News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 9th August 2006

Ron Mueck is the largest ever exhibition to be held in Britain of pieces by the Australian sculptor who specialises in ultra realistic models - although often on radically different scales. Mueck's work concentrates almost exclusively on the human figure, tracing the passage through life from birth to death. All his sculptures are made with an obsessive attention to realism, from the pores in the skin, or a mole on the neck, to the hairs on the body (individually applied) the attention to detail is breathtaking. They are so realistic that people find it hard to believe at first sight that they are not real. The power, however, is in the way Mueck uses pose, gesture and scale to engage the viewer's emotions, and to enter into the psyche of the figures he depicts. Mueck first came to prominance in 1997 with 'Dead Dad', an astonishingly lifelike (though half size) sculpture of his dead father's small, naked, vulnerable body lying on the floor. This show comprises ten works. Half of them are his most recent, including the tiny huddled, gossiping 'Two Women', the giant melancholic woman 'In Bed', the miniature 'Spooning Couple' and a new commission 'A Girl' - a giant 15ft newborn baby. Half of them are important previous works, such as 'Man in a Boat', and 'Ghost', a near 8ft figure of an adolescent girl. The show also features a film of Mueck at work, a number of documentary photographs of his studio, and a display of models, maquettes and moulds. Royal Scottish Academy Building, Edinburgh until 1st October.

Being There: Harry Benson's Fifty Years Of Photojournalism is a retrospective of the work of the man responsible for some of the most iconic photographs of modern times, published in both newspapers, principally the Daily Sketch and Daily Express, and magazines, notably Vanity Fair and Life. It is a behind the scenes view from Benson's camera, in the right place at the right time - sometimes by design, sometimes by accident - at some of the most defining moments of world history: in the hotel kitchen at the moment that Robert Kennedy was shot; in Berlin the day the Wall came down; next to Coretta King at Martin Luther King's funeral; in a Paris hotel when The Beatles found out that I Want To Hold Your Hand had become number 1 in America (triggering a pillow fight), and subsequently on the flight that first brought them to New York; in the room when Richard Nixon resigned; in a Mujahideen camp in the mountains of Afghanistan with Soviet prisoners of war; with Sammy Davis Jnr on his deathbed from cancer; in the crowd witnessing the fall of the communist regime in Romania; and round the corner when the first plane hit the twin towers in New York. In addition to these, amongst over 100 images, there are a host of less dramatic but award winning photographs of screen legends, world leaders and supermodels, often caught in unfamiliar moments of revelation, including Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Truman Capote, Muhammad Ali, Woody Allen, Michael Jackson, Georgi Armani and every US President since Eisenhower. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until 7th January.

David Shrigley Recent Prints includes over 50 etchings and woodcuts, together with a specially commissioned screenprint - 'News, nobody likes you'. Although primarily known for his often darkly humorous drawings, either in published collections such as 'Kill Your Pets' and 'The Book of Shrigley', or appearing regularly in the Weekend Guardian, Shrigley is also prolific in other mediums, having variously produced sculptures, photographs, paintings, public art projects, animated films and even T-shirts. However, across the majority of this wide ranging output, certain characteristics remain constant. In terms of drawing, the style is simple and direct - almost childlike in its immediacy and apparent awkwardness. These variously wayward and profound doodles are very rarely reworked, and any 'mistakes' are left to stand, although that doesn't mean that he isn't ruthless in editing what he produces. Shrigley's work is done intuitively, he doesn't start with any ideas, just with a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and keeps drawing and writing things until he 'does something that seems to make sense'. Despite their deceptive air of intuitive spontaneity, his images are as often the stuff of absurdist hysteria and dread as they are of playful mischief and tragi-comic relief. Titles have ranged from 'Let Not These Shadows Fall Upon Thee' to 'Drawing Whilst on the Phone to an Idiot'. Edinburgh Printmakers Gallery until 16th September.


The State Rooms Of Buckingham Palace, which are used to receive and entertain guests of State on ceremonial and official occasions, have once again been thrown open to visitors. They are furnished with some of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection, including paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Poussin, Canaletto and Claude; sculpture by Canova and Chantrey; Sevres porcelain; and some of the finest English and French furniture in the world. This year, the focus of the special display is the Queen's evening dresses and personal jewellery, with 80 spectacular gowns, from the 1940s to the present day, worn for both official engagements and private family events. The exhibition shows the work of the leading British couturiers Norman Hartnell - full-skirted dresses in sumptuous silks and duchesse satins, embellished with virtuoso embroidery - and Hardy Amies - deceptively simple and accomplished tailoring exquisitely decorated with beads, crystal and pearl - together with creations by designers of more recent years. The selection of jewellery includes private gifts to The Queen from members of the Royal Family to mark special occasions, and some of the most famous and historic pieces in the collection, such as Queen Mary's True Lover's Knot Brooch, the Vladimir Tiara, the Cambridge Emerald Necklace and two brooches set with stones from the famous Cullinan Diamond. Visitors can also enjoy a walk in the 39 acre garden with its 19th century lake, which provide a haven for wild life in the centre of London, and offer views of the Garden Front of the Palace. Buckingham Palace until 27th September.

