Friday, 1 May 2009

Book Review: art/shop/eat London

Title: art/shop/eat London (2nd edition)
Author (Publisher): Delia Gray Durant (Blue Guides)
Synopsis: Identifies five areas of London (South bank, the City, Bloomsbury & West End, Westminster and Kensington) and then identifies the main sights, galleries and museums and opportunities for shopping and eating
Suitable for: Short stay tourist interested in art
Highlights:
  • identifies all the major art galleries and museums
  • very handy pocket size
  • good maps
  • cheap (4.99 / $9.95)
Think Again?
  • overview of collections not always related to popularity
  • no details about art shops
  • no details about commercial art galleries
  • no details about areas of London important to the artworld which are outside the five main areas
Summary: A useful but limited guide to art venues and sites of interest to artists and art lovers

It's May 1st and the exchange rate means that there will be a lot of people visiting London in the coming months. I've been tripping over massive influxes of students from abroad on school/college trips visiting galleries for months now so I can only imagine that the summer will bring yet more.

The book I'm reviewing today art/shop/eat London (Second Edition). This comes from the people who produce the Blue Guides and it's a cut down version which is designed for the short stay visitor.

My experience with this guide is very similar to the one I bought for Paris. I'm pleased by the maps - particularly the mini maps of each major museum - and the details relating to the major museums plus potted overviews of their collections. However I'm struck by the way in which it seems to represent a middle class, middle income and middle England view of London. It's useful in some respects but it's also got blinkers on and has limited horizons!

For example, for a book which indicates that it's about art it's very surprising to find no references whatsoever to where the art shops are or where you can find most of the better commercial art galleries (eg Cork Street; Hoxton/Hackney). Similarly in a city where there is a lot of Banksy art, there isn't even a reference to Banksy (although there is for the Bank of England!).

I guess at the end of the day, one had to remember this is a blue guide publication and I guess that means that it will probablu suit people who like Blue Guides.

Speaking personally, I'm a Dorling Kindersley / Rough Guides / Lonely Planet person. The gap in the market is for a cut down pocket sized version of any one of those types of guidebooks but designed for those interested in art and artists with details of art galleries (both public and commercial) and art shops.

Details: art/shop/eat London, Second Edition (Art, Shop, Eat London) Paperback: 152 pages; Published by W. W. Norton & Co.; 2nd Revised edition edition (16 Dec 2008) ISBN-10: 1905131259; ISBN-13: 978-1905131259

1 comment:

Sue said...

"The gap in the market is for a cut down pocket sized version of any one of those types of guidebooks but designed for those interested in art and artists with details of art galleries (both public and commercial) and art shops."

Well, what are you watting for ;)

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