News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 3rd February 2010


Van Doesburg And The International Avant-Garde: Constructing A New World is the first major exhibition in Britain devoted to the Dutch artist who was a pivotal figure of the European avant-garde. Theo van Doesburg, who worked in art, design and text, founded the far reaching movement and magazine De Stijl. This artistic movement of painters, architects and designers sought to build a new society in the aftermath of the First World War, advocating an international style of art and design, based on a strict geometry of horizontals and verticals. Van Doesburg travelled extensively in Europe in the 1920s, making connections and collaborating with avant-garde contemporaries. This exhibition explores van Doesburg's role as promoter of Dutch Neoplasticism, his Dada personality, his efforts to influence the Bauhaus, his links with international Constructivists, and his creation of the group Art Concret. The show features over 350 works, including van Doesburg's rarely seen Counter-Composition paintings and designs for the Cafe Aubette in Stasbourg, and furniture such as Rietveld's iconic Red-Blue chair, as well as typography, magazines, stained glass, film, music, sculpture and more. In addition there are works by key artists in the movement, such as Jean Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian, Francis Picabia, Gerrit Rietveld, Kurt Schwitters and Sophie Taeuber. Tate Modern until 16th May.

Anderson & Low: Circus features a series of 50 striking images of members of an international circus troupe working on Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low show the artists both on stage performing, revealing their power, strength, beauty and skill, and in individual studies, set amongst the amusement park rides, shorn of the false glamour, revealing an aura of sad and surreal awkwardness. The photographs are a study in the way performance and costume shape identity. They go deeper than the average performance photograph, seeming to capture something of the soul of the sitter. Despite the flamboyant costumes and extravagant make up the images exude a sort of reverential hush. The supple bodies of the performers are frozen by the camera into precise sculptural forms, revealing their physical reality with a special intensity. Anderson and Lowe use light very carefully, employing high key chiaroscuro to create unsettling visual drama in steep relief and dark swathes of shadow. The light force comes from outside the frame, lending an unreal otherworldliness that exalts the extraordinary power learnt, owned and expressed by the performer. In addition, Anderson and Low have taken their first step into video art, with a loop of several films staggered over three screens, to show an acrobat coiling and twisting his way downward from the ceiling on strips of silk. The Lowry, Salford, until 11th April.

Dinosaurs Unleashed is the Britain's largest animatronic, life sized dinosaur experience, with 24 full size dinosaurs in a new outdoor interactive enclosure - in Oxford Street, opposite the Marble Arch Marks & Spencer. It is a Jurassic Park style prehistoric adventure on a truly epic scale, offering the chance to get up close and personal with the largest and most fearsome creatures the Earth has ever seen, walking alongside the giants of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Visitors can meet Stegosaurus, Iguanodon, Megalosaurus, marvel at massive Diplodocus three times the length and double the height of a double-decker bus, come face to face with infamous Tyrannosaurus rex, taller than the tallest giraffe, and tremble at the sight of small but vicious Velociraptors. A prehistoric aquarium using the latest computer graphics brings the prehistoric underwater world to life. Alternatively, visitors can put themselves in the picture in the 'scream' experience or in the 'green screen' theatre The exhibition is entirely based on current scientific thinking, with expert paleontologists ensuring that it is as accurate as possible. As they say: it's the family day out that London's been waiting 65 million years for. Parklife, 455-497 Oxford Street W1, until 30th April.


The Real Van Gogh: The Artist And His Letters for the first time, views the artist's paintings and drawings from the perspective of his correspondence. Over 35 of van Gogh's original letters, rarely exhibited to the public due to their fragility, are on display, together with around 65 paintings and 30 drawings, which express the principal themes to be found within the correspondence. Thus the exhibition offers a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the complex mind of Vincent van Gogh. During his ten year artistic career, his output was prodigious: over 800 paintings and 1,200 drawings. Van Gogh was a compulsive and eloquent correspondent. The majority of his letters were written to his brother Theo, an art dealer who supported him throughout his artistic career, and other artists, notably Anton van Rappard, Emile Bernard and Paul Gauguin. The originality of his ideas about art, nature and literature, combined with his deep understanding of these subjects, make van Gogh's letters much more than a personal expression of feelings: they attain the status of literature. Together the letters create a 'self-portrait', and reveal the ways in which he defined himself as an artist and as a human being. The letter sketches that van Gogh frequently used to show a work in progress or a completed work are a fascinating part of the correspondence, and many are shown alongside the paintings or drawings on which they are based. Highlights include 'Self-portrait as an Artist', 'The Yellow House', 'Still-life: with a Plate of Onions', 'Van Gogh's Chair', 'Gauguin's Chair', 'Landscape Near Montmajour With a Train', 'Wheat Fields After the Rain' and 'Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles'. Royal Academy of Arts until 18th April.

