Why is it that one of the first things one does upon visiting another city is to go to its museums? I hardly ever do that at home. And London is stuffed with them.
The Kinetica is a platform for international new media art. At the moment it features immersive works that ‘challenge perceptions to question what is real, perceived or imagined’. I had no idea that the place existed. Unfortunately this is no rarity, as I have not visited more than half of the museums in London. Some are because they’re packed with children, like the Science Museum, or overwhelmed with tourists like the British Museum.
Some have become pale imitations of once great institutions, like the miserable disappointment of going back to the Maritime Museum and finding it little more than a children’s playground now, some because I have little interest in their subject matter – the Dental Museum, anyone? The Clown Museum? Water and Steam? Eyes? Sewing Machines? Fans? Tennis? Packaging? The ‘Magnetic Laboratory’ (although actually that sounds quite interesting)? And partly, I suppose, because I can see so much online more easily – even though great art has to be experienced in person.
There have been a lot of changes; the new Design Museum has received rave reviews, the Cinema Museum is a precious and rare place that deserves attention and the V&A still has the giant automaton Tipu’s Tiger (below).
The Cuming Museum burned down four years ago and we’re still waiting for it to reopen, but it’ll be worth it because it’s all that remains of Sir Ashton Lever’s Holophusikon, which used to be in Leicester Square and housed thousands of strange items from around the world. Other collections that have been lost include the Royal Society’s Repository, the Leverianum, the Egyptian Hall and the Royal Surgeons’ Museum.
Meanwhile there are dozens still to uncover and explore, along with a truly vast number of galleries and open houses. How many museums and galleries are there that we don’t know about in the Greater London area?