November 25, 2009

I’m back from a 9 day trip to London. It was primarily a family visit, but I enjoyed being a tourist in the city where I spent many childhood summers. Later, when my mom moved there, I’d visit 2-3 times a year until she died.

The cultural highlights of my time there were: the Tate Modern, housed in an old power station on the  Thames: 4 of  Emily Young’s  angel heads, mounted on pillars outside of St.Paul’s cathedral; the Royal College of Music Museum of Old instruments; and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The Tate is everything a contemporary art museum/gallery should be: exciting, full  but not crowded, educational, provocative, fun, aesthetic, engaged/engaging, challenging visually and conceptually, in short- an experience. Everywhere were clusters of school aged kids  sitting talking, looking, involved. There were interactive stations placed on each floor; and the free exhibitions were arranged in novel ways, juxtaposing different artists to help make certain connections one wouldn’t have thought of at first.

Emily’s sculptures slayed me as usual, and I stood in the middle of the large square outside St.Paul’s, communing with them the best way I know how- by drawing them.  It was an amazing interlude in the middle of busy noisy London to bask in the eternal stillness that these sculptures radiate- I can still feel it. If you read her statement on her site, you’ll see that she is very conscious of this aspect of her work.

I’m not a museum person, but the V&A was so constantly recommended that I finally just went. It is anything but stuffy, musty old things. It, too, is a vibrant space, almost holy, enshrining and keeping alive craft, contemporary as well as historical, at its highest expression. Out of curiosity I visited the jewelry halls and it was literally dazzling- the most exquisite necklaces, earrings, rings, crowns and gems were displayed against a backdrop of black velvet in lit cases within a dimly lit  hall, beautifully arranged in a gallery with a  plexiglass spiral staircase in its middle. 

I also loved the Chinese and Japanese galleries, dark and mysterious with perfectly placed simple forms of ancient pots, jade circles, knives, and other artifacts subtly lit in glass cases.

The building itself is a wonder, high arching ceilings, stained glass, ceramic staircases encrusted with gold and mosaics and reliefs and sculptures, and inscribed stone. It was like being in a wonderland with new sights at every turn. I went back twice, and would have returned more if there’d been more time.


3 Responses to “London”

  1. kseverny Says:

    sounds like you had a good trip

  2. Sandi Says:

    LOVED the online AD you just gave me, Sarah, going to view and read everything I could find on Emily Young’s website and work. Happy to hear your trip was so nice and you are home safe.

  3. szoutewelle Says:

    thanks sandi, glad you could join me, if only virtually in my London trip.

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