I love museums. And art.
My housemate often laughs at my lack of childhood. I have never seen Pokemon, Teletubbies, Power Rangers or those shows my generation used to watch. In my defence, I did watch Barney, Powerpuff Girls and the likes from Astro. When asked to identify theme songs from cartoons, I failed miserably and as a reader, I have never read Sweet Valley Jr High or the Hardy Boys – instead, my recollection of books are of Greek Mythologies and those concerning art, especially on Picasso and Monet. My mum didn’t choose the books for me – she isn’t the typical tigress people usually stereotype East Asians to be. And I am not trying to sound pompous either; I am in fact just a full-blown nerd, even now.
I remember thumbing through them and finding a whole world of crazy colours and strokes. This is the world I put myself in so imagine my delight when I discover that London’s museums and art galleries are mostly free. 6 days there are suddenly not enough – I spend my mornings and afternoons museum-hopping and I discover world after world of accessible art – London has become the best place in the world immediately and unabashedly. I know I am easily bought but really, free entry to museums? I have easily saved a 100 pounds (which I inevitably spend in Primark)
Classical Art lovers will be infatuated. With over 2,300 works, this museum is not an easy one to digest. But with works by Van Gogh, Velazquez, van Eyck (major fangirl moment), Goya, Cezanne and even Raphael and Micheangelo placed all over the exhibit rooms – it would be a waste to miss this one. Right in the middle of Trafalgar Square, this behemoth Grecian architecture is one that entices – especially during the dreary weather of London which is usually cold and rainy. I visited thrice – because I just couldn’t get over Van Eyck; I pretty much sear his paintings into the back of my mind while I stand there, starting at every minuscule detail of his canvas for 20 minutes. (Rate: 9.5/10)
National Portrait Gallery
Nestled right behind the National Gallery is the National Portrait Gallery. At first glance, it is unassuming and looks anything but exciting. A London friend of mine urged me to go for this; I relented and eventually spend about 1.5 hours inside starting at -you guessed right- portraits. One of the more famous portraits hung there would be of Kate Middleton, Cecil Beaton and William Shakespeare. Yes. Shakespeare! But alas, while this is worth a short visit, I rather look at Impressionist and contemporary works because the level of mind-blown-ness they inspire in a person is infinite. (Rate: 6.5/10)
I visited thrice as well. The third time with a friend, Neil and being a history-junkie as well, we go through the temporary exhibition that is showcasing some propaganda art by the Japanese. I remember him telling me about the incorporation of symbolisms of power into waves – drawn as claws to signify nature’s dominance (I am sorry if I got it wrong!). This place is indeed a fond one with it’s circular Reading Room. Its thematic viewing – Americas, Asia, Middle East, Ancient Greece and Rome, and Ancient Egypt -is fascinating but as usual, I couldn’t help but wonder how did the British procure such exquisite Chinese treasures that are now in display. Neil says to let bygones be bygones; I suppose I should! (Rate: 10/10)
Seriously. This is one of the best modern art museum ever (although I still think Berlin and Munich still surpass any place in Europe – which is why I can’t wait to visit MoMA in NYC soon). On every level, they have two exhibitions. One would be the FOC one and the other would be special exhibitions priced at an average of 18 pounds. Pressed for time, I only look through the free exhibitions and there, I am surprised to see two of Picasso’s works and others by Dali and Warhol. I greeted Ernst, Francis Bacon(this is politically necessary of course), Duchamp and Auguste Rodin as well and because Tate Modern is so awesome, it provides free wifi and one could download the Tate Modern app which essentially helps patrons understand the art they are looking at. (Rate: 10/10)
Victoria & Albert Museum
This one is a gemstone because it has anything and everything from architecture, ceramics, design, fashion, jewellery, photography to books and textiles. Anything you can imagine about any civilisation can be found here. It is as though some brilliant guy (there are definitely brilliance involved) decided to congregate all treasures deemed interesting enough for the 21st century person to view here and indeed, to thoroughly browse through the collections, you will need at least four hours.(Rate: 7/10)
I did go to other museums as well – but if you were to ask me which museums I remember from London, these five immediately come to mind. To me, these were the closest thing to home despite a few thousand miles away from the actual thing.