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Day #4: Summer Exhibition

I have a theory. To have a trip that works for everyone, one must make allowances when traveling with a small child. You don’t have to pick only obviously kid-friendly destinations and activities. But, you do have to make realistic compromises. Historically, we’ve always attended the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. It’s a huge art show, which contains over 1,200 works this year. That’s a lot of art to view. And, this was our destination for today, which makes for an ideal case study.

To start, we waited to leave the Allen House until after 10am in order to avoid rush hour on the Underground, which isn’t something you want to face with a preschooler and a stroller. We also opted to walk from Victoria Station past Buckingham Palace and across Green Park rather than change subway lines. This was mostly to avoid stairs as Libby’s knee is only a few weeks out of its brace following her patella fracture back in April. She’s very good at walking long distances, but her leg muscles tire more quickly than normal on stairs.

Once at the Royal Academy, I checked the stroller and bought our tickets. We proceeded to the galleries and were immediately struck with a sculpture/painting and print by John Carter RA. It’s an awesome feeling to “discover an artist” or “find a work” that speaks to you. So, we more-or-less made the immediate decision to add one of the prints to our art collection. Moving on, we went through the galleries at what I might call a scanning pace while engaging Emerson in a game of “tell us your favorite work in each gallery.” This elicited smiles from some of the other patrons when they’d overhear her cheerfully announcing “I like that. It’s a masterpiece!”

Indeed, this year’s show was very good. We really liked a couple of works from Tess Jaray RA and Paul Huxley RA. We thought Paul Baxter’s Trouble at the Design Museum, which featured beavers munching on a museum displayed Bauhaus chair, both clever and charming. In contrast, Ian Daniell’s Affluenza–seemingly a microscopic view of penis-shaped viruses—spoke volumes about this cultural “disease.” There were a number of good hard-edged / minimalist / geometric works, but some of these annoyed me—as they usually do—for their poor technical execution. However, I won’t name names, because I’m not that much of a jerk. One final highlight was Grayson Perry’s RA The Vanity of Small Differences, a series of tapestries inspired by Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress that provide a contemporary allegory related to British culture and life.

All in all, I thought this was one of the better Summer Exhibitions in years—even though we moved through it as rapidly as possible without just walking by the works on display.

After the museum, we allowed Emerson to have one of her favorite lunches: Scottish food–McDonald’s. We then headed up Regent’s Street to Hamley’s toy store, which is really a wonderful place to shop. After Hamley’s (more dinosaurs!), we wandered and window shopped through the streets of Mayfair and then took the Underground back to Kensington. We existed at Gloucester Rd. in order to walk to the Allen House via a longer route though the back streets of Kensington. It’s a really lovely—albeit expensive—area of London that you can’t fully appreciate from the High Street.

We had dinner again at the Allen House and played with Emerson until her bed time.

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