I visited the Marie Antoinette suite at The Ritz yesterday to have a look at The Royal Portraits exhibition.

I also met its artist: the leading miniature portraitist Alexei Maximov who is the first Russian artist in history to have been given permission to portray the royal family members in their official residences.

There I discovered beautiful sketches of members of the royal family from all over Europe. The portraits were so delicately drawn and some of them were achieved in a single sitting. My favourite sketch, of the Queen’s Mother, took only an hour and a half to complete. Her features looked so soft and her image so approachable, it was a wonder to imagine how Maximov managed to capture her spirit in such a short space of time.

The centrepiece  of the exhibition are the miniatures which stand in the in their glass cases in the middle of the room. These miniatures were commissioned by the Moscow Kremlin in the 1990s and have a collective worth of an estimated £10 million.

The sketches were preparation for these artistic enamels which involved a painstaking process to create. Each colour application was considered either cold, medium or hot in relation to its time and temperature in the oven: cold being 600 degrees celsius and hot being 1000 degrees celsius – and each colour layer had to be put in and taken out of the oven at least twenty times. Can you imagine how fragile this whole process is? Quite amazing really.

I discussed the individual sketches and enamels with the artist. I pointed out my favourite ones as he told me  stories about some of his pieces. It was a real pleasure to hear them.

The public view is running until 1st May and it is open by appointment only. You can call 0207 739 90 96 to arrange.

This is the first time the entire collection has been shown. And afterwards, the Queen will be presented with an original portrait in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee. The gift will then become part of the Royal Collection and will be looked after by the Queen on behalf of the nation. So don’t miss out on this opportunity to view what will become a national treasure whilst you can. It’s a real treat!

For more information on The Royal Portraits exhibition, here is the website.

When booking tickets for David Hockney’s exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts, the only tickets that seemed to be available were for Saturday nights. I’d left it relatively late to book but after last night, I’m so glad I managed to snag a chance to take in this brilliant exhibition.

To call it A Bigger Picture doesn’t prepare you for the sheer scale of the event – not just in terms of canvas sizes but also in relation to the magnitude of Hockney’s works. From his more sombre 1950s pieces to his works of art created on an iPad, this artist demonstrates what a Master he truly is.

I could really go on but to be honest until you’re in the rooms, seeing the shapes and colours for yourself, the black and white preaching of my words just won’t cut it. Whilst you probably can’t pre-book tickets anymore, it seems as if you can still queue for them and buy them on the day. Upon leaving the building last night at 9pm, there was still a line of people waiting to buy tickets – and to be frank, I think the wait would be worth it.

David Hockney’s The Bigger Picture ends on 9th April 2012 and if you want to be transported into a world full of colour and wonder, then don’t miss it. In one room, it’s as if Hockney managed to bring Oz to Yorkshire and honestly – the vision is as magical as it sounds.

If you do want to find out more about A Bigger Picture, here’s a video to watch:


The Cult of Beauty exhibition at the V&A ends on 17th July; today if you’re reading this on Sunday.

I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum on the penultimate day of the exhibition, leaving it to the last minute and all I have to say is, it is stunning!

The Cult of Beauty focuses on the British Aesthetic Movement, which includes the pre-Raphelites, Oscar Wilde and William Morris from the Arts and Crafts Movement.

This exhibition is thought-provoking, visually stunning – it short, it’s incredible.

In relation to Chelsea, there are works by Henry Treffry Dunn which illustrate Rosetti’s home on Cheyne Walk. Yes, that’s right, one of the pre-Raphelites lived in Chelsea!

Also, there is a beautiful painting by Whistler of the Old Battersea Bridge, which was painted in 1872.

There is much more to discover and if you make it down for the last day, I hope you enjoy!

The other day I visited Piers Feetham Gallery to take a look at some paintings by Dan Pearce. I had met Dan before Christmas at The Chelsea Arts Club and it was a real delight to meet him inside this local institution.

Chelsea Arts Club has always had a certain mystique about it and not just for its closed doors. Its romanticism is probably further indulged by the idea of the local artist hiding away. The Garrick has a similar romantic elusiveness especially given its past members, which have included Charles Dickens, JM Barrie and A.A. Milne.

Stepping into the main room of The Chelsea Arts Club in the middle of the afternoon felt like I was certainly walking into a secret hideaway rather than just another exclusive club. As the members played snooker and hung out at the bar, the relaxed atmosphere which is decorated by the works of the club’s artists had a refreshing sense of authenticity to it. The members were simply there to hang out, without a care in the world as to what was happening outside. Eyeballing each other wasn’t a hobby here as it has been at some private members clubs I’ve visited.

Dan Pearce’s paintings are part of the Christmas Exhibition at Piers Feetham that runs until 15th January 2011. What I love about Dan’s work are the bright Mediterranean colours that bring his everyday objects to life. It’s almost as if they imbue the drab winter light outside with a ray of sunshine; how this exhibition has been perfectly timed.

I also enjoyed the Ceramic Shoes by Rupert Belfrage. These delicate ornaments are perfectly formed and styled in such pretty colours and patterns that I found myself wishing they actually had my size.

Snow turned Chelsea into a veritable winter wonderland last week; perfectly timed for The Phene’s Winter Garden Party.

Admittedly as I ran on the treadmill at The Chelsea Sport’s Centre and looked out of the window to see the harsh weather, I struggled to imagine heading down the road for an outdoor party. But I persevered and a couple of hours later, I was inside a toasty pub sipping on Belvedere cocktails and the odd hot toddy.

Eventually, it was time to venture outdoors and what a delight it was. The comfy seats, which were reminiscent of an outdoor Sydney lounging vibe, were covered by stylish white canopies. Meanwhile, the outdoor heaters and a couple of burning fires kept everyone warm despite my eco conscience, which did struggle slightly. The first floor Lounge was my other favourite area. With a Christmas tree in the corner and three sofas positioned in front of a roaring fire, this was a gorgeous room to hang out in.

A couple of nights later and with the snow now settled, I visited 102 Sydney Street to discover one of the most exciting events in Chelsea. Neal’s Yard Galleries had turned a disused office block into a three floor art gallery.

This exhibition contained a huge range of works, which made every floor a genuine surprise. Take India Amos‘ fine art collection: her still life on linen brought texture to the simplicity of her colours and subjects. There was also the suggestive works of George Morgan whose pieces evoked a romantic and sometimes fantasy world. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rupert Burt’s abstract works were inspired by molecular science.

Given what I have said in the past, it was so exciting to see art bring an industrial space to life in Chelsea; so much so that I might have to pop in again before it all comes down next month.

Mina Zaher

Follow her @kingsroadrocks

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