Who doesn’t love a sneak preview? It was a late night opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and most visitors were enjoying the very loud and upbeat band playing in the main entrance. However, I was there to use my members only entry to the reopened Cast Courts and as I flashed my card at the entrance, I found I had them to myself – what a treat. Continue reading
Winnie the Pooh makes me smile, everything about him makes me smile, his big tummy, his wise words, his friends and his life full of fun and adventures. So when I heard of a new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum entitled Winnie the Pooh: Exploring a Classic I was keenly waiting for it to open and peek into the delightful world of Winnie the Pooh.
‘I’m not really an opera person,’ said my friend as we approached the entrance to the V&A’s new exhibition. It’s called Opera: Passion, Power and Politics so this did not bode well despite my enthusiasm for our preview visit… Continue reading
How many of you have your own coat of arms? Heston Blumenthal is clearly very proud of his and was rather taken aback to have several members of the audience raised their hands in response to his question! Well, he acknowledged, this was Kensington. We were gathered, with or without our own coats of arms, in the Victoria and Albert Museum to hear Heston in conversation with Dr Polly Russell, reflecting on his life and work.
There are always great exhibitions worth visiting in London, often at smaller, less well known museums. However, sometimes blockbuster shows hit town at the same time and this is one of those times. Londoners and visitors are frantically trying to get their hands on much sought after tickets for this spring’s top shows. I’ve been away from London for 2 months on my volunteering trip to Africa (read more here) so I was really keen to catch up.
In London right now we have ‘David Bowie is’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum, ‘Manet: Portraying Life’ at the Royal Academy and ‘Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum’ at the British Museum. Then there is ‘Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901’ at the Courtauld, ‘Light Show’ at the Hayward Gallery, ‘Lichtenstein: A Retrospective’ at the Tate Modern, ‘Michael Caine: 80th Anniversary Exhibition’ at the Museum of London, ‘Treasures of the Royal Courts’ at the V&A and many more……
I’ve been busy working my way through this impressive list so here’s my quick tour for you to enjoy.
My favourite was the Bowie show which I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did, not being sure it would live up to the hype around it. It was huge fun with brilliant staging, lots of good information and range of items to appeal to different visitors from videos to costumes to information about the context he was working in and was influencing. You are given high quality earphones that pick up the really interesting commentary and great music (of course!) as you move between rooms. The final room has a huge video wall where you can watch him singing ‘Heroes’ at Live Aid in 1985 alongside a much more recent version. The song lifts the room and is a wonderful musical experience. The title of the show is right – David Bowie is …. He is so many things and the exhibition follows his many ch-changes and showcases his immense creativity.
The British Museum hits back with its own blockbuster looking at the lost worlds of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The exhibition takes you through the everyday lives and the extraordinary events that overtook the citizens of these two towns in AD 79. Rooms are laid out in the plan of a house with many artifacts -even a baby’s cot – mosaics and paintings. We explore the towns, the reasons for the eruptions and the final crushing impact. You do get an insight into the last hours of these towns and the finality of the end through the contorted figures of the dying.
Manet’s paintings are beautifully shown at the Royal Academy. The show focuses on his portraiture, ranging from figures of the day including his wife, to scenes of everyday life. We learn through a detailed timeline, what happened in his life. There were some truly beautiful paintings here including the one on the poster, although it was strange that one of his most famous A Bar at the Folies-Bergere is hanging just a mile or so away at the Courtauld Gallery.
Picasso’s early works are on show at the Courtauld Gallery. They hold regular special exhibitions which they house in just 2 room which gives these exhibitions real focus and they are really manageable! Tho’ small, there are plenty of great works to see and it is amazing to know that these paintings where shown when he was just 19 years old. You can see hints of where his work will head to but the paintings at this early stage of his career are masterpieces in their own right. I really enjoyed one of his brash self portraits full of energy and confidence. He reinvents styles of major names such as Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. The second room is more sombre, following the death of a close friend and this work is from the beginning of the Blue Period. Sadly one of the paintings here will leave the UK at the end of the show, his Child with a Dove could not be kept in the UK.
The Light Show at the Hayward Gallery is a completely different experience as you have to get right into the exhibits – either by entering pitch black rooms or wearing foot covers to walk into another room or by taking your shoes off completely for a different room. In one room you see light as a solid beam you can break into with your hand, in others you see a bright single light as you enter but you eye adjusts and absorbs the colour so it becomes paler until you leave and re-enter and it is bright again. Other pieces show the beauty of light through constantly moving LEDs or reflecting light on mirrors to give as sense of infinity. Each room shows the work of a different artist so it’s an endlessly engaging show which I really enjoyed.
Just one more to tell you about as I was less keen on the Treasures of the Royal Court and have not yet got to see the Lichtenstein as it’s been quite a job to see this lot! The Michael Caine exhibition at the Museum of London was a small, fun exploration of his long career through film, quotes and photos. As you can see from this quote there is a sense of fun in the show and the photos are mostly iconic shots of London born Michael. The films are clips from his famous movies such as Alfie and The Italian Job alongside TV interviews from when his was a new star to more recent reflective interviews on his long career. It was fascinating to hear how he felt being the first east London actor with a proper London accent who broke into the big league of movies – at the time posh actors were imitating London voices if the parts required!
Enjoying autumn in London is not just about the beautiful colours in the parks and views along the river Thames but also about the blockbuster exhibitions. London is famous the world over for its museums and galleries and they host some amazing exhibitions, particularly in autumn. I’ve been to a few good ones recently so here they are!
