Happy hordes still answer to the master
MUSEUMS are places people love or loathe. While some are driven to cultural ecstasy by the presence before their eyes of really old things that speak directly to them of ancient civilisations, others are driven only to the museum cafe, and must sit patiently nursing a coffee while waiting for bewildered culture-vulture friends to arrive panting and breathless from the excitement of it all.
I’ve always rather identified with the guard in any museum, bored out of his skull by having to sit still for hours at a time, getting up with a groan to stretch his legs.
But behind the implied atmosphere of stuffiness in museums, there are teams of people hard at work to make sure things only seem as dull as schoolwork on a rainy day.
These diligent, hard-working souls are at the heart of this excellent series about the British Museum, which might enthral even those who, in real life, would bolt for the cafe at the first opportunity. Tonight’s episode is entitled Putting on a Blockbuster, and we see the incredible preparations that go into the presentation of really old things that enough people will love to warrant such a description.
Because blockbusters allow the museum to charge entrance fees, hopes are high that the show will raise £ 1 million ($ 2.25 million), which will go a long way towards meeting expenses. So what could possibly drive more people to a museum than an entire series of rock concerts? Why, the drawings of Michelangelo, of course. With a collection of works gathered from galleries around the world, the exhibition will mark the first time the pieces have been shown together since they left the artist’s studio more than 400 years ago.
But numbers through the door isn’t
Museum piece: Michelangelo’s everything. This is art, after all. What matters almost as much to curator Hugo Chapman is the approval of the critics. ‘‘ Behind this mask of calm is a seething mass of nerves and anxiety you just don’t see,’’ says Chapman, completely underestimating viewer perceptions.
But the show must go on, and of course it does. There’s even a false ceiling in one of the galleries, on to which scenes from the master’s paintings on the roof of the Sistine Chapel are projected.
those powerful men and women wielding word processors with the power to make or break a show?
The Evening Standard ’ s art critic Brian Sewell declares the exhibition ‘‘ nothing short of a religious experience’’, and every other critic falls into line. The show is a huge success, raises more than £ 1.2 million, and everyone, especially Chapman, is hugely relieved as they head to the cafe to celebrate. I’ll meet them there.
Ideal Head of a Woman
. The biblical plagues are back. Apparently, to punish the pharaoh for enslaving the Israelites, God sent down 10 plagues on Egypt, you know, via Moses. The Nile turned to blood, the fish died, insects tormented animals and people, and violent storms lashed the earth. The fourth plague was locusts, which brings us to tonight’s episode. Locusts have been a pain in the, um, neck for agriculturalists for centuries, but even today it’s far from clear whether the scientists or the bugs are winning. This is the second episode of season two of the must-see hit of the year. Our television feature this week ( page 20) has the drill on what makes a show a water-cooler must-see program, so here’s your chance to discover what all the fuss is about. This episode begins with Nick ( Peter Krause, pictured) and his partner in relationship counselling. She’s annoyed because his job as allpurpose nanny to the Darlings, the rich folk of the title, takes up all of his time. So he leaves his mobile phone on in the session and it rings constantly. Telling? Predictable? I would have walked barefoot over coals not to miss a moment of Krause’s last show . But in spite of the presence of William Baldwin, Lucy Liu, Donald Sutherland and brooding Blair Underwood ( ), there’s something entirely missable about