“The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games medals” Exhibition – London, The British Museum, 8th February – 9th September 2012
In the recent months, countless numbers of important experts, columnists, and journalists have assembled their mental efforts on the forthcoming Olympic Games in Londonby discussing every single detail or stunning athletes’ foible.
No one thought to display this event from an unusual point of view: the medals and their meaning.
The BritishMuseumdid it by presenting a small collection of Games medals to its visitors from 8th February to 9th September 2012 in the Room 37.
Although the Games have a history over two thousand years long, the first official edition started in 1869 inAthensthrough the inspiration of the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
From the first exhibit, the mesmerizing, glittering light of the medal draws completely the visitors’ attention, but a watchful eye cannot also help noticing how much the competitions have changed during the ages.
Edward Marston Farmer won the competition in a singular sport: tilting cap – a horseman wearing a special cap used a lance to unhook small ring hanging from a crossbar.
The prize respects the usual medal design by containing, on the upper side, an inscription in relief which reports the name of the activity and representing, in the central part, a draw of the sport – in this case a proud cavalryman wielding his lance.
In the following window, the curators thought to commemorate the last British Games edition set in Londonin the 1948.
A poster dominates the visitors’ view – on the background it reproduces the famous image of Westminster with the towering presence of the Big Ben, while the figure on the foreground represents a copy of the “Discobulus”, or “Discus thrower”, created by the ancient Greek sculptor Myron, and consisting of a nude athlete throwing a discus.
Below the banner there are different medals created by the artist Bertram Mackennal in 1908 London Games, but the best piece is the Stoke Mandeville victory medal used in 1984.
The medal is still hung to its original blue-white-red ribbon, and the image on it is charged with meaning – the world is completely encircled by a chain of wheelchairs symbolizing the deep tie among the people having disabilities without skin, colour, or ethnic difference.
Subsequently the exhibition focuses on the 2012 medals draft made by the authors, David Watkins and Lin Cheung.
The Rio Tinto company supported the event, supplying and processing the materials used to forge the prizes, and the window contains some sample of coarse silver and gold.
But only in the centre of the hall, between a hysterical music background of clicking cameras and buzzing children with astonished dreaming glances, the visitors can enjoy of the best pieces of the exhibition – the official 2012 Olympic Games medals.
The works of Watkins will be used to award the winning athletes of the Olympic Games – the artist focused on the traditional spirit of the event by reproducing the image of Nike, the Greek deity personifying the Victory.
While the second work represents the logo chosen byLondonauthority, which consists of a stylized depiction of the number 2012 with the Olympic Rings embedded within zero.
At first sight the idea for Paraolympic medals can appear confused and meaningless – a host of corrugated line tilted from the left side to the right side – but really they hide a deep significance.
Lin Cheung wanted to represent the wings of the deity because they evoked ‘togetherness at an historical event where athletes, spectators and the spirit of the Nike are united as one’.
Despite its limited space, the visitors do not waste time to have a look of this part of the Room 37.
The exhibition plunges them into 2,600 years of astonishing sports history by discovering all ancient noble significance of the Games – the reverence of the deity, the respect of the rules, the struggle of the competition, and the honour of the opponent.
“The stuff of the Nightmares” Exhibition – London, The Museum of Childhood, 2nd July 2011-26th February 2012
In the past one of the most important social figures were the storytellers – people with great speaking-ability who wandered through different cities enchanting men, women, and children by their incredible stories.
The fairy tales had two main characters, hero and anti-hero – usually the first one was the bringer of positive human characteristics, such as bravery, honesty, and justice, and the second one was the owner of human flaws, as greed, thirsty of power, and selfishness.
The Museum of Childhood, located in the East side of London, arranged a small exhibition, “The stuff of Nightmares”, which focused on the negative nightmarish characters of the fairy tales – the idea stemmed from “Fundevogel”, a story written by Grimm’s Brothers, and published in 1812.
The installation has been realized by the scholars of local institute – 60 4-year-old pupils fromCayleyPrimary School, and 26 9-year-old pupils fromMorphetSecondary School– with the help of artists, such as Katherine Tulloh, Ruth Weinberg, Daniel Bell, and Sharon Brindle.
The work reproduces the forest where the Brothers Grimm set the tale – a recorded voice takes you to the core of this story.
