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London Museums and Galleries begin re-opening

Following the government’s announcement that museums and galleries can re-open from 4 July, several have been busy preparing themselves for responsibly welcoming the public back to their spaces with additional measures in place to ensure the safety of both visitors and staff. Every museum or gallery will now be:

  • asking all visitors (including members) to pre-book online in advance of their visit
  • limiting visitor numbers to avoid queues and enable social distancing
  • putting one-way routes in place throughout their spaces
  • ensuring access to anti-viral products, hand sanitiser (and optional face masks at some venues)
  • removing or making any interactive touch screens inaccessible
  • ensuring access to toilet facilities and staff on hand to manage queues
  • many have also reduced their opening hours, so check ahead of making any plans

From Wednesday 8 July The National Gallery will re-open daily from 11am until 4pm, and until 9pm on Fridays. You can opt to book either ‘Gallery entry’ giving you access to their permanent collection only or ‘Gallery entry & Titian’ allowing access to their temporary exhibition on the great Italian Renaissance painter, which is on display until 17 January 2021. The National Portrait Gallery will remain closed until spring 2023 as it undergoes essential building works and a major redevelopment.

The Royal Academy will be opening its’ doors the following day on Thursday 9 July to Friends of The RA, and to the general public from 16 July. It will be closed on Monday to Wednesday each week, and open on Thursday to Sunday from 11am until 4pm. Their current blockbuster is ‘Picasso on Paper’ featuring studies for the masterpiece Guernica and over 300 works on paper spanning the artists’ eighty year career.

Monday 13 July will see Barbican partially re-open. Again visitor numbers to the Art Gallery will be limited and access will be via their Silk Street entrance only. Their current exhibition ‘Masculinities: Liberation through Photography’ will be on display until 23 August featuring works by over fifty artists including Laurie Anderson, Isaac Julien, Catherine Opie and Sunil Gupta.

Whitechapel Gallery will be welcoming visitors again from Tuesday 14 July from 11am until 6pm, each day except Monday. Visitors can choose to book to visit the Free Displays or the current temporary exhibition ‘Radical Figures: Painting in the new Millennium’ until 30 August displaying figurative works by Daniel Richter, Cecily Brown, Michael Armitage, Ryan Mosely and Nicole Eisenman amongst others.

The Photographers’ Gallery will also be re-opening on Tuesday 14 July from 11am until 7pm, but will be closed on Sundays and Mondays. Current exhibitions will be on until 20 September and comprise the ‘Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2020’ showcasing works by this years’ finalists; Mohamed Bourouissa, Anton Kusters, Mark Neville and Clare Strand, as well as a solo show by Czech photographer Jan Svoboda.

On Thursday 16 July Somerset House will re-open parts of their site. The main courtyard will be open daily from 10.00am until 7pm, with refreshments available for takeaway only between 12pm and 6pm. Their exhibition ‘Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fughi’ will also be open from Tuesday to Sunday from 12pm to 6pm, with access from The Strand entrance only.

All four Tate sites; Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives will be re-opening on Monday 27 July. Entry will remain free for all for permanent collections, with a charge for some temporary exhibitions across all sites.

Whilst visiting a museum or gallery won’t feel quite the same experience it previously did (but what currently does?!), these are very encouraging steps and no doubt more Nationals, independent museums and galleries, historic houses and arts centres will announce their plans once they are confident to do so. But hope this is enough to start whetting your cultural appetites!

Image: Burlington House Façade © Fraser Marr

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Sri Dalada Maligawa: Kandy, Sri Lanka

Sri Dalada Maligawa – or The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – as it is more commonly known is situated in the northern hill country of Sri Lanka, in Kandy. With only two weeks to see as much of the country as possible, I’d only allocated twenty-four hours in the cultural hub so had to be picky about what we visited, saw and ate! But this temple was a must, with its’ stunning location on the man-made lake that dominates the city. The temple is within the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy; the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings before falling to successive Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial rule from 1600’s onwards. The structure you see today was built by Vira Narendra Sinha with later additions by Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, as well as extensive reconstruction following the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) bombing in 1998 during the country’s civil war. Historically it was believed that whoever housed the tooth relic (tooth of Buddha) held governance of the country, and today the temple continues to be venerated by local and international Buddhists, politicians, and tourists alike. Everyone is invited to remove their shoes before entering the sacred land, you then cross a moat littered with locals selling lotus flowers and other offerings, and enter via an archway flanked by elephant sculptures and decorated with vivid red, blue and yellow murals. An elaborately carved two-floor structure of wood and ivory bedecked with gem-stones, elephant tusks and traditional paintwork, topped with a gold canopy enshrining the tooth is breath taking. We were also fortunate enough to visit early and catch the morning Tevava ceremony with Puja drummers and pipes accompanying the ritual offerings to the tooth. The grounds add to the experience and are filled with the smell of incense, burning ghee lamps, jasmine and lotus flower – and a slightly tired but informative museum on the upper floors of an adjoining building helps give context to the significance of this temple.

For more information visit their website