Thursday, 16 May 2013

London, the World’s Capital of Art, Culture and Imagination

London Bridge
London can easily lay claim to being the capital of the world when it comes to art, culture and imagination. Its hundreds of galleries and museums, most of them with free entry, offer a fascinating glimpse into every conceivable facet of the traditions and cultures that have shaped the world. The city does not rest on its laurels, however. Today’s London is a blend of the old and the new as world famous buildings such as the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral rub shoulders with new structures that stretch the imagination. The London Eye and the Gherkin, London’s sixth tallest building, are two examples of this state of constant change that maintains London’s role as a world leader in the realms of art and culture.  Let us take a closer look at what London can offer its visitors.


The National Gallery
London’s art galleries rank among the finest in the world. The National Gallery, for example, has an impressive collection that spans eight centuries and includes works by most of the recognized old masters. Next door to the National is the National Portrait Gallery, famous for its portraits of famous sons and daughters of Britain. Many of these figures from the past have contributed to the very culture and traditions for which London is famed. The Portrait Gallery is unusual in that its collection is chosen not for the artist’s fame or skill but because of the national importance of the subject. Take the Brontë sisters’ portraits as an example. They are the work of their brother, a comparatively unknown painter.

Modern art is by no means ignored by the London galleries. One of the most prominent is the Tate Modern. Here visitors can view some of the finest works by artists who broke away from the traditional and paved the way for new ways of expressing their art. Works include paintings by Cézanne, Picasso, Pollock and Warhol to name just a few.


The culture of a city can be expressed in several ways. It may be through the performing arts such as drama and music, or by way of its architecture, historic and modern. London is famous for its West End, for instance, where an abundance of theaters offer nightly performances of plays, musicals and concerts. The West End is also home to hundreds of restaurants, clubs and shops, all of them contributing to the atmosphere that is unique to the city.

Then there are London’s museums. There are dozens of museums dotted around the streets of London some of which specialize in showing exhibits of a particular subject or era, whilst others, such as the huge British Museum, are more general in nature. What’s more, the visitor will find that most of the museums in London have free entry.

Where London is probably without parallel, however, is in its setting for a variety of unmistakably British events such as the Trooping of the Colour and the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. These age-old traditional occasions draw millions of visitors to the capital each year.


The London Eye
Although London has some iconic historic architecture that is the envy of many major cities of the world, several new structures are redefining the London skyline. Attractions such as The Emirates Cable Car and the London Eye Observation Wheel are on the list of things to see in London for the modern tourist.

The Emirates Cable Car unites North and South London with as modern a bridge as can be imagined. In just five minutes, travelers can be whisked across the Thames in a Swiss Alps type of cable car, enjoying magnificent views of the city as they go. The car connects the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal docks.

If birds-eye views are your thing then you can’t do better than to see the sights of London from the London Eye Observation Wheel. This iconic structure stands some 135 meters (443 feet) from the ground and offers breathtaking views of some of the most famous of London’s landmarks.

Not to be outclassed, the world of art and culture also has its modern side with relatively recent exhibition centers providing a showcase for new talent in the artistic world. Most notable among these is the South Bank Center that has a constantly changing program ranging from jazz to Purcell or from modernism to displays of concrete structures.

This all too brief look at London’s role as the capital of the world as far as art and culture are concerned shows that the city is not resting on its laurels. It has a past that is as eventful and varied as any other major capital city and this is “on show” in its museums and art galleries. It also moves with the times with the proof of this is easily seen in the imaginative and somewhat daring new architecture and exhibition centers.

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