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Gallery Museum

More London Museums and Galleries re-open

In addition to the museums and galleries mentioned in my last post, more venues are re-opening and announcing their plans for the coming weeks. All of the safety measures mentioned in my last blog are applicable to these venues, and all require pre-booking online in advance of any visit (including for members and corporate supporters), helping to ensure safe access to the arts across the city.

The Wallace Collection is now open to again, welcoming visitors seven days per week with revised opening hours from 11am to 3pm. There is a one way route through the historic rooms and collection, and their temporary exhibition ‘Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company’ will re-open on 29 July. The cloakroom and café remain closed, but there is a coffee cart outside the main entrance and the shop is open but taking payment by contactless/card only.

Dulwich Picture Gallery re-opened its gardens alongside the café for takeaway and a pop-up shop from Saturday 4 July, allowing the public to safely enjoy their three acres of outdoor space and the exterior of the building designed by Sir John Soane.

Historic Royal Palaces who look after six sites are also re-opening their indoor and outdoor spaces. From Friday 10 July The Tower of London started welcoming visitors again and will be open on Wednesday to Sunday from 11am until 6pm, with last admission at 5pm. Hampton Court Palace will re-open with the exception of the Magic Garden and Maze from Friday 17 July, on Wednesday to Sunday from 10.30am until 5pm. Kensington Palace will welcome visitors again from Thursday 30 July and will be open to the public on Wednesday to Sunday from 10.30am until 5pm. Banqueting House and Kew Palace however will remain closed until March 2021.

Charles Dickens Museum will be re-opening on Saturday 25 July, with revised opening hours of Friday to Sunday from 10am until 5pm (with last admission at 4pm). All rooms will be open as well as the shop, toilets and walled garden, however the café will remain closed in order to follow social distancing requirements.

The Design Museum will partially open to the public again from Friday 31 July, allowing visitors to see their temporary exhibition ‘Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers’. In addition to tickets being booked in advance of visiting, they will also be timed with a maximum of 1 hour 30 minutes. Face coverings are also compulsory and they advise bringing your own headphones to enjoy the multi-media elements.

The Natural History Museum will be welcoming visitors again from Wednesday 5 August. They will be closed every Monday and Tuesday, and open on Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm with last entry at 5pm.

The V&A will be re-opening the following day, on Thursday 6 August. They will operating with reduced opening hours and open on Thursday to Sunday from 11am until 3pm, and then increasing opening hours from 27 August when they will be open Thursday to Sunday from 11am until 7pm.

The Science Museum will also be open again from Wednesday 19 August, daily from 10am until 6pm, offering access to Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery exploring how science and maths shape our everyday lives and Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries showcasing 3,000 medical objects and related commissioned artworks.

Image: The Great Gallery © The Trustees of the Wallace Collection

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Gallery Museum

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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Museum

Spotlight on… The Fitzwilliam Museum

Spotlight on… The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Breaking away from the London-centric focus of this blog, largely due to my inability not to write about digitally reworked paintings depicting their sitters with now ubiquitous Covid-19 face masks, but more on that later! It houses an encyclopaedic collection of over half a million objects spanning the ancient world, paintings, drawings and prints, applied arts, coins, medals, manuscripts and books. Typically offering free entry to the public, but temporarily closed due to the pandemic, the museum has made an original and cogent contribution to digital museum offerings. In April they launched their  Look, Think, Do virtual family activities, utilising objects from their collection including a coffin lid of Ramases III from 12th century BC Egypt, a Mosque Lamp from Damascus circa 1355 and an engraved printed plate titled ‘American Flamingo’ produced between 1827-30. May saw them announce The Fitz Stitch seeking 45 craft volunteers to contribute squares to a quilt which will be hung in the Courtyard Entrance by the end of September 2020, all pieces will be linked to the collection but in as abstract or literal a representation as participants would like. Building on their already successful Dancing in Museums initiative working with older people in isolation, they have addressed wellbeing and released seven films which all begin with a guided relaxation followed by an exploration of a painting by Monet, Sisley, Alma-Tadema or Renoir amongst others. Last week they also announced ‘Masterpieces 2020’ where renowned paintings have been digitally altered and released as greetings cards reflecting the current circumstances; Belgian artist Alfred Stevens ‘La Liseuse’ shows his subject wearing a delicate lace face mask whilst reading her book, pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais’ ‘The Bridesmaid’ features an added yellow silk face mask matching her dress, Renaissance master Titian’s ‘Venus and Cupid with a lute-player’ shows all three figures wearing face masks not just the reclining nude, and Dutch artist Jan van Meyer’s ‘The Daughters’ depicts the four girls each with a unique face mask matching their dresses. Though the grand neo-classical building and collection may have a traditional reputation, these virtual offerings highlight their progressive and dynamic capacity.

