London Design Museum

So when In London, taking in the sights, where is the obvious first thing a designer should visit? Being a designer and all I figured a visit to the Design Museum might be in order, asking my partner Caroline if she would like to attend she replied that she would rather force matchsticks under her fingernails, so taking that hint, I set off on my own to this shrine of design. For a museum of design, I’ve got to say that the facade was pretty uninspiring, at least the locale is pretty, right besides the Thames in view of The Tower Bridge. It cost 7 quid to get in, which kind of put me off purchasing anything in their gift shop, as impressive as it was – I had my eye on a design museum t-shirt until I saw that they were 40 quid, which is, I don’t know, about a thousand dollars or something in Australian dollars:)

One of the special displays that had on was a show on Formula One Grand Prix, not really my area of interest I’ve got to say, though they did have a car on display that I had as part of my Scalectrix model set when I was younger. At this point I was probably more interested in how that had set up their exhibits, graphics wise, rather than studying the intricacies of an exploded view of a McLaren F1 engine.

The main display area was dedicated to a sort of history of UK graphic design (though a pretty condensed version admittedly). I’m not sure whether this is on permanent display or not (is there anything on permanent display here? There were some beautiful WW2 deco inspired propaganda posters. This sort of illustration seems to be a lost sort of style these days, more is the pity. Best of all, there was a (small) display dedicated to Peter Saville’s Factory Records work, including the original ‘floppy disk’ inspired sleeve for the ‘Blue Monday’ single which I’ve seen in books plenty of times but never in the flesh as it were. There was also a nice display of old penguin book covers, Penguin seems to be quite the flavour of the month as far the design blogospehere, maybe it’s due to the book that was release on Peguin book design a little while back, it’s good stuff, One Plus One Equals Three has a link to a Flickr photoset if I have at all piqued your interest.

The museum was filled with bored looking school students plodding through displays, filling out obligatory class set assignments, occasionally a teacher would tell one of them that they had spent enough time on the ‘playstation’ display and they would plod off bleary eyed into another nook of the gallery. That’s about it as far as what is in the museum, ok I guess but hardly worth the £7 entry fee, pity I wasn’t there a month or so later to check out the Alan Fletcher exhibition.

Being in the vicinity, and a little disappointed with the Design Museum, I figured I’d take the half hour stroll down to the Tate Modern. Caroline had expressed a slight interest, but was fearing that she would be forced to view, as she put it ‘blank canvases with a pile of pebbles underneath it’ which to me sounds like the most fantastic idea for ‘fine art’ I’ve heard in a long time which I intend toimplementt and enter in the Turners as soon as possible. Anyway, it was a nice day for a stroll (for a change) and the view along the Thames on the way can’ be beat. The walk took me past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a replica that is built kind of pretty close to where the original was built. Did you know that Shakespeare’s first Theatre was called the Curtain and was built on the other side of the Thames. When the landlord wanted the land back, he took it apart and rebuilt it across the way.

The Tate is going through a lot of renovation work at the moment, which means it’s looking kind of crappy. The great entrance hall space was being transformed into the biggest and loopiest slippery dip of my dreams that I had ever seen, even though it was still under construction, don’t think I didn’t ask if I could take a slide down that baby – denied! It is art after all. Once again, the exhibit graphics are excellent, I really like the entrance wall to the 1945-1960 artists section, decorated with artists signature on a black background, really striking. The good thing about the Tate is that entry is a donation,(so free then for me 🙂 the bad thing about the Tate is that it was full of more bored school kids with an even greater area of boredom to trod through (and no playstations!) The thing you find about London is that they really hate you taking photographs, especially if there is a buck to be made from preventing you from doing so. In most civilized places in the world they put up signs that say ‘No photography’ if they don’t want you to take photographs, in London they just prefer to hire people to yell at you. So I’m in a gallery with some of the worlds greatest modern art on display, a good place to take a couple of snaps you say? Apparently the fear is that you will go in, take photos of that Rothko on the wall, run it out onto a canvas, claim it as your own and sell it. I can see how they have to be careful and once again I’m sure it has nothing to do with the prints for sale in gift shop. So I’m in there happily snapping away, actually at this point, more interested in how they had applied information graphics to the walls than the actual works of art. I was getting the look from people around me, that look like I had just strangled their kitten or something, had | stepped in something, maybe a piece of avante garde art inadvertently? From out of nowhere comes a screaming banshee of a woman, for awhile I thought it was aperformancee piece of some sort, but then I realised she was with the gallery. ‘No photography, no photography! She wailed like a pair of cats fighting on a tin roof – now I was on display at the Tate – the school kids certainly took more interest in it than the nearby Bacon (Francis, not in the cafeteria). London always brings the worst out in me temper wise, I’m usually pretty relaxed, but there’s a way that normal people handle things like this, they politely tell you there’s no photography allowed, you apologise and you’re on your way, then there’s the London way of being as rude as possible and drawing the most attention to yourself. I told her this in not so many worlds after she had finished screaming in my face – I may have added that dental hygiene was now a cheap and readily available commodity as well. I guess that’s probably what led to me being goose stepped out of there by a couple of security guards soon afterwards, hence the rather light on review of the Tate, but by all means, if you’re in the area, take a look, it’s free after all 🙂

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