Banksy VS Constable
So graffiti warrior Banksy has beaten Constable to the position of Britain’s favourite artist (even though it should be stressed that this is a fake-news poll created to flog us Samsungs). Still, the result seems likely. Should we be surprised? His art is accessible and addresses current concerns for the majority of the nation now living in cities or conurbations, and ‘The Hay Wain’ is of little relevance. In an era when the POTUS can blithely announce ‘The American dream is dead’, and follow it with a lecture on protecting the Second Amendment (guns) perhaps Banksy taps into what’s more on our minds.
My friend Jennifer teases me about ‘the London I know so well’ because a reviewer once used the phrase attaching me to my home town, but the problem is that I’m not sure I know it so well anymore either. The things that people really like have changed; recently, some friends’ children draw up a shortlist of things they wanted to do in London. Top of the list was to visit M&M World, then Camden Market, then Madame Tussauds, none of which I feel offer much of a real experience.
It’s not my place to tell them to go and look at ‘The Hay Wain’.
But the traditional sights – Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral (not the same things), Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, Hyde Park, the National Gallery, the Tates, the V&A, Whitehall, the South Bank, Regent Street and so on – are all being neglected by those of us who live here, partly because enjoying them has now become a battle against mass tourism. Sitting in quiet contemplation of a painting in the National Gallery is not as easy as it once was, so perhaps that influences our choice.
Is there a way to enjoy these places again? They’re popular all year round, so going in the winter months makes no difference. My track record on visiting actual national treasures is appalling; Westminster Abbey once, St Paul’s twice, the National Gallery, not once in the past five years. Do I want to visit Buckingham Palace and wander through the pink and gold brocade looking at paintings of historical figures I only dimly recall? Probably not.
In the coming weeks I’ll be attempting to refresh my viewpoint on traditional London sights by visiting them as soon as they open, in the hope that I’ll see them before the crowds.
Another ruse is to visit the second-tier attractions many overlook, like Eltham Palace, the London Transport Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the Household Cavalry Museum.
One thing is sure. I’ll be giving M&M World a swerve.