Books About London That Take You Through the City From the South Bank to Trafalgar Square
As you travel around London, you will find it impossible to avoid encountering people from other countries. This is probably one of the reasons why the city has become such an international destination, with people of many different nationalities living and working here. And they are not always the most welcoming to a British visitor.
This leads to some interesting situations which have been described by authors as “the stranger’s paradox” and one which I have experienced myself. My first time in London was in 1995 when I had the opportunity to attend a conference on modern art in the Royal Academy. When you arrive at the museum, there is a large group of British and American visitors waiting to meet you, who have been invited to share their opinions of the art displayed.
Their reactions to exhibits and artworks seem generally to be positive: there seems no need for them to be defensive or critical: they seem ready to accept something and be moved by the experience. But then a voice asks: “And what about the exhibits by the Italians, Picasso and Matisse?”
The Italians were the worst culprits. I was used to such comments in art museums in Italy, so I can only laugh at the Italians’ reactions from a distance (they are not in the same league as Picasso or Matisse). But I do not wish to comment on my own impressions: I was just a tourist, who had come to visit the museum, not to judge it, and I would have been happy if everyone could be pleased by the artworks shown.
The conversation in the Royal Academy between the visitors seems rather more honest and forthright. There are even a few dissenting voices: one of them remarks that the works of Matisse have not been restored and therefore are not complete. Another asks whether the artist might be a communist, and would have painted a different work had he known what was going on. There is an angry exchange: the questioner shouts that there is no need to insult the artist by making such comments from a distance. But she is not listening to him: she is the only one who seems to want to be objective. Everyone else agrees