The best museum exhibitions in London
Troy vey, this show is seriously big. I mean huge, grand, ambitious, sweeping, in-depth, enormous. But take a deep breath and set an afternoon aside because it’s more than worth your time.
Coming out of this show, I was nearly run over on that weird road that runs past the V&A which looks pedestrianised, but all drivers treat like a regular street. There’s a metaphor there. For more than a century, the world has been in thrall to the car, and it’s still out to kill us.
It can be hard to see sometimes, but there are other ways to live. We’re all so focused on trudging through the swamp of our everyday lives – on our careers, families, stresses, hobbies and drinking habits – that it can feel like that’s all there is. But this in-depth, absorbing show about Buddhism at the British Library is here to smack you around the head a bit and make you see that there are other paths (eight of them, actually).
From its Discovery Channel-style intro to its blingy sort-of catalogue, this show of 150 artefacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun feels like it would be more at home in the Bellagio in Vegas than in the venerable British Museum. And that’s okay. There’s not a whole lot of new scholarship here: this is the greatest hits.
Holland Park is pretty special right now. Pale pink cyclamens, deep red acers, crispy leaves just starting to fall. Hell, I even saw a peacock on its morning stroll. But Earth’s Edenic charms have never been enough for the human race. We want more: we want Mars.
Fantastical. Fairytale. Magical. Lot of words are used to describe the photography of Tim Walker, but rarely this one: sex. Yet as this exuberant solo exhibition at the V&A proves, the British photographer’s special brand of surrealism, honed over decades working for fashion magazines, is far from saccharine innocence.
Here’s Richard Nixon as a kind of Nazified American Eagle, his bloody talons digging the heart out of Indo-China. Here’s a woman dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, boredly smoking a fag. Here’s an Egyptian hieroglyph made of bullets and hand grenades. There’s savagery and savage humour in this remarkable show of 100 posters and 70 magazines produced between 1966 and 1992 by Cuba’s state-run OSPAAAL, the snappily named ‘Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America’.
Remember when going out to play was a legitimate part of your day? Not just legit, but the best part? Well, the Wellcome Collection’s latest exhibition takes playing seriously. Not so seriously that it kicks the fun out of it, but seriously enough to make a strong case for why playing is – wait for it – fundamental to good child development (yeah, take that Protestant work ethic, up yours increased homework hours).
You might have noticed that it’s 50 years since the moon landings. We do love an anniversary. The Maritime Museum’s wide-ranging yet accessible exhibition forms a gentle reminder of just how remarkable space travel is – and burnishes our sense of wonder at our nearest neighbour.
In the era of Bitcoin speculation, and when a tweet can affect exchange rates, it’s easy to see banking as a kind of sinister virtual miasma swirling around us and settling in the hollows of society. It’s not the whole story, though. The Bank of England is celebrating its 325th birthday with a show of 325 actual physical objects, the result of a (legal) rifling of its own vaults.
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