The best museum exhibitions in London
Whatever you take away from the Museum of Neoliberalism, you definitely won’t forget the display ‘Bottle of Amazon employee urine’. According to the museum, it came from a worker in one of the company’s fulfilment centres who passed up a toilet break in order not to fall behind on work targets. It’s just one of the ways this place confronts you with how modern economic structures have trickled down into people’s everyday lives. Tucked between a laundrette and a hairdressers in an unassuming post-war shopping centre in Lewisham, the museum explains its purpose in a window sign: ‘to look back on neoliberalism, what it has done to our world; and what might lie beyond it’. Turns out, it’s quite scary stuff. The exhibition, which begins with a display setting out the main players of twentieth-century neoliberalism, has been created by satirical artist Darren Cullen and Gavin Grindon, a lecturer at the University of Essex who curated parts of Banksy’s Dismaland. Like the suspects board of a detective on the edge, it’s covered in a criss-cross of red string connecting images of Margaret Thatcher, George W Bush, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Boris Johnson. You’re then exposed to the ways capitalism has seeped into our lives, from Scouts badges embroidered with oil company logos to a replica of the cladding and insulation at Grenfell Tower. Regardless of your political persuasion, it’s hard not to be moved. The museum admits that it ‘may seem dispiriting’, but it’ll stoke a
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.
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).
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.
The Science Museum’s new show 'Top Secret: From Ciphers to Cyber Security' is so top secret it’s difficult to even find it in the building. That means one of three things: 1) This is a brilliant joke on the part of the museum who recreate that moment in wartime when Britain got rid of its signposts to confuse the Nazis. 2) The guy who makes their signage was on hols this week. Or 3) Based on how long it took me to locate said exhibition, I’m not GCHQ recruitment material.