The best museum exhibitions in London
The great king Ashurbanipal was seriously not into lions, absolutely hated the things. The first of many gorgeously detailed Assyrian wall reliefs in this mesmerising exhibition depicts the king firing arrows at fleeing lions and shoving swords through their rearing chests. Lions, you see, represented power and savagery, and no one could hold power but Ashurbanipal, and his savagery, though gruesomely brutal, was anything but wild.
Confession: I’m a dog person. So it’s not partisanship at work when I say the British Library are the cats who scored the exhibition cream with this free display of the best of felines in literature. That’s right: cats in books.
William Morris famously advised: ‘have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’. The Design Museum’s latest exhibition is filled with over 150 domestic designs both useful and beautiful, all created with the intention of revolutionising how we conduct ourselves behind closed doors.
Let’s talk about loos. Internal plumbing. Ventilation systems. Running water. Double-glazed windows and all the other things that make where we live helpful to our health. If you’ve ever found yourself with a household emergency, a bust boiler two days before Christmas or a hole in the ceiling ten mins before a thunderstorm, you’ll know that it’s oh so easy to take a functioning home for granted until the moment it stops working.
Charlie D’s crib has gone full Christmas with its annual festive makeover. In the year that marked the 175th anniversary of the publication of ‘A Christmas Carol’, it’s putting on an exhibition about the place of food in Dickens’s work. There are recipe books used by his wife Catherine (including the amazingly titled ‘Gastronomic Regenerator’), household accounts and Victorian dining paraphernalia, all tied together with foodie quotes from his novels.
Hearing the title of this exhibition, you’re either going to think: What a great excuse to play eight hours of Journey, just to re-familiarise myself with the NPCs, or: What? Video games? Like Pac-Man?
This is the V&A doing what the V&A does best: staging world-class exhibitions of immaculately preserved and presented fashion. This new spring blockbuster covers the way clothing has been inspired by the beauty of nature, but has also exploited and damaged the natural world.
There’s an episode in Matthew Weiner’s series, ‘The Romanoffs’, where descendants of Russia’s last royal family get together on a cruise ship and re-enact the glory days of grand balls and staged entertainment. Those with Romanov DNA lap it up, while two married-in relations find the entire event slightly perplexing. Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs, a new exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, has the potential to inspire a similar division of response.
In 1855, Roger Fenton arrived in the Crimea on a commission from publisher Thomas Agnew & Sons to photograph scenes and figures from the ongoing Crimean War. After he returned to London, the images were exhibited at four venues in the capital and… that was it. There hasn’t been a London show of Fenton’s creations since 1856.
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