Wednesday, October 8, 2014

sharing London, part 1

This month the wonder | wander | women have been unusually blessed with a steady stream of visitors! Our London contingent has had three different guests in as many weeks, and it's fun to go back to my first years here.

View of the Thames from the upper-floor cafe of the Tate Modern

My uncle and his lovely artist husband were in town and wanted to do a long museum run in a day. We started with breakfast and the Malevich exhibit at the Tate Modern, then headed to South Kensington to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Ismaili Centre.

Some of London's finest buildings line Exhibition Road in South Kensington, like the Science Museum and the Museum of Natural History. But the striking modern addition of the Ismaili Centre stands out among the Victorian and Georgian buildings. (See our post on the Barbican for more on our love of modernist architecture.)

The statue hall

The Victoria and Albert Museum, or V&A, is more famous for commercial instead of fine art - patterns, fashion design, illustration and prints. 

Print by French fashion illustrator Georges Lepape
Another print and a fan by Lepape, who also illustrated several Vogue covers.
A designer's scrapbook, with Victorian engravings and textiles by William Morris.

Sometimes the V&A goes from graceful Victorian to challenging avant-garde, as in this exhibit on the design of political activism.

Disobedient Objects

We next visited the British Museum as we wanted to see their impressive collection of Asian art. But we had to stop by the controversial Elgin Marbles, still a favourite with our antiquity-obsessed family.

A metope from the Parthenon in Athens, depicting a Lapith battling a Centaur

The Asian artefacts section did not disappoint. We walked through a collection of Chinese jade, in raw and carved form.

There were many statues in the Confucian as well as the Buddhist tradition.

This incredibly elaborate pipe is made from a conch shell fitted with a gilded dragon and set with jewels.

There were also South Asian as well as East Asian displays. My favourite was this temple carving of the Indian god Ganesha performing a ritual dance.

There were also stamps made from wood, which created bold graphics when used. They were for printing on fabric as well as paper.

There was also a full replica of a Korean meditative retreat, its windows and doors open so visitors could peek into the interior.

We finally left through the East Stairs, which wind around these two black pillars flanking a huge Buddhist statue.

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