Apollo Magazine

My Masterpiece Selection: Amanda Levete

To coincide with the opening of Masterpiece London, we asked the architect Amanda Levete to pick out some of her personal favourite masterpieces

One of my favourite buildings is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim. I visited it again very recently. Breathtaking as ever, it brilliantly challenges the grid of the New York City block and is probably the most radical commentary we will ever see on the relationship between art and architecture.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1959, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) Photo: David M. Heald © SRGF, New York

For me the Victoria and Albert Museum is the greatest museum, so it is a huge privilege to be designing its biggest building project in 100 years. It is an extraordinary institution that houses an unparalleled knowledge and understanding of the designed world. But it is the V&A’s ceramics galleries I return to over and over again: they have inspired our design for what will be the first porcelain courtyard in the world.

Cabinet in the ceramics galleries at the V&A, London Photo: © Martin Godwin/Guardian News & Media Ltd 2009​

Edmund de Waal’s work tells stories in porcelain, collapsing the division between words and objects. He has lifted ceramics into another realm and fuelled my obsession with porcelain and vitrines.

I have been going to Kensington Gardens ever since I was a student. I know it so well, but look forward to every visit. You can take in a show at the Serpentine Gallery and wander in the beautifully restored Italian Gardens and around the fountains; on Sunday you can watch model sailing boats being raced on the Round Pond, row a boat in the summer, and see The Arch, a sculpture by Henry Moore. Gardens are one of London’s greatest assets, but for me this is the finest expression of an urban park and a great piece of royal patronage.

The Arch (1980), Henry Moore, in Kensington Gardens, London. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

There is so much to learn from the exterior of Gesù Nuovo, a baroque church in Naples. The façade is articulated with intricately carved stone that expertly plays with light and shadow, and breaks down a massive and largely opaque volume to a more human scale.

The church of Gesù Nuovo, by Giuseppe Valeriano (1542–96) Photo: Berthold Werner (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The depth of Zurbarán’s observation creates a kind of hyperreality. Whenever I see a bumpy, thick-skinned lemon at a market stall, I feel that I am looking at an image from Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose. It is a reminder that there is sublime beauty in the ordinary.

Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose (1633), Francisco de Zurbarán. Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena © The Norton Simon Foundation

This article was originally published in the Masterpiece London magazine 2015.

Masterpiece London takes place in the South Grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, from 25 June–1 July.

Highlights of Masterpiece London 

My Masterpiece Selection: Anita Zabludowicz

My Masterpiece Selection: Idris Khan

My Masterpiece Selection: Gary Tinterow