In the wood the visitors can behold representations of the main scenes of the fairy tales, for example a small male doll hung from a tree branch – it represents the moment when the forester finds the little newborn Fundevogel – or a wooden bedroom where the children slept before escaping from the old wicked cook, who wanted to boil the boy.
On the top of the trees we can observe black menacing crows looking at us – a clear reference to the description of the negative character, which authors’ tale portrayed as “an old cook who bore a resemblance to a crow”.
Broken toys, dark atmosphere, and representation of wild animal, such as wolf, and foxes – symbols of pure wickedness and selfish shrewdness – add to the exhibition a complete frame of the most common and terrifying children’s fears.
The Brothers Grimm started writing fairy tales to keep alive some old stories which storytellers handed down from the past by oral communication, but the opinions about the fables are pretty different.
The first way of thinking claimed that he children should be protected by the fables, because the retribution of the negative characters usually is vicious and not educative.
The second upheld the idea that the fairy tales are useful to increase the children’s ability to create an imaginative world which allows them to go out from the daily tedium, and to understand the wrong human behaviour possibly to avoid.
This exhibition investigates on the inner children’s fears, and on what they are scared, but it allowed them to be real artists, and develop their artistic ability.
Every city hides strange and unusual stories – sometimes they are funny, sometimes they are dramatic, and sometimes they have a huge historic importance.
Unlike its neighbour this road is not so famous and important, but in the central part there is an old water-pump, located on eight-sided cement platform, which has an enormous scientific value.
The story begins in the Nineteenth century, when a big amount of people poured into London to get job and new opportunities.
Soho became overpopulated, and the basic sanitary services were not sufficient – the authorities decided to get rid of waste by throwing them in the Thames River, contaminating the water supply.
In 1854 the city was scene of a terrible cholera epidemic, in which almost 127 people living in this zone died.
John Snow, a York doctor working in London, started studying the event – sceptic of the predominant medical vision based on the theory of “bad air” (miasma) – he used a new approach, which depended on the ability of diseases, such as Black Death or cholera, to be transmitted by germ contamination.
In one year, he gathered an impressive quantity of data, and, with the help of Reverend Henry Whitehead, he could contact and interview people living in this road.
After this preliminary investigation, he could create an accurate map of the outbreaks of cholera, and the result of his report was surprising – the epidemic was not spread by air, as the majority of doctors claimed, but by the water coming from the Broadwick Street pump.
Besides, subsequently it was discovered that this well was dug near an old cesspit, which had infected the water further.
This analysis obliged the authorities to dismantle the pump, and to provide safe solutions for getting rid of waste.
The accuracy of the analysis earned John Snow the mention as father of the science of epidemiology.
Nowadays the original pump does not exist anymore, and in 1992 the authorities set up a copy to celebrate the fundamental discovery of this doctor coming from York.
Its name was respected and terrifying, and its power dominated the entire Europe for centuries.
Rome has an ancient history, an important reputation, and a respectable heritage.
The legend of its birth is singular, because the founders were two twin brothers, Romolo and Remo, who a she-wolf saved miraculously and grew up as its puppies.
They were descendants of a noble family of Troy, coming directly from Aeneas, and Romolo was the first king of the city.
From small country village Rome became the most important cultural and political centre of Mediterranean, and the Latins called it ‘Roma caput Mundi’ –Rome head of the World.
Among its thinker we can list Catullus, Seneca, and Cato the Elder, and the most famous sovereign was Julius Caesar, who transformed Rome from Republic to Empire.
The dissolution of Roman Empire happened with the barbarian invasions and the sack of Rome in 476 AC.
The old power of the city flooded every street, and the biggest example is the Colosseum.
This amphitheatre is located in the centre of the town – the construction began in 72 AD, under the Emperor Vespasian, and it finished in 80 AD under Titus.
The impact seeing this building is incredible – a huge massive construction who erects in the middle of a square with impressive marble arches to surrender it.
The Roman powerful families or the Emperors used this arena to organize gladiators’ games or fights between fighters and wild animals coming fromAfrica.
Inside the atmosphere is an involving scene, and closing our eyes it is possible to hear the clattering of swords and roars of lions.
The Roman Forum is situated near Colosseum, and it was the ancient market of the city.
This plaza has a rectangular shape, and it contains the ruins of important buildings, such as the Temple of Vestaor the Regia, the original residence of the Roman kings.
The space is dusty and earthly, as the ages when tired merchants came here from far away lands to sell their foods, spices and fine cloths, supplying the Emperor warehouses.
