News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 4th November 2009


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.

The Ashmolean, which, dating from 1683, has a claim to be oldest 'collection of curiosities', in the world, is reopening following a major £61m redevelopment designed by Rick Mather Architects, which doubles the amount of display space. Located to the north of Charles Cockerell's original Museum built in 1845, it comprises 39 new galleries, including 4 temporary exhibition spaces, an education centre, state of the art conservation studios, and the city's first rooftop restaurant. The old and new buildings are linked by a spectacular glass sided staircase in a 7 storey atrium and glass sided bridges. A new approach to displaying the collections, Crossing Cultures Crossing Time, spans the civilisations of east and west, charting the aspirations of mankind from the Neolithic era to the present day. Each object's story is traced as a journey of ideas and influences across time and continents, revealing how civilisations developed as part of an interrelated world culture. Themed galleries explore the connections between objects and activities common to different cultures, such as money, reading and writing, and the representation of the human image. Entire floors of galleries are arranged chronologically, charting the development of the ancient and modern worlds. Among the treasures are the world's largest group of Raphael drawings, the most substantial collection of pre-Dynastic Egyptian material in Europe, the only significant Minoan collection in Britain, and the foremost collection of modern Chinese art in the Western world. The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, from 7th November.

Suburbia looks at how public transport helped to create the myths and identity of suburbia, and how it has featured in the cultural fabric of London over the last 100 years. The exhibition examines how transport shaped the suburbs, and celebrates suburban lifestyle, architecture, design and popular culture. Previously unseen posters, photographs, early publicity material, signs and maps give a historic context, supported by film and interviews with suburbanites past and present. This display complements the permanent gallery that tells the story of the early 20th century Suburban Dream. The look of the suburbs is explored through images of domestic and commercial architecture and gardens, shown alongside pictures of the railway and Underground stations built to serve them. The show charts the changing building styles that define the suburban experience - along with film, drawings, plans, 'before and after' photographs, and recently acquired toys and games. It also reveals how many Tube stations got their names. The tricks of the trade of estates are highlighted in a section focused on property advertising, together with responses by cartoonists of the day to these early marketing techniques. A suburban lifestyle section looks at defining influences such as fashion, West End shopping, interior design, pastimes, hobbies, music, television and film. London Transport Museum until 31st March.


The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting And Sculpture 1600 - 1700 examines how the religious art of the Spanish Golden Age pursued a quest for realism with uncompromising zeal and genius, in which the arts of painting and sculpture were intricately linked and interdependent. During the 17th century, religious patrons challenged painters and sculptors to bring the sacred to life, to inspire both Christian devotion and the emulation of the saints. Sculptors often went to extraordinary lengths to achieve greater realism, introducing glass eyes and tears, as well as ivory teeth and human hair to their sculptures. The separate skill of polychroming (colour painting) of sculpture, performed by specially trained painters, added to the effect with remarkable flesh tones. By installing 16 polychrome sculptures and 16 paintings side by side, the exhibition aims to show that the 'hyperrealistic' approach of painters such as Velazquez and Zurbaran was clearly informed by their familiarity - and in some cases direct involvement - with sculpture. Among the highlights are Zurbaran's 'The Crucifixion', which achieves an astonishing sculptural illusion on canvas, shown in close proximity with Juan Martinez Montanes' sculpture of the same subject; Velazquez's 'The Immaculate Conception', shown with Montanes's sculpture; Gregorio Fernnndez's 'Dead Christ', which incorporates the bark of a cork tree to simulate the effect of coagulated blood, and bull's horn for Christ's fingernails; and Zurbaran's 'Saint Serapion', which demonstrates that painting can achieve the same disconcerting realism as sculpture. This is art created to shock the senses and stir the soul. National Gallery until 24th January.

