Visual Arts: Escape from Oxford Street

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Commercial galleries mostly go into hibernation over the Christmas- New Year period, but there are a couple of interesting shows which can act as a welcome antidote to the stresses of the sales

Not surprisingly there aren't very many new exhibitions to tell you about this week. In fact, from today, quite a few of London's galleries will stay closed until the new year. Most museums and public galleries, however, are open at some point over the Christmas holiday, providing a last chance to see "Sensation" at the Royal Academy (0171-494 5615) until 28 December; wonderful paintings by Picasso and Matisse, among others, in "Objects of Desire" at the Hayward (0171-921 0600) or a suitably festive excess of Pre-Raphaelitism at the Tate Gallery's "Symbolism in Britain", both of which close on 4 January.

If, come next week, you find yourself drawn or dragged to the shopping hell of the post-Christmas sales, it is worth remembering that those commercial galleries which are open can offer a welcome harbour from the storm. In particular, I recommend the Rocket Gallery in Old Burlington Street and The Fine Art Society in New Bond Street.

Both of these will open between Christmas and the New Year with exhibitions which provide a better reason to brave the West End than the chance of a cheap jumper. At the Rocket Gallery, we have new paintings by Philip Mead, once well known as a fairly conventional landscape painter but now making dense and demanding abstracts from almost any material that comes to hand. They are worth seeing.

As, indeed, is The Fine Art Society's exhibition devoted to Glyn Philpot, one of the most stylish practitioners of British painting between the wars. His best work, in which description I would include some still lives as well as the unclothed portraits of coloured models and rather louche interiors of nightclubs and bars which made his name, is suffused with a subtle, but very satisfying melancholy. He was clearly a man of his time, but 70 years on his works are not without a fin de siecle relevance.

Philip Mead, Rocket Gallery, 13 Old Burlington Street, W1 (0171-434 3043) to 10 Jan

Glyn Philpot, Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, W1 (0171-629 5116) to 16 Jan

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