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Gallery Museum

Let’s get digital!

Whilst museums and galleries are likely to remain closed for the coming months, that doesn’t have to stop you engaging with their collections and what better time to think, innovate, discuss and debate online – when we all likely have some extra time on our hands during the corona-crisis. The National Gallery offer virtual tours via Google Street View, and you can sign up to their newsletter and YouTube channel featuring lunchtime talks, curator and art restoration specials, and snapshots on artists or specific works. The Victoria & Albert Museum is currently airing a six part behind-the-scenes series (Secretes of the Museum) available on BBC iPlayer, has a blog, and vast learning section with educational offerings from primary school age through to museum peer learning. You can still explore the British Museum via Google Street View and over four million objects within its collection online, as well as podcasts offering talks from curators and other staff (the most recent episode focussing on women and how they have shaped the museum since its opening in 1759). Tate have a podcast subscription covering varied subjects ranging from the Art of Love, to the Art of HipHop, Innovation and Remembering as well as Tateshots; approximately six minute short films about artists, their lives and practice, or from curators. Tate Kids also offers an online “make” section, video tours, games, quizzes, accessible information on artists and movements, and a virtual gallery where budding Picasso’s can display their own works. The Natural History Museum also offers virtual tours, and each room featured allows you to zoom in on objects with links to more detailed information about certain specimens. Moving away from the nationals, Somerset House is offering a digital programme of films, podcasts, artist interviews and live streams – and the adjoining Courtald has digitised its collection allowing great online access since its closure for restoration in 2018. The home to the incurably curious (otherwise known as The Wellcome Collection) offers topical articles on Covid-19 as well as a stories section which invites anyone to submit words or pictures which explore the connections between science, medicine, life and art, with its most recent post fittingly a graphic novel about isolation. Barbican have a series of 30 minute podcasts or playlists ranging from Japanese innovators, to masculinity, jazz and autism in the cinema, as well as articles, long reads and videos available. Though the physical doors to our museums might be closed, the digital channels are well and truly open!

 

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Museum

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh city was arguably the busiest attraction I visited on my two week adventure around Southern and Central Vietnam. Busier than any other must-see in the city including The Independence Palace, Fine Arts Museum, Saigon Post Office, History Museum and Saigon Zoo & Botanical Gardens, I was interested to see how the Vietnam War is interpreted and displayed to the thousands of tourists at this museum. Founded in September 1975 the museum aims to “systematically study, collect, conserve and display exhibits on war crimes and consequences inflicted on the Vietnamese people by foreign aggressive forces” and has nine permanent galleries over three floors covering Historical Truths, Vietnam; War & Peace, Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, Agent Orange Effects, Agent Orange Consequences, War Crimes, Requiem, International Support for the Vietnamese people in their Resistance War, Imprisonment, and an outdoor exhibition showcasing military aircraft and tanks from the period. The display is blunt – almost crude – and fairly harrowing. There is often very little text or interpretive material and it is heavily image led, with densely hung walls displaying photographs of other countries protests against the war and explicit images of the violence, incarceration and deformities inflicted upon both children and adults as a result of the chemical warfare deployed by the U.S military. As the museum is so strongly image led, it was also interesting to view an area dedicated to photographic journalists (many of whom sadly died during this conflict) and the poignant images captured during this war such as ‘Napalm Girl’. I did not get the impression the displays had been refreshed or updated since the 1970’s and although it is refreshing to view such an uncensored display, there was an undeniable bias and I left the museum feeling as though I had learnt less about the war than I had hoped to.

