Posts Tagged ‘National Portrait Gallery’

Finishing the National Portrait Gallery

Sunday, Evan and I finally made it back to the National Portrait Gallery to see the rest of the exhibits, including the Vanity Fair special exhibit.

The museum is consistently great — even on my third trip, I felt I was still learning things and being introduced to new people. And I was still interested in reading more. I think my favorite room was the large room with glass dividers on the first floor — it just had some really interesting people as well as really innovative portraits.

The Vanity Fair exhibit, however, put me off a bit. While I was interested in seeing the then-to-now photos, I wasn’t interested in being crammed into a small room with hundreds of other visitors, all moving at a snail’s pace, obscuring the photos and bumping into me repeatedly. I just couldn’t enjoy myself when so physically uncomfortable. I noticed that as we were leaving, the room was getting close to empty, though — I should have just waited, though we went in when it was our time slot.

There were plenty of iconic photos, many of which I’d seen before — it is Vanity Fair — and plenty more photos that weren’t really all that impressive. A lot of the older photos seemed to not have fared well over time or had very low contrast. The exhibit was also especially crowded for the first half of our tour, making it hard to get close to and enjoy the older photos. It also didn’t help that these were all much smaller than the more contemporary photos, too.

I really wish I could have just walked through without the crowds and enjoyed the exhibit on my own terms.

National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square and Dinner Drama

Today, I went to the National Portrait Gallery with Evan. We didn’t have time to see the whole thing — we got about halfway through, and the Vanity Fair exhibit was sold out — so we’ll have to go back again. Good thing the museum is free.

Though it rained earlier today, the afternoon turned out to be quite nice, and we got a few good photos in Trafalgar Square, in front of the National Gallery and the large fountain there.

Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, London

After our time in the museum, we were ready for a snack and stopped at a nearby French cafe (I don’t remember the name and couldn’t find it when I searched online). I ordered a cappuccino, tap water and a Spanish omelet. Evan ordered sparking water and a panini. It took about 15 minutes to get my coffee, and more than 30 minutes later, we were still waiting for our food. And getting grumpy.

Nobody had come by to ask how we were, even though we were sitting right in front of the counter, and we finally asked them to check on our order. They found the order slip right behind the counter and asked us if we still wanted our food. Nobody had started on anything and they didn’t seem keen to. They weren’t apologetic about it at all, either. I also never even got my water. Serves us right for stopping near Leicester Square.

We were ready to get out of there, so we paid for our drinks and headed to Cookbook Cafe to get a good diner.

Thankfully, Cookbook Cafe yet again proved a good choice. We had salads and starters from the market table, a creamy onion soup, mushroom risotto and a nice selection of desserts from their pastry workshop table. We also had some delicious fizzy berry, elderflower and prosecco cocktails, with lots of muddled berries at the bottom of the glass.

Museum Hopping: Tate Modern, National Gallery, Portrait Gallery

The Crack at the Tate Modern

While my parents were here, I got to go to a lot of museums. More than I’d been to since I’ve been here. The first one we hit was the Tate Modern, which was incredible.

The first must-see was Shibboleth (pictured), also known as the giant crack in the floor that spans the whole building. The size and scope of the project is quite impressive, and seeing people interact with the piece was really nice. We went and put our feet up to the edge, straddled it, crossed it, looked down it and walked most of its length. It was especially cute to see the little kids examining it, and waddling along with one foot on either side of the split.

The rest of the museum housed an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures as well as other forms of art. We didn’t go in the special exhibits, since we got there a bit late in the afternoon, but I would gladly go back for those and see everything else all over again, too.

On a different day, we went to both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery, though it houses an impressive collection, got a bit boring after a while, since most of the art is old and religious. Things picked up once we hit the Constables and other 19th century pieces, but they only comprised about three rooms of the gallery.

More surprising, though, was how interesting the National Portrait Gallery was. I’d read good things about the place but I didn’t quite believe them. Portraits tend to bore me, but how they were presented, and how quickly they passed through the centuries in the gallery was great. It starts with the Tudors on the top floor, and you work your way through the galleries — which are all numbered to keep you going chronologically, which was a big help — and make your way to today. The portrait captions were also really interesting, mostly displaying facts about the sitter and often bringing some new info to light, especially for me, since I’m not quite up on my British history.

Once again, we didn’t have time for the special exhibit — a Vanity Fair portrait exhibit — but I’d be interested in going back to see it.

On the upside, not making it to any special exhibits made these museums entirely free. Amazing.