Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Damien Hirst Spot Challenge: Geneva Rome

Today I woke up in Geneva after getting a really good night's sleep for the first time in a few days. 

With the gallery not opening until 11am I could take my time before collecting the Geneva spot and moving on to Rome.  This was my first ever visit to Geneva, so I was eager to do a little sightseeing.  Unfortunately, it is so incredibly cold in Europe right now and it was freezing in Geneva with a stiff icy wind blowing, so I couldn't really enjoy the city.  But even under these conditions, I can see that this is a beautifully situated city and I look forward to visiting again some day during a warmer season.

The Gagosian gallery in Geneva is at 19 Place de Longmalle.  Many of the hotels if not most, including mine, are just across the Pont du Mont Blanc, so I decided to walk from my hotel across the bridge to the gallery.  I left at 10 am, not quite knowing what to expect and where the gallery was, and I found it within 15 minutes of leaving my hotel, so I found a nice coffee shop up the street and around the corner and thawed out over a coffee and croissant.  To get to the gallery, cross the Pont du Mont Blanc and bear to the right and go up a gentle sloping street which turns into Place de Longmalle. 

There are toney shops along the way and jewelry shops and galleries in the square.  Like the Hong Kong gallery, it isn't readily obvious from the outside that you're at a Gagosian.  You have to look for the address -- number 19.  Then you ring the bell and you're buzzed in.  You walk up an ornate circular staircase, and a gallery staff will open the door and greet you. 

This time it was two young guys who were working there, and they both welcomed me warmly and processed my spot quickly.  This is another small Gagosian, but I liked it very much.  The selection of spot paintings was nicely eclectic in size, ranging from the big spots to the kind I like the best -- the spot paintings that contain many tiny spots.  I enjoyed staring at one such painting while my spot was processed.  As you continue to stare, the spots begin to swirl and pulsate as your mind tries to make sense of the juxtaposition of order and chaos.  The young man returned with my spot, snapped my photo, and wished me good luck and I was on my way back to my hotel and then onward to the airport.

As I mentioned before, I was nervous about acquiring the Rome spot today, as it is crucial to my being able to finish this challenge in the amount of time of my life I have budgeted for this cause.  My flight from Geneva was scheduled to land in Rome at 4:40pm, and if I didn't acquire the spot by the 7pm closing time I'd be screwed, as my flight to Athens is tomorrow morning at 9am.  This might seem like plenty of time, but I've been in Rome enough times, including last October, when public transportation broke down or other events slowed the pace of transportation to a crawl, so I did what I could to improve my chances.  I lined up early as one of those obnoxious Eurojet seat hoggers and got the first row aisle.  When we landed in Rome, on time thankfully, I hopped out and headed straight to the taxi queue and told the driver to take me to Via Francesco Crispi in the city.  Up till now I've only used public transportation on this trip (except for one necessary cab ride from my hotel in Hong Kong to the Airport Express train station in Kowloon).  Rome airport has a train called the Leonardo Express to it's main train station, which is ordinarily a good option.  However, it only leaves every half hour.  Then to get to the Gagosian gallery, you need to take the Metro from the train station two stops to Barberini/Fontana di Trevi, and then emerge and wander around until you find the right street.  I didn't trust my ability to do that, so I decided to invest in an expensive cab ride.  I was very glad of my decision, because there was no traffic (amazingly) and the cab dropped me off at 5:35pm with plenty of time to spare.  The three young ladies sitting at the desk on the ground floor welcomed me with smiles and gave me my Rome spot -- yeah!  What a relief.  One snapped my pic in front of the impressive Methoxyamine 2010-2011 painting in the lobby. 

Tomorrow it's on to Athens in the morning.  I have 7 hours in the city in which to go to the gallery and get back for my BA flight to London tomorrow evening.  Luckily I was in Athens last October, so I won't feel too deprived at not being able to spend more time there, but I do intend to eat some good Greek food for lunch.  Then on Friday it's on to NYC and knock on wood completion of the Complete Spot Challenge!