Have You Seen?

“Have you seen the Heatherwick, darling? It almost makes one want to get on a No.38, especially as it goes to Hackney”.

The crowds at Thomas Heatherwick’s exhibition this summer, epitomised the London cultural scene. Fabulous the exhibition was too, albeit crammed into a V&A space the size of a 5-a-side football pitch. We glided around, doing our excuse-me shuffles that were not mitigated by timed tickets.

Months before, I took a group past the Angel Wings installation in Paternoster Square. Fascinating, but not the registering of achievement that would accompany that visit now.

And what a summer of delights at the V&A, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, National Gallery;
National Portrait Gallery etc? An almost orgiastic set of experiences in anticipation of the 2012 Games....until regulars were terrorised into abandoning their stomping grounds to give way to the “Olympic family”, and the world shifted seismically east to Stratford?

I saw one member of the Olympic family. While going round with a group I saw her emerging from a haute couture Mayfair shop whilst a 2012 driver awaited. Something for exports, anyway. One trusts she was back in the performance world quickly, cheering on her nation’s competitors.

Is it churlish to view this museum/gallery cortege filing past with dignity, with circumspection? Probably yes. If the weekend crowd is bad enough, why not capitalise on weekdays and use your Freedom Pass or Boris pre-emptive Oyster Card, to lessen the financial burden? There is also the 1/3 off National Rail Card for some, and there is the Art Fund Pass, so why not take advantage?
Over the summer I was lucky enough to get out of London and visit the Tracey Emin She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea exhibition at the Turner Contemporary in Margate. As you will spot, the revelation of this is even more excruciatingly pretentious than any report of a London show (except I used to live near there so there was a sentimental reason for the return).

In one of the galleries is Rodin’s The Kiss, borrowed from the Tate Collection. Framed by a glass wall and a sea view, it was described by The Guardian as being in “isolated grandeur”.

Oh dear, not massively commercial, as your Margate punters might not have seen it as a natural follow-on from the sea front slot machines, but fun to have that moment of isolated grandeur with few fellow visitors crowding around.

A friend described a Monday daytime viewing of the Pre-Raphaelites at Tate Britain just done, as “too crowded to “see” anything”. But others would be happy enough with having ticked that box, despite some residual uncomfortable feeling that there is dumbing down to popularise the event and boost the numbers for funding statistics.

Anyway, darling, if you haven’t seen it yet you really ought to........

The author is a City of London and City of Westminster Guide, who runs walks in the City and and in Westminster. See tabs for further details.

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