For more information visit their website

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Museum

Musee Yves Saint Laurent Marrakesh: Marrakesh

After exploring the southern medina and its breath-taking palaces and tombs on my first day, and the museums, galleries and souks of the northern medina on my second day, I hesitantly left the old town and ventured into the New City on day three. The streets are wider, the architecture blander, and a sudden sense of calm exudes – as traffic lights and order replace humans, mopeds, bicycles, donkeys and carts vying for space in the narrow hubbub of the medina. Not far from where the designer owned a home in the city, you’ll find the Musee Yves Saint Laurent Marrakesh. Only in existence since 2017, the museum is housed in a stunning purpose-built terracotta brick and pink stone space commissioned by French architects Studio KO who echoed the couturiers fascination with slight lines and curves. The vast 4,000 square metre space comprises the Yves Saint Laurent Hall, a temporary exhibition space, a gallery space, an auditorium, library, bookshop and serene café and outdoor terrace. The main hall displays fifty pieces from the archive collection (spanning 1962 to 2002) including the Piet Mondrian inspired dress, the infamous ‘le smoking’ jacket, the pea coat, and several garments where the Moroccan influence and its vibrant colours, nature and heritage shine through, most evident in the bougainvillea cape and Berber inspired dresses. The temporary exhibition space compliments the main hall showcasing sculptural dresses created by Noureddine Amir, suspended against a black background and mirrored walls. The auditorium helps enliven these clothes further by displaying a montage of the designer at work, YSL catwalk shows and photo shoots, as well as past controversy including Yves Saint Laurent himself posing naked for the labels’ debut aftershave in 1971! The gallery space contains a series of photographs of Catherine Deneuve modelling a YSL collection utilising Marrakesh’s carpet shops, spice souks, decorative tiling and bustling main square as a sublime backdrop, and reinforcing the affiliation between the designer and this city.

For more information visit their website

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Gallery Museum

Musée national Picasso: Paris

Having attempted to visit the Musée national Picasso-Paris on a couple of occasions but defeated by queues, it was third time lucky for me on a drizzly Saturday afternoon pottering around Le Marais! The museum is in the old Hotel Sale building dating back to the 17th century and listed by The Historic Monuments department. It opened as a museum in 1985 following extensive restoration, creating stunning modern gallery spaces whilst being sympathetic to the original architectural features and surviving furnishings. The collection comprises over 5,000 paintings, sculptures, ceramics, prints, engravings, illustrated books as well as an archive of newspaper articles and personal documents associated with the Spanish artist. The vast majority of the collection was acquired through two large donations from Picasso’s heirs, and is currently host to an additional body of work on loan from the Pompidou Centre as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations – offering a full spectrum of Picasso’s myriad styles and techniques. The lead exhibition focusses on the year 1932 during which Picasso dated every painting or sculpture he created, highlighting the strong biographical element in his work. This was also an interesting year with regards the artists’ personal life as many of the portraits painted depict variations of just two women; Dora Marr and Marie-Thérèse Walter, the former a photographer and surrealist artist who was Picasso’s mistress leading to the demise of his marriage to Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, and the latter a seventeen year old additional love interest of the forty-five year old artist! The variable and often contrasting portrayals of these two woman is a good analogy for the multifarious nature of Picasso as an artist, embracing innumerable different styles throughout his career. Ultimately that was what I took away from my visit to this museum – that Picasso was far more than the surrealist painter I was familiar with, but a far more complex and talented creator unafraid to provoke.

For more information visit their website

 

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Museum of Applied Arts: Budapest

