The Royal Academy’s 2010 Van Gogh exhibition (Photograph: Nils Jorgensen / Rex Features)

Leonardo da Vinci has arrived at the National Gallery! Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan has been described as “the most eagerly awaited London exhibition in living memory”, and “the hottest ticket in town”. It’s the art equivalent of Michael Jackson and Elvis coming back from the dead to sing Christmas carols at the O2. Everyone wants to go. And that’s the problem. Because – assuming you can get a ticket – even though the National Gallery have restricted visitors to a mere 180 every half-hour, you can bet they’ll all be congregating in the same places. The exhibition is based around nine pictures that survive from Leonardo’s time in Milan in the late 1400s. Which means there’ll be at least 20 people clustered in front of each, and the idea of trying to peer through 20 sets of legs (I’m not very tall) to try to catch a glimpse of a dimly lit masterpiece is about as appealing as trying to hear Silent Night from row Z in the upper circle.

I understand that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these paintings on walls quite near to one another. But the nature of these blockbuster shows means it’s no chance at all. Art requires you to spend some time with it, to contemplate and think, leave and return. And there’s no way you can do that with this type of show.


Miranda Sawyer