Arts and Culture
Whilst an outmoded view of London might
see it as consisting merely of Madame Tussauds and the Tower of London, the
city is currently flourishing under something of a social and cultural
renaissance. The most recent exciting cultural news in London has been the
development of the city's South Bank.To get to Bankside, get out at the
Black Friars, London Bridge, Southwark, or Monument Tube stops. There's also
no shortage of trendy places to have a bite, a beer, or do some shopping.
(Bankside Power Station, The Queen's Walk; tel. 0207/887-88-88,
www.tate.org.uk/modern): This behemoth of a building is matched inside by
quadruple- volume spaces and massive iron sculptures by Louise Bourgeois.
The actual gallery rooms on the third and fifth floors are by and large a
bit pokey, though. Divided up into themes, the paintings and sculptures deal
with History/Memory/Society, Nude/Action/Body, Landscape/Matter/Environment,
Still Life/Object/Real Life, and 'Between Cinema and a Hard Place.' At
times, the magnificent panoramic views visible through the floor-to-ceiling
glass windows outdo the art on display. Especially the sight of St. Paul's
Cathedral directly ahead.
(Beside the Thames, Millbank; tel. 0207/887-80-00): Along with the new Tate
Gallery of Modern Art, the entire contents of the original have been
reorganised, so that instead of the conventional art-museum structure that
follows chronological order, the two Tates are designed thematically. In
addition, the Tate Gallery now houses only British art as the modern art
collection has been moved to the new Tate. Be sure to catch the misty
Turners and the God-drunk Blakes.
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
(21 New Globe walk, opposite the Bankside Pier; tel. 0207/401-99-19,
www.shakespeares-globe.org): Here you'll find the biggest exhibition devoted
to the world of Shakespeare from Elizabethan times to today. Documenting
everything from blueprints to corsets, the more interesting part of the
building is the actual theatre, which is open only in summer, when the
Shakespeare productions are performed. The original site of the theatre is
around the corner, where there is a plaque and some informational boards.
The Globe has been reproduced as closely as possible to an Elizabethan
(County hall, Riverside Building; tel. 0207/620-24-20; www.daliuniverse.com):
If you're a Dalí enthusiast, this is definitely worth a visit since it is
the first permanent commercial Dalí exhibition in the world, comprising four
galleries of over 30,000 square feet. The collection of about 500 sculptures
and drawings includes the Mae West sofa (the giant red lips), and a
selection of dripping clocks. Located right next to the London Eye, the
galleries make for a surreal contrast to the super-symmetrical engineering
of the big wheel.
(98a Boundary Rd.; tel. 0207/624-82-99): Bankrolled by ultra-wealthy
advertising kingpin Charles Saatchi, the gallery exported its Sensations and
hosts bizarre exhibitions and installations, including a room half-filled
with sump oil. The tree-filled suburban location of this venue stands in
contrast to its wide-open space of oddities, illusions, and eye-openers.
(tel. 0207/960-42-42; www.hayward-gallery.org.uk): This modern art gallery
merits a mention since it is the largest public art space in the UK. It
features everything from modern masters to contemporary names, showcasing
controversial exhibits similar to those at the Saatchi Gallery.
(Kensington Gardens; tel. 0207/298-15-15; www.serpentinegallery.org): Back
in the centre of the city and certainly worth a detour if you're in Hyde
Park, this gallery is the exhibition site for contemporary artists. The
structure was a tea pavilion in 1934 and now houses modern art exhibits that
change every two to three months.
(Great Russell St.; tel. 0207/636-15-55; www.britishmuseum.ac.uk): There's
something for everyone in this giant storehouse featuring around six million
exhibits. After the completion of a lengthy refurbishment programme – the
centrepiece of which being the construction of Lord Foster’s ambitious
glass-roofed Great Court – the British Museum is back in place as one of the
world’s finest museums. The awesome scale of the museum means it is
essential to select just a few of the 94 galleries for close attention.
Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, a copy of the Magna Carta and the
controversial Elgin Marbles (taken from the Parthenon in Athens), which
Greece want back before the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Victoria and Albert Museum
(Cromwell Rd.; tel. 0207/938-84-41): Possibly the biggest museum devoted to
applied arts, here is housed a gigantic collection of Asian art, modern
design objects, and seven legendary tapestries by Raphael.
(Trafalgar Sq.; tel. 0207/747-28-85): On the north side of Trafalgar Square
is one of the world’s greatest galleries, the National Gallery, which houses
an incredible collection of Western paintings from the 13th to the early
20th century, as well as frequent special exhibitions.
National Portrait Gallery
(St. Martin's Place; tel. 0207/306-00-55): This gallery displays the
country’s famous, infamous and forgotten in the media of oil, watercolour,
marble and photography. In May 2000, the Queen officially opened the new
Ondaatje Wing (which includes a lecture theatre and restaurant) as part of a
wider project to make the gallery more spacious and the art more enjoyable
Royal Academy of Arts
(Piccadilly; tel. 0207/300-80-00; www.royalacademy.org.uk): If you're in
London during the months of May till August, check out the annual Summer
Exhibition. Featured are rooms with hundreds of little paintings cluttered
together on the walls as well as modern sculptures, drawings, and
architectural models. One room is usually dedicated to the work of an
individual artist while another sculptor is chosen to exhibit a large piece
or pieces in the front courtyard of the building. The majority of the works
are for sale and there are prizes awarded to the artists.
Hawksmoor's Christ Church
Located in Spitalfields, near the market, it is considered by many to be one
of London's most beautiful churches. It was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor
and Sir Christopher Wren. Constructed between 1715 and 1759, the church
falls into the English Baroque style and features a dramatic Georgian
steeple rising from a grand portico.
The Central Mosque
On the western side of Regents Park, is the largest Islamic Centre in
Britain. First opened in 1978, the building has a minimalist design with a
couple of dazzling touches such as the minaret and the golden dome.
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Europe's first traditional Hindu Temple. Built in 1995, it is a replica of
the Akshardam temple in western India. It was created with 26,300 pieces of
limestone and marble crafted by over 1,500 sculptors in India, and then
shipped to London to be erected, all at a cost of about £10 million.
St. Bartholomew The Great
The oldest surviving Parish church in London, built between 1123 and 1250,
and possibly the most beautiful (Enter through Tudor-style gate called
Smithfield Gate, at the cloth fair; Tube to Barbican).