Ruth Hedges explores WILLIAM BURRELL’S collection of Chinese artifacts in
Glasgow but finds it all a bit confusing.
he Burrell Collection currently has an
exhibition called One Million Days in China.
It‘s been lavishly promoted and hyped around the city and I thought it would be a good chance to cover it here. on the City Life pages. exploring William Burrell‘s collection of Chinese art and artifacts as given to Glasgow.
The trip started off well-enough. A bus to Pollock Country Park. a walk through the woodland and along the lawn dotted with kids rolling down the slope. The shop held some concertina dragons. lanterns — good merchandise. lt whetted my appetite — in the way that you think ooh. this is going to be a biggie — they‘ve got special things in.
But then I couldn‘t find the start of the exhibition and when I eventually did the entrance way looked a bit like the set of a school play — you wouldn‘t want to touch it too hard. like. I got a bit excited at first because they had a section setting the scene. It was called the l9()()s London Art Market. Sounds of ringing bells. the bustle. some Cockney barrow-boys shouting in the
background. William Burrell. the reclusive collector
who bequeathed his huge and magniﬁcent collection to Glasgow when he died aged 96 in l958. used to frequent auctions and dealers‘ backrooms.
What he collected over those many years are spectacular and beautiful. Behind glass cabinets huge water collecting bowls. 400 years-old in deep blues and turquoise look like pools for bathing. Religious iconography like little Buddhas provide a good chance to explain a bit about the different religions prevalent in China 55(lBC: Confucianism expounds education.
‘I TRY TO MATCH UP THE DISPLAY LABEL IN ONE CABINET WITH THE OBJECTS - THEY DON'T MATCH'
benevolence. justice. wisdom and sincerity: Taoism holds ideas based on magic and letting fate take its course and Buddhism values meditation. kindness and morals. Beauty and interest are there in spades. but their shoddy display lets them down terribly.
Following the exhibition round after the initial imaginative scene. I slow down to a dull trudge and try to match up the display label in one cabinet with the objects. Am I being stupid here? No. it’s not me. they just don't match up—objects are either missing or in the wrong place.
One interesting anecdote did catch my eye. though. Pots. 4500 years old. buried in the earth in northwest China. were collected by a Glaswegian shipping clerk. Neilage Sharp Brown. who visited the sites in person (interestingly. Burrell never went to China himself). When Brown returned to Great Britain in the l94()s he was committed to an asylum and the collection was auctioned at Sothebys. which is where Burrell picked up the pots. Fragments such as this do not really help pull the show together though. and the bits of 'modern day‘ contextualising: Communist posters (pictured). quotes from Chinese people living in Glasgow on their favourite piece in the exhibition. seem tokenistic.
()n my way back to the gift shop. making sure to pick up a dragon and a couple of lanterns. I feel a bit deﬂated. Burrell would have wanted us to be given more.
One Million Days in China, Burrell Collection, Glasgow, until Feb 2005.
Lunchtime theatre at OranMOr
After ten years of creative planning, the West End's latest coup. OranMOr, is a revelation. With a namesake taken from the Gaelic meaning ‘melody of life'. and housed in the beautifully revamped church space on Byres Road. few imagined its potential within the West End's entertainment landscape. But since opening its doors in June. owners Colin Beattie and George Swanson have continued to up the ante. not only providing a first rate tippling hole but affording the area itself a place to enjoy all elements of the arts scene.
And from the foundations up it's clear that Glasgow's key cultural figures want a piece of the action. Acclaimed artist and author Alasdair Gray lent his artistic flair when the venue opened - he painted a fresco on the ceiling, charting the signs of the zodiac. the movement of the stars and phases of the moon — and now several of Glasgow's greats are set to follow suit with the crews latest project. A Play, a Pie and a Pint. In a bid to entice culture-hungry professionals, the venue is presenting plays to coincide with locals' lunch hours between 1—2pm. While the cost itself is a relative snip (£10 for your ticket and you get a lunch box complete with pint and pie, gratis, for your bother), it‘s the caliber of writing which affords real merit.
With theatre stalwart David MacLennan (he who set up 7:84 theatre co with John McGrath in the early 703) at the helm, literary marvel Anne Budha 0a Donovan and writers of stage and screen, Chris Dolan, Greg Hemphill. Peter Arnott, and Isobel Manon — to name but a few — all contributing work, this has to be one of the finest lunch menus Glasgow has to offer. (Anna Millar)
I OranMdr, Byres Road, Glasgow. 0747 353 8000, www.cran- mor co.ul<
5—12 Aug 2004 me LIST 47