Southampton Central station

I have been through Southampton on the train many times, en route for the New Forest or Exeter, but never stepped outside the station. For this week's mini city break I decided to visit the city's art gallery and maybe the new SeaCity museum. It was another journey just shy of two hours, but costing half the price of Luton. So, on the folding bike and after consulting Ivy Arch's blog, I knew to check out the mosaic mural on the bridge (Sue Ridge, 1988) and leave by the south Art Deco entrance.

Elod - paper artist

Up and over the railway and I was in Southampton's Cultural Quarter, a big slab of 1930s white stone with a tower on top. Round the back was the library, and upstairs, the art gallery. At first glance, it doesn't look much, a large airy space with paintings hung on every surface. I was first taken by an L S Lowry - The Floating Bridge, Southampton (1956) showing a contraption that once conveyed people and buses across the water. After looking at paintings from the whole of art history I arrived at the front windows where artist Elod Beregszaszi was installing a cardboard mobile (part of the forthcoming The First Cut - paper at the cutting edge). I said it reminded me of Mondrian, and he said 'spot on'. He also directed me to the side rooms, which I could easily have missed.

The Baring room

There I found some contemporary exhibits, then the Perseus Room! Now, I'm not a big fan of Burne-Jones, but this is something else: a recreation of the room where they were to hang, using mahogany panels from Barings bank. These ten gouaches are the preliminary cartoons; the finished oil paintings are in Stuttgart.

Jamie Shovlin - How most of what you know is reconstruction

On the other side of the main hall, was a series of rooms devoted to Jamie Shovlin's How most of what you know is reconstruction (I thought at first they were three different installations), which included a room of interventions with paintings from the permanent collection (Frank Auerbach, Ewan Uglow, Richard Long) and in the last biggest room some huge paintings of spurious imaginary book covers from the Fontana Modern Masters series. Other paintings that caught my eye included Ford Maddox Brown's Cordelia's Portion (1867-75) and Spencer Frederick Gore's Brighton Pier, which is presumably the West Pier. Photography was not allowed (tho I sneaked a couple) so I'm grateful to the BBC's Your Paintings for providing the images!

The cafe in the art gallery was closed so I popped next door to the new SeaCity museum, which you could use without paying the entrance fee. I'm always a bit suspicious of new museums that charge to go in, I suspect there might be lots of boards to read and videos to watch, so I didn't bother. As far as I could tell, there's a model of the Queen Mary and a watch from the Titanic in there. In the empty cafe, next to the gift shop, the Crank's sandwich (£3.50) was a little soggy and the cappuccino weak, and the person behind the counter seemed more interested in polishing her spoons to notice a customer (I was served eventually by a pleasant young man who got me a plate for the sandwich) so it wasn't a great experience. Free wifi, though! I'm afraid I didn't have time to enjoy more of Southampton. Next time I shall explore the Hythe ferry and Solent Sky museum. But the art gallery is a gem and well worth visiting.

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