After the fall of the Romans, Rome became the capital of a ‘spiritual’ Empire: the centre of Christian religion.
Vatican City is situated in the Eastern zone of Rome, and it has an area of 44 hectares (110 acres).
Despite Rome was the centre of Christianity since the last yeas of Romans, the Holy See was established in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty.
Saint Peter Square is a huge plaza surrounded by arcades composed from two rows of columns, while the famous Basilica of Saint Peter dominates the entire space.
Inside the cathedral it is possible to observe the most important and beautiful art works in all over world, and it is worth to mention the Sistine Chapel, which contains the frescoes by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Perugino, Pinturicchio and others.
The ceiling of the chapel is impressive – Pope Julius II commissioned the work to Michelangelo who painted it between 1508 and 1512.
Important scenes coming from the Bible can be observed in this masterpiece, such as the Creation of Adamo, the Last Judgement, the Creation of Eve, and the Temptation and Expulsion.
The beauty of the ceiling sticks the look of the visitors for hours.
But it is worth to talk about a particular fountain, which increased its fame with ‘La Dolce Vita’, notorious movie directed by Federico Fellini.
The Trevi Fountain is the largest baroque works in the city, and in Roman age it was junction of a city aqueduct.
In the 1629 Pope Urban VIII asked Gian Lorenzo Bernini, famous baroque architect, to renovate the fountain, which was finished in 1762 by Giuseppe Panini.
A legend holds that they who throw coin in the fountain ensured that they come back Rome again, and it is estimated that every year are thrown €3,000 by the tourists.
The city does not contain only artistic beauties, but the effervescence of the citizens involves the most serious and austere tourist.
Rome is a time travel from the ruins of an ancient glory to the splendours of baroque époque, which enriches the visitors culturally and pleasantly.
If Moscow is the city of contradictions, Saint Petersburg is the city of the conflicts.
The city is the symbol of Russian nobility and aristocratic powers – in 1732 it became Imperial capital under Empress Anna – but it is also symbol of revolution, the Decembrist Revolution in 1825, the Revolution of 1905 and the October Revolution in 1917.
Its architecture is a massive representation of neoclassical design, and in the Nineteenth century the prominent architects, coming from all over Europe, contributed to this development – among the artist can be listed Antonio Rinaldi e Carlo Rossi from Italy, Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe and Jean-François Thomas de Thomon from France, and the Russian Andreyan Zakharov and Andrei Voronikhin.
Nevsky Prospect (Nevsky Avenue) is the main street, crossing the city from West to East – it was built under Peter the Great, it contains the most fashion shops and restaurants, alternated with church, square and monuments.
Saint Petersburg is site of one of the most famous and old museums in the world: the Hermitage.
Founded in 1764, it holds a huge exhibition of cultural and artistic art works from prehistoric to modern age – among the main artists can be listed Giorgione, Titian and Veronese from Italy, Velàzquez and Murillo from Spain, and Rembrandt from Netherlands.
Its imposing structure looks onto Neva, the main river of the city.
This gorgeous exhibition of richness and aristocracy collides with the history, and Saint Petersburgwas the set of the most important revolutionary event of the Twentieth century, the Bolshevik Revolution – which will start the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
This artistic-historic contrast fills the entire atmosphere of Saint Petersburgthat is not possible to feel this fizzy ambient walking through its streets.
Moscow is the city of contradictions – old and new are constantly intermingled.
Wandering through the streets, it is possible to discover small ancient colourful churches among modern grey huge buildings.
The Red Square, the most important plaza in Moscow, takes visitors breath away – its vastness injects a feeling of powerlessness and amazement, difficultly noticeable in other architectural works.
The historical meaning – here the Russian citizens gathered, starting the Revolution which deposed the Tsar- is connected with these emotions.
But this place embodies itself strong contradictions – the Kremlin, previous headquarters of the ruling Communist Party, dominates the Southern and Western side, and it is symbol of power and political treachery, while Saint Basil’s cathedral, the most important building for Russian Orthodox Church, dominates the Eastern side, countering the material weaknesses with feelings of peace, religious faith and global love.
The metropolis mingles its two faces – the luxurious shop scattered in the elegant areas with poor outlying zones – creating an unusual melting pot for a western tourist.
The words cannot describe the beauty of Moscow completely, and visiting it is the best way to taste this mixture of aged Eastern traditions and modern Western values.