Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The history of modernism's reception in New Zealand

Lurking on Twitter, I came across this great image the other day to fuel my found note obsession, directed to Twitpic by @MOCAlosangeles. It's a third-grader's response to viewing Dan Graham's "Public Space/Two Audiences" at LAMoca. (Click to enlarge.)

3rd grader's analysis of Dan Graham's "Public Space/Two Audie... on Twitpic

It reminded me a lot of this, a photocopy I've kept from a public art gallery I worked in -- a seven year old's description of New Zealand artist Julian Dashper's project.

You can tell the student was listening very hard.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cover art

Paul Anka, The Painter (1975). Cover art by Andy Warhol. Image from Music Artwork.

Most of the time I really like living in New Zealand. Though sometimes I worry that New Zealand's relationship to the world is a larger mirror-image of Te Awamutu's to New Zealand (a trading post for farmers occupied by salt-of-the-earth inhabitants in walk shorts; a few famous people were born there and left as soon as they could), actually I'm happy to stay put in this bolthole at the end of the world. While it can be a little dull, on the other hand the living is fairly easy and the place has much to recommend it. Although I am more an indoors sort of a person (as I heard myself describing myself the other day to a new friend I was having coffee with, who asked me hopefully if the big guy and I went tramping much [#lightlarf]), if you like that sort of thing there is plenty of extraordinarily beautiful scenery to look at here. The food's good. The water, in Christchurch at least, is great. The healthcare's OK. The climate's all right. The government's stable. The only problem, really, is the culture.

It's not the local culture that's problematic; every time I've returned after travelling internationally I've remembered, all over again, just how lucky I've been (and still am, now and again) to work with contemporary New Zealand artists. It probably goes without saying that the top echelon of New Zealand artists is working at the equivalent level of their peers anywhere in the world. Contemporary New Zealand art isn't a crap option globally, it's no one's second-best; nor, to use Tony Fomison's immortal phrase, does it require a haka-and-handstands act in support when it goes overseas [are you listening NZ at Venice organisers?]; artists of New Zealand descent hold their own anywhere, by merit of their own work.

But what is problematic, living in New Zealand, is access to international culture. While the changing economy of contemporary music has revalidated international tours for major recording artists, the huge costs in bringing international visual art to New Zealand means that we only really get to see international work which falls into one of the following categories:
  • has low overheads (tends to be video or digital work; you can send the disk through the mail and get sponsorship for the digital gear involved to show it);

  • involves relational aesthetics (a series of gestures or transactions carried out by other people at the artist's behest, which might not even require the artist to be present);

  • is made on the spot by the artist as part of a short-term residency;

  • is either (a) already so famous or (b) can be cranked up into such a media-friendly spectacle that bus-loads of general punters will troop along to see it and pay decent money to do so, thus mitigating the huge costs of insurance, freight, and the usually exorbitant loan fee charged by the initiating museum to show it.
As a result what we don't see in New Zealand are the small or offbeat shows of work by notable international contemporary artists who aren't household names (in NZ at least) -- Cy Twombly, say, or Brice Marden, or Julian Schnabel, or Richard Prince, or Larry Clark, or Louise Bourgeois. The kinds of shows that are important culturally, but in a market sense are neither income-generating blockbusters nor cheap enough to be able to be absorbed by general public art gallery budgets. Although there are a couple of Auckland-based gallerists with international stables (notably Gow Langsford, Andrew Jensen, and Jenny Todd at Two Rooms) who do a good job of showing significant works, it's really access to the modern or contemporary art history I'm after, in curated exhibitions that look at a particular facet of an artist's practice or which in themselves might illuminate the better-known work.

'Warhol Live', now on show at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco is exactly the sort of exhibition project I'm talking about, which I would love to see but which is equally the epitome of the kind of show that never comes to New Zealand: a fastidiously-curated exhibition looking at the role of music in Andy Warhol's work, including the fifty album covers the curators tracked down (Canadian teen-idol Paul Anka's The Painter, pictured above, is one of the better-known.)

Warhol's career as a commercial artist began with album covers, notes Fred Kaplan in the New York Times.

When Warhol came to New York in 1949, fresh out of art school, the long-playing record had just recently hit the marketplace. Warhol called the big labels, offering to illustrate their covers. He won an assignment right away, from Columbia Records, for an LP called “A Program of Mexican Music.” His drawings, of ancient drummers and dancers, were crude, but already they anticipated signature aspects of his later works.

