I had put off going to the Museum of London Docklands for quite some time because of the terrible terrible time I had the its sister site, the Museum of London, where they tried to cover too much and couldn’t capture my interest with anything. But since I had a couple of hours to kill and happened to be in the area, I thought I would give it a go.
The Museum just covers the history of the London docklands area – from Roman settlements through WWII and right up to todays fancy apartment redevelopments. I think because it was limited to just one area it could cover this considerable timespan without spreading itself too thin.
It also helped that it is a new museum. The entire thing is in one of the old warehouses and is very on theme with wooden floors and exposed beams. Starting on the top floor you walk through the museum in chronological order, by doing this they manage to cram in all the major historical themes and keep it interesting. They also had a couple of sections that were set up like historical streets- the kids went nuts for them!
My first highlight had to be learning about the sea fortresses designed during world war two which I think were based on the 1995 critically acclaimed film Water World. And the final highlight was the rum bar next door – its not alcoholism, its history.
One of my favourite New York museums is the Museum of Art and Design (or MAD for those in the know). When I was here a few years ago they has a phenomenal exhibition called Radical Knitting and Subversive Lace – a kooky enough memory to search out this museum again. Turns out in the intervening years MAD has moved into the fancy new building above.
I was lucky enough to be there while a jewellery exhibition was on. Now, bear in mind that not many of these were meant to be warn; I guess they are more a convenient format for some art. So, here are three of my favourites:
This is Golden Wings (part of the Clockwork Love series) by Frank Tjepkema. I think I like it because of the link to clockwork; it turns a frivolous but pretty piece of jewellery (after all, jewellery is nothing if not frivolous and pretty*) into something with a hidden functional meaning.
This is a series of broaches called String of Pearls with a Gold Clasp by Kim Buck. Its a clever use of negative space, telling you all that you need to know by taking the object away. I also find it entertaining that no one could ever wear this and get the full story, it would just be an abstract square with some indentations.
Necklace for National Mourning II by Edward Lane McCartney below I found surprising. I instantly dismissed it as I walked past as a silly thing, just an oversized and not even that pretty necklace (the diameter was about the size of me). But since my whanau were taking their sweet time looking around, I had cause to take a second look. Turns out it was entirely made up of small army men, tanks and planes painted gun metal grey. Actually quite cool.
* To buy some frivolous but pretty of your own just click here!
It was over 30°C when I was in New York, so by the time I had walked through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art I was absolutely parched. So obviously the first stop was to the roof garden for a cool lemonade to quench my thirst.
I stepped outside only to be confronted by a blood bath. Rusty red splatters covered the entire terrace…but turns out it was just the Roof Garden Commission by Imran Qureshi.
It was amazing in that it created feelings of shock/repulsion/morbid curiosity as soon as you locked eyes on it. But pretty soon most of the tourists were distracted by the stunning views over the city. If only they had looked down and had seen the beautiful flower patterns in the chaos.
Top tip: The Metropolitan Museum of Art has signs everywhere saying tickets are $25, but this is just a suggested donation and you can pay whatever you want/can.
I didn’t have a clue about Bowie, I knew the iconic red lightning face but that is about it. So seeing the ‘David Bowie is‘ exhibition was not really a high priority. But since I am a member of the V&A and I had a spare hour I thought I would go and see what was what.
As dorky as it sounds, my favourite part of this exhibition was the technology. In a normal gallery you have an audio guide, where you key in different numbers to hear about the goods. But Bowie was something else entirely. The audio guide picked up signals from whatever you were standing in front of and automatically synced the audio.
So as you walked past a video of Bowie talking about his writing process, you got his voice in your ear. And when you came across the glorious video to Boys Keep Swinging the music is suddenly in your ear – without you having to do a thing. I can’t believe what a difference this small bit of technology made to my visit.
It meant you were 100% immersed in Bowies head. And it was incredible.
A close second highlight was the final main room. The double height walls have been set up with massive video screens showing videos from live concerts. With the music flowing through your headphones and a benevolent (and youthful) Bowie looking down on you it is as close to a concert time machine as I could imagine.
And from the number of visitors congregated in that room it wasn’t just me who felt that way.
Regardless of your feelings on Bowie – go and see this exhibition. It will give you a new found respect for him as an artist, as well as showing off the masterful V&A curating.
Oh, and my V&A membership card really came in handy. When I arrived there was a line of about 40 people waiting to get in. I just waived my membership card and strutted to the front. Worth paying the extra just to listen to the outraged tutting of those waiting.
I was overjoyed when I heard about the new art tours offered by the London Transport Museum.
History Lesson: Over the last 100 years or so, the London Underground has been a powerful patron of the arts. It commissioned art from both students and established artists, which were then made into posters to grace the walls of the tube.
Some of these posters were blatant advertising (like the astoundingly un PC poster from 1915 below), but most used a more subtle approach. Ever see underground posters telling you about the exciting London nightlife? The latest West End shows? The food, festivals and bright sparkling lights? They don’t actually care about your cultural well being – they are just trying to stagger out rush-hour. Not kidding, for the last 100 years London Underground has been trying to convince passengers to stay in London after work – just so the tube doesn’t get clogged up.
The Tour: The tour is run four times a year out at the MASSIVE London Transport depot in Acton. For £10 you get a 75 minute tour of their poster archive (they have a copy of every single poster since the start of the company, thats over 7,000 posters!) as well as getting a chance to see some of the original artwork up close.
You don’t get to riffle through the collection yourself (the draws are locked for obvious reasons), but they have a selected few on the walls for you. Still a brilliant chance to see these rare posters and learn a bit about the history.
Highlight: Seeing a copy of the Man Ray poster from 1938 – worth over £100,000.
P.s. I discovered this gem in the Ian Visits email a couple of weeks ago – if you haven’t yet signed up, what are you waiting for?