News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 10th April 2013


George Catlin: American Indian Portraits is the first exhibition in Britain of the work of the 19th century American artist, writer and showman since the 1840s. George Catlin documented Native American peoples and their cultures to serve as a record of what he believed to be a passing way of life. What he created is regarded as one of the most important records of indigenous peoples ever made. Catlin was not the only artist to embark on such a project in the 19th century, but his record is the most extensive still in existence. This exhibition comprises over 60 exhibits, including paintings, manuscripts and illustrated books. Catlin made his first Native American Indian portrait in 1826, a sketch of Seneca chief Red Jacket. He made 5 trips in the western part of the United States during the 1830s before the Native American peoples of those regions had been subsumed into the legal boundaries of the United States. The 'Indian Gallery' comprised the materials and work Catlin produced, during and inspired by those trips, which included some 500 portraits, pictures and indigenous artefacts. Catlin aimed to meet as many Indian peoples as he could and his total was around 48 different indigenous groups or 'nations' by the time the 'Indian Gallery' reached its zenith. Catlin's entrepreneurial spirit led him to tour the 'Indian Gallery' in the eastern states from 1837-39, but he failed in selling it to the United States government. He then went on to tour the gallery in Europe for the next 10 years, including exhibitions held in Britain, France and Belgium. Always needing to make financial gains from his endeavours, Catlin used brash entrepreneurial methods to promote the spectacle of the 'Indian Gallery' during its European tour. He was so successful that his record of Native Americans still dominates their representation today. National Portrait Gallery until 23rd June.

Metropolis: Reflections On The Modern City offers visions of the changing rhythms and human interactions of modern cities and urban life. The exhibition features some 35 works in a variety of media, created in the past decade by 25 artists of international standing. Among the highlights, Miao Xiaochun's monumental photographic work 'Orbit' depicts the frantic pace of Beijing, a moving landscape where vehicles and pedestrians are captured in their metropolitan lives; Dayanita Singh's 'Dream Villa' photographic series portrays a mysterious and atmospheric view of modern India, infused with light and colour; Mohamed Bourouissa's series 'Peripherique' offers scenes reflecting a carefully staged moment of physical or emotional tension set in the bleak housing estates that encircle Paris; Grazia Toderi's 'Orbit Rosse' comprises moving nocturnal images of cities superimposed to create a mesmerising and hypnotic effect; and Jochem Hendricks's 'Front Windows' depicts an anonymous looking apartment block near Frankfurt station, the silence shattered by the smashing of the windows from the inside. Other artists in the exhibition include Zhang Enli, Beat Streuli, Jitish Kallat, Semyon Faibisovich, Christiane Baumgartner, Ola Kolehmainen, Aleksandra Mir, Nicholas Provost, Matias Faldbakken, Barry McGee, Yang Zhenzhong, Cao Fei, Romauld Hazoume, Josef Robakowski and Rashid Rana. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until 23rd June.

The Bride And The Bachelors: Duchamp With Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg And Johns examines one of the most important chapters in the history of contemporary art. The exhibition explores Marcel Duchamp's impact on four great modern artists - composer John Cage, dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, and visual artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Tracing their creative exchanges and collaborations, the show features 25 works by Duchamp, and more than 30 by Johns and Rauschenberg, as well as music by Cage and live dance performances of Cunningham choreography. Contemporary artist Philippe Parreno has devised the exhibition's mise en scene, activating time and movement within the exhibition to create a vital way of experiencing the work of the featured artists, invoking the notion of the ghost, existing between presence and absence. The varied sequence of Parreno's orchestration of live and pre-recorded sound, arranged in concert with live dance performances, enables the exhibition to change over time, creating continually fresh perspectives. Among the highlights are Duchamp's 'The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)', 'Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)', the earliest replica of 'Fountain', and a version of 'Bottlerack' that was a present to Robert Rauschenberg; Rauschenberg's 'Bride's Folly', 'White Paintings', 'Express', and stage set 'Tantric Geography' designed for Cunningham's Travelogue; Johns's 'No' and'M'; and Johns and Cunningham's 'Walkaround Time'. Barbican Art Gallery, London, until 9th June.