He copied the figures from 16th-century Aztec sketches that he found in a Museum of Modern Art catalog, a forerunner of his tendency to make art from existing images, like the Marilyn Monroe photos and Campbell’s Soup cans. And he used a technique known as “blotted-line” drawing, a basic form of printmaking that foretold his fascination with silk-screens.

These early covers “have pizazz and elegance and a sneaky linearity, like Cocteau with a movement disorder,” said Wayne Koestenbaum, the author of a Warhol biography. “The blotted line gives a jumpy and nervous and emotionally unstable rhythm to the otherwise coherent line, like a dry drunk."
Gee, I'd like to see that. Well, I'm not travelling anywhere in the next little while: guess I'll just have to buy the book.

(Just as a quick sidebar: in thinking about this post I came across Music Artwork, a terrific blog devoted to the connections between art and album covers. New Order's homage to Fortunato Depero's Futurismo; Sonic Youth warming their hands on the flame of Gerhard Richter; The Stone Roses' 'improvement' on Jackson Pollock's No.8. Well worth a visit.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009


'Sometimes there's a good feed of whitebait coming through, sometimes nothing comes through for a couple of months -- it doesn't prevent you from going down with your whitebait net and trying to catch a few whitebait.'

Venerable Wellington art dealer Peter McLeavey -- who's seen a few seasons come and go from his Cuba Street stand -- on the vagaries of the art market. Quoted in The Press, 25-6 April 2009.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Behind the ropes at the Museum

Seth White, Canterbury Museum, 2002

I had a slightly odd experience at Canterbury Museum the day before yesterday. We'd done our usual things, in the usual order:

1. Enter moa-hunter glowworm cave and pop out of the crawl hole;

2. Stop to admire the full-sized fibreglass model horse in the historic Christchurch colonial street;

3. Give Amundsen's enormous and very shiny bronze nose in the Antarctic gallery a quick rub (am hoping the same selective high polish will occur to the notable noses in the Arts Centre's new bronze sculpture park);

4. Admire the stuffed husky dog on its hind legs licking the explorer's Parka; bash forehead on glass looking at the seal mother and pup and the Emperor penguins; consider loudly whether or not (a.) the icy scenes in the dioramas contain real snow; (b.) the stuffed animals were shot by hunters or died of natural causes; (c.) the husky actually died with his tongue poking out; (d.) how you would stuff a tongue;

5. Press the sound buttons outside the early 1970s listening booth and offer a personal interpretation of whale song to other visitors;

6. Shout "Look! A skeleton! A dead person!" as we pass the Egyptian Mummy's tomb;

7. Admire Michael Parekowhai's suite of kowhaiwhai lightboxes through the glass walls of the museum library [actually that's just me, but I insist on it];

8. Disappear under the safety rail surrounding the conversation pit under the spinning globe of the world, and pop up the other side giggling like a lunatic;

9. Gaze in rapt and silent adoration at the dinosaur skeletons for 30 seconds;

10. Enter the Discovery Centre at a furious clip and dive on to the cushioned divans.
After a thoroughly satisfying hour in the Discovery Centre (live tarantulas, pickled snake skeletons, stuffed tropical birds behind black velvet curtains), we left via the bird gallery past the giant Chinese lions, wending our way through the labyrinthine third floor galleries to take the lift back down to the historic street and the foyer. Outside the Victorian room, our path was suddenly blocked by a fat navy blue velvet stanchion which had appeared out of nowhere.

No respecter of barriers in public places, I attempted to steer the buggy around the knot of people bunched uncomfortably behind the stanchion six feet short of the foyer. Immediately a very tense-looking young guy in a black museum T shirt popped up, palm raised in the international 'Stop!' position, and said "Ah, excuse me ma'am, but I can't let you exit the Museum right now."

Ahead a group of well-dressed middle-aged people in suits was filing slowly out of the museum's ridiculously cumbersome exit, which requires the visitor to make two 45 degree turns within the space of a couple of metres. This is in order to accommodate egress of nearly a million people a year through the narrow doorway of architect Benjamin Mountfort's now untouchable Gothic Revival design, just one of the many problematic issues for Canterbury Museum which would have been addressed by architect Ian Athfield's visionary (and to my mind, entirely sympathetic) redevelopment plan, shot dead by the Environment Court a year or so ago. The museum attendant dropped his voice impressively and said, "An important function is going on."