Whilst googling, flipping through various guidebooks, websites and tourist information portals ahead of my festive trip to Budapest, the Museum of Applied Arts (and more specifically its stunning glass-roofed main hall) constantly stood out. Constructed in the 1890’s as a masterpiece of Hungarian art nouveau the building was purpose built to display and promote the country’s crafts and skills in an optimum setting; mixing eastern oriental influences with western vernacular architecture, alongside traditional Hungarian green and yellow ornamental tiling, and a huge exterior dome. Having walked along the river Danube, I approached the museum from the rear and was initially fearful that all my preparatory reading had been in vain and it had closed down! From the exterior the museum looked forlorn and almost derelict, and although its’ appearance improved a little at the main entrance it was far from the show-piece I was expecting. Once inside, the double-floor oriental arcade and glass-roofed hall charm, and the permanent collection of gold and silverware, aristocratic clothing, costume jewellery, furniture, ceramics, artworks and weapons are pleasant but not especially memorable. The two temporary exhibitions ‘Breuer – at Home Again’ and ‘In the Mood for Colours’ feel very modern, fresh and almost out of place in an otherwise tired and dated museum. The Breuer comprising strong examples of the Hungarian architect and furniture designers’ creations, and the Colour exhibition cleverly playing with perception by arranging the collection by dominant colour rather than historic period or style. The show is also accompanied by the ColourMirror project, an interactive installation which digitally reflects visitors’ clothes matching them to an object within the museum collection – which certainly engaged me on a search to find my ‘match’ within the collection! Despite a saddening lack of investment, it was heartening to see plans for refurbishment and redevelopment and I hope it is reformed into the grand building it once was.

For more information visit their website

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The House of Terror: Budapest, Hungary

This year (technically last year) I spent Christmas in Budapest; a city I’ve been keen to visit for many years and having now been find it difficult to fully make sense of. Straddling the Danube, it was brimming with late nineteenth century architecture (both original and recreated), art-deco and art-nouveau (again both original and recreated!), littered with festive markets and the scent of mulled alcohol, and even snow on Christmas eve. Amongst all of this seasonal cheer I visited the less festive House of Terror which helped make sense of this interesting city and its need to restore, rebuild, and indeed remember. The museum focuses on the brutality faced by Hungarians under both the Nazi and Soviet occupations, and also acts as a monument to those who were imprisoned, tortured or killed within the building itself. You are greeted by a tank in an atrium three floors high with black and silver portraits of victims displayed floor to ceiling. The rooms leading away from this atrium outline the fear, chaos and inescapable presence of these regimes by illustrating the propaganda, secret police, uniforms, religious attacks, forced-labour camps and gulags of both the Arrow Cross Party (Hungarian Nazis) and Soviets, as well as a mock polling station when there was a one-party “democracy” in place, and numerous examples of Hungarian resistance. A lift slowly moves visitors down to the basement, at the back of which a plasma screen shows a documentary revealing a variety of execution methods in a manner devoid of emotion. Once in the basement you are faced with a series of cells where prisoners were kept in a cruel, damp, confined conditions – one cell simply has a noose in it. Situated on a main boulevard, this museum provides a bleak and powerful image of life during that period and the horrors that openly took place within the heart of the city.

For more information visit their website

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Museum

The Round Tower: Copenhagen

The Round Tower has loomed over Copenhagen since 1642 when it opened to the public as a hybrid structure combining an astronomical observatory, student church and university library. Erected by King Christian IV, the listed building is 34.8 metres high and continues to soar above modern buildings in the city, offering a stunning panorama from a viewing platform at its apex. Upon entering, visitors are greeted by bright white walls setting off the stone brickwork spiral that steadily inclines all the way to the top of the tower – a sublimely unique and leg friendly alternative to stairs! Half way up the tower you reach the Library Hall which functioned as a book lenders until 1861, and now houses temporary exhibitions (currently an archival photographic display entitled ‘Visions and Beliefs’ offering insights into a century of Danish missionaries’ global projects between 1980 -1970). A few steps on from the Hall is a more practical feature within the building; an original toilet complete with nicotine stained arched ceilings following centuries of students’ pipe smoking whilst visiting the privy! As you continue to climb the tower, you reach the Bell Loft which not only houses the bells, but has been utilised widely by Copenhagen’s residents for everything from drying laundry to store tanned hides, dry herbs, paint theatre sets as well as dress-making and millinery. In 1880 the loft was even rented by Leiutenant Bernhard Olsen who created a peasant museum in the space! A final ascent directs you to a reconstruction of the 1700’s Planetarium inspired by Bayer, depicting a three dimensional model of the solar system with the sun in the centre orbited by six planets. A few more steps lead you onto a 360 degree outdoor viewing platform, offering scenic views across the city despite it being cloudy the day of my visit.

RoundTower3
The exterior of The Round Tower
Round Tower
The interior spiral walkway taking you up the towers 34 metres
RoundTower2
The Planetarium

For more information visit their website