Culture Vultures

Culture Vultures


The waitress at Tempo brought over the house standard “amuse bouche” as we sat down this morning.  A prune and a segment of orange is as good as any other way to start the day, I guess, but we had other ideas, needless to say.


The corned beef hash and eggs didn’t last long but sad to say, I couldn’t quite manage all my blueberry pancakes, delicious though they were.


We walked off our breakfast this morning though, heading along Michigan Avenue towards the river and beyond.  It was another lovely day, getting rather warm already though there was a cooling breeze along the river.  I stopped to take a photograph, taking care to avoid the glass skyscraper bearing the current President’s name.  He needs no further publicity from me.


Once over the river and almost as far as the park, I turned back to see where we’d come from.  Chicago is such a fine city and the views are magnificent, wherever we stand.


Our destination this morning was the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, where we knew there was an open rehearsal this morning.


The unmistakeable stainless steel curves of the Frank Gehry structure appeared through the trees.


Though looking the other way, an altogether different structure was proving interesting.  Can you see what it is yet?


Yes, it’s Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, always interesting, always attracting everyone’s attention.  Deservedly so – it’s very clever and a real landmark.


We were soon into the auditorium though, where the orchestra were already warming up.


We chose seats in the shade, together with twenty or thirty others and waited for the rehearsal to begin.


The first rehearsal piece was Alfben’s Festival Overture.  We weren’t familiar with the piece but it was tuneful and the orchestra were making a very impressive sound.  We were immediately captivated.


Next, Vadim Gulzman came on stage and we heard the rehearsal of Tchaikowsky’s Violin Concerto.  Gorgeous music, beautifully played.  I loved it and immediately warmed to the soloist, who appeared to have a great rapport with the orchestra and audience alike.  When the final movement came to a close and the orchestra took a break, one of the Grant Park docents came to the front and made a short presentation about the music and in particular, the violin Vadim Gulzman was playing.  Perhaps that’s why he seemed so comfortable on stage, why his performance was so remarkable?


During the break, a chance to stretch my legs, I noticed a few clouds rolling in.  The clear blue sky of earlier had disappeared whilst we’d been listening.


And during the second half, whilst the orchestra were playing excerpts from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, there were rumblings of thunder.



By the time the rehearsal had finished, the dark clouds were looming rather closer and working our way towards the exit, we noted that it had already rained just yards from where we’d been sitting.  That network of overhead speakers transmits the sound from the stage, by the way, so that wherever in the outdoor auditorium you happen to sit (even on the grass, beyond the seating area) you’ll hear accurate sound with no lag whatsoever.  Clever, eh?


As we turned right there was the loudest, scariest clap of thunder I’d ever heard, provoking screams from those around us.  I feared we were about to get very wet.


We hurried through the park in the direction of the Art Institute, taking note of the sign to “respect the art”.  But the three sculptures made from old tyres and bits of metalwork were not very attractive and we questioned whether these pieces were sufficient to earn that respect.  Maybe that was why the sign was needed?


We couldn’t resist a glance back at the fountains, popular as ever with the youngsters whatever the weather.


We were simply glad to have made it as far as the Art Institute without getting wet!  We’d been here before, knew we didn’t have long enough to see everything and decided to focus on something in particular.  I picked up a leaflet describing a mini tour entitled “My Kinda Town”, similar to but slightly different from, this one.


It suited us well to have a pre-ordained route with some destination points.   Of course, we’d see things along the way, but by having a focus, we could manage our visit well.  We began with the architecture fragments, something which had taken my eye on a previous visit.


From there, we headed past this figure in a most peculiar pose, I thought – or is it just me?


We did a pretty swift scamper through the Impressionists.  All very familiar, many of them, we’d seen before.


actually, quite liberating to scoot past Degas’ little dancer


and scuttle past La Grande Jatte, reminiscing about Columbus OH as we did.


Much as we love visiting art galleries, on occasions, it’s great to have permission to walk straight past a painting or four


to float right on past the water lilies


and the haystacks.  Because if we always stopped in front of the same old same old, we’d never see anything else, would we?


Like Georgia’s Sky above Clouds which was the next work on our mini tour.


We made a brief stop in the cafe, overlooking the pavilion from this morning through the screened windows.


and progressed in search of So What, by Judy Ledgerwood, but failing to find that and instead looking at a few pieces of Andy Warhol’s work and something rather familiar…

Winking smile

Well, we Murakami experts recognised Dob immediately, didn’t we?!


I liked the Jasper John Alphabet too, but in a weird way, also liked this wall…


opposite the entrance to the loos, intentional or not, the wall with faded patches as if paintings had been removed was an amusing feature and I suspect someone had had some fun there.


We continued our whistlestop, focused tour through the Roman gallery


Three of them, side by side.


So reminiscent of Chagall’s windows elsewhere, in that remarkable and instantly recognisable blue.  So painterly.


then, right next door was the reconstruction of the Chicago Stock Exchange.


But my Hero gasped and described it as soulless.  Where was the life, the energy, the people?! Sure enough, it was an empty room and as far from the old trading hall as could be.  The subdued lighting didn’t help and feeling a little disappointed, we moved straight on.


To Nighthawks.  A very familiar painting, last seen just a couple of months ago in London, but still as potent as ever.


and Nightlife just around the corner, the last image on our mini tour, which had proved to be just right and perfect for our short drop-in visit.


We said Hi as we walked past American Gothic on our way out, back at home after a short holiday in London.


And I rather liked this familiar image, so reminiscent of the Peruvian ladies we met in the Sacred Valley which we passed by on our way out of the galleries.


By the time we reached the entrance though, people were running through the doors looking rather wet.  The storm had broken and it was pouring with rain.

We settled down and waited for the rain to ease before opening umbrellas and sallying forth.


It was a rather different walk back to our hotel from this morning’s hot and sticky trek.


We’d had a fantastic day though and really didn’t mind getting wet.


The trouble was, the storm had delayed Mary’s flight and rather than arriving in Chicago as scheduled at 4pm or thereabouts, she was travelling via an unexpected diversion to Des Moines, where she remained until almost 7pm.  As I write, we are keeping everything crossed that she’ll be landing at O’Hare shortly, some eight hours or more since leaving Los Angeles this morning.

Hopefully, there will be no further travel surprises! 

And now we are three

And now we are three