Alarmed, irritated and slightly amused all at once at the notion of being expected to wait for a corporate hirer to leave the museum, I asked what the function (such a great New Zealand term, that; full of self-important bureaucracy and redolent of dusty boredom) was.

"It's the iwi. Rangitane. They've come to collect the bones of their ancestors, and take them home," he said. I realised he was very nervous, and that this was a moment of great significance for the museum. We were waiting for a funeral party to pass. Understanding the solemnity of what was occurring a few feet away, it felt just fine to be behind the velvet ropes.

When we got outside, dozens of people in suits and black clothes were milling about near the brightly planted municipal flowerbeds, snatching a quick chat before boarding two huge coaches. A couple of pairs of big guys carrying large square wooden boxes between them were walking slowly across the pavement. The museum director stood under the Gothic portico, watching the departure. A bare-chested haka party wearing piupius were bracing themselves in the chill autumn air. "Are they warriors?" asked the small guy.

It felt like a historic moment.

The next day I read in the paper that the bones of more than 60 tipuna were being returned for reburial at the Wairau Bar in Marlborough, where they'd been dug up by museum archeologists about seventy years ago. Possibly New Zealand's oldest human remains, the bones had been dated to the 14th century by a research team from Otago University, including archeologists, anthropologists and biologists who worked in a partnership with the museum and Ngai Tahu. Other archeologists have been working with iwi on the preparation of a new site on the boulder bank of the Wairau Bar for reinterrment of the ancestral remains.

Human remains of one sort or another rest quietly in the collection storage areas of many of New Zealand's museums. Some can already be, or are in the process of being, identified, and are being returned to descendants for burial. Others have lost their identity and are likely to stay behind the scenes at the museum. Apart from the bandaged corpses of ancient Egyptians, it seems, it's no longer seen as appropriate to display dead bodies to the public, which can only be a good thing: although I'm aware of some of the historical and moral complexities around the issue, I can never look at this photograph of the colonial soldier-artist H.G. Robley with his collection of moko mokai, or tattooed heads, without shuddering.

Robley offered his collection of 35 moko mokai to the New Zealand Government for £1,000 in 1908; his offer, however, was refused. Later the bulk of Robley's collection [PDF] was purchased by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, for £1,250. Along with the descendants of Robley, the late Dalvanius Prime began negotiations in 1998 with the Museum of Natural History to repatriate these to New Zealand. Many other human remains have since been returned to New Zealand from public museums, private collections and teaching collections overseas.

I'm pleased that the children and I saw the bones of Rangitane leaving Canterbury Museum on their final journey home to the Wairau Bar. It was something of significance, something to remember. The moment revealed the museum not only in its traditional role as a repository of culturally-significant historical objects, but as an active player in the contemporary culture, responding to the shifting imperatives of the contemporary world. After all, it's not about simply keeping the collection, it's what museums do with their collections that determines their value to society. Even if sometimes that means giving the objects back.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Narcissus, 1594-6, oil

A few things that have been on my mind over the Easter break.

1. A taste for Suede

Having grown up in a household where plants were regarded as either 'tasteful' (usually those used by Gertrude Jekyll for her Edwardian gardens such as astrantia, hostas, and oak leafed hydrangeas) or utterly 'tasteless' (cheerful 1950s cultivars in shouty bright colours including freesias, begonias, dahlias, and hybrid tea roses), I was interested to read about artist Carol Bove's use of vintage plant catalogues in her exhibitions at the NY Horticultural Society and the Tate St Ives. In particular, I'm drawn to her description of a brown daffodil named Suede hybridised in 1973 as possible evidence of a botanical 'period eye' in the history of taste. 'Daffodils are all clones of each other,' she notes, 'and each cultivar (or variety) is genetically identical, so you can’t renew a variety once it’s faltered. Flowers need to be continually in circulation and nurtured to persist, which always strikes me as such a clear metaphor for the history of ideas.'

2. On the comfort of Twitter

Film maker Karina Longworth on the role of Twitter in her life, via Tomorrow Museum:

'(Twitter) allows me — a freelance writer who works at home alone when she’s not spending two weeks out of every month on the road –– to communicate a cumulative narrative of my idle thoughts and actions to an audience that responds in real time. It’s a simple thing, but there’s something incredibly comforting about having an ongoing reminder that if I have something to say, there are people who want to recieve it. Some days, the trail I leave on Twitter is the best proof I have that I actually exist.'

