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The Buck stopped here

The Buck stopped here is a weekly blog by our contemporary art correspondent Louisa Buck covering the hottest events and must-see exhibitions in London and beyond

Party performances and a concrete cake: Hayward Gallery celebrates its 50th

Ralph Rugoff hands out the Hayward Gallery cake at its 50th birthday party Photo: Pete Woodhead

I’m not sure that concrete grey is the most appetising colour for cake icing but that didn't deter the Hayward Gallery, which marked its 50th anniversary in style last night (10 July) with a performance-studded party and a magnificent cake that lovingly recreated London’s favourite Brutalist icon, newly restored pointy skylights and all.

Events kicked off with Martin Creed—who had a solo show in the gallery in 2014—donning three pairs of glasses to belt out two songs, Can’t Say No and It’s You. Then the Hayward's director Ralph Rugoff thanked all present and hailed the vision of Sir Isaac Hayward, the former leader of the London County Council and the mastermind of the South Bank. All the gathered throng—including the Arts Council England chair Nicholas Serota, the Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson and the artists Bridget Riley, Richard Wentworth, Anish Kapoor, Isaac Julien, Yinka Shonibare, Fiona Banner, Anthea Hamilton and Jeremy Deller—agreed that such cultural conviction was sorely needed in our more bleak and less-far-sighted times.

But spirits remained high, the sun kept shining and, during Tai Shani’s performance-pageant involving a trio of dramatically declaiming siren-singers, the candles lined up along the base of the architectural (and as it turned out rather scrumptious) cake were blown out. After this, Shani’s singers—clad in historic garb from the likes of the artists Leigh Bowery and Rachel Auburn—were dramatically wheeled away by the Guardian’s chief art critic Adrian Searle and the actor and former theatre director Phil Young, both dashingly decked out for their trolley dolly role in immaculate black ties and tuxedos.

The finale was Florence Peake and Eve Stainton’s performance Slug Horizons, in which a pair of interlocked figures figures slowly slithered down the stairs and crawled across the terrace floor, and by then many of the well-oiled guests felt in a rather similar state… Hurrah for the nifty 50-year-old Hayward, which just for today (11 July) is further rocking its half centenary by letting everyone into its Lee Bul show for just 50p, offering membership for a cut price £50, and giving 50% discount on all of its publications.