News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 13th May 2009


The Buddhist Sculpture Gallery, which has just opened, is the first gallery for Buddhist sculpture in Britain, with examples ranging in size from monumental Chinese temple sculptures, to tiny portable gilded Buddahs. Around 50 sculptures, created between AD 200 and 1850, explore how the Buddah has been represented in Asian art. They reveal a diversity of artistic expression, reflecting the differing Buddhist practices in India, Sri Lanka, the Himalayas, Burma, Java, Thailand, China and Japan. Highlights include: a 4th century image of the meditating Buddah from India, which is on public display for the first time; a gilded copper figure of Bodhisattvar Padmapani from Nepal, richly decorated with jewels; an 18th century monumental gilt bronze seated Buddah from Tibet; recently restored 19th century oil paintings recording the 5th century murals in the rock cut Buddhist monasteries of Ajanta in central India; a 7th century Chinese marble torso of the Buddah; life size replicas of the sculptural reliefs from the 8th century Javanese temple of Borobudur; the head of a monumental Buddah once carved into the rock face of a 6th century cave complex in northern China; a white Tara, one of the few females in the gallery, set in gilded copper, decorated with semi precious stones; and a rare surviving 3m high piece of the Mandalay Shrine from the now destroyed royal palace in Burma, complete with offering vessels, attendant figures and manuscript case. The gallery includes a display explaining the meanings of the hand gestures and poses used in Buddhist sculpture. Victoria & Albert Museum, continuing.

The Pitt Rivers Museum, known as 'the nirvana of universal oddities', an ethnographical collection featuring some 300,000 objects from many cultures around the world, has celebrated its 125th birthday with a £1.5m refurbishment, masterminded by Pringle Richards Sharratt. The reinstatement of the museum's original entrance has restored the dramatic 'entrance panorama' of the building, with the maze of traditional glass cases on the ground floor - augmented by 8 new ones, holding even more artefacts than before - an East African sailing boat hanging from the rafters, and a Canadian totem pole in the distance at the far end. Other favourites include a Witch in a bottle (a small glass flask, silvered on the inside, corked and secured with wax, reputed to contain a witch; shrunken heads from tribes in the Upper Amazon; and the world's smallest doll (1.3cm tall, with jointed arms and legs, living in an egg)

Across The Caucasus is a display of John F Ballerley's photographs and manuscripts from 19th century Russia, accumulated when he was the St Petersburg correspondent of the (Evening) Standard.

Carolyn Drake: Photographs Of Central Asia comprises contemporary images of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan by the Istanbul based photographer.

The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, Across The Caucasus until 6th September, Carolyn Drake: Photographs Of Central Asia until 15th November.

Butterfly Jungle explores the life cycle of some of the world's most beautiful creatures in an explorer's trail and tropical butterfly house. The explorer's trail takes visitors on a journey from egg to caterpillar, and chrysalis to butterfly, shrinking them to the size of a caterpillar, so that they can experience what it is like to have to navigate past the perils of predatory spiders and sticky plant traps. Those that survive emerge from a chrysalis, and take flight on a zip slide aerial runway. In the butterfly house there is a hatchery, where butterflies constantly emerge from their pupa, and join the hundreds of butterflies and moths from North and South America, Africa and Southeast Asia fluttering freely among the exotic plants. Around 40 species with wildly different colourings and markings are on view, including the Glasswing butterfly, which has transparent wings, and the Madagascan moon moth, which has the longest tail of any moth. Accompanying jungle creatures (safely behind glass) include a Jaguar carpet python, frogs, a red knee tarantula, giant centipedes, emperor scorpions, and a green iguana. Meanwhile, inside the museum itself, there over 8 million preserved butterflies and moths, including representatives from about 90,000 species, with specimens dating back as far as 1680. Natural History Museum until 1st September.


Henry VIII: Man And Monarch is an exhibition of Henry VIII's personal documents and books, held as part of celebration of the 500th anniversary of his accession to the throne. Among the highlights are Henry's Coronation oath, with several significant revisions made in his own handwriting; a copy of The Great Bible with a coloured title page, believed to be the king's personal copy; a music manuscript, that includes 20 songs and 13 instrumental pieces ascribed to Henry; an illuminated Psalter used by Henry in his private devotions, containing his handwritten notes; the marriage contract with Katherine of Aragon; a list of people executed during Henry's reign, including wives, favourites and ministers; the rules of a jousting tournament held to celebrate the birth of his son Prince Henry, devised and signed by the king; The Anthony Roll