Escape the Christmas crowds with our insider guide to some of November’s best exhibitions
London is an amazing city. We love it. A city at the forefront of fashion, yet with its own innate individuality; somewhere that shouts contemporary spirit amid ancient buildings and streets of history; a place where Michelin-starred restaurants sit next to classic cafes. And it’s no secret that it offers some of the best shopping in the world. That’s why, come Christmas, the streets are thronged with crowds looking for the perfect gift.
Fisherman In The Lagoon – Moonlight
Image Credit www.tate.org.uk
But sometimes retail therapy isn’t enough – you simply have to escape those crowds and find a spot for some serious R&R. One option, of course is shopping online. Another is to take a break in the heart of town, a few hours of peace and contemplation. The perfect spot for these secret moments? A museum or gallery. There is nothing better than peppering the Christmas madness with a trip to one of London’s exceptional exhibitions, so we have picked our top five to help you find your own inner calm.
1. WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
This annual treat of an exhibition opens every autumn at the Natural History Museum, displaying that year’s very best wildlife photography. 2014 is the 50th anniversary, and historic images will be displayed alongside this year’s winners. Intimate animal portraits, incredible still lives and action shots, beautifully technical or creatively imagined – the talent and vision on display is spectacular. Plus the subject is a real crowd-pleaser and appeals to all ages, meaning you can keep the kids in tow without any moaning.
Natural History Museum
Until 30 August 2015
2. GRAYSON PERRY: WHO ARE YOU?
The National Portrait Museum is always a treat; wandering between its famous faces is a lesson in who’s who throughout history. From society portraits to commemorative pieces, each one executed with talent and creativity. However, at the moment, there is an additional surprise in store for visitors. Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry has interspersed 14 new portraits amidst the classic and contemporary collections, portraying 21st-century subjects and asking the question: who is worth commemorating in this day and age, who represents our identity and country, and what does it mean to be British? It’s a fascinating insight into our changing times and an easy way to introduce yourself to Perry’s sometimes kitschy aesthetic.
National Portrait Museum
Until 15 March 2015
3. LATE TURNER: PAINTING SET FREE
Coinciding with Timothy Spall’s representation of the landscape painter in the film, Mr Turner, the Tate Britain is hosting a collection of the Turner’s later paintings. Exploring how his style changed as he aged, and how infirmity and illness affected his technique, the exhibition is an exploration of both a body of work, an the actual physical skill behind it. It’s an interesting angle, and one which adds a personal dimension to some stunning paintings.
Until 25 January 2015
4. COLLECTING HISTORY: THE FOUNDERS OF THE WALLACE COLLECTION
Rather than focussing on one artist or genre, this fascinating exhibition details the creation of a collection – the Wallace Collection, housed at Hertford House, Manchester Square [Link to Google maps]. It tells the story of the Seymour-Conway Family and the paintings, sculptures and objets that they amassed over five generations. Letters, photographs and even art are employed to lead visitors through the family history, introducing the collectors and those around them who helped them to collect. An insight into not only one of the best preserved formerly-private collections in the city, but also into the people behind them and their personal and contemporary tastes.
Wallace Collection, Hertford House
Until 15 February 2015
5. WOMEN FASHION POWER
We’re pretty sure that alongside the games and books there are more than a few items of clothing on your Christmas lists. Whether you are buying for yourself or someone else, find inspiration at the Design Museum. Women Fashion Power looks at the wardrobes of 25 influential women, from Margaret Thatcher to Vivienne Westwood. Each woman has contributed one outfit, and the exhibition considers them as both tools of self-expression and power. It’s not only an interesting statement on the place of fashion in politics, art and society, but also a fantastic display of some of the most iconic outfits of our times.
Until 26 April 2016