Owen Massey McKnight (addedentry) wrote,
Owen Massey McKnight

Your future dream is an investment scheme

So I'm making the most of the Bank Holiday weekend by, er, staying in London. On Saturday I visited the newish Museum in Docklands, that strange district of investment banks and wine bars. I can leave the maritime history but enjoyed the even-handed account of the death of the docks and the grassroots fight against the original yuppies: stencilled leaflets and a 7" single were no match for companies with their own marketing departments. An old photo shows men unloading sacks of sugar outside the museum, when it was a warehouse, but isn't captioned 'One day, son, all this will be theirs'.

The docks were built on a vast scale in one plane; now the emphasis is perpendicular and Canary Wharf gives its name to Britain's most famous skyscraper. I am excited that more and more skyscrapers are going up in the City of London, the rival financial district. New City Architecture is a little exhibition of architectural models giving a boosterish perspective on this employment scheme for Lords Foster and Rogers. A tiny figure on the Millennium Bridge had fallen on its back as if drunk, bringing a small touch of realism to one model.

The City is like 28 Days Later on a Sunday morning, except for the zombies (that is, the absence of zombies). My plan was to follow the new architecture walking route, but I got distracted by the Guildhall Art Gallery. It opens uninspiringly with identical portraits of City worthies and sentimental Victorian scenes like The Kitten Deceived, but there are lots and lots of maps and topographic prints. Pictures of ruins years after the Blitz always surprise me, but that's why there was room to build first 1960s blocks then the latest set.

There's part of a Roman amphitheatre in the basement. You approach in darkness along the entrance passage, just like a footballer running out on to the pitch. There are startling illuminated wire-frame gladiators and recorded crowd noise. It's even claimed that one slot is evidence of 'a timber trapdoor which could be raised to release wild animals'. Beats reality TV.

What had actually enticed me in was a show of drawings called The Tube. Some of them looked like Stephen Biesty's Incredible Cross-Sections, combining street scenes and escalators and platforms and cut-away carriages and all incorporating a tube diagram. The artist is working on a series depicting every Northern Line station, which is truly suffering for one's art.

I am ashamed that I work in the cultural sector and yet missed that Museums & Galleries Month ends tomorrow on the theme The Art Of Travel. To make up for this oversight, here are the latest additions to my obsessive inventory of Tube maps: a view from behind and what happens when you take a toothpick to a Polaroid.
Tags: art, london
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