On my occasional trips away from Coventry, I like to see whatever exhibitions are on in the place I go to visit. Belfast is usually pretty reliable for a good selection but sadly not on my recent trip.
Turning up at the Ormeau Baths Gallery on Friday 13th was obviously a bad omen. The door was shut, boards were piled behind it and there was post inside the door. I had thought it was odd the website was out of date, but should have looked further – the gallery closed in October, blaming a reduction in income from sponsorship and corporate events, and a rise in costs.
It had shown exhibitions by Yoko Ono and Gilbert and George before, and a lot more obscure artists, and was a bit like the Ikon in Birmingham – an old brick building and big white spaces inside. It’s a sad lost to the Belfast art world.
Still, I had more to see… I got to the university and their gallery was closed for a re-hang. But there was still Belfast Exposed, the cool photographic gallery – that was also shut and as I found their new exhibition started last Thursday, I guess that was also a re-hang.
At the big Ulster Museum, I wasn’t expecting much as their main exhibition was the Street Art show which was on The Herbert last year which I’d obviously seen. I certainly wasn’t expecting the Queen to save my day, but she did. The Queen Art & Image, which was ending that weekend, was itself was a bit unexpected in Belfast where it would be pretty likely to divide opinion, but some of the exhibits also surprised.
There was a Gilbert and George portrait made from postcards of the Queen and Prince Philip – arranged in the shape of a Cross Potent, or crutchcross – apparently used as the symbol of an Austrian Fascist party in the 1930s…
There were portraits by Andy Warhol, Lucien Freud, Gerhard Richter and a great photo by Eve Arnold. I was surprised all had tangled with royalty, but it made for a rich and varied exhibition.
Belfast – I’ll be back….