It was a quick trip to the ATL with youngest son, since Brother is camping it this week….and discounted at every turn thanks to local memberships…
Zoo Atlanta recently opened a new reptile and amphibian house, so I thought we’d go see it. (half price w/Birmingham Zoo membership, thanks) From the age of the panda bears, I judged it had been about a year and a half since our last visit and then my son reminded me of the Halloween hijinks going on at that last visit, so yes, a year and a half.
It’s a smallish zoo for a big city, but it’s nicely done. Aside from the reptiles and the pandas it’s most noted for its gorilla group, which is indeed substantial and quite interesting to watch.
The reptile house is high-ceilinged and well-lit. The new thing in zoos is to put the descriptions on mounted tablets, which is great for being able to offer more information, but problematic because, well, printed placards don’t require electrical connections and don’t break.
One of the charming elements of the old reptile house were the large panels mounted on either side of the doors, depicting the roles of these creatures in cultural history. It would be a shame not to repurpose them in some way.
Keep cool, friends.
Fighting traffic we swung by the Varsity so my son could have a very late lunch – the food is mediocre at best, but it’s an institution and a tourist mecca, so why not.
Then fight more traffic to get to the High Museum of Art. (My Atlanta son said, “What are you doing up there? Don’t you know there’s a Rolling Stones concert at Georgia Tech tonight?” Er, no.) Our Birmingham Museum of Art membership would get us either free admission to the permanent collection or half price admission to the special exhibits. But since that is folded into the regular admission price, it meant, we would have spent half-price to visit the whole thing instead of no-price to visit half. Got it?
Now, I want to see the special exhibits – particularly the photos by Gordon Parks – but we were getting pressed for time – it was 3:45 and they closed at 5, so I opted for a free swing through the permanent collection, which we had seen before, but again, not for a couple of years.
I enjoy any museum visit, as does my son, but honestly, the High always leaves me a little aggravated. The layout is confusing – it’s spread out over two, sometimes (depending on the special exhibits) three buildings and a first-time visitor might do some wandering before figuring out how to get from one to the other. In addition, it’s a bit expensive (almost $20/adult), but I suppose that is justified by the fact that the special exhibits are included in that ticket – no bait and switch as you sometimes find at museums of all kinds in regard to special exhibitions. Third, the permanent collection is small for the major (only?) art museum in a city the size of and with the aspirations of Atlanta.
Honestly? The permanent collection of our very own Birmingham Museum of Art can hold its own very well, thanks against what the High has on display in its permanent galleries. Yes, the special exhibits have given the High a slight edge in the past – we’ve seen Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring as well as some great Venetian masters and a good Dali exhibit there – but that permanent collection? Come to Birmingham and see something comparable….for free.
Anyway, back to Atlanta. This is one of the pieces that caught my eye this time:
It’s a terracotta maquette – a model – for a larger bust of the great French artist Jacques Louis-David, which is in the Louvre. Notice the distended left cheek? It turns out that David had been injured in a sword fight as a young man, and the wound developed into this disfiguring tumor. You can read about it here and here.
You can read an awkwardly-translated but still interesting article about the 19th century artist here. He did everything from paint to design stamps and currency to design mosaics for Sacre-Coeur, and he does seem to dance on the edge of kitsch, but I don’t know…at least he’s trying to say something about something. I mean…
Okay, then back through the traffic to have a great meal with Oldest Son at the Carroll Street Cafe. Back to Birmingham with a fantastic, if at times unnerving lightening show to the south of I-20. Today? Piano lesson and pool. Tomorrow…who knows….