It’s not some sort of weird business school acronym but the local shorthand for one of the best art galleries in the US — the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
It’s a little confusing as, according to the guidebooks, a very similar acronym — SoMa — is used to refer to the district of the city (South of Market [Street]) where the modern art museum is located.
The entrance fee for SFMoMA is $18 — which should make us based in around London very grateful for the free entrance to Tate Modern — the SFMoMA’s equivalent. I used a ticket that had been bought for a package of attractions — like cable cars and the Fisherman’s Wharf aquarium — so had about half an hour to look around the San Francisco collection of 2oth century artistry.
The museum has an example of one of the most seminal exhibits in modern art history — Duchamps’ Fountain. This is the famous urinal that was meant to be submitted to the New York Society of Independent Artists show in 1917 (although it actually wasn’t exhibited) as an example of how virtually anything could be considered modern art.
I was quite excited to see it in the San Francisco museum but apparently it’s not the original but one of eight replicas made by Duchamp in the 1960s, which are all on show at prestigious modern art museums (including the Tate).
So it’s a pretty iconic piece — the original piece of shock-value modern art that provoked millions of ‘I could do better than that’ comments over the last century…and it would obviously be well known to Kim.
Duchamps’s R. Mutt Urinal
A definite original in the gallery — and one that Kim would enjoy — is a Mark Rothko painting — Number 14. Â It seems that Rothko painted a few different works with the same title. This one is from 1960 and is in red and purple. I was persuaded of the significance of these Rothko blocks of colour by the Simon Scharma BBC documentary and, as this blog I’ve found online quotes of the artist, it’s easy to see that the paintings have an effect ofÂ Â â€œserenity about to explode.â€
Serenity about to explode — that would be an apt description to work to for the first part of my novel.
I’ve been writing a part of the novel where Kim is painting and she uses the concept of colour association to both tell James what she’s thinking and also to send him a coded message and ultimatum, should he be perceptive enough to pick it up.
It’s something of a Rothko-inspired meditation on colour and I’ve tried to come up with a rough approximation of what it might be like. Click on the picture to find how the character’s thoughts might be represented in another way. I won’t say what she titles the painting.
I’m writing this from ‘The Bean’ a cafe on Rivington Street, Shoreditch. I had to come into London for a meeting with a colleague in the rather different surroundings of the Holiday Inn, Mayfair. He was offering me some careers advice along the way, which was both good and bad, because more or less everything he said convinced me that I’d be more suited to a novelist’s lifestyle although this is not something one can approach a recruitment agent for.
While on the tube to Green Park I had something of a flash of inspiration while reading a review in The Economist of some books about the credit crunch. It’s a little depressing as the recession and financial crisis are already appearing in fiction — which will possibly make my themes a little dated — although the Economist seemed to think it would take a year or two for anything particularly thoughtful or reflective to come out (my inference from the article anyway). That set me thinking of the many interesting parallels between my three themes — money (finance), art and sex. I had one particularly thought that I’m going to think about further but it could have ‘legs’.
I’ve had another look at Village Underground, from the top deck of a bus this time, which is useful as I’ve been furiously writing about Kim’s tenure there which may form the opening chapter of the novel. I have a few different ideas for openings and I’d like to use Alison’s tutorial on Saturday to see what works best. The problem is I have to write them. I was up until past 1am last night and up again writing by 8am.
On the way here I stopped by the Tate Modern. I was hoping to see the Rothko Seagram pictures, which I thought were there, as I watched the Simon Scharma programme on them on DVD a few days ago — more research. However, they appear not to be there and today’s strike by the PRS (or whatever union it is) meant most of the galleries were shut so hordes of foreign school parties were all crammed into Balka’s box instead, which I guess probably gave it the opposite ambiance to that which the artist intended.