On Saturday, I made a plan to go to the Borough Market, National Gallery, & National Portrait Gallery.
After the market, I took the train up to Charing Cross and walked to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery & National Portrait Gallery.
I was lucky enough to arrive just as a free tour was starting at the National Gallery. Since I am now living here instead of just visiting, it is really awesome to just stop in a gallery for an hour or two. That being said, it was a little bit unsettling to see how people were perusing the gallery. I don’t proclaim to be an art expert, but I can tell the difference between a gallery and a zoo…
The former SWE president in me started brainstorming methods for improvement. Should the require you to participate in a tour? Or maybe charge a small admission fee to encourage people to be more conscious about their visit? Or maybe just be more vigilant about chastising people for inappropriate behavior? I was developing my remodeling plan until the end of the tour when the guide came up to one of the women standing behind me. I hope my descriptions were ok for you, the guide said. Was this some sort of critic? I did a bit of obvious eavesdropping and soon realized the woman being addressed was holding a white cane. While staring at people is generally not seen as polite behavior in the US culture (and as far as I can tell this rule remains true in London) I couldn’t help my eyes from widening: (1) in embarrassment for my train of thought that tried to limit access to this treasure , and (2) in amazement that such concerted efforts were being made to support art education for all.
Curious about the Gallery’s endeavor to make art accessible to everyone, I did a bit of research to find their Disability Equality Scheme (support for deaf, blind, physically handicapped visitors) and their mission to provide “the widest possible access to the national collection of paintings in the Western European tradition to around 1900, which it houses, conserves and displays.” My fascination with this gallery runs much deeper than the beautiful artwork.
The Portrait Gallery was just around the corner, and I spotted St Martin in the Fields, the name sake of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the chamber orchestra directed by one of my favorite violinists, Joshua Bell. I had the amazing opportunity to hear them perform Beethoven’s violin concerto as part of the UMS series in 2012 and will be keeping an eye out for tickets this year. 🙂