I wrote about this excellent institution at some length last year, so this time I’ll be brief and share a few photos.
Yesterday evening, London Historians’ 15 month wait for our visit came to an end and 20 of us piled up to the fourth floor of a nondescript building located next to a gym near Tottenham Court Road. Because of the very nature of the Government Art Collection’s business, you’ll always see different art if you go a second time, as I discovered.
We were particularly lucky because their recent outreach show, which took the very best of the collection to Birmingham and Belfast had just returned to HQ, so we had glimpses of fine art which usually grace the walls of our embassies and missions in cities far away. Hence we saw a very large portrait of Elizabeth of Bohemia (daughter of James I), which spends most of its life in Prague. We were treated to several Sickerts and a GAC-commissioned Lowry featuring Buckingham Palace for the coronation. Best treat of all, I think, was the best-known portrait of Lord Byron, which usually lives in Athens (the Greeks adore it, apparently).
What I particularly enjoy about any behind-the-scenes tour – and this one in particular – is viewing art in storage, in a non-curated environment. The objects seem without their glad rags and you are able better to judge them, somehow.
On behalf or London Historians, my sincere thanks to Clive Marks for organising, but especially to deputy director Julia Toffolo who showed us around: her hospitality, expertise and enthusiasm made it a very special experience for all of us.
I shall most definitely organise another visit for 2014. Join us!