Saturday, January 09, 2016

london exhibitions… and other stuff

In addition to seeing “Jane Eyre” at the National Theatre, Moira and I took the opportunity to get to a couple of exhibitions and a few galleries/museums while we were in London.
Victoria+Albert Museum: “The Fabric of India” £14 (£12 for oldies like us).
Handmade textiles have been made in India for over 6,000 years. This extensive exhibition provides a wealth of sumptuous, colourful fabrics – historic dress, heirloom fabrics and cutting-edge fashion. It all makes for an excellent exhibition, but my one criticism is that, because there is so much to see and due to the fine (literally) nature of the work on display, the queues of people looking at the various objects tend to move very, VERY slowly! You either have to wait for the person in front to read every word on the accompanying display notes (with very slow precision, as well as examining the various fabrics, obviously) or simply skip things and move on. I found it all very beautiful, but also somewhat frustrating, I’m afraid.
As you’re no doubt aware, the V+A is a simply stunning place to visit and there are plenty of “free” exhibitions and displays. We particularly enjoyed photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron (photographer, 1815-1879) from the V+A’s own collection… plus the theatrical/costume section, plus a series of prints by artist Ellen Heck, representing women and girls dressed as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. But, frankly, there’s SO much to see at the V+A - and our visit hardly scratched the surface!
Tate Modern: Alexander Calder “Performing Sculpture” £18 (£16 oldies)(expensive!).
Calder (1898-1976) is widely celebrated as the originator of the ‘mobile’. Although I found Calder’s ‘geometric’ kinetic structures absolutely fascinating (and some really very beautiful), the highlight for me was his bent-wire figurative pieces – which were just wonderfully uplifting, funny, clever and incredibly articulate (I noticed just how MANY people had smiles on their faces). I found it an absolute delight.
But for me, one of the delights of visiting Tate Modern is the building itself – which one can do for ‘free’. Although we didn’t specifically visit the exhibition, the Turbine Hall (I LOVE the Turbine Hall space!) housed Abraham Cruzvillegas’s ‘Empty Lot’ – a large geometric sculpture created using scaffolding and wooden planters (and soil from London parks) – which dominated views from the various galleries and upper floors. I also enjoyed the posters/prints gallery (but, hey, there’s LOADS of other stuff that we didn’t get time to check out!).
The British Museum: “The Parthenon Sculptures” (free).
I’ve recently finished reading a book about the Elgin Marbles and thought it was about time I re-visited them (the last time might be over 40 years ago?). The sculptures are quite remarkable and date from around 435BC. In 1801-05, Lord Elgin obtained permission from the Ottoman authorities to remove the remaining (about half) sculptures from the Parthenon’s fallen ruins and from the building itself. Elgin felt that he was saving the treasures from being destroyed (and he was probably correct). I, like many, now think it’s time for the sculptures to be returned to Greece!
I also took the opportunity to look at the extensive Assyrian and Egyptian sculptures (from 860-620BC and around 2040BC respectively!) which, in many ways, I found even more impressive… and very beautiful. Quite, quite remarkable. I LOVE the British Museum and could spend hours there (and I love that, apart from key exhibitions, it’s free!).

This hardly does our visit justice.  We stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express, Old Street (pretty good value, we felt, at £72 for the two us, including breakfast!). Obviously, our trip also included a lot of walking (and eating!): for instance, visiting Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre building (which I still admire – and I was reminded of our building visit shortly after it opened in 1976); walking along Southbank at night admiring the river and the city lights; walking over the Millennium Bridge in very high winds (it didn’t sway!) and also over the Golden Jubilee Bridge (between Embankment and Southbank); seeing St Paul’s from across the Thames (set against a dark+stormy sky); enjoying London’s incidental experiences acquired just walking around (including re-vamped Tube stations such as London Bridge, Tottenham Court Road etc etc); visiting the rather lovely Southwark Cathedral again; enjoying a meal beside Paddington Basin; and being grateful for the ease and convenience of using our Oyster Cards!
We really did have a lovely, relaxing time. Thank you Londinium!
Photos: (top row) Alexander Calder; (second row) The Fabric of India (images for both rows via google); (third+fourth rows) Elgin Marbles/Assyrian/Egyptian sculptures from British Museum; (bottom row) V+A, British Museum and two images from Tate Modern.
PS: double-click on overall image to enlarge.

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