3. Giving it back

Bernd Neumann, the German minister of culture, has firmly rejected the call that Sir Norman Rosenthal made late last year to end the ongoing restitution of works looted by the Nazis to Holocaust victims and their heirs.


'History has always looked after works of art in strange ways. Ever since the beginning of recorded history, because of its value, art has been looted and as a result arbitrarily distributed and disseminated throughout the world. Of course, what happened in the Nazi period was unspeakable in its awfulness. I lost many relatives, whom I never knew personally, and who died in concentration camps in the most horrible of circumstances. I believe, however, that grandchildren or distant relations of people who had works of art or property taken away by the Nazis do not now have an inalienable right to ownership, at the beginning of the 21st century. If valuable objects have ended up in the public sphere, even on account of the terrible facts of history, then that is the way it is.'

'The German government stands by its historical and moral responsibility. It would be unacceptable if, despite improved knowledge, we were to perpetuate the injustices already suffered by deciding against restitution.'

While there's a different history involved, the restitution and return of inappropriately acquired cultural property, both from national holdings and from international organisations, continues to be a critical issue both for New Zealand museums and for iwi. It's something that our museums quite understandably stay very quiet about.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The incongruity of peacocks

Carlo Crivelli, The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius (1486), egg tempera and oil on canvas transferred from wood, 2070 x 1467mm, Collection of the National Gallery, London

While over the years in my professional life I have written many hundreds -- quite possibly thousands -- of extended labels for art exhibitions, the number of exhibition labels I have wanted to read in a personal capacity can probably be counted on the fingers of two hands. When I look at a work of art in a gallery, or an object in a museum, I am quite happy to do so without knowledge, or at least only the prior knowledge I might bring to my encounter with the work: if what I see interests me enough, then I might find out what it is, or who made it and when it was produced, but it's most unlikely that I'll seek interpretation and contextual information while standing there actually looking at the thing.

When I'm visiting a gallery or a museum, I'm there less for education and more for experience, for the opportunity to become immersed in another way of seeing the world -- to see something I couldn't have imagined by myself. If I simply can't get what I've seen out of my head and have to know more -- specifically to understand the context of its production -- then I'll buy the catalogue on my way out, and think about it later. I don't think I'm alone in this way of dealing with cultural objects.

(One can, of course, simply ignore extended labels when visiting a public art gallery, but it takes a strong will not to read a sign on the wall: we're all conditioned to do so.)

Here's novelist J.G. Ballard's view of the matter, which I came across recently in his terrific autobiography Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton, published last year after his diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2006. (He's working on what is quite possibly going to be his last book, whose working title is Conversations with My Physician: The Meaning, if Any, of Life, at the moment.) Since adolescence, Ballard's intellectual touchstones have been Freud and the Surrealists, whose ideas landed like 'a stick of bombs' for him in the middle-class drawing room of his grandparents after his experiences in war-torn Shanghai as a child. (“I felt, and still do, that psychoanalysis and surrealism were a key to the truth about existence and the human personality, and also a key to myself.”)

"I am sure that a large part of the enduring mystery of the Renaissance masterpieces, in the National Gallery was due to the absence of the explanatory matter that now drains away much of the strangeness and poetry of the Old Masters. I would stare at Crivelli's Annunciation, charmed by the peacocks, loaves of bread and other incongruous items, the passer-by reading a book on the bridge and the Virgin in her jewel box of a house. I was forced to use my own imagination to stitch these elements into a master narrative that made some kind of sense, rather than read an extended wall caption and be solemnly told that the peacock was a symbol of eternal life. Perish the thought, and let the exquisite bird be itself, and nothing more or less than itself. What could be more natural, and more mysterious, than a peacock and a loaf of bread appearing on the scene to celebrate the forthcoming birth of the Saviour?"

J.G. Ballard, Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography, London: Fourth Estate, 2008, p. 155.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Who turned the lights out?

A typical public art gallery in New Zealand

If you've ever stumbled -- perhaps literally -- into a public art gallery and wondered who turned out the lights, it was probably the conservator. It's the conservator's job to preserve the works of art for the future, and they often effect this by demanding on lighting so dim it's hard to see the exhibition. Gallery and museum conservators apply stringent rules for the display of artworks and cultural objects, including low lighting to avoid fading through UV exposure, and a relatively stable humidity and temperature to ensure that works don't warp, crack, or succumb to fungal spores.

