Thursday, 10 January 2008


If you’re near the South Bank in London this week, or if you are looking for an unusual gift of jewellery, it would be worth popping into the Dazzle exhibition at the National Theatre, but you must hurry as it ends on Saturday, 12 January. I believe it will open in Glasgow in April.

I meant to go last year but missed it, but yesterday managed to get there at lunchtime and found my mother’s birthday present, an interesting bracelet made by Alena Asenbryl from Manchester, who uses textiles, plastics and mixed metals for her creations. According to the brochure, director Tim Burton has apparently commissioned her to do work for him—lucky Helena Bonham-Carter. Timely link, in a way, as his film Sweeney Todd opens at Leicester Square today.

The artistic creations—more than 3,000 works for sale by 76 designers--are worth viewing even if you have no intention of buying anything, and there is no entry fee. The exhibition is a rather small, quiet affair, but not the least bit intimidating. I pictured some large trade fair set-up with the artists eyeballing you as you nervously glanced over or guiltily walked past their goods, but it consists of several glass cases on the first floor of the National Theatre in the Olivier Foyer in a peaceful, uncrowded atmosphere. As I went on a weekday afternoon, there were few others there but the woman minding ‘the shop’ was not intrusive and instead just very bubbly, enthusiastic and helpful when I did make my purchase. I had the bonus of listening to the actors and frequent laughter through the walls of the matinee of Much Ado About Nothing starring Simon Russell Beale (is this man never out of work?) and Zoe Wanamaker.

There were several items available for just under £30, quite a few temptations for around £50-60, and the most interesting necklaces cost over £100. The materials used vary, there are a few more precious gems but mostly they consist of metal, textiles, magnets and even fish skin. The bracelet I chose had a matching necklace and earrings that were far beyond what I intended to spend, but also a bit too OTT artsy to picture on my mother’s head, so I felt less guilty breaking up the set. I had found several different things that I almost bought, although admittedly a few of the earrings I nearly chose had me worried that, although they were clearly impressive unique specimens of art by true talent, she might not realise when opening the box that they weren’t something I picked up from Accessorize, and I wanted to ensure she could tell it was special (but in most cases, that was obvious). I’ll send her the brochure as well, to help….

If you are not fond of necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, there are numerous impressive cufflinks, including asymmetrical ones, as well as some little boxes, small wall hangings, mirrors, vases and embroidered images….all sorts of things to grab your interest. Everything is available to take away with you, which then kind of diminishes the exhibition for those who follow--it is good the National Gallery doesn't operate the same policy--but there is plenty to keep them enthralled.

This is no Victoria & Albert Museum day trip that will have you gasping at the wonder of it, but it’s worth stopping by to have a look or even consider a purchase, particularly if you have any gift to buy in the coming year….then you can stroll by the river afterwards, take in one of the many things to do on the South Bank, wander through the NT bookshop or nearby Foyle’s, or eat at nearby Wagamamas.

But go soon or you’ll miss the fine opportunity. It’s open Monday through Saturday, 9.30am to 11pm. Visit the website. (The photos on this page are of works by, from top to bottom, Alenda Asenbryl, Elizabeth Bone, Gail Klevan and Julie Allison.)

On the way back, I passed comedian Tony Hawks jogging down Cheapside with a blonde woman who reminded me of the actress in Elling, which I meant to report on some time ago, along with a million other topics in my head….and I hope to find more time soon!

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