Mind Into Matter: Eight Exemplary Buildings 1834 - 2009 looks at eight buildings chosen at 25 year intervals since the foundation of the Royal Institute of British Architects, which illuminate architectural practice during the last 175 years. New photographs by Nigel Green, together with original drawings, plans, models, photographs and other archive materials, tell the story of how each building came to be built, for symbolic as well as practical reasons. The buildings are: The Reform Club, Pall Mall, London, by Charles Barry; Oxford University of Natural History, by Deane and Woodward; Clouds House, East Knoyle, Wiltshire, by Philip Webb; St Mary, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, by Ninian Comper; De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex, by Mendelsohn and Chermayeff; The Economist Plaza, St James's Street, London, by Alison and Peter Smithson; Royal Mail Mechanised Letter Office, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, by Aldington, Craig and Collinge; and British Embassy, Warsaw, Poland, by Tony Fretton. The inclusion of a timeline, which points up important political, social and cultural events, provides a global context in which to understand the buildings. There will no doubt be controversy that none of Britain's megastar architects is represented (presumably they fell out of the 25 year register) but there can be no question about the inclusion of the building in which the exhibition is being held.

Matthew Holding: Sons Of Pioneers features new sculptures and collages inspired by the utopian zeal of modern architecture. Drawing on the relationship between intersecting materials and planes, contrasting geometry is framed by bold primary coloured Perspex, which casts a Californian sunny glow over split lever condo-like exteriors and interiors.

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea, until 3rd January.

War Boy explores some of the complex themes of the World Wars, and the civilian connection with the British Army. The exhibition is an opportunity to see original artwork by leading children's illustrator Michael Foreman, offering an insight into the styles and techniques used in his books, alongside real historical artefacts. The exhibition focuses on two of Foreman's books, War Boy, based on his personal experiences as a child growing up in Lowestoft during the Second World War; and War Game, about the lives of four characters who enlist in the British Army in the First World War; as well as Billy The Kid, telling the story of a fictional Chelsea Pensioner, whose career as a professional footballer is interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1939, illustrated by Foreman and written by Michael Morpurgo.

First Shots: Early War Photography 1848 - 1860 documents war photography when it was still in its infancy. Using some of the earliest images available, the exhibition examines what drove its pioneers, the technical, social and environmental pressures which shaped their work, and the impact the photographs they produced had on culture and society. War photography has indelibly etched on to the public consciousness many dramatic and shocking images, and visitors may find some images in this exhibition disturbing.

National Army Museum, Chelsea, until January.

Maharaja: The Splendour Of India's Royal Courts is the first exhibition to comprehensively explore the world of the maharajas or 'great kings' and their rich culture. It spans the period from the beginning of the 18th century to the middle of the 20th century, bringing together over 250 magnificent objects, many being lent from India's royal collections for the first time. The exhibition examines the changing role of the maharajas within a social and historical context, and reveals how their patronage of the arts, both in India and Europe, resulted in splendid and beautiful objects symbolic of royal status, power and identity. Highlights include a life size model elephant adorned with animal jewellery, textiles, and trappings, surmounted by a silver gilt howdah; court paintings, including four portraits from the 1930s by Bernard Boutet de Monvel, depicting the Maharaja and Maharani of Indore; three gaddi (thrones) including the golden throne of Ranjit Singh; a palanquin from Jodhpur, used to carry the Maharaja's wife, containing prints and cushions; photographic portraits of members of royal families by Man Ray, Cecil Beaton and Raja Ravi Varma; gem-encrusted ceremonial weapons; armour belonging to Tipu Sultan of Mysore; elaborate turban jewels; a custom made Rolls Royce; an Anglo-Indian design Spode dinner service; rare archive film of ceremonial events; a carpet of pearls, rubies, emeralds and diamonds made for the Maharaja of Baroda; and the Patiala necklace, the largest commission ever undertaken by Cartier, containing 2,930 diamonds. Victoria & Albert Museum until 17th January.

Living With The Wall: Berlin 1961 - 1989 marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, built by the Communist East German authorities to stop its population fleeing to freedom in the West. The Wall stretched 155 kilometres, slicing through private homes, shops, farms and the city's transport systems. The exhibition of photographs, many of which are on display for the first time, chart the evolution of the Wall from primitive barbed wire barricade to modern fortification - and artist's inspiration. It includes images captured by German photojournalists illustrating the impact on the people of Berlin, as families were separated, or sought to escape the restrictions imposed on them; together with photographs taken by British Army photographers, documenting the confrontation between the East and the West, together with the day when they were reunited, crystallised by the image of a solitary child chipping away at the Wall with a chisel. In addition to the photographs, there are a number of accompanying items, including a checkpoint sign signalling the end of the British zone; an Eastern block Trabant car; what is believed to be the only survivor of 302 searchlights mounted on watchtowers along the Wall; an East German riot shield and visor; and a piece of the Wall itself. Imperial War Museum North, Manchester, until 21st March.

