By Kerry Tinga
London is a city known for its numerous museums covering a wide range of topics. Whatever your interest may be, there is a museum for you to lose yourself in for hours and hours, as well as rotating exhibits and smaller galleries. For those interested in fine art, there are classic paintings at the National Gallery and the Tate Museum, while there are contemporary works at the Tate Modern and Saatchi Gallery, just to name a few. There is the Natural History Museum, or the Science Museum, or the Victoria & Albert Museum towards West London. There are also smaller collections in the homes of distinguished gentleman from previous generations, like the Sir John Soane’s Museum or the Wallace Collection.
The British Museum in Bloomsbury has one of the largest collections on the culture of human history. You can be transported back in time and all over the world—to Ancient Egypt, or Mesopotamia, or the Holy Roman Empire, there are also rooms dedicated to African and Asian culture. One of the most famous artifacts housed in the British Museum is the Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics by comparing the decree on the top part of the stone to its translation in Ancient Greek on the bottom part. It is an apt symbol for the Museum, providing an explanation and an education in ancient human history for those who enter.
Over the Bank Holiday, I bought a ticket to attend an exhibit that had opened a few weeks ago called “Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece.” The exhibit included some of Auguste Rodin’s most iconic sculptures, The Thinker and The Kiss, on loan from Musee Rodin in Paris, all mixed in a room with the British Museum’s own Elgin Marbles, originally part of the Parthenon in Greece. In the late 1800s, Rodin had visited the British Museum and had seen the Greek marble sculptures and structures of the Parthenon within the museum, their beauty and form influencing his own work, and leading to his starting his own collection of antiquity.
Without getting into the controversy of the presence of the Marbles in the British Museum, the exhibit showcased the works alongside each other, created thousands of years apart, one influencing the other. Without looking at the plaques in front of the works that have their description, it would almost be impossible for a layman such as myself to tell which were from Ancient Greece and which were from Rodin. He once remarked, “Man’s naked form belongs to no particular moment in history; it is eternal, and can be looked upon with joy by the people of all ages.” Rodin never visited Athens in Greece to see what was left of the actual Parthenon and the Acropolis that so strongly inspired him, instead re-visiting the British Museum again and again.
I have been lucky to have had this time in London, to be able to visit these museums and see works that I had only read in books as a young girl. Not only that, I have been able to travel to see more of his works, in Copenhagen the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek houses one of the largest private collections of works by the sculptor. Like Rodin, I tried to take advantage of what I could actually go to wherever I find myself—although, unlike Rodin, they failed to make a profound influence on my artistic vision due to the fact that I do not have one. Sometimes, I may find myself in an exotic city like Copenhagen, or in the city where I study which is London, or back home in Manila. No matter where, there is always something around that can teach us something, or, for the artists, inspire them.
I have not been back to Manila for a few months now, but I have seen the opening of some museums that I am excited to visit when I do go back. While these may not have Greek sculptures or the masterful works of Rodin, every experience and information we expose ourselves to can help us grow, learn, and develop ourselves as artists or even just as people. We may not all have the chance to visit the Parthenon in Athens, so instead we could visit some of the pieces in museums around us. We may not all have the chance to do that, but we could always instead look at what we do have at our fingertips, whatever they may be.