Ars longa, vita brevis – “Life is short but art is eternal” (kinda).

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What a treat! At the weekend we went to see the “Death: A Self Portrait” exhibition at The Wellcome Institute, London, UK.

Like many British people, I have a strong love / hate relationship with London. The UK wealth and population is grotesquely and disproportionately distributed between London and “outside London”. Many years ago, in my pre-broadband days, I was telephone-ordering a computer peripheral and the North-American voice on the other end of the line asked me “Is Rotherham in Greater London?”

Anyway, regular readers will be aware of my obsession with memento mori and vanitas art, so it was a great pleasure to be treated by my lovely wife to there on a trip to see the remarkable personal collection of Richard Harris, a retired antique print dealer, presented by The Wellcome Collection. The show continues until February 24th so if you want to see it, you’d better get your skates on, but watch those busy London roads. It would be ironic if you met your end on the way there.

It’s a great show, very dense and wide ranging. The stand-out work for me is the sculpture, particularly a beautiful bronze skull, and also a stunningly visceral mixed media sculpture  “Are you still mad at me?” John Issacs, 2001.

It said “No photography” on the walls although people were still snapping with their phones but, being British, I didn’t. However, I did capture Stalky having a look around.


We also took Stalky for a trip around London, including The Wheatsheaf on Tottenham Court Road, one of the watering holes of George Orwell, another hero of mine. Orwell was dead at 46 and achieved great work in his time. I’m older than that already, and that fact is a kick up the ars longa if anything is.

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Stalky Ringbits on tour, at The Court, Tottenham Court Road & The Wheatsheaf, Soho.

An unforeseen bonus was a trip through Tottenham Court Tube Station and Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1984 public art masterpiece.

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Tottenham Court Underground Station, 1984, Eduardo Paolozzi

After a few delays, I’ve got eight “Retrospective” flyers in print and online, and there will be lots more to come. Below is one of the earliest designs, but only just printed, commemorating a work of art that was anything but eternal.

Hippocrates was actually referring to art as in technique or skill, rather than what we now know as fine art, alluding to the time it took to acquire skill. Despite this common misinterpretation, remember life is short, and art doesn’t last forever either, so make sure you get to the shows while you can, and enjoy them before it’s loo late.