation of details about Lumiere London. Wish to visit Lumeire London Next year...Thanks for Sharing information about Lumiere London...

  2. good information provided here ! if keep share...

    thanks @krify

  3. The illuminated figures at St. James's Square were like angels. Magical. you missed maybe the best thing.

  4. Grr... so annoying to have been so close – St James's was mentioned then forgotten. Oh well, not a lot I can do about that now.


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