📍Brussels, Belgium: Day 1

Hallo from Belgium!

I’ve wanted to pop over to Belgium for ages & I’m so glad I’ve finally got to tick it off my travel bucket list. Over 3 days I managed to fit in museums & attractions, a trip to Bruges and a whole lotta waffles! I purchased a 48 hour Brussels Card for €53 which gave me entry to over 40 attractions as well as unlimited Hop On Hop Off bus access which meant I could visit places all across Brussels.

Day 1: I decided to follow the Blue Line as the weather was lovely and I wanted to get to the attractions that were outside whilst the sun was out. Starting at Central Station I stayed on until Stop 3 – hopping off at The Atomium. The most visited attraction in the Belgian capital stands at 355 feet and consists of 9 large silver spheres some of which hold exhibitions including the permanent ‘Atomium: From Symbol to Icon”.

After taking lots of photos, I walked 2 minutes to the Planetarium of the Royal Observatory of Belgium which was free using my Card. Unfortunately I couldn’t access the museum as it was (understandably) written in French or Flemish – the 2 native languages. This again made me think about inaccessibility for international visitors in small museums – many of which fail to provide resources for international visitors. Things such as translated interpretation, subtitled videos or audio guides can support engagement and accessibility – something I am looking into for a Museum Scholar paper.

I instead went to Mini-Europe – the best place I visited during my trip! Yes, it may sound totally geeky but I don’t care; it was AMAZING! Around 80 cities and 350 buildings have been recreated at a scale of 1:25, showcasing some of the recognisable sights in Europe. Interactive buttons at each county play National Anthems whilst a comprehensive & useful guide book is provided to visitors in the language of their choice. It was so fun finding places & monuments that I’ve seen in real life on a teeny tiny scale – they’re all so well built and instantly recognisable. Although it wasn’t free it was discounted with the Brussels Card which was great.

The rest of my day was spent exploring Brussels on the open top bus & taking in sights such as Koekelberg Basilica, the Royal Residence of Laken and Grand-Place. After that I stuffed my face with fish soup and waffles because hey, it’s Brussels after all!

Happy Museum Musings!

Em xo

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Artist Rooms: Jenny Holzer📍Tate Modern

Happy Monday!

Last week I visited the Tate Modern for the first time (I know, I know!) I went to visit Artist Rooms: Jenny Holzer which did not disappoint. Jenny Holzer is an American artist, feminist and activist who uses words and text to create emotionally charged artwork in a variety of forms. Her projections, embroidery, neon lighting, plaques and posters are all included in the Artist Rooms series, currently on display at Tate Modern.

Truisms, created between 1977 – 1979, displays 300 phrases, cliches and common sayings on large posters. The alphabetised text includes phrases like “A positive attitude makes all the difference in the world”, “Being honest is not always the kindest way” and “Raise boys and girls the same”. Holzer pasted the posters around New York City and later went on to print the phrases onto objects including condoms, cups and bracelets. In 1892, the texts were and displayed across advertising hoarding in Times Square.

Another room showcases the toll that war and conflict can inflict on people’s lives. I’ve Just Been Shot (2017) is a sleeping bag with a first person testimony from a veteran British military nurse, embroidered onto the front. The US military surplus bag is slumped in the corner of the room representing a body that would’ve slept inside. Alongside this, They left me (2017), an electronic sign displays accounts from Syrian refugees which were collected by Save the Children and Human Rights Watch.

BLUE PURPLE TILT (2007) consists of seven LED signs which are leant against the gallery wall. Messages from her past works – such as ‘ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE’ and ‘I CAN MAKE WOMEN’S BREASTS WEEP’ – scroll up the purple neon signs in light blue text.

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Jenny Holzer’s Artist Room is on display at Tate Modern until 5th July 2019. If you enjoy neon lights & hard-hitting quotes as much as I do I advise you visit before it closes!

Happy museum musings!

Em xo

Tony Vaccaro: From Shadow to Light📍Getty Images Gallery, London

Last week I was exploring London and stumbled across this little gem whilst walking in the autumnal sunshine. The Getty Images Gallery is London’s largest photographic archive, holds one of the greatest collections of photos in the world. For context, Getty Images, the head US company founded in 1995 by Mark Getty and Jonathan Klein, has a collection of 80 million photographs and more than 50,000 hours of film stock.

The current exhibition on display at the London gallery is Tony Vaccaro: From Shadow to LightThis is Vaccaro’s first exhibition in the UK in over half a century and includes photographs taken during his time serving in World War II, living in post-war Europe alongside those he took of celebrities, artists and creators for global media.

Born Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro in Pennsylvania, December 1922, “Tony” Vacarro, is an Italian-American photographer who is well-known for his photographs taken during the Second World War when he served in the US Army. Against orders from army officials, he smuggled his beloved camera into battle. He would strategically position his camera lens through a torn button hole on his jacket to take images. He would also salute with one hand whilst secretly pressing press the shutter with the other to capture an image!

During ‘down time’, Vaccaro would take photographs of his fellow Infantry members which led to numerous reprimands but after an Army Major expressed an interest in his work, Tony was allowed to continue with his photography; under one condition – gun first, camera second. During this time, he produced almost 8,000 photos and went to extreme lengths to produce his images stating: “When I was not on a night mission, I processed my films in four army helmets and hung the wet negatives from tree branches to dry.” Many of his photos were destroyed or seized by authorities so only 25% of them still survive.

Unfortunately the lighting in the exhibition meant that there were reflections on all glass surfaces so the photographs I took (below) aren’t very good but I have found the best online links to the photographs which are included in the photo caption:

Firing Line in the Hurtgen Forest, Germany, 1945

Upon being honourably discharged from his position in 1945, Tony decided to stay in Europe rather than move back home to the US to begin a careers a professional photographer. During this time, he captured life in post-war Europe; covering issues across Germany and Western Europe.

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Kiss of Liberation, St. Briac Sur Mer, France 1944 – “Sargeant Gene Costanzo kneels to kiss a little girl during spontaneous celebrations in the main square of the town of St. Briac, France, August 14, 1944.” – Tony Vaccaro

With post-war America came a new age of popular magazines and celebrity; which Vaccaro took full advantage of. He travelled the world for 30 years, taking some of the most recognisable photographs of the 20th century; working with public figures from Sophia Loren and Pablo Picasso to Georgia O’Keefe and Hubert de Givenchy.

Top left: Picasso, Mougins, France, 1966. Bottom left: Marimekko Umbrella, (Tony ended up marrying the model at the bottom of this image)
Top right: Georgia O’Keefe with Cheese, New Mexico, 1960, Bottom right: Sophia Loren, actress, New York City, NY 1959.

The exhibition was curated by Shawn Waldron, a Curator at Getty Images, who worked alongside Tony Vaccaro’s studio to create this wonderful exhibition which showcases some of the finest photography I’ve ever seen. The humility and connection Vaccaro captures in his images is really special and his personal relationship with subjects is very apparent. The exhibition has just been extended for another month so you can catch it until 28th October. I’d recommend you make a detour if you’re in Central London before it closes.

Happy Museum Musings.

Em xo