Secrets Of The Royal Bed Chamber allows visitors to explore the elaborate, sometimes bizarre bedchamber rituals, unusual sleeping arrangements and uxurious excesses of the Stuart and Hanoverian courts. The exhibition reveals what really took place in the royal bedchamber, where heirs were born, marriages consummated, monarchs were struck down and died, and important affairs of state were conducted. The monarch would meet courtiers and ministers during an elaborate morning ceremony, during which the most privileged of his servants, woke, washed and dressed the King before the business of the day began. Courtiers fought for the illustrious and intimate positions to serve the bedchamber to get close to the monarch, such as the 'groom of the stool' or the 'necessary woman'. The state bedchamber became the most sought after room in the palace for the rich and the powerful, where privileged access brought honour or the king's favour. Now, for the first time, 6 examples from the world's largest and rarest collection of early state beds are presented in a display that tells the story of how and why the bedchamber became the most public and important destination in the Palace. Each bed has a dramatic, and often poignant, tale to tell. Queen Anne's magnificent velvet state bed was ordered by a dying queen in her final year, childless after many sad losses, and facing the prospect of her dynasty ending with her death. The infamous 'Warming Pan Bed', the state bed of James II's Queen, Mary of Modena, was the scene of the royal birth that sparked the quiet revolution that led to the end of the Stuart line. The unique 'travelling bed' of George II, which comes apart into 54 pieces, journeyed as far afield as his second home in Hanover and even the battlefields of Europe. The exhibition also offers a chance to view architect John Vanbrugh's Prince of Wales's Apartments, opened for the first time in 20 years. Hampton Court Palace until 3rd November.

Xu Bing: Landscape Landscript is the first exhibition devoted to the landscapes of the contemporary Chinese artist. Xu Bing's international success rests on his ability to embed complex ideas about art and culture within accessible and playful works that engage the audience. The work that brought Xu Bing initial popular recognition, 'Tianshu or Book from the Sky', a four-volume, stitch-bound book, in the style of classical texts, is filled with what appear to be Chinese characters, but is, in fact, composed in a script invented by him, printed with over 4000 hand carved woodblock characters that have no intelligible meaning. 'Book from the Ground', which exists as a website, an installation, a computer programme, and a printed book, is, conversely, a writing system that can be understood by anyone from any culture, literate or not. Drawing on glyphs or what Xu Bing calls 'pictograms' developed in a variety of contexts over the past half century, from airport signage to international brand logos and 'emoticons', the work tells the story of a day in the life of an ordinary man. Central to all Xu Bing's art is the theme of language: its uses and changes, misunderstandings, and dialogues within and between cultures. His 'Landscript' series uses Chinese characters for landscape features to compose paintings that have the appearance of traditional Chinese landscapes. In this way, characters for 'stone' make up an image of rocks; the character for 'tree' makes up trees; and 'grass' for grass and so on. Xu Bing has produced 4 new pieces for this exhibition, which are displayed alongside his early landscape sketches and prints, and more recent works that depart from traditional landscape styles. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until 19th May.

Looking At The View examines how British artists across the centuries have depicted the landscape around them in a multitude of ways, from detailed close ups of nature to distant views framed by trees or soaring bird's-eye perspectives. The exhibition of over 70 works by 50 artists reveals that apparently unconnected artists have looked at the landscape in surprisingly similar ways. It spans 300 years of British art from the golden age of Romantic landscape painting through to Land Art and contemporary artists' use of photography and film. The display groups artists from different periods according to a common motif, whether a horizon line or a winding path. By juxtaposing work across time it highlights unexpected affinities between works by artists as various as Lucian Freud and Victorian agricultural painter Thomas Weaver or contemporary artist film-maker Tacita Dean and Pre-Raphaelite painter John Brett. The exhibition offers an insight into the ways artists compose images, orientate the viewer and lead the eye. Richard Long's photograph of a path trodden through a field guides the viewer's gaze much like Romantic painter John Crome's painting of Norwich in 1818. Tracey Emin's photograph of herself in a wild landscape casually reading in an armchair echoes the ease with which Joseph Wright of Derby's sitter lounges among the foliage in a painting of 1781. Thus shared visual languages that transcend different periods, movements and media are revealed. Pairings of historical and contemporary art works in the display sometimes highlight changing social or political conditions. An idyllic painting by Sir William Nicholson from 1917 of a patchwork of English fields from on high at first resonates with contemporary artist Carol Rhodes's aerial view until the the urbanisation in the later work becomes apparent. Tate Britain until 2nd June.

