Blog Archive

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Dali Duchamp, 7.2 is the magic number, Fawlty Towers, The new Westgate Centre in Oxford.

Dali Duchamp Exhibition at The Royal Academy

Duchamp's urinal next to Dali's lobster telephone
I went to see an interesting exhibition combining two of my favourite artists at The Royal Academy in Piccadilly. I didn't previously know that they were good friends and corresponded quite a lot. Salvador Dalí is technically super-competent and very popular but not so highly regarded by the art world. Marcel Duchamp was a much shyer individual, less interested in the commercial side (which Dalí was brilliant at), less technically adept, but arguably the creator of 'modern art'. He disliked 'retinal art' (his expression meaning art that is designed to please the eye) and pushed the boundaries of what is considered art. For example, he would buy 8 everyday items from a hardware store (such as a bottle rack), sign and number each and then sell them as art. His urinal which he displayed at a conventional art exhibition in 1917 was another good example, and is probably what he is best remembered for.

The excellent exhibition poster
I saw for the first time, Dalí's brilliant Christ which is on permanent display in Glasgow. Technically superb, it has the typical dalinian touch of a Cadaques spanish landscape underneath Christ.

Christ of St John of the Cross - Dalí 1951

Both artists were associated with the Dada and Surrealist movements both of which I find very intriguing. The exhibition contained a lot of their correspondence, films of them and films they made and plenty of their art, a lot of which was on loan from the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Dali museum in Florida. One of the most striking exhibits was Duchamp's glass masterpiece which took him 8 years to create and is still unfinished. It remains pretty impenetrable despite all of the notes he wrote about it. It's full title in English is "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even". The top half is the bride, the lower half the bachelors. There are 9 holes in the top panel which he used mathematical formulas to position. Originally there were only 8 but he added a 9th as everything in the work is based on the number 3.

Duchamp's "Glass'

7.2 is the Magic Number for Investors

A growth rate on an investment of 7.2% per annum for 10 years doubles the size of your pot! That's the power of compound interest.  Here is an example of £1,000 growing by 7.2% each year for 10 years:

1  £1,072
2  £1,149
3  £1,232
4  £1,321
5  £1,416
6  £1,518
7  £1,627
8  £1,744
9  £1,870
10  £2,004

Seems like a good target to aim for with any investments. Bear in mind of course that you may well have to pay tax on your gains. If you want to double your investment after tax, you will need a much higher, I would say unrealistically high, return over the period. If your tax rate is 30% on the gain each year, you would need an annual return of 10% to double your original investment over 10 years. With interest rates still at historical lows, a sustained growth approaching 7.2% is an impressive achievement.

Memory: Fawlty Towers German episode with Martin

Fawlty Towers - The Germans (Series 1 Episode 6)

One of my clearest childhood memories was watching the first series of Fawlty Towers as a 13 year old in 1975. With my parents, brother and sister, we all found it hilarious and couldn't wait for the following week's episode. We had seen nothing like it before.

As chance would have it, my school German correspondent, Martin, had just arrived and we explained to him that there was this brilliantly funny British TV series and the final episode was on that evening. We all sat down to watch with high expectations. I remember Martin sitting on the carpet in front of me. Of course we could not have known that the last episode, The Germans, was going to make it so embarrassing for us all. We just sat there and didn't really laugh as we were so appalled and embarrassed by the situation in which Basil Fawlty mocks the Germans. 'Don't mention the war! You started it, you invaded Poland..." We couldn't switch it off as that would have made it worse; and of course this was the first time it has been shown so we had no idea what was coming next in the episode, how it would play out. And of course it just got worse and worse...

Despite this, we got on really well with Martin and I later went to stay with him in Kiel in Germany. To this day, whenever I see that episode, I remember that excruciating evening!

The New Westgate Centre in Oxford

After 20 years in the planning, and a budget of about £440m, the new Westgate shopping Centre opened last week. The shops in Oxford had become pretty average, particularly since the old Westgate was closed down and partially demolished a couple of years ago. Here are my thoughts and first impressions.

Positives +++

It is a huge beautiful, well designed new shopping centre.
100 new shops and 30 new cafés and restaurants will be most welcomed by most locals and tourists.
The new fancy John Lewis is very impressive and what Oxford has been waiting for for many years.
There is a great mixture of posh and ordinary shops standing side by side; something for everyone.
The top floor with its mix of restaurants and terraces looks great.
It should be a good complement to the High Street boutiques, Covered Market and other individual stores in the city centre.

Negatives ---

As attractive as it is, it could be in Reading or Edinburgh or anywhere.
The characterful and more attractive streets such as The High are already starting to look downtrodden as shops move out.
Can a small city like Oxford really sustain such a large number of additional shops?
The area outside the front entrance to the centre needs to be pedestrianised (it looks like it is) before somebody is killed by a bus or a cyclist.

The John Lewis store is quite large

Restaurants and roof terrace

Quotes of the month

There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad.   
Salvador Dalí

I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.    
Marcel Duchamp

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