Wednesday, January 24

Ruby Grimshaw discovers many hidden treasures

- November 30, 2011

Last week I joined the Royal Pavilion and Museums Foundation because the small fee seemed worth it for the unlimited free entry to the Royal Pavilion and Preston Manor alone.

I remember the shock I felt when I first read how Brighton had been a whisker away from losing its famous Pavilion. In the early 1930s the Palace was in a terrible state of disrepair with leaking roofs, broken windows and crumbling pillars. At the time, pulling it down seemed the obvious plan and it was only a late objection at a council meeting that gave it a stay of execution. Imagine Brighton today without the Pavilion!

The first event I attended as a member was a private view of the Ragmala Exhibition of Indian paintings at the museum. It took me some time to reach the room on the first floor because I was distracted on the way by the fascinating display of furniture (including Salvador Dali’s Mae West sofa.) I did manage to get past the Egyptian room, but I could not resist the two exhibitions on Brighton’s history. Here I was entranced by a 1900 street organ which had a repertoire of 10 tunes including ‘Rockin’ through the Rye’ and ‘Tesoro Mio’, and the green Goldstone Turnstile from 1997. (Brighton & Hove Albion won their last match there 1-0 against Doncaster Rovers.)

“I found myself looking at Fatboy Slim’s Hawaiian shirt”

When I reached the next floor I was about to enter the Ragmala Exhibition when I saw an exciting room opposite called Performance Body. Here were the most amazing puppets and marionettes from around the world: West Africa , Vietnam, Burma and India. Videos showed how these beautiful figures were made and the exciting performances they created. From here I somehow slid into the Fashion and Style room and found myself looking at Fatboy Slim’s Hawaiian shirt, along with silk brocade breeches and frock coat made for a boy of five-years-old in 1743.

I was quite tired by the time I finally reached the Ragamala exhibition and I was grateful to stand near a knowledgeable lady and ear wig her explanation of the paintings to a friend. I did not have the concentration to visit the exhibition of the outrageous caricatures of the corpulent, high spending George IVth. A treat for another day. I did not realise what a treasure trove the museum is.

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