Order: Myth, Meaning And Beauty In Architecture examines what the Classical Orders of architecture are, where they originated, why classical architects built according to them, and why they are still referred to by architects today. The exhibition further explores how a building can have a 'secret' language of meaning in the way it is decorated - and even a gender. Drawing on some of the 30,000 drawings held in the resident collection, the show reveals how the human body and the natural world were the inspiration for architectural forms, and how the Classical Orders allowed architects to communicate a variety of political and religious messages in their buildings. Highlights include some of Sir John Soane's large scale lecture drawings, which are on public display for the first time in nearly 200 years. Sir John Soane Museum, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, until 30th January.


The Power Of Dogu provides an opportunity to view Japanese Dogu - abstract clay figures with recognisably human or animal features - the first time that such a wide range of the finest Dogu have been brought together in a single exhibition. These enigmatic figures, which have long captured the imagination of antiquarians and archaeologists, provide a tantalising link to the mysterious Jomon period, from about 12,500BC to 300BC. The exhibition features 67 of these extraordinary objects, including the so-called 'Venus' and 'Dogu with palms pressed together', both designated National Treasures of Japan. Dogu evolved within the earliest dated continuous tradition of pottery manufacture in the world. They are made from high quality pottery, and come in a variety of shapes featuring elaborate decoration and geometric designs. The techniques include modelling, clay applique, marking with twisted plant fibres and burnishing, with some painted or covered in lacquer. Dogu take intriguing forms, with heart shaped faces or triangular pointed heads. Some squat, perhaps in childbirth, others appear to be praying, still others apparently wear masks, such as the magnificent 'Hollow masked Dogu'. British Museum until 22nd November.

A Higher Ambition: Owen Jones (1809 - 1874) celebrates the bicentenary of the birth of the architect and designer, who was one of the most influential design theorists of the 19th century. It is the first ever monographic display or exhibition to look at Owen Jones contribution to architecture, design and colour theory. The exhibition traces Jones's unique contributions to Victorian design reform, from his early studies of Islamic decoration at the Alhambra Palace, through to his designs for the 1851 Great Exhibition building, the publication of the Grammar of Ornament (one of the most important design sourcebooks of all time) and his influence in the founding of the South Kensington Museum. A key feature of the display are the volumes of Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra, which resulted from Jones's 6 month stay in Granada, during which he meticulously recorded the architecture and decoration of this grand Islamic palace. From this detailed analysis, Jones derived a predilection for abstract ornamentation and flat pattern, which constituted an essential feature of his artistic vision. Jones introduced his colour theories to the wider public when he was asked to decorate the interior of the 1851 Great Exhibition building, where his simple yet radical paint scheme utilised only the primary colours: blue, red and yellow. Victoria & Albert Museum until 21st November.

Exposures: Jane Bown: 100 Portraits is a retrospective of the work of the photographer who has been taking portraits for the Observer newspaper since 1949. In that time Jane Bown has photographed everyone from Bertrand Russell to the Beatles to Samuel Beckett to the Queen. Working almost exclusively in black and white, and with an absolute economy of means, her portraits are immediately recognisable, and many have become classics of the genre. Over the past few years, Bown's extensive archive has been catalogued for the first time, leading to a significant reassessment of her work. This exhibition showcases 100 of Bown's best photographs across her six decade career. In addition to many familiar images however, a significant number are drawn from previously unknown shoots, including figures such as Andrei Tarkovsky and Robert de Niro, and alternative pictures from familiar shoots, such as Rudolph Nureyev, Jane Mansfield and Mick Jagger, which have never previously been seen in public. King's Place Gallery, 90 York Way, London N1, until 21st November.