February 2004


On a bright December morning, I boarded the Eurostar in a bustling Waterloo station and within one hour and 40 minutes I had travelled through the channel tunnel and at speeds of up to 186mph (and boy can you feel the whoosh!) to Lille, the most extensive city in the north of France, to attend the grand opening for the Cultural Capital of Europe 2004 (sharing the prestige with Genoa in northern Italy).

There was a fragrance of anticipation in the air on the night of 6 December, which was the feast of Saint Nicolas. The fanfares started from the elegant Lille Flandres train station. Here the artist Patrick Jouin has illuminated the striking building with atmospheric lighting and colured filters and Herve Descottes has created ingenious muti-colured lighting eclipses that give the brain a complete cultural rinse, and I was ready for anything and everything.

At 7.30pm at Gare Lille Flandres the 80 musicians of the Lille National Orchestra under the baton of Jean-Claude Casadesus, 200 orchestra harmony musicians and the Brighton festival choir, 280 choristers and the cantores ofBruges performed various classical pieces including Hector Berlioz's, Le Chant des Chemins. No sooner had the music concluded, when the parade began. And already it would seem that expectations of people attending the event must have been transcended, the throng was unbelievable - I discovered intimate friends I did not know I had! We were all given white, hooded rain coats; this was to enable us to be part of the installation The White Ball to kick-started the arty celebrations. Numerous images were to be projected that night on to the white coats of the animated people. Yes we became the art show, roaming around Lille and having a ball.

Most venues are within walking distance and with the plethora of events occurring over the year, I would challenge anybody who came to the city, and not get a cultural buzz. This was a wonderful opportunity to explore the arts. Some of the wondrous and surprising items in the programme include an installation of A Gallery of Monsters which is a collection of "beautiful automatons" made from metal sculptures and placed in cages manufactured from containers. The Dead Chickens is a collective and named after a film of the same name, they represent strange and intriguing characters whose movements create concerts of music and sounds. The Gallery of Monsters, Centre Town, Tourcoing, March -June 04

Flower Power, Lille's homage to the 1960s gigantic cultural rebellion is an exhibition of mostly contemporary works and as the publicity blub says "Where flowers are the pretext, subject, dream and manifesto, and the link between centuries and cultures". It takes me back a bit to the time when even I had flowers in my very, very long hair...Man!

The French artist Robert Filliou (1926-1987) has his work in the Musee d'Art Moderne, and at the Palais des Beaux-Arts the flowerpower is from Andy Warhol's 1964 screen printed canvases, Richard Hamilton's 1975 lithograhs, and also work by Jeff Koons.

I visited, while walking along the cobbled lanes, the newly restored Musee de Hospice which housed 17th-century flower painting. Also the Euralille esplanade has a permanent sculpture by Yayoi Kusama from Japan - a large bouquet of multicolored tulips.

And finally let’s all remember and effloresce with Chairman Mao's famous words, "May one hundred flowers blossom".

Flower Power - until 22 February - at Palais Des Beaux-Arts, Palais Rameau and Hospice Comtesse Museum.


"Eurostar is the Official UK Carrier for Lille, European Capital of Culture 2004. Eurostar operates up to nine daily services from London Waterloo and Ashford in Kent to the heart of Lille with fastest journey times only 1 hour 40 minutes. Fares start from only £55 return. For further information and to book please visit www.eurostar.com or call 08705 186 186."

Information & Booking: You can find the entire schedule with the possibility to book and pay online.

Lille 2004 Day Pass 6 Euros, Lille 2004 Parallel World Pass 10 Euros. www.lille2004.com

For general information on Lille, including hotels, restaurants, bars and attractions visit www.lilletourism.com

Lille 2004 until November 2004

Helpful directory and personal viewpoint around the city, by Laurence Phillips, Lille the Bradt mini guide, £5.95.



Back in town, on a chilly night I made my way to the White Cube gallery in trendy Hoxton Square to see Gavin Turk's The Golden Thread exhibition. I guess Turk must have got the debris bug and found inspiration for part of the show in the enthusiasm from the locals, who leave an inordinate amount of jetsam in the Old Street area of East London. Upstairs in the gallery there is allot of rubbish - literally - black plastic bags with parts painted bronze, so you have to use your imagination about what refuse is inside. And for those of you of who are about to quiver, do not fear - there is not a whiff or a pong in the air. Yes! No stench please we are arty! Well this does came from an artist who in 1991 killed himself off by having an empty studio space adorned with an English Heritage plaque inscribed "Borough of Kensington Gavin Turk Sculptor Worked Here 1989-1991". I kind of like that, a bit of cultural roguery. In the centre of the bare gallery is The Golden Thread, a translucent knotty labyrinth which is only comfy enough for one person at a time to enter.The vast structure is made from glass panels like shop windows or contemporary display cases. Mind you don't bump into yourself or any strangers and become a blockhead when the bewilderment of reflection hits you as you take the next fork in this adroit disorientating maze.

So don't waste any time, get off the web, dejunk your art life and make a trail to N1 and please don't trash the place. Let’s hope the early morning cleaners know their art and don't unpick The Golden Thead!

Open until 28 February 10am-6pm

Gavin Turk
The Goldern Thread
White Cube
48 Hoxton Square
London N1 6PB

Tel: 020 7930 5373



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