News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 9th July 2003


Bridget Riley celebrates the 40 year career of one of Britain's most distinctive artists. Since she invented what became known as Op Art in the 1960s, Riley has continued to develop optically vibrant paintings that engage the viewer's sensations and perceptions. Riley's work falls into five phases, starting with the swirling black and white patterns of dots, squares and zigzags that appear to move as you view them, which became an iconic image of Swinging London. In 1967 she moved on to contrasting colours (including white) in vertical stripes, exploring the interaction of the colours to similar optical effect, leading on to twisted shapes. A trip to Egypt in 1980 led Riley to work exclusively with the five colours used in the tomb decorations for some years. From 1985 the stripes themselves were created from diagonals, producing lozenge shapes, and since 1997 these have mutated into curved winding forms in a wider colour palette. Riley's latest work is comprised of a web of abutting, nearly touching and overlapping black hoops - coming (dare one say) full circle. Description or reproduction however cannot begin to capture the experience of actually seeing these works, and how the changes of light, distance from the canvass or wall, and scale of the painting can change the effects they produce on the viewer. A must see experience. Tate Britain until 28th September.

The Real Mary King's Close is a warren of concealed streets beneath the Royal Mile, where people lived, worked and died in bygone centuries. It consists of a number of closes, which were originally narrow streets with houses on either side, stretching up to seven storeys high. In 1753 the Burgh Council developed a new building on this site, originally the Royal Exchange and now the City Chambers. The houses at the top of the closes were knocked down and part of the lower sections were kept and used as the foundations. Recently the remnants of the closes that were left beneath the building have been developed into a historically accurate interpretation of life in Edinburgh from the 16th to the 19th centuries and are open to the public mostly for the first time. Among the recreations, based on documentary and archaeological research, are a grand 16th century townhouse; the home of a grave-digger's family which reveals how the Burgh Council dealt with the plague epidemic of 1644; one of the best surviving examples of a 17th century house in Scotland; and a 19th century sawmaker's workshop. Visitors are guided through the underground closes by a character from the past whose life touched Mary King's Close, who reveals the dramatic events and legendary stories of the area - such as the room which is allegedly inhabited by the spirit of a child, for whom people have left toys (and still do). The Real Mary King's Close, 2 Warriston's Close, Writers Court, Edinburgh, 08702 430160, continuing.

Bob The Roman: Heroic Antiquity And The Architecture Of Robert Adam explores the work of Britain's first celebrity architect, who became one of architecture's the most influential figures. The Adam style, characterised by delicate neo-Antique ornamentation of festoons, ribbons and pilasters, is synonymous with the refinement and elegance of 18th century interiors. Yet there was another side to Robert Adam, a love for monumental grandeur, revealed in the exteriors of his buildings, which derived from three years spent in Rome prior to setting up his London practice in 1758. It was there that he encountered Heroic Antiquity, the grandeur of an architectural idiom that is articulated by bulk and mass, and by the solemn ordnance of columns, niches, aedicules and extensive colonnades. Totally immersing himself in the city's culture with unbridled enthusiasm he earned the soubriquet Bob The Roman. This exhibition focuses on how Adam learnt to draw in Rome, under the tutelage of the French artist Clerisseau, and on his great projects inspired by antiquity. These include a 9ft long design for an immense Palace, the Bath Assembly Rooms, a plan for a 720ft building for Lincoln's Inn, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, a speculative scheme for fashionable housing at the Adelphi, and Chandos House off Cavendish Square, which is currently undergoing a £6m restoration. The majority of exhibits are from the extensive collection of some 9,000 Adam drawings that Sir John Soane purchased in 1833. A Robert Adam Study Centre to house the 54 folios of material, which is being created in the adjoining building, will open next year. Sir John Soane's Museum until 27th September.


London 1753 is part of the British Museum's 250th birthday celebrations, aiming to create a picture of London at the time of its foundation, when London was the largest city in the western world - containing 11% of the British population. The display of over 300 objects is arranged in sections corresponding to five London areas: the City, the River, Covent Garden and Bloomsbury, Westminster, St James's and Mayfair, and shows the extremes of wealth and poverty that existed side by side. It includes both London wide vistas, and miniatures of real life in the city, from fashionable society and cultural events to the gin houses and the gallows, in watercolours by Paul and Thomas Sandby, drawings and prints by William Hogarth, engravings by Charles Mosley, and drawings by Canaletto. On a more personal note, there are portraits of aristocrats, artists and tradesmen, by John Faber, James Macardall and William Hoare, together with their actual watches, jewellery, fans, medals and coins. There are even the precise objects on an actual mantelpiece as depicted in Hogarth's painting Marriage A-la Mode II. Curiosities include shop signs, Spitalfields silk, spurs for fighting cocks, a first edition of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, John Roque's 1747 map which takes up 72 square feet of the gallery wall, and Hogarth's gold admission ticket to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. British Museum until 23rd November.