Firstly, just one photo of the great colours in Hyde Park:
|Hyde Park colours|
Ansel Adams is one of the most famous and influential photographers in the world and his new show at the National Maritime Museum takes his love of water as its theme, Ansel Adams: Photography from the Mountains to the Sea. These wonderful black and white photos span his whole career starting with a first showing of his first photo, taken at the age of 14! He was no longer going to school at that age so his parents sent him to the World Fair in San Francisco, where they lived, to see the world and its artists on display. It seems that was time well spent and his first photo, which features a water reflection, was the start of a journey which led to the extraordinary large scale prints of Yosemite that he is most recognised for. He was a pioneer of both scale and the eye popping detail he achieved in his studio where he printed every shot himself.
The massive prints are taller than me that’s for sure and come from a private collector in Texas who had real problems getting them up to the room for display and had to put them on top of the lift to manoeuvre them through to top floor. I’m sure they looked great there and the procedure had to be reversed to get them out for this exhibition.
We were shown around privately by the curator, Philip Prodger, and were allowed to take a few photos but sadly that’s not the case normally.
|The man himself|
|One the right is his 1st photo|
|These are taller than a person!|
|His famous Yosemite photo on the right|
The National Maritime Museum is worth spending time in as it’s full of wonderful exhibits including the coat that Nelson wore at the Battle of Trafalgar and you can see the hole where the fatal bullet entered – luckily he’d already won the battle! Outside the museum is my favourite piece from the 4th Plinth art project in Trafalgar Square – Yinka Shonibare’s Ship in a Bottle. This witty piece is a 1:30 scale model of Nelson’s ship The Victory (good name!) with sails symbolic of African identity, linking Britain’s maritime and colonial past.
|Yinka Shonibare’s Ship in a Bottle|
In complete contrast, I visited two fashion based exhibitions. The Hollywood Costumes at the Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the best presented shows I have seen in a long time. They use video and computer generated information boards to bring to life a huge number of iconic costumes from Darth Vader to the Adams Family, a Wookie to Dorothy’s shoes, from Indiana Jones’ outfit including the whip and how it works to Jonny Depp’s pirate outfit.There are great case studies of the process which takes a script through to a finished set of costumes in films such as Ocean’s Eleven. No photography is allowed inside so you’ll just have to go and enjoy, or read the V&A’s own account.
The other fashion themed exhibition is Chanel The Little Black Jacket at the Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea. They had the great idea of taking the famous Chanel black jacket and getting a range of celebrities and artists to wear it as they wished and it looks completely different on each person. The lighting was a little underpowered and we thought having a jacket for each visitor to try own and take their own photo would have just made the show. However there were some fun shots to see and it’s amazing how one garment look so different. You can pick up a free poster and of course buy Karl Lagerfeld’s new book featuring all 113 photos!
|Sarah Jessica Parker|
|A wall of little black jackets!|
|Another take on the jacket…..|
It’s a busy time in London – when isn’t it! So I hope to be posted a few shorter blogs very soon.
Bye for now
This week’s blog has a peek inside the V&A, the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of London’s great treasures. They have a few different sites but the one in South Kensington is the leading one. They tell us that it is ‘one of the world’s greatest museums of art and design with collections unrivalled in scope and diversity’ and who am I to disagree! You can explore 3,000 years of amazing artefacts across such a range of media from fashion textiles, carpets, glass, ceramics, metalwork, photography, paintings, jewellery and more…. They have special exhibitions but the permanent rooms are extraordinary especially the rooms of statues and the cast room where the casts include huge Roman columns – have a look at the 2 photos of these. One item I can’t photograph is the Ardabil carpet that is only lit for 10 minutes per hour because it is so delicate. This carpet dates from 1539/40 and is one of the oldest dated carpets and one of the finest in the world The outside of the building is impressive and an elaborate glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly hits you as soon as you enter as do the V&A monograms in the marble staircases. They even have a courtyard with a pond to splash in (best if you are under 10 years old tho’) and several cafes to rest the weary sightseeing bones in and refresh yourself. Enjoy the photos and book yourself a visit. It’s free and will delight any visitor – there really is something for everyone.
So, that was 2009 but before we let it go, have a look at my list of my 2009 favourites if you scroll down you can see what they were. It was a fun year but it went in a flash and I guess 2010 will speed by too so let’s see just how much we can cram in. You can see how I do by following my blog and hopefully the blog will give you an insight into life in London and what a good time you could be having if you were to visit us here.
As for the closing days of 2009, I spent these in Iceland which was even colder than London but not by much! We had a great time and saw some wonderful sights including the huge Gullfoss waterfall which was almost frozen over and so was I after staying on the viewing platform rather too long taking photos. We bathed in the Blue Lagoon which is a very large outdoor heated thermal pool and was a wonderful experience if a little weird as it was about -5 degrees outside making the dash back inside a major challenge. Although I did hire a robe to save my body freezing as I hurried back to warmth, they were not hiring out flip flops and my feet were so cold that I’m warning everyone to take some! But worth it….
Favourite restaurant: Wolseley in Picadilly
Favourite show: Matthew Bourne’s ballet of Dorian Gray at Sadlers Wells
Favourite bar: The Oak, Notting Hill
Favourite event: being on Centre Court Wimbledon for the first ever match under the roof
I’ve been to a couple of great public exhibitions this week. One was a photographic delight – Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed. This traces the course of the 60s and its pop stars through brilliant photography and magazine and album covers. It’s great fun to see all these icons in their earlier seemingly innocent times when we know what is in store for them. Each caption mentioned a key song from that artist at that time so there was shameless singing along from many visitors, including us at one point I must admit!