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17 July 2009 by Richard

crowd in front of the Mona Lisa

Hello there

Thank you to everybody who voted for the International Slavery Museum in The National Lottery Good Causes Awards. We find out if we have made it through to the final on 3 August so watch this space. If we do make it through to the live TV show then I’ll have to get my suit down to Johnson’s, dig out my Homer Simpson tie and practice my TV smile!

Talking of smiles (now that is a good link) I saw the most famous in the world recently whilst I was on a weekend break to Paris. We spent nearly a whole day in the Louvre and ‘tried’ to get a close look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ or ‘La Gioconda’ (an alternative title as the sitter is probably the wife of an Italian merchant called Francesco del Giocondo). As you can see from the picture the Mona Lisa draws crowds of visitors most museums can only dream of. It really is a sight to behold although there is hardly any room to stand and admire the picture as people are busy barging past. As a museum professional I am almost as interested in the behavior of the visitor as much as the collections themselves though. Don’t expect to be able to stand in front of her and act like an art connoisseur but still worth the effort if you ever visit.

The Louvre really is an enormous place and deserves days rather a day to see it. I suggest setting your sights on seeing a couple of galleries or even just several specific objects. It will still take you a while to get there! We also visited the sumptuous apartments of Napoleon III tucked away in their own wing and the Egyptian collections. I think the same goes though when you visit one of our venues here in Liverpool. You will never be able to see everything in one day so think about what interests you the most and start from there. You will undoubtedly pass something else which catches your eye. I loved visiting museums before I worked in them so I still have to fight the urge of spending all afternoon wandering the galleries at the World Museum Liverpool or Maritime Museum after a meeting!

Whilst in Paris we also went to visit the apartment of Le Corbusier, one of the most important figures in modern architecture and design. Something of which I am particularly interested. Another seamless link here is that Le Corbusier, like Da Vinci, used the proportions of the human body to improve both the function and appearance of architecture. Le Corbusier called his system the Modulor whereas Da Vinci’s produced a famous version of the Vitruvian Man. You might not know his name or that Da Vinci drew him but think of the multi-limbed man in the square and the circle! 

Le Corbusiers apartment was not particularly large or in any way luxurious as one might expect from someone of his standing but it was truly functional and built around his own needs. It made me think of just how much space we actually need to use in our own homes. The apartment also contained many pieces of furniture and design features we now take for granted – such as its open plan feeling where the living and dining areas are integrated. I could go on but I might become a bit of an anorak.

Closer to home, the Walker Art Gallery has a new exhibition called New Radicals: From Sickert to Freud which features some fine examples of Modernist art for those of you who have a Modernist streak in you.

Au revoir for now.

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