Sargent, Sickert, Spencer focuses on three of the most original painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although at first glance the lives and careers of John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert and Stanley Spencer appear disparate, this exhibition shows that their lives and careers intersected in a number of ways. Comprising over 70 works, from landscapes and portraiture, to interiors and nudes, and including little seen sketches and studies, the show examines what divided these painters stylistically, and what united them artistically. The exhibition explores a number of themes: Artists On The Move: with images of locations as diverse as Sargent's Jerusalem, Corfu, Sicily and Majorca, Sickert's Paris, Dieppe and London and Spencer's Sarajevo, with particular focus upon Sargent and Sickert's views of Venice; War Zones, with depictions of soldiers and military life by Sargent and Spencer, and their friends and associates, including Henry Tonks and Muirhead Bone; Music, Music Halls And Theatres, surveying Sickert's images of music and performance, in Paris, London and Dieppe; Landscapes, from Sargent's 'Olives in Corfu' to Spencer's 'Landscape in North Wales'; Interiors And The Nude, with their frequently unsettling depictions of nude female models, such as Sickert's 'Mornington Crescent Nude' and Spencer's 'Self-Portrait with Patricia Preece'; and God And Love, examining Spencer's overarching themes, in such visionary works as 'Love Among the Nations' and 'Love on the Moor'. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until 5th April.

ABBAWORLD is an exhibition filled with all things ABBA: music, original costumes, history, images, instruments and never before displayed memorabilia from the Swedish supergroup's recording and performing heyday. Most of the items have been supplied by the quartet: Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Agnetha Faltskog. The exhibition, which is launching a world tour in London, begins with an introductory film by director Jonas Akerlund. Displayed in 25 rooms, covering different aspects of their career, the items include stage clothes, instruments, theatrical props and personal belongings, gold records and awards, unique videos, TV interviews and photographs, plus both newly recorded and old material that have never been heard before. Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard is the voice in an audio guide accompanying visitors through the displays. The exhibition is also an interactive experience, featuring the latest technology in sound, visuals, multimedia and communications. With a high definition holographic video system, ABBA returns to the stage in the form of a live karaoke concert for visitors to interact with. This experience is recorded and is then viewable online afterwards. Earl's Court until 28th March.

Inventions: Discover The Muslim Heritage In Our World traces the story of a thousand years of science from the Muslim world, from the 7th century onwards. The exhibition looks at the social, scientific and technical achievements that are credited to the Muslim world, whilst celebrating the shared scientific heritage of other cultures. Featuring a diverse range of exhibits, interactive displays and dramatisation, it shows how many modern inventions, spanning fields such as engineering, medicine and design, can trace their roots back to Muslim civilisation. The star exhibit is a 6m high replica of the 'Elephant Clock', a visually striking early 13th century timepiece, whose design fuses together elements from many cultures, alongside which is a short film with Ben Kingsley as Al-Jazari, inventor of this fabled clock. Other highlights include: a model of an energy efficient and environmentally-friendly Baghdad house; a 3m reproduction Al-Idrisi's 12th century world map; a model of Zheng He's Chinese junk ship, a 15th century wooden super structure over 100m long; a reproduction of a 9th century flying device; medical instruments from a thousand year ago, many of which are still used today; and a model of a 9th century dark room, later called Camera Obscura, with which Ibn al-Haytham revolutionised our understanding of optics. In addition, there are parallel stories of invention from other cultures and civilisations, illustrated through a display of rare objects, many of which have never been on public display before. These include devices used for weighing and measuring, surgical instruments, astronomical devices, intricately crafted ceramic pots and textiles. Science Museum until 25th April.

Objects Of Contemplation - Natural Sculptures From The Qing Dynasty is a unique display of remarkable rocks collected in 17th century China. In recent years these objects have come to be known as 'scholars' rocks', making a claim for them as artefacts appreciated by men of learning - objects which sat on their desk and inspired their work. The exhibition begs questions such as: When does a rock become a sculpture? How important is the role of the person who notices the rock in the first place? What part is played by the person who cleans it, polishes it and places it on a pedestal? It is very difficult to precisely determine the age of these objects because it is impossible to be certain of their origins. The rocks are millions of years old, and only their plinths, often minutely carved to support the rock at its most attractive, can be dated with any kind of confidence. Like any sculpture, some of these rocks were appreciated for their abstract qualities, while others were treasured because they looked like certain animals, birds or natural formations. Some rocks were left as found, while others were surreptitiously altered to enhance their natural features. This exhibition initiates a series of 'cabinet' shows featuring historic stones and bones, looking at the ways in which they can be transformed into sculpture simply by means of changing perceptions, or through subtle changes of use or re-appropriation. Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, until 7th March.

