GSK Contemporary Earth Exhibition Royal Academy

7pm.  From the southbank centre  I  meet   artist Whitney McVeigh  for tonight’s  hottest ticket  on the  London’s arts scene.  It’s  The Royal Academy GSK Contemporary Earth  exhibition opening  of   thirty international artists off regent
Street.   Jude Kelly  appears and we all enter a packed and happening  foyer up the stairs and into the exhibition proper.    It’s busy.    But don’t expect this to be a review.  It isn’t.

Jude, Whitney, Vicky Long ,  Eva Martinez and I  curl through the crowds  taking in the magnificence of it all, each one of us stopping to chat to different people.
 I meet Antony Gormley  stood outside of his piece which fills an entire room preventing  viewer or artist from physically entering.    “I haven’t seen this piece for seventeen years” he says with melancholy.  It’s as if he is stood next to an old
eccentric friend,  or thousands of them as it were.  We stand, talk amongst those
friends and say goodbye. 

On my way further down the stairs – I was popping out for a cigarette – Tracey Emin in ball gown looks astounding as she floats upwards.  I get  tell Emin that her artwork sold at the houses of parliament  yesterday in an auction for charity and the winner was Kate Adie.  Her eyes brighten and she talks of Kate.   I introduce myself  “I know you Lemn Sissay” she frowns “You’re in the exhibition.”   I continue down the stairs to see to my pleasure one of Britain’s and definitely  London’s most stylish writers whom each time I meet him seems more and more like an older cooler and wiser brother – Ben Okri.We swap numbers again.

Finally I’m outside flushed by the night air.   After the cigarette (nasty habit)  I return for  a second sighting of  “What if”.    Sometimes at exhibitions it is good to stand by your work.   “What If” is  a film of the poem performed with two Jazz Musicians. They are Gary Crosby OBE and Peter Edwards. I wrote the poem and they the music.  It was filmed by Deborah May.

Somehow the curators found a perfect space for it,  a  blackened  space with  in its centre  the film playing on a loop. There are two writers in the exhibition   (I am using an archaic idea of what writers are cause Tracey Emin is a writer too)  but let’s say the two “writers”  are  myself and Ian McEwan.   We are at opposite sides of the book sales flow chart but you understand what I mean.

As I arrived  two people were watching:  Ian McEwan  the husband shoulder to shoulder with   Annalena McAfee  the wife and  both  in total concentration upon my film .   It would be rude to disturb them wouldn’t it?  I  decided  to wait. While waiting it dawned   What if they hate it and then  turn around and I’m stood here.  Ian McEwan went to the arctic with Cape Farewell  the year before I went.  His wife Annalena is a respected one time  colleague of The Journalist.  I waas so involved in these thoughts the film finished and  they freakin’ turn around.

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