Private View held by Richard Andrews
Tate Modern finally opens to the public from 12th May, after more previews than a Broadway show (and an equally star studded audience). Swiss modernist architects Herzog and de Meuron's £134m Lottery funded conversion of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's Bankside power station catapults London into the top three of the world modern art gallery league. There is no special opening exhibition, the building itself and hitherto un/hardly seen work from the Tate's 20th century collection are deemed attractions enough. The towering turbine hall, with its Star Wars overtones, allows for the display of work on the scale of Louise Bourgeois 30ft metal spider, through which visitors can walk, and four fully accessible steel towers with mirrors on top. The riverside galleries permit 60% of the collection to be shown, as opposed to just 15% at Millbank, with Richard Long's slate circle of rough hewn stone echoing Carl Andre's infamous bricks, which make a return appearance.
The Chelsea Flower Show, held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea is receiving a makeover this year, with a new £3m high tech rigid PVC "marquee". The old three and a half acre canvas marquee has been recycled in over 7,000 aprons, tabards, hats, hammocks and holdalls for sale to gardeners. Its replacement not only covers a larger area, but also has a roof height of 28 feet, and so for the first time in the show's 87 year history, it will be able to accommodate trees, and will include a woodland garden. Also for the first time, the show will expand into the adjoining Ranelagh Gardens. It will feature twenty four show gardens created by leading designers and the latest equipment and accessories. Best of all for some gardeners, when the bell goes at 4.30pm on the final day, most of the plants on the stands will be for sale. Tickets must be booked in advance. Royal Hospital, Chelsea 23rd to 26th May.
The Indiana Amish And Their Quilts is an exhibition which establishes beyond doubt that with their rich colours and intricate patterns quilts are art as well as handicraft. All the more surprising considering the dark traditional dress of their creators, descendants of Swiss Anabaptists, who still live a 19th century existence. The exhibition also includes clothes, toys, dolls and an original buggy. The American Museum in Britain, Bath until 29th October.
The National Portrait Gallery £15.9m Lottery funded extension is now open. The new building, developing a light well between the existing NPG and the National Gallery, provides 50% more exhibition and public space. The redesign, which is the work of Sir Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones, who were responsible for the Royal Opera House redevelopment, has uncovered architectural details hidden by previous work (such as original cornices) and restored natural daylight to four of the galleries. New features include: one of the largest escalators in London to whisk visitors from the new central entrance hall to the second floor Tudor galleries, which house some of the most important paintings in the collection, including the first acquisition - the portrait of William Shakespeare; an IT Gallery housing 11 touch screens enabling visitors to gather detailed information about the Gallery's treasures; a roof-top restaurant with panoramic views across Trafalgar Square to the Houses of Parliament and the Thames; and a 150 seat Lecture Theatre providing the opportunity for platform performances and recitals based on the lives and works of people in the collection.
Museums And Galleries Month is the largest event of its kind in the world, with special events being staged across the country. These include over 120 Welcome Days, with free transport and entry to some sites, live costumed guides, translations, touch tours, and sign language interpreters. Friday 26th May is Welcome Night, when many venues will stay open until midnight, with a special programme of tours, talks, behind the scenes visits, drinks and entertainment. With many Lottery funded schemes coming to fruition, this year will see the greatest gallery and museum expansion in our history.
The Lowry is spectacularly situated on a 12 acre promontory of Salford Quays, and is a visual and performing arts, entertainment and education centre, comprising of two galleries and two theatres. The uncompromisingly modernist landmark building is the biggest project to date designed by Michael Wilford, former partner of James Stirling. It is one of the few recent cultural buildings produced by the Lottery/Millennium frenzy to be genuinely new, rather than a conversion or extension. The galleries house a collection of over 300 pictures by L S Lowry, together with a study centre, Artworks, an interactive multimedia gallery, and space for visiting exhibitions.
The London String Of Pearls Millennium Festival unites sixty four landmarks along the Thames, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the west, to University of East London in the east, with a series of over 300 privileged access, exhibitions, tours. performances, concerts, parades and other events, many of which are free. These include buildings open for the first time, for instance Lambeth Palace, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Fishmongers Company Livery Hall, new venues like the Tate Modern and Public Record Office galleries and the Millennium Bridge linking St Paul's and Bankside, and outdoor events such as son et lumiere at Royal Chelsea Hospital and the Royal Military Tattoo at Horse Guards Parade. The recently completed Thames Path, together with new piers and boat services, provide greatly improved access to all riverside attractions. Various venues along the river throughout the year.
Sonic Boom is the largest exhibition of sound art ever staged in the UK, with twenty two sound installations, in which the visitor encounters the mechanical and organic, the electronic and the acoustic, the sculptural and the intangible. Many are interactive, including those by Greyworld, who have converted the approach staircase and ramps to be foot sensitive sound environments activated by approaching visitors, Project Dark, who "play" biscuits, human hair and glasspaper on turntables, and Paul Burwell's bicycle driven record player which is amplified by a giant horn. Hayward Gallery until 18th June.
Beanoland is a new attraction where the pages of Britains favourite comic come to life. You can join its best known comic characters, taking a spin on Billy's Whizzer, the world's first water waveswinger, bump into friends on Roger the Dodger's Dodgems, and watch Dennis the Menace, Gnasher, Softy Walter and Minnie the Minx in three different stunt shows (involving human catapults and lots of water) running throughout the day. Chessington World Of Adventures until 29th October.
The British Art Show, mounted every five years, is a huge survey of the state of British art, which encompasses most of the galleries in Edinburgh. It includes work by fifty five artists, as diverse as David Hockney, John Stezaker, and the ubiquitous Tracy Emin. After Edinburgh the show travels on to Southampton, Cardiff and Birmingham. Various venues Edinburgh until 4th June.
Ruskin, Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites is the exhibition which relaunched Tate Britain at Millbank, now that the daubs, dead animals and building materials have been shipped down river to Bankside. The centenary of Britain's most influential critic is marked by over 250 examples of both his own accomplished work, and that of the painters he championed. Turner (arguably the Shakespeare of the brush) justifiably predominates, with support from Millais, Rossetti, Hunt, Whistler and Burne-Jones. Tate Britain until 29th May.
Box Project presents the responses by over 2000 artists, curators, writers and collectors to an invitation from the Museum Of Installations to fill a customised A5 cardboard container with something interesting. Offerings range from the dull to the bizarre, but the accumulative effect is impressive, and Glenn Onwin, Maurieke Van Diemen, Richard Wentworth and Magdalena Jetlova provide genuinely interesting mini installations. Turnpike Gallery, Leigh, 01942 404558 until 23rd May.