Tris Vonna-Michell: 'No more racing in circles - just pacing within lines of a rectangle' is a mixed media installation that combines photography, film, sound, performance and concrete poetry. The exhibition is the result of a 3 month residency period in Southend-on-Sea by performance artist Tris Vonna-Michell, who was born and brought up in the area. It scrambles his childhood memories of local landmark sites with contemporary images. During a recent journey in the Vonna-Michell family's old black 1983 Mercedes 230E, he took photographic images and sound recordings of various localities. The semi-derelict modern classic car (which had previously been lying dormant in a garden for 5 years) re-emerges as the vehicle for the artist's research trip around his early days, recalling childhood haunts and family journeys. Vonna-Michell's project seeks to 'question the nature of periphery, margin and centre, and map important events in world history onto ideas of the personal within a local framework'. It is a rumination on the recent history of a town that is currently undergoing a radical transformation through dramatic regeneration plans. Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, until 20th March.


The Art Of Steampunk explores the phenomenon that creates an imagined sci-fi world and alternative history out of late Victorian invention. The Steampunk concept is described as 'a melding of late 1800s aesthetic with scientific discovery and otherworldly technology'. It is a sort of twist on the work of Jules Verne, H G Wells and Mary Shelley (plus a large slice of Heath Robinson). The exhibition features the work of 18 strangely named 'imagineers' from around the world, with an eclectic mix of exhibits, including computers redesigned by Datamancer from America; brass goggles by Mad Uncle Cliff from Australia; 'The Complete Mechanical Womb' by Molly 'Porkshanks' Friedrich; weird watches by Vianney Halter from Switzerland; 'Beauty Machine', in which a woman suffers the attentions of a robot that has gone beyond the limits of usefulness, by Stephane Halleux from Belgium; a Victorian style 'EyePod' by Dr Grymm; James Richardson-Brown's 'Ambulatory Intercommunication Device', combining bits of plumbing with a mock-ivory cameo; and Kris Kuksi's 'Anglo-Parisian Barnstormer', a mixture of Viking longboat, aeroplane, horse-drawn carriage and Eiffel Tower. The show is divided into two categories: the practical and the fanciful, and it encompasses everything from the dark and eerie, through the humorous, to the sublime. Oxford Museum of the History of Science until 21st February.

The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam marks the 150th anniversary of Edward FitzGerald's publication of an interpretation of the poetical work attributed to an 11th century Persian mathematician, astronomer and philosopher. The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam is one of the best known poems in the world. It has been translated into 85 languages, is among the most widely illustrated of all literary works, with over 130 known illustrators, has inspired many composers, and has been widely parodied - and also used in advertising. This exhibition tells the unlikely story of a medieval Persian scientist and poet, and a Victorian English writer, and the way their verses achieved international acclaim. Among the highlights are: a recreation of The Great Omar, a lavish, binding for the Rubaiyat, with a design featuring peacocks and grapes, inlaid and tooled in gold, with some 1,000 jewels, including Topazes, turquoises, amethysts, garnets, olivines and an emerald; a 16th century decorated Persian manuscript, containing the poems of Hafiz, interspersed with over 350 of Omar Khayyam's quatrains, individually inserted in especially illuminated panels; menus, pictures and other ephemera from an exclusive Victorian dining club established to celebrate the Rubaiyat; early 20th century parodies, such as Rubaiyat of a motor car, The Golfer's Rubaiyat, The Rubaiyat of a Persian Kitten, and The Rubaiyat of a Maconochie Ration (a tinned stew issued as army rations in the First World War); and William Morris's special version of the Rubaiyat, made as a gift for Georgina Burne-Jones, hand written by Morris, with hand painted and coloured decorations and illustrations designed by him and Sir Edward Burne-Jones. British Library until 21st February.

The Conversation Piece: Scenes Of Fashionable Life explores the tradition of Conversation Piece paintings - group portraits of high society sitters in strikingly informal situations or going about their daily lives. While a portrait primarily records the sitter's appearance, the Conversation Piece depicts their way of life, often conveying the impression that the subject has been caught off-guard. Typically a work shows a family group or a gathering of friends participating in informal activities. Thus the exhibition offers an insight into high society fashions, interiors and manners from the time of Charles I to the reign of Queen Victoria. With its roots in 17th century Dutch painting, through the work of artists such as Pieter de Hooch and Godfried Schalcken, the genre is best known through the work of the English artists, Thomas Gainsborough, William Hogarth and George Stubbs in the 18th century, and Edwin Landseer in the 19th century. This exhibition brings together outstanding paintings by the greatest exponents of the Conversation Piece, commissioned or acquired by members of the royal family over the past four centuries. The greatest exponent of the genre was Johan Zoffany, and the centrepiece of the display is his masterpiece 'The Tribuna of the Uffizi', which depicts the artist himself and 21 other visitors, examining some two dozen old masters in a gallery at the palace in Florence, painted for his royal patron George III. The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, until 14th February.