London art galleries, museums, churches and monuments - eesh!
It is going to be impossible to write about every aspect of my trip, so I am giving some highlights as much as I can. Since I have been in this internet cafe for several hours now, this will be my last post. Of course I have to talk about the museums and galleries I visited. In London, major museums/galleries are free of charge, except for special exhibitions.
I went to the Tate Modern on my first day, exhausted from jet lag but struggling to stay awake so I could get a full night’s sleep. At first, I was surprised to see its monumentality and foreboding appearance - like a prison or a factory, I thought. And it turns out that it was converted from an old electric power station:
I got to take a look at their extensive collection, and of course saw the infamous Shibboleth by Doris Salcedo in the Turbine hall:
One of my favourite experiences on the trip was attending the exhibition of Juan Munoz at the Tate Modern, whose work absolutely blew me away. It was a retrospective of his career, demonstrating his amazing ability to create sculpture. I never would have gotten even close to the full experience of his work, which is immersive, from images. As in all of the galleries, I wasn’t able to take pictures, and most of the time I listened.
The best day by far was one in which I saw:
- the National Gallery: containing works by some of the artists I studied in art history and some I discovered I loved that weren’t in the major textbooks. Jan van Eyck’s famous Arnolfini Portrait was great to see in person, Titian, etc. etc. Plus a FANTASTIC special exhibition of large scale paintings by Alison Watt, called Phantom. Absolutely breathtaking works.
- So after I was blown away by that experience, I unexpectedly walked out onto Trafalgar Square.
As usual, this picture comes nowhere close to capturing that amazing view.
- Then I headed over to meet Donal and Graziano for some more visiting of contemporary art galleries. First we checked out the Barbican Gallery’s AMAZING exhibition, the Martian Museum of Terrestrial art. The entire show was based around the concept of an exhbition held by aliens where they attempt to understand what contemporary art says about “terrestrial beings,” or “earthlings.” I am so glad that I invested in this exhibition (and also, my one large souvenir this trip, picked up the exhibition catalogue). Works by Sherri Levine, Annette Messager, Jenny Holzer, Cao Guo-Qiang, Christo, Yves Klein, Mona Hatoum, and a number of other fantastic cutting edge contemporary artists. It was an amazing opportunity. And of course, no pictures allowed!
- So at this point I was exhausted by the weight of all this fantastic art - but we weren’t done! We attended another exhibition at the White Cube gallery, entitled “You dig the tunnel, I’ll hide the soil,” consisting of artworks inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s writing. If you know his short stories, you will know that his writing is notoriously dark - part of this exhibition was held in the actual gallery, and the other part was in an underground dungeon-style area with immersive spaces… making the entire thing atmospheric and, well, appropriately creepy. On top of all of that, I came across a work by Anselm Kiefer, one of my favourite artists, at the White Cube that was apparently for sale! I thought to myself, this piece is amazing - then found out it was his. I’m not going to go into more detail about the White Cube, but here is the signboard with all of the notable artists in the show:
Some other notable museums/monuments/major sites I visited:
- Natural History museum: had so much fun looking at the dinosaurs, including this massive unlikely vegetarian non-dinosaur.
- British Museum: Learned a lot on this visit, but became utterly fascinated by their Egyptian section with many mummies. It was very creepy to be looking at dead bodies wrapped and behind glass… They mummified animals, too! A theme on this trip is death - mummies and entombed kings and queens at Westminster Abbey.
- British Library: my favourite part was getting to see original books with handwritten text by Leonardo da Vinci, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and others, including Lewis Carroll. I also saw a sculpture by Antony Gormley (a favourite artist of mine) outdoors in the garden area.
- Science Museum:
- Whitecross Gallery opening: I liked one artists architectural abstraction drawings quite a bit, but the other artist seemed to have a fascination with drawing babies that look like aliens.
- Westminster Abbey: I found the above ground tombs to be slightly disturbing. I don’t know about you, but when I pass away I would like to be as close to the earth as possible - not in a wooden box or a marble encasement, but if possible in a simple cloth and buried directly. Or, cremation is fine if I am spread out in the earth. And this is getting very morbid, so, moving on!
- Westminster Cathedral: I found this an interesting trip…
- Wellington Arch and Hyde Park.
- Big ben/Parliament.
- I am sure there is much more I’m missing here! I have been keeping a detailed paper journal, either way. And I can’t blog about everything; so I will have to learn how to make this process faster and easier for me for Spain. It is all a learning process!