A Beautiful South… profiles artists who make work about the land and coast of southern England, from Romney Marsh to Dorset and the Isle of Wight, and how it has been shaped by both time and mankind. From farming to tourism, war and industry, this exhibition depicts particular aspects, such as the region's traditional land and coast-scapes, sound mirrors and chalk hill figures, while celebrating the incredible diversity of the land. The artists involved all base their practice in observational research, and natural, cultural and mythical elements as well as romantic and historical associations of landscape traditions are present throughout. The Caravan Gallery (Jean Williams and Chris Teasdale) project 'Bank Holiday Britain' records the ordinary and extraordinary realities of a collective day out; Thomas Joshua Cooper captures Cornwall's shifting sand and the turbulence of the Atlantic in his photographs; Andrew Goddard's oil paintings of the tidal mud flats of the river Yar reflect the flux of water and movement of land; John Holloway's black and white aerial photographs reveal geologocal chages made by time and man; Guy Moreton's images of Romney Marsh capture bleak settlements in the barren landscape; Eric Rimmington paints the sea, sand and sky of Selsey Bill in single on the spot sittings; Sadie Tierney offers watercolours of naval celebrations in Portsmouth, and a film of sunset on the sea; and Semiconductor's 'All The Time In The World' is a fictional documentary showing the changes that have shaped and formed the land over milluons of years played at the speed of sound. Millais Gallery, Southampton until 9th September.

Word Into Art: Artists Of The Modern Middle East demonstrates the imaginative ways in which artists across the Middle East and North Africa are using the power of the written word in their art today. Through the ages in the Arabic world calligraphy has been used extensively as decoration, and artistic expression, manipulated into patterns adorning architecture, ceramics and paintings. The exhibition gives an insight into the literary and artistic cultures of the region, and the ways in which the artists are affected by history and current world politics. There are examples of calligraphy transforming writing into art, books of poetry, and works that reflect current issues facing the modern Middle East, with over 80 artists represented. The exhibition focuses on the different ways artists have chosen to engage and experiment with Arabic script. It is grouped into four sections: Sacred Script looks at artists and calligraphers who use established styles of script from holy texts but in contemporary formats; Literature And Art examines Arabic and Persian poetry and the work of Sufi writers, revealing how artists seek inventive ways of writing or illustrating famous texts; Deconstructing The World examines the use of script in Middle East abstract art from the mid 20th century onwards, where letters and words have been turned into abstract patterns; and Identity, History And Politics looks at the ways words embedded in works, combined with an image or even books themselves, provide snapshots of history and social commentary on the conflicts in the region over the past decades. British Museum until 3rd September.

Angus McBean: Portraits is the first retrospective devoted to one of the most significant British photographers of the 20th century. It brings together over 100 photographs in black and white and colour, including a large number of vintage prints. These reveal the full range of Angus McBean's work, from surrealist portraits of the 1930s, through a period as the most important photographer of theatre and dance personalities of the 1940s and 1950s, to his re-emergence as a chronicler of pop music, including his Beatles first album cover, in the 1960s. Highlights of the exhibition include the iconic 1951 photograph of the then unknown Audrey Hepburn, her head and shoulders emerging from sand and posed amidst classical pillars; Margot Fonteyn viewed through the legs of another dancer; a double image of Vivien Leigh; Spike Milligan's head mounted under a Victorian glass dome; Rene Ray's face superimposed on a mask; and West End producer Hugh 'Binkie' Beaumont as a puppeteer with a toy theatre. The 40 year spread of the exhibition also includes later photographs of Derek Jarman, Tilda Swinton, Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier. On show for the first time is the complete series of McBean's self-portrait Christmas cards which he produced between 1934 and 1985. These inventive and innovative portraits are displayed alongside theatrical props used in their composition, including a Mae West puppet, a marble 'Greek God' bust, bisque 'bathing beauties' and two 1930s papier mache masks of Greta Garbo and Ivor Novello. National Portrait Gallery until 22nd October.

Experience TV is a new £3m interactive gallery dedicated to the past, present and future of television. It draws on the largest collection of television technology in the world - cameras, receivers, recorders and related equipment and ephemera. Exhibits include John Logie Baird's original 'Televisor receptor' from 1926, made from a tea chest, hatbox, knitting needle and part of a bike, all held together with string and sealing wax; early televisions disguised as pieces of furniture from the 1930s, the first set top box: an adaptor which allowed BBC only sets to pick up the new ITV in 1955; and the first commercially available video recorder (the size of a small car with a screen 2 inches across) from 1956 - although though Logie Baird had made the first ever video recordings on 78rpm discs in 1927. Alongside are such icons as Wallace & Gromit, the Play School toys (reunited with their famous windows), a collection of Gerry Anderson's puppets, a Jim'll Fix It badge, copies of the Radio Times from the Coronation onwards, and inevitably, a Dalek. An archive library includes 1,000 programmes of all kinds, from Muffin the Mule to Big Brother, and a selection of iconic real life events that the world watched, not to mention the Martians from the Smash ads. The entire production process is explained, with a complete working studio and control gallery, where visitors can cast their own drama, act out their own murder mystery, and cut their own show live, plus a news studio where they can read a report, and a virtual blue screen studio so they can appear to be anywhere in the universe. National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Bradford, continuing.

