Museums in London

One of the best things about London is the number of free museums and exhibits. So, being an art nerd, I've tried to hit them all in the past week or so.

Somerset House: There was an exhibit, "A Question of Colour," featuring my favorite photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who with rare exceptions never worked in colour photography, only black and white. The exhibit featured HCB originals, all from America and never before seen in the United Kingdom, juxtaposed with the work of other photographers, over the past 50 or 60 years, shooting in colour, either using HCB's work as inspiration, or work that the curators felt exhibited the spirit of HCB. My favorites were probably large-format works, photos of Moscow, by Boris Savelev.

National Portrait Gallery: I popped in and out quickly, paying the most attention to photojournalist Neil Libbert, and his black and white photographs of Francis Bacon, Helen Mireen, George Best, and Sir Winston Churchill.

Victoria and Albert museum: As boring as it sounds, the highlight of the V&A is probably the Ardabil Carpet, the world's oldest, dated carpet. It's like 500 years old, and beautiful. I enjoyed the exhibit of British photography from the 1950s, especially Don McCullin's pre-war photography; and, there was an excellent exhibit featuring Iranian photography, including some scary work from the Iran hostage crisis of the 1970s. And some work that serves as a great reminder that Iran is probably a totally awesome place to be a woman. Seriously, it looks so great. The V&A also has an amazing French staircase from the early 16th century. It's what I would want in my house, if, you know, I had a house or whatever. Oh, and a cool notebook once belonging to Leonardo da Vinci.

British Museum: Duh, the Rosetta Stone. Also, a 5,000 year-old sack of bones next to an equally old wooden coffin. Plus, the coolest human skull (Aztec era, with turquoise) that I've ever seen.

Tate Modern: I've finally decided that I just really don't like Mark Rothko. But I do like the Tate Modern. There was this really weird (OK, not really all that weird) surrealist installation, with people lined up waiting curiously to check it out. It was a bit anti-climactic, and not really all that interesting, but that's kinda what I love about art. It doesn't really have to be interesting. It doesn't really have to be anything. I think what I enjoyed most about Mike Kelley's "Channel One, Channel Two, Channel Three," was the throwback Panasonic sound system playing, I don't even remember what it was playing. White noise.

The Photographer's Gallery: The Photographers' Gallery was in between exhibits during my previous visit to London, and I'm glad it wasn't this time. Completely awesome. Existential photography exhibit, including my first introduction to photo shooting galleries. How had I never before heard of these?

Victoria & Albert Museum: Da Vinci's notebook, more than 500 years old, with notes on geometry, hydraulics, weights, sketches of a horse, and drawings of hats.

British Museum: A human skull from the Aztec era, maybe 500 years old.

Tate Modern: Mike Kelley's surrealist installation; check out that throwback Panasonic sound system on the floor. Money.

Tate Modern: If you put a mirror on the wall and call it art, I won't argue, but I might think, "I've got a nicer one in my hotel room."