Life And Death In Pompeii And Herculaneum looks at the Roman home and the people who lived in these ill-fated cities. Pompeii and Herculaneum, on the Bay of Naples in southern Italy, were buried by a catastrophic volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in just 24 hours in AD 79. This event ended the life of the cities but at the same time preserved them until rediscovery by archaeologists nearly 1700 years later, and their excavation has provided unparalleled insight into Roman life. This exhibition brings together over 250 objects, embracing both recent discoveries and celebrated finds from earlier excavations, many of which have never before been seen outside Italy. Owing to their different locations the two cities were buried in different ways and this has affected the preservation of materials at each site. Herculaneum was a small seaside town whereas Pompeii was the industrial hub of the region. The exhibition explores the lives of individuals in Roman society, not emperors, gladiators and legionaries, but businessmen, powerful women, freed slaves and children. Among the highlights are a wall painting from Pompeii showing the baker Terentius Neo and his wife, holding writing materials showing they are literate and cultured, plus loaves of bread that were baking in an oven; pieces of wooden furniture that were carbonised by the high temperatures of the ash that engulfed the city, including a linen chest, an inlaid stool, a garden bench and a baby's crib that still rocks on its curved runners; and plaster casts of victims, including a family of 2 adults and their 2 children, huddled together, just as in their last moments under the stairs of their villa, and a dog, fixed forever at the moment of its death as the volcano submerged the city. British Museum until 29th September.

Heaven Is A Home: The Story Of The Brontes' Parsonage is the first exhibition to take place after a £60,000 restoration scheme, following an extensive programme of decorative archaeology. The main rooms have been redecorated and furnished to provide a more authentic picture of how they would have been when the Bronte family lived there in the mid 19th century, and are filled with artefacts and documents relating to the famous literary family. The exhibition tells the stories of all those who lived at the Parsonage both before and after the Brontes, as well as giving fascinating domestic details of the Brontes' own time at the house. Built in 1778, the Parsonage was home to clergymen and their families both before and after the Reverend Patrick Bronte's incumbency. From the Brontes' time living in the house there are letters, sketches and documents, detailing how the house was organised and decorated, what kind of lighting and heating they used, and what housework they did. Since 1928 the house has been a museum, but the building's secret life, includes Second World War soldiers billeted next door in the Old Schoolroom, and generations of curators and their families living on the premises until the 1970s. The Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, exhibition until December.

George Bellows: Modern American Life is the first retrospective of works by the American realist painter to be held in Britain. George Bellows's fascination with New York's gritty urban landscape, its technological marvels and the diversity of its inhabitants, made him both an artist of the modern city and an insightful observer of the dynamic and challenging decades of the early 20th century. Bellows's career encompassed a range of subject matter and the exhibition explores the principle themes of his work, featuring boxing fights, cityscapes, views of the Hudson River, social scenes, seascapes, portraits and the First World War, in 71 paintings, drawings and lithographs. Bellows was a lifelong sportsman and his most celebrated work 'Stag at Sharkey's', depicts a prize fight at Tom Sharkey's Athletic Club, a bar located directly across the street from his studio, and a theme revisited with 'Dempsey and Firpo'. He was especially drawn to Manhattan's Lower East Side, finding subject matter in the chaotic scenes of downtown New York, where immigrants lived within the crowded tenement buildings captured in 'Forty-two Kids', depicting children bathing in the polluted waters of the East River. Cityscapes include 'New York, 1911', 'Men of the Docks', and 'Pennsylvania Excavation' depicting the excavations of the Pennsylvania Railroad Station. Royal Academy of Arts until 9th June.


