With the BBC making dire predictions that this could be the last week of truly hot summer in London, we couldn't help but grab every last second of sun available. Monday to Wednesday was a three-day season of what the British newspapers call a 'scorchio': the classic heatwave that brings the sun-starved public out in waves to every park, bank or canal side, or anywhere that catches just a bit of blue sky.
But it's also a work week, so we did the next best thing: schedule a working field trip! We hit a few of London's most famous museums with some work colleagues. In particular, we investigated their shops. London museum shops need to be just as attractive, well-run, and inspiring as their galleries, so it's a tough job.
The Tate Modern impressed us right off the bat, hitting us (metaphorically!) in the face with some bold Roy Lichtenstein graphics. Featured artists had a dedicated station of postcards, totes and other products.
The Tate also had more books than any other shop except the National Gallery. Books on architecture, art history, illustration, philosophy, politics, the contemporary art market...not to mention children's books, colouring books and art supplies...it was heaven tailored for wonder | wander | women!
We also spotted some fascinating goings-on. These installation contractors wading through a sea of wood made us curious. What massive art piece is next to set the art world talking?
Somerset House is one of London's fanciest and most fun venues, boasting outdoor cinemas and music festivals in summer and an ice-skating rink in winter. But its main feature is the Courtauld Gallery, a trove of 19th-century art. The shop was a tad uninteresting and old-fashioned considering Somerset House's recent popularity, so we took a picture of the beautifully-carved vaulting in their entranceway instead.
We found that other people had also found a way to sneak some summer pleasure into their workday! This crane driver was making the most of his wait outside the busily-renovating National Theatre to catch up on some reading.
The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square has been inspiring children to be artists for hundreds of years. The children's section of their shop is full of books, toys and art supplies for the fun-loving as well as future artists.
Even the views from the windows are frame-worthy, looking out onto Nelson's Column and the fountain of Trafalgar Square. Of course the biggest and most photogenic shop, the new book and gift shop in the Sainsbury Wing, does not allow photography. But - for research's sake! - we managed to catch quick and blurry glimpses of two of our favourite tables: a flower-bedecked shrine to Impressionism and botanical illustration, and a nautical showcase for the sublime J. M. W. Turner (crowned with a sailing ship!).
On the way home, still wired from visual overstimulation, we caught one unofficial artist exhibit: a tiled graffito on a high wall, signature of international street artist Invader. A nice little ending flourish to a very productive day.