I lucked out in other ways too. For months I've been meaning to see the terracotta warriors exhibit at the British Museum. About a month ago, I finally checked the website and realized that all the advanced booking tickets were sold out. To see it, I would have to get up early in the morning and stand in line. Thanks to that cancellation, however, the group had a spare advanced booking ticket for the second-to-last day of the show. I'm so glad I was able to go. I knew a certain amount about about Qin Shi Huangdi's tomb from having taught it for "History of Civilization" several times. What I hadn't realized was that the tomb itself remains unexcavated, and is not likely to be dug up in our lifetimes. The terracotta figures come from pits spread over a few kilometers around the tomb, thematically grouped by their roles in Qin Shi Huangdi's afterlife. I loved seeing the segments of drain, the lavishly huge bricks, and, of course, a sampling of the terracotta figures themselves: a muscleman, an acrobat, charioteers, horses, archers, generals.
I went along with the group to the new show at the Britannia Street Gagosian. I could take or leave most of Howard Hodgkin's work at a distance, but up close, they become immersive, eloquent paintstrokes evoking movement and light, with beautiful handling of the paint's texturality.
Several of the people on the trip were long-term family friends. Many more are friends of my parents I'd not previous met. It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend, talking of Des Moines to people who care, and seeing shows and exhibits.