Travel Weekly executive editor Donna Tunney traveled to London
to join the British Tourist Authority's annual press fam, which
highlights new attractions in the city and gives reporters a
heads-up on the coming year's BTA promotions. Her report
LONDON -- Straighten the road map of London's major arts venues
and its length would probably run clear to the English Channel.
Our group packed as much as possible into three days, and still
missed plenty. Accommodated at London's Athenaeum Hotel, our group
got the gist of what's new and what's really good.
Here's a recap of some art and cultural venues that will take
sightseers from the Elizabethan to the Modern, with the
Impressionist and the Enlightenment eras thrown in for good
measure:The International Shakespeare Globe Center, home of the Globe
Theater on the South Bank of the Thames, opened its long-planned
Shakespeare's Globe Exhibition last summer. Located in the basement
level of the theater, it is known as the Underglobe.
There's a big
central space with rooms around the perimeter, and each room
contains a different piece of the exhibit, which is meant to shed
light on how the playwright and his actors lived and worked.
Some of the rooms are connected to each other. They house, among
other things, displays that show a room in which Shakespeare's
wardrobe crew might have worked and with what sorts of cloth and
equipment; how the playbills might have been printed on a recreated
17th century printing press, and how the cast and crew devised
special effects and sounds.
Another area of the exhibit shows the kinds of musical
instruments that the minstrels of Shakespeare's time would have
played, such as mandolins.
A life-size tree cast from a 450-year-old Norfolk oak dominates
the central area, which, with a bright green carpet is supposed to
provide an outdoor ambience. But the area is too dimly lit, I
thought, and the ceiling too low to provide that effect.
Beautiful Elizabethan-era tapestries grace the walls and,
thankfully, they are well lighted enabling visitors to see the
The museum is open everyday and guided tours run every 15
minutes. A tour is included in the ticket price of about $12 per
adult. The Underglobe can be rented for special events at
For a cost of about $6,000, plus 17.5% VAT, catering and
entertainment, groups can book the space, which accommodates up to
250 for dinner and up to 400 for receptions. The London firm
Langston Scott Limited handles event bookings.
Its e-mail is [email protected].Visitors who exit the Globe and turn left at the river will
walk about two minutes before reaching another of London's new arts
venues: the Tate Modern.
This is the much-talked-about facility -- the one that was built
inside a former power station, also on the South Bank.
The original Tate Gallery still exists; museum officials simply
took all of the Tate's modern collection and moved it into this new
space, which is vast and still looks like a power station.
Walk through the entrance and its vastness truly hits home. It's
enormous. A central bank of escalators takes visitors up five
levels, with each level containing works from different years,
genres or artists of the modern era. Alongside the escalators
stands a huge platform on which a giant, and I mean giant,
sculpture of a spider welcomes visitors.
Exhibitions on display this winter include "The 1960s and New
Realism," "Nature Into Action," Landscape Encoded" and "Andy
Warhol: Celebrity and Death."
Upcoming exhibitions include "Century City: Art and Culture in
the Modern Metropolis," starting April 29; "Zero to Infinity: Arte
Povera 1962-1972," opening Aug. 19, and "Giorgio Morandi: Silent
Spaces," opening Aug. 12.
Admission to this museum is free. About 1 million have visited
since it opened last May. It has a caf} and bookshop.Stand at the back of Tate Modern and gaze across the river to
find Somerset House, said to be one of London's most impressive
18th century buildings, designed during George III's reign -- the
so-called Age of Enlightenment.
Visitors enter under the Great Arch, on Victoria Embankment.
Somerset House recently opened the Hermitage Rooms. In a cultural
exchange with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia,
Somerset House inaugurated its new rooms with the exhibition
"Treasures of Catharine the Great."
On view until Sept. 23, the exhibit presents a mix of her
extravagant jewels plus antiquities and paintings -- 500 items in
The rooms had not opened in time for our visit, but we saw lots
of crates containing display items, which were under guard, and
work crews putting the finishing touches on the rooms, which were
to open to the public two weeks later. Admission is about $10 per
adult.Somerset House also is home to the Gilbert Collection. Sir
Arthur Gilbert is an American, born in 1913, who spent many years
in Britain and now lives in California.
The collection includes some 800 works of art obtained by
Gilbert over the last 35 years. His penchant is for European
silver, gold snuff boxes and Italian mosaics. The collection is
open daily and it costs about $7 to enter. It's impressive and
makes a good companion visit to the Hermitage Rooms.Walk across the Fountain Court at Somerset House and head
toward the Strand. On the right is Courtauld Gallery, a small
museum on the Somerset House grounds that contains what is arguably
one of the finest private collections of Impressionist art in the
It contains masterpieces by Manet, Renoir, Monet, Degas,
Cezanne, van Gogh and Gauguin.
It has van Gogh's "Self Portrait With Bandaged Ear" and Renoir's
"The Theater Box," for example, and several other works that rival
those installed in the great public museums of Europe. Earlier
works on view, from the Renaissance to the 18th century, are by
Botticelli, Rubens and Goya.
Open daily, the gallery's admission fee is about $7, but is free
to visitors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Mondays.Hop on the underground and head toward Bloomsbury and the
British Museum, where the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court has
This is a handsome addition to the British Museum. It's a
two-acre courtyard that has been transformed, at a cost of about
$160 million, into what the British are calling "Europe's largest
Used as a sort of glass-roofed piazza, it features an education
center, two African galleries and shops and cafes. Patrons of this
museum might recall that visitors previously walked through a long
hallway to enter the historic round Reading Room.
No more. The Reading Room is the centerpiece of the Great Hall,
with the piazza built around it. Visitors now walk halfway across
the open piazza to enter the Reading Room, which contains books and
information about the museum's vast collection.
Two sculptures grace the hall: the Lion of Cnidos, which was
found in southwest Turkey and is said to date from 300 B.C., and an
Easter Island statue, Hoa Hakananaia.
The Great Hall was opened with considerable pomp and
circumstance by Queen Elizabeth II in early December.
Agents can check out the BTA's Web site at www.travelbritain.org for more information on cultural
venues throughout Britain.