Dambusters 60th Anniversary: 617 Squadron And The Dams Raid celebrates the anniversary of the attack on the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany by nineteen Avro Lancasters of the specially formed No 617 Squadron, armed with the revolutionary Bouncing Bomb. The breaching of the dams crippled armament production in the Ruhr valley by both depriving it of power and flooding the factories. The exhibition details the entire process from the initial idea, through the testing of the bombs and training of the pilots, to the execution of the raids, and assessment of their success, through a remarkably comprehensive collection of original artefacts. There are Barnes Wallis's original plans and diagrams, together with his refinements and adaptations made as a result of the test programme, which is illustrated with photographs. The initial reluctance of the Air Ministry to back the idea is reflected in confidential letters and memos. The training, rehearsals and the raids themselves are documented in the reconnaissance photographs, maps and logbooks of the pilots, including that of their leader, Wing Commander Guy Gibson. The success of the raids is reflected in the subsequent photographic evidence, official Nazi records and testimonies of local residents, and examples of the extensive press coverage and propaganda materials from Britain and around the world. The aircraft collection also includes an Avro Lancaster 1. RAF Museum, Hendon continuing.

Cruel And Tender: The Real In The Twentieth Century Photograph explores the realist tradition in 20th century documentary photography, taking its title from Lincoln Kirstein's description of the work of American photographer Walker Evans, who, together with German photographer August Sander, provides the historical axis for the exhibition. The result is a type of photographic realism that avoids nostalgia, romanticism, or sentimentality in favour of straightforward observation. Rather than the drama of photojournalism, the images here tend towards the quiet documentation of overlooked aspects of day to day life, whether architecture, objects, places or people. They record what Philip-Lorca diCorcia described as "that which was never really hidden, but rarely is noticed". Images are grouped thematically rather than arranged chronologically to allow comparisons and juxtapositions, thus starving sharecroppers of the American depression rub shoulders with today's homeless in the former USSR. The exhibition brings together works by 23 of the century's greatest photographers including Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Paul Graham, Andreas Gursky, Boris Mikhailov, Thomas Ruff, August Sander, Stephen Shore and Thomas Struth. Tate Modern until 7th September.

Museum In Docklands has brought back to life one of Britain's oldest surviving warehouses - No 1 Warehouse, West India Quay. Built 200 years ago to store and handle coffee, rum, molasses and sugar, today it houses over 2,000 years of history, exploring the story of London's river, port and people from the Roman settlement to its recent regeneration as the Docklands financial and trade centre. The £8.5m conversion has created twelve galleries that hold thousands of artefacts, engravings, paintings, testimonies and photographs that capture the people and places of the area, which from the 1650s to the 1950s was the heart of London. Many of the exhibits are unique, having been rescued during the 1970s and 1780s when the port moved downstream, and they are joined by material drawn from the collections of the Museum of London and the Port of London Authority. Among the highlights are a scale model of Old London Bridge, the first stone structure over the Thames, on one side showing the state of the bridge and its buildings in 1450, on the other in all its Tudor glory; Sailortown, a recreation of gas lit riverside streets and alleyways typical of those behind the early Victorian Wapping waterfront; vessels including the Jillanjon, a double sculling pleasure craft from the 1880s and a PLA Waterman's Skiff of around 1925; and rarely seen film from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and captured Nazi footage, together with canvases by official war artist William Ware, documenting the impact of the Blitz. Meanwhile outside moored along the quay, there are vessels from the floating collection, including the 1920s ex-steam tug Knocker White. Museum In Docklands continuing.

Barbara Hepworth Centenary celebrates one of the foremost British artists of the 20th century, who was internationally acclaimed as one of the major sculptors of her time. Complementing the later bronze works on permanent display at the nearby Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in her former home, this exhibition concentrates on her earlier wood and stone carvings, and groups of drawings. It focuses on the specific themes of Single Form, wood carvings inspired by the human figure; Maternal Forms, stone sculptures on the theme of mother and child; Landscape Sculpture, inspired by the landscape of Cornwall; Scented Guarea, carved from logs of the tropical hardwood; Coloured Stones, an interest to which Hepworth returned in the 60s and 70s; Drawings For Sculptures With Colour, a series of studies for sculpture, combining geometric patterns of lines with areas of strong colour, and Interrelated Masses, pure, white marble sculptures, which have not been seen together for over fifty years. Many of her best known and most important works are featured. Tate St Ives until 12th October.

Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition panders to our continuing fascination with the myth and legend of the White Star liner, now rusting two and a half miles down at the bottom of the ocean. It presents a chronological journey from the ship's design and construction to its eventual discovery and salvage. There are over 200 artefacts recovered from the wreck, including the ship's bell, a chandelier, crockery and a 3 ton section of the hull which once enclosed two first class cabins - the largest item to be raised so far - as well as personal items such as jewellery, perfume bottles, clothing, a top hat, razors, diaries, playing cards and even bank notes. A sense of life on board for the passengers and crew is conveyed with reconstructions of 1st and 3rd class cabins, pointing up the differences in their experiences, and the bridge. Individual stories of some of the passengers, which ranged from millionaires to economic migrants, are explored. The exhibition also relates how advances in underwater technology have allowed scientists, marine archaeologists and historians to locate and visit the wreck site, and details how objects were raised from the seabed using the latest technology, and preserved for display in the exhibition. It ends with a memorial to the 2228 people on board who perished, together with reproductions of the press coverage of the event, and the reports of British and American enquiries into the disaster. Science Museum until 28th September.


Pissarro In London marks the centenary of the death of Camille Pissarro by bringing together a group of paintings made on his four visits to London, in 1870-1, 1890, 1892, and 1897. Pissarro had strong links with the city, as his half-sister and, later, three of his sons lived there. It provides an unusual opportunity to see London through Impressionist eyes. The exhibition is all the more intriguing because the views are of everyday scenes of ordinary people at work or at leisure, in his immediate surroundings of the then rural suburbs, and are therefore generally unknown and otherwise unpainted. The major architectural landmarks, which are usually the subjects, such as the Crystal Palace, here, only form part of the background to a couple strolling down a street or a cricket match. These paintings also show the evolution of Pissarro's style over almost three decades. The works range from the better known 'Fox Hill, Upper Norwood' and 'The Avenue, Sydenham' to the rarely seen 'The Train, Bedford Park' and 'Bank Holiday, Kew'. A gem. National Gallery until 3rd August.

St Petersburg: A 300th Birthday Tribute marks the anniversary of the founding of St Petersburg by Peter the Great as a window to the West, with an exhibition of some 200 photographs from the Hermitage Museum collection. They present a profile of the city as it was a century ago when it was at its most splendid and still the capital of Russia - a feast of 18th and 19th century architecture and the centre of high society. Special emphasis is placed on the interiors of the Winter Palace, home to the Romanov rulers of Russia until their fall in 1917, and the Hermitage, then still an imperial museum. Another group of images focuses on the mansions of those late 19th century wealthy individuals whose treasures were to enter the Hermitage after the Revolution. Complementing photographs of the magnificent 200th birthday celebration masquerade ball held in the Winter Palace in 1903 are some of the original costumes worn at the event. In contrast to this opulence there is also a selection of images of ordinary people and the less salubrious parts of the city that they inhabited. Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House until 27th July.

Art Deco 1910-1939 is the first assessment in this country of the first truly global art movement, which was launched at the Paris International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in 1925, as the way of the future, combining streamlining and extravagance. It started in the gallery with paintings and sculpture, moved into the home with individually created jewellery, objets d'art, dresses and furniture for the rich, and then the style swept the world in mass-produced items, with everything from household chinaware and textiles, through cars and ocean liners, to architecture such as the Chrysler building and the Rockefeller Center. It was even reflected in entertainment, both through the designs of the extravagant Hollywood musical spectaculars, and the buildings in which they were shown, culminating in Radio City Music Hall in New York. This exhibition endeavours to encompass the breadth of this massive canvass. It is crammed with wonders including the Maharajah of Indore's silver canopy bed, an Auburn Speedster car, a Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann dressing table, Walter Teague's Bluebird radio, and even the foyer of the Strand Palace Hotel. Areas recreate the Paris Exhibition of 1925 and the New York World's Fair of 1939 that mark the movement's beginning and end. A rich and glamorous treat. Victoria & Albert Museum until 20th July.