Thanks to my snazzy celebrity contacts (by which I mean Melanie, who was very briefly in an episode of Lovejoy as a teenager and is therefore FAMOUS), I am now in possession of one of these babies (a National Art Pass). If you’ve been on the tube at all you’ll have seen them advertised a fair bit in the centre of London and then completely failed to do anything about it because you’re awful and lazy and this is why you will die alone.
So this thing – not the one above, you’ll have noticed my name isn’t Alex Smith – is going to be my ticket to wonders beyond compare or at least a load of very pretty exhibitions and places like Eltham Palace and Marble Hill House and other swank locations (especially if I can be persuaded to break my unhealthy attachment to London for long enough to roam further afield). There is also the knowledge that these passes apparently go some way towards helping preserve places of interest and collections of art for future generations which means that even though I couldn’t give a tuppenny shove if future Britons die in a howling post-apocalyptic cultural wasteland because I’m never having kids, your children will hopefully get to continue going to museums and learning about cool stuff just like we do.
I am doing terribly badly at not running around the website marking my calendar with every event going, but these are the leading contenders at the moment:
The V&A do a fantastic line in pop culture exhibitions, and I’ve especially impressed memories of the Vivienne Westwood retrospective some years back: I’m also pretty keen on Mr Bowie himself (saw him at Glastonbury 2000, cried all over a complete stranger during “Heroes”, like a champion), and his tactics of reinvention and image-manipulation could make for a very interesting exhibition. Plus, with this card thing I get 50% off the entrance fee, which seems a pretty sweet deal to me.
At the Tate Modern, which has been a repeat offender on my “institutions to visit all the time” list since before I moved to London, there’s a slavish adherence to Whistler’s “display everything on white and space it out” approach to galleries: there’s also apparently a retrospective of one of the most iconic artists of the last 150 years, which I probably wouldn’t have gone to if I’d had to pay full price for a ticket because there are moths in my pockets. Now I can get in for half-price I’m deeply curious to see what sort of wider field Lichtenstein’s most famous works come from, and how he got to the lithographic technique which most people associate infallibly with his name. Onto the list!
After pop art and pop music there’s history, and in this case history I have been eyeballing on posters for a while and debating whether I can afford: like most people I first heard about Pomeii and the eery, perfectly-preserved flash-murdered civilisation when I was in primary school, and the idea of being able to see for myself the remains of this suddenly-stopped city makes me half excited and half deeply spooked. Also I have a classicist friend who I suspect would be a grand addition to the information on the placards at the museum (I do advise befriending clever people and going with them to exhibitions, you get this whole other commentary). And this one’s half-off too, so I can afford to take my friend…
Previous exhibitions I’ve seen at the Natural History Museum and been blown away by include a comprehensive look at deep sea fish and the gory but oddly soothing Animals Inside Out collection of plastinated mammals: this look at the future of species (including ours) promises to be informative and hopefully involve more of the NHM’s prodigious collection of taxidermy animals, who have held a place in my heart since I was 12 or so. Also the Art Pass knocks the entry fee down to less than a fiver, which would make it criminal not to go.
Illuminated manuscripts are a breath-taking enough sight, as far as I’m concerned, but illuminated manuscripts from one of the most turbulent and changeable periods from Indian history – the invasion and subsequent empire of the Mughals, from the West – is a whole new proposition.
This one is a dead cert in terms of visiting as I’d already earmarked it long, long before the Art Pass happened (now I can just get in more cheaply and throw more of my money at the unfair number of books about London history in the gift shop! I WILL HAVE NO BOOKSHELVES LEFT AT ALL). The history of anatomical explorations is something which is of genuine interest to me, and has been since a chance encounter with a documentary about the development of anaesthetic some years ago. While the chances of getting to see a live dissection are slim (I missed that particular Gunther von Hagens filming), this exhibition looks like it deals in local history and medical history and now it costs less than five quid for me to get into and I am frankly champing at the bit for my exhibition buddies to come and join me.