Signs, Symbols, Secrets: An Illustrated Guide To Alchemy reveals the power and intricacy of alchemical art and attempts to interpret the hidden meanings behind the symbols. The quest for the philosophers' stone was a major preoccupation of the early modern world. This precious substance was said to transform base metals into silver and gold, heal sickness, and unlock the mysteries of God and nature. Its recipe was a closely guarded secret and a bewildering array of signs and symbols were used, both figuratively and allegorically, to convey key processes and ideas in the search for the fabled stone. This exhibition follows the theme of a recipe using the same sources devised and decoded by the alchemists themselves, comprising striking images from the 16th to the 18th centuries. At its heart is a newly discovered manuscript: a Ripley scroll. These rare scrolls include some of the most complex and fascinating alchemical imagery in existence, and for the first time, this object can be viewed alongside other selected texts and images. Its rich symbolism offers clues, both practical and theoretical, for the creation of the philosophers' stone. Only 23 Ripley scrolls, named after the English alchemist George Ripley, are known to exist. Scholars believe that all the surviving examples are copies and variations upon a lost 15th century original. The scrolls range in size, but are all too long to be viewed and understood in a single glance. Scholars are still investigating how they are meant to be read and used. It is possible that the original scroll was created for a wealthy patron interested in alchemy. Over time, the scrolls have become prized for the quality of their imagery. Science Museum until 27th April.

John Flaxman: Line To Contour surveys the work of the leading exponent of British Neoclassicism, renowned for minimally drawn illustrations of stories from ancient Greece. Having learnt the techniques of sculpting in his father's plaster-cast workshop, John Flaxman began his career as a designer for Josiah Wedgwood's world famous pottery. Flaxman's impact on British manufacture continued for some decades, with many of his designs from the 1770s continuing to be used throughout the Victorian period. In 1787 Flaxman travelled to Rome, where he stayed for seven years, producing his most famous works, including engravings for publications of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Dante's Divine Comedy and The Tragedies of Aeschylus. Instantly successful, they were universally acknowledged to have captured the very essence of Homeric Greece and medieval Italy. The exhibition includes preliminary drawings for these works, alongside later illustrations modelled on Roman street scenes. Outline studies of male figures in cloaks and a famous sketch of a woman shaking a cloth out of a window are distinctive in their stylistic purity, reduced to a few essential lines. On returning to London, Flaxman worked on numerous sculptural commissions for major public monuments, as well as smaller funerary monuments produced for churches including St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. These often commemorated the dead with affecting simplicity, placing emphasis on feelings of loss rather than a celebration of lifetimes' achievements. Plaster models, representing stages in the process of production, sometimes preceded by sketches, also feature in the exhibition. Like most of the drawings they have rarely been seen and give an insight into the thinking that led to Flaxman's more formal output. Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, until 21st April.

Manet: Portraying Life is the first major exhibition in Britain to showcase portraiture by the pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. The exhibition examines the relationship between Edouard Manet's portrait painting and his scenes of modern life. By translating portrait sitters into actors in his genre paintings, Manet guaranteed the authenticity of the figures that populate his scenes of contemporary life, and asserted a new, more potent relationship between Realism and Modernity. The exhibition is arranged thematically, exploring Manet's world and the landscape of 19th century Parisian society, including The Artist And His Family, through Manet, Suzanne Leenhoff Manet and Leon Koella Leenhoff; Manet And His Artist Friends, such as Berthe Morisot, Eva Gonzales and Claude Monet; Manet And His Literary And Theatrical Friends, including Emile Zola, Zacharie Astruc, Theodore Duret, George Moore, Stephane Mallarme and Fanny Clauss; Status Portraits, such as Georges Clemenceau, Henri Rochefort and Antonin Proust: and The Artist And His Models, which encompasses both female friends such as Mery Laurent and Isabelle Lemonnier, and professional models, such as Victorine Meurent. The display comprises over 50 paintings, spanning Manet's entire career, together with a selection of pastels and contemporary photographs. Highlights include 'The Luncheon', 'Mme Manet in the Conservatory', 'Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets', 'Street Singer', 'Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe', 'The Railway', 'The Artist: Portrait of Marcellin Desboutin', and 'Music in the Tuileries Gardens'. Royal Academy of Arts until 14th April.