Howard Hodgkin is the first exhibition to span the entire career of one of the most important artists working in Britain today. Bringing together 60 of Howard Hodgkin's paintings from the 1950s to the present day, the exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view new work in the context of earlier decades. It traces the evolution of his vocabulary through the portraits on canvas of friends and interiors of the 1960s, to his adoption in the mid 1970s of the wooden panel and frame, defining painting as object, and through to the later, looser and more gestural paintings of the 1990s. Displayed broadly chronologically, the exhibition includes a group of Venetian paintings from the 1980s and new work never seen before. Binding together all his work is a consistent exploration of the representation of personal encounters, emotional experience and memories of specific events. Whether trips to India, Egypt or Morocco, or social occasions such as dinner with friends, particular moments are simultaneously reconstructed and obscured through a layering of the picture surface with distinct marks and intense colours, often achieved only over a period of several years. Neither wholly abstract nor figurative, his paintings attempt to recreate the intensity of experience. While associations have been made to Matisse, Vuillard, Degas and American abstract expressionist painting, as well as Pahari miniature paintings of which Hodgkin is an avid collector through his many trips to India, he has continued to forge a strongly independent path, developing a distinctive style. Tate Britain until 10th September.


Constable: The Great Landscapes offers the first opportunity to view John Constable's seminal six foot canvases together, something that was not even done in his lifetime. The 'six-footers' are among the best known images in British art, and comprise a series of views on the river Stour, which include 'The Hay Wain', as well as later works such as 'Hadleigh Castle' and 'Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows'. As important as the paintings themselves, are the full scale preliminary sketches that Constable made for most of them, a practice unprecedented at the time. It has been said that it is this practice more than any other aspect of Constable's work that established him as an avant-garde painter, resolved to rethink the demands of his art and to address them in an entirely new way. The exhibition reunites the full scale sketches with their corresponding finished pictures, in order to explore their role in Constable's working practice. The exhibition includes 9 such pairings among around 65 works in total. The bringing together of the 6 river Stour pictures for the first time, reveals how, as the series progresses, Constable develops a single thematic concept - the life of the Suffolk river he had known since boyhood - and gradually invests it with a greater sense of drama, heroic action and narrative weight. A further highlight of the exhibition is a newly discovered watercolour, on display for the first time, 'The View in the Stour Valley Looking Towards Langham Church from Dedham'. It anticipates 'The Hay Wain', painted 16 years later, as both feature a hay cart prominently. Tate Britain, until 28th August.

What Women Want is an exhibition assessing what women have campaigned, fought and longed for, both past and present. It includes a diverse range of iconic objects, such as the banners carried by suffragettes campaigning for the right to vote, and early editions of Spare Rib and Nova magazines, as well as more personal objects such as T-shirts and badges that convey the beliefs and desires of their owners. The journals of women who travelled the world a century ago demonstrate a desire for adventure and freedom beyond the confines of conventional Edwardian society, whilst in the 1980s, women made journeys to the Peace Camps at Greenham Common. Such campaigns for global peace and security are counterbalanced with visual material from campaigns against domestic violence, demanding safety and security at a basic personal level. Nigella Lawson's baking bible 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' and Barbara Cartland's 'Recipes for Lovers' stand in stark contrast to Erin Pizzey's The Slut's Cookbook, just as the 1970s 'Why be a Wife' campaign (slogan: Is there life after marriage?) contrasts with the aspirational glamour and idealised romance of Asian Bride magazine. The advent of plastic surgery as a 'lifestyle choice' is a contemporary phenomenon, but concerns with health, beauty and body image go a long way back, as shown in books and magazines from The Dress Review in 1903 to Marie Claire in 2003. The Women's Library, London until 26th August.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is with us again, as it has been every year since 1769 - the usual collection of the good, the bad and the ugly - from amateurs to RA's, proving that popular taste and critical approval find no meeting point. Around 1,000 works covering paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, sculpture, architectural designs and models have been selected from over 9,000 submissions, for inclusion in the largest contemporary art exhibition in the world. Over £70,000 is given out to artists included in the exhibition through 10 prizes. This year, the show has been masterminded by Peter Cook, David Mach and Alison Wilding, who have chosen the theme From Life, to inspire new work from artists responding to the concept of life and the business of living, across all the various media on display. Artists featured in this year's show include Georg Baselitz, Sandra Blow, Anthony Caro, Tracey Emin, Marcus Harvey, Damien Hirst, Ken Howard, Richard Long, Sarah Lucas, Grayson Perry, Gavin Turk and Richard Wentworth. There are also two memorial galleries dedicated to showing the works of the sculptor and printmaker Eduardo Paolozzi and the painter and printmaker Patrick Caulfield, both of whom died last year. An accompanying programme of lectures, events and workshops covers all aspects of the exhibition. Royal Academy of Arts until 20th August.