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A little Gem off Oxford St.
Wallace Collection (London)
Member Name: vikil
Wallace Collection (London)
Date: 04/07/00, updated on 04/07/00 (34 review reads)
Advantages: Good collection in good location.
Disadvantages: No chance for something new on a second visit.
I love the Wallace Collection. It’s small enough to see it all in one go, diverse enough to keep your attention, close enough to the London shopping Mecca to combine the visit with other, less cultural, activities and… its free. Hiding behind the back of Selfridges, it is situated in a lovely city mansion and houses superb 18th cent. paintings, exquisite furniture and objects d’art and a collection of armour rivalled only by the Royal Armouries in Leeds.
The collection was assembled by three generations of Hertford family and eventually bequeathed to the nation by the widow of Richard Wallace in 1897. The generous gift came with a sting attached to it – nothing can be added or taken away from the collection, even temporarily. This catch prevented generations of frustrated curators from staging temporary exhibitions, but as a result all the recourses were put in the upkeep of the collection itself, and it shows. Recently the Wallace got £ 10m for refurbishment, spent on a pink coffee shop in a glass-roofed inner garden and some new exhibition space in the basement. The coffee shop is still in its nappies, and on a weekend you will have to wait for ages to be served (we eventually stormed off after frustrating 30 minutes in front of an empty table), but give it time and it will become a welcome haven from the bustle of Oxford St. Unfortunately, despite all its treasures and the new refurbishments, Wallace is still a favourite mostly with blue haired old ladies and refined art connoisseurs, and shunned by the general public. It’s a damn shame. The pictures are beautiful enough to soften the heart of even the toughest modern-art-loving cynic; the armoury galleries bring back memories of childhood fairytales of knights in shiny armour (and will save you the expensive bustle of the Tower or a lengthy trip to Leeds) and if you look close enough you will see loads of tiny treasures hiding in cabinets and side rooms (look out for the
enormous baroque pearls and the glittering snuff boxes). So take a break from all that shopping and relax with a nice cup of tea and a site of something different.
PS Wallace also offers a comprehensive choice of free lectures and tours of the collection. Check their site (http://www.the-wallace-collection.org.uk/) for details.
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