The best museum exhibitions in London
How do you sum up one of the world’s most popular cultural phenomenons; an art movement that’s lasted for hundreds of years and continues to grow, taking in video games, cinema, art and literature, with countless thousands of practitioners and millions upon millions of devoted fans. The answer, when it comes to the British Museum’s ‘Manga’ exhibition, is, well, you don’t.
Paintings: they’re the silent type, right? Try as you might to strike up conversation with a bit of paint on canvas, all you’ll get in return is an oily death stare. But this fascinating pint-sized exhibition at the Foundling Museum turns how we normally interact with an artwork on its head. Or, more accurately, on its ear.
From the stylised pastel posters for the V&A’s latest show, you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole exhibition’s designed to be some selfie-obsessed millennial’s wet dream. A show built for Instagram. But then you see the first exhibit – a toilet – and you realise that this is serious business.
If you’re looking for a one-word review of the V&A’s Christian Dior exhibition then here it is: fantasy. As spelled out by its own subtitle – ‘Designer of Dreams’ – this blockbuster showcase of a globally famous fashion label is about clothes and the imagination.
You’ve heard all the Stanley Kubrick legends. But here to separate truth from fiction (and lunar myths) is this dazzling foray through the great man’s work, housed in the suitably symmetrical surrounds of the Design Museum and door-matted by a patch of that famous orange carpet from ‘The Shining’. Fittingly, you’ll need umpteen visits just to take it all in.
For a few glorious months in ’20s America, spiritualists, magicians and scientists were locked in a fevered struggle for the truth about life after death. Escapologist Harry Houdini was hellbent on debunking medium Mina Crandon, so he embarked on a series of experiments trying to replicate the ectoplasm-spouting effects of her seances. But, as the Wellcome Collection’s ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ ingeniously shows, Houdini and Crandon were spooks of a feathe.
This review is brought to you by the ingenuity of the human race and its invention of alphabets, paper, pens, printing presses, typewriters and so on, all the way through to Microsoft Word and MacBooks. Writing, not just for those of us who try to get paid for it, is a magnificent thing, as this major exhibition at the British Library shows.
Mary Quant wanted women to have fun. From underwear they could breathe in to fabrics that didn’t disintegrate in one wash and mascara that wouldn’t give them panda-eye, Quant’s namesake brand allowed its customers to look hot without really trying. Ergo: I woke up like this. The V&A’s major exhibition of the London-born designer skips its way through the trajectory of her career before alighting on the things Quant made iconic.
Countless accusations have been lobbed at Jews over the millennia. They’re money-grabbing, hooked-nosed Christ-killers who control global finances, Hollywood and the music industry. Stereotypes prevail, and the Jewish Museum is trying to tackle the big one: money.
Maps: they’re lush. And the British Library has lots of them. In 2013, it extracted maps from its newly digitised collection of nineteenth-century books and put the results on Flickr. Artist Michael Takeo Magruder has now used these 1 million historical images as the basis for four new artworks.
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