There is an inevitable tension between the museum's twin roles of preserving and exhibiting. (The conservator's narrowed eyes, occasional sharp intake of breath and sometimes -- awfully -- a long slow shake of the head when reading a curator's wishlist for an exhibition is an art gallery comedy staple, much like someone mislaying their trousers in a French farce or fat jokes in a Farrelly Bros flick.) The trouble is that it's much better for the longevity of the objects or artworks to keep them in an airconditioned box than display them to the public. The changes in temperature and humidity around works of art caused by, say, a hot crush of people crowding round at an opening, or a class of kids wearing wet raincoats, is marked, and distinctly detrimental to the physical condition of the work, which is literally being slowly destroyed by every pair of greedy eyes clapped upon it.

Or is it? Anyone who's ever worked in an art gallery has wondered how conservators know this stuff. Is it really true? Will the work really fall apart, or completely disappear, 200 years hence, if the light on it is a bit brighter than usual for six weeks or so? Argue against it, and you're a potential destroyer of the nation's cultural heritage. Go with it, and you're stumbling around in the dark with the public visitors. The trouble is, much like an assessment of the safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy, verifiable experimental conditions are both difficult to record and unpalatable to establish. Much the best to be on the safe side and leave well alone.

But interestingly, the director of the Tate, Nicholas Serota, has wondered long enough and is now taking action, seeing if there is room to operate with 'more subtlety' under the exisiting museum conservation guidelines --which I'm quite amazed to discover from this article were actually established only in 1978, by Garry Thomson, a London-based conservator who had researched the effects of fluctuating humidity on antique panel paintings, and whose recommendations quickly became the global museum industry standard. (A current panel painting specialist at the Met, George Bisacca, wonders if this should still be the case: “If you can keep that relative humidity constant, then you stop that constant process of expansion and contraction. But people who don’t understand the mechanisms involved have taken that [idea] and applied it everywhere on earth.”) Along with the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Mark Jones, Serota is convening a group of directors of some of the world’s most prominent museums to address the issue of how specific materials are actually affected by physical changes in the museum environment, and is now working with British conservators to figure out where to begin.

Perhaps they could consider using New Zealand museums as a case study.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A little something for the weekend

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, photo from Flickr by Dullhunk

Ten years ago, I had a date with Reeves and Mortimer most Thursday nights. Billing themselves as the 'alternative to alternative comedy', they were less a circuit-breaker than the latest incarnation of a long tradition of two-man visual and verbal comedy; the direct descendants of Eric and Ernie on the one hand, and Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson in their early Young Ones days on the other. R&M's brand of humour was quintessentially British, surreal and slapstick in equal parts. A typical episode would see them bashing one another over the head with giant frying pans while spouting ridiculous Dadaist non sequiturs -- "Like a badger with an afro, throwing sparklers at the pope!" "Like Bono in a boob-tube on the choir master's lap!" -- or stopping to argue in great detail over some pointless matter of terminology, vis:
After recently revealed aliens have stopped police in their tracks:
Bob: "What's going on?"
Vic: "He's just frozen them with his special eyeballs so now we've got to get them into that booth."
Bob: "That's not a booth, that's a kiosk."
Vic: "No it's not, there's no shelving in it."
Bob: "No, a kiosk has a counter. Shelving, you're thinking of a pantry."
Vic: "So what's a kiosk without shelving or a counter?"
Bob: "That's a booth."
Vic: "Exactly."
Alien: "Howay yous two! Them's only frozen for thirty seconds!"
Now of course Reeves and Mortimer are a couple of big sellouts, hosting mainstream panel games on TV and radio and appearing on I'm a Celebrity, Get me out of here. But remembering how good they were back in the day, I'm really quite intrigued by the recent re-rentry into the artworld of the once self-styled Darlington Dadaist, who became a comedian after leaving art school: a couple of years ago Reeves's works were shown at Whitechapel, while Jake and Dinos Chapman describe Reeves's art as “able to command our laughter as a purgative, to encourage the viewer to leak at both ends”. I think the works are OK, actually, although maybe a bit less Dadaist than you'd expect. But maybe it's just that I'm imagining them as the backdrop to a serious bit of tomfoolery. You can decide for yourself with eleven of his paintings reproduced here, including Luftwaffe Love School.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Stately piles

One of my favourite British TV characters of recent years is the Hon Francis Fulford of Great Fulford, Devon, the foul-mouthed patriarch of one of the oldest aristocratic families in Britain, and possibly the first member of the British upper classes to go for a warts-and-all reality TV documentary on his family in order to raise some much-needed cash: if you missed The F*cking Fulfords when it screened on TV a couple of years ago, and are a fan of stately homes, swearing, bigoted rants and British history, you may enjoy a quick perusal of the few clips available on YouTube. Stalking his estate with a metal detector hoping to find coins dropped by an ancestor in order to pay off his overdraft, cursing Germans as if the war were still raging, Fulford's like an unfeasibly posh version of Alf Garnet. (“Crisis point? I wouldn’t call this a crisis point. One of my ancestors was hung, drawn and quartered in 1463. That’s what I call a fucking crisis point.”) Here's a typical blast of Fulfordian invective, in which he reminisces about his schooldays at the minor public school Milton Abbey in an interview with Hugo Rikind:
“Fantastic place,” he rumbles. “Still going. Has a ferret block bigger than the science block. Think it’s the only school where you can still take your dog.” He had one German friend there, whose nickname was 'Nazi'. These days, he feels, people are too sensitive about nicknames. “Judges are ridiculous. Tell somebody they’ve got nice tits, and they’ll make you give them a million pounds. Ridiculous.”
(Possibly an acquired taste, I'll grant you.)

Devon's answer to The Osbournes was popular enough for the unreconstructed Francis Fulford (also known as F*cker Fulford) to be allowed to make two more TV shows, both documentaries written and presented by himself: Why England's F*cked and Why America Sucks. According to Fulford, England's problem stem from the 'fact' it's lost its cultural identity as a nation because the rest of the world were jealous and copied it. With over a thousand years of Fulfords residing at Fulford Manor behind him, his brief to chronicle the iniquities of the present day is wide-ranging: at one point Fulford visits a decrepit inner-city concrete tower block estate and strikes up a conversation with the kids hanging about in a grafittied concrete wasteland ('Ah, yes, the upper classes and the working class have always got on famously. Say what we like. Don't give a fuck what anyone else thinks.') in order to expound his theory that modernist architecture is essentially inhuman. He's joined by an intense young architectural historian in horn-rimmed specs, who is anxious to point out the aesthetic history of the buildings, while the kids on the estate agree forcefully with Fulford that it's a truly horrible place to live. It was thought-provoking television.

Francis F*cker Fulford's visit to the council housing estate came to mind in relation to a couple of recent architectural stories: firstly, the gradual rehabilitation of brutalist architecture in Britain which has been signalled by the popularity of a Le Corbusier exhibition at the Barbican, a modular brutalist complex inspired by the architect which only a matter of a few years ago was voted Britain's ugliest building. For decades, Le Corbusier's name has been synonymous with the failed modernist concrete housing complexes which have fallen into disrepair and in some cases, been torn down, in inner cities across Britain; now, it seems, there is a revival of interest in the aesthetic and its possibilities for regeneration.

I can't imagine the rehabiliation of concrete brutalism is something that Prince Charles, on the other hand, would much go for: he is an outspoken critic on the evils of modern architecture, that 'monstrous carbuncle' on the face of cities which he regards as both cavalier and inhuman.
"We must come to regard the characteristics of traditional architecture as not merely unfashionable political statements, to be thrown out with yesterday's rubbish along with the baby and the bathwater, but rather as organically adapting creation over the passage of time, helping us to generate and regenerate places that relate to our essential humanity. I know you all know what I mean in your heart of hearts - its just that so many of us are terrified of being thought of as old-fashioned, out of touch and 'not modern'. Don't worry. I've already volunteered for this particular task," he said in 2005.
Exasperated by the failure of contemporary architects to work to his anachronistic brief, the Prince recently rolled up his sleeves and got on with the job himself, designing a firestation at the Dorset village of Poundbury. The result hasn't met with universal acclaim: the architecture critic of the Guardian has described it as 'Brookside meets the Parthenon -- a dumpy neoclassical Georgian palace with three garage doors attached to it.' Others have called it a 'scale model of Buck Palace'.

Prince Charles's firestation, photograph by Phil Yeomans/BNPS, via The Guardian

While most of the model village of Poundbury (which is due to be completed in 2025 and will house about 5000 people) is designed like the firestation in the 'humanistic' Georgian style, it seems the aesthetic's not immune from the social problems which plague the inner cities' brutalist concrete jungles. Here's what I presume is Poundbury's bus stop in the neo-classical mode, pictured recently in the Mail.

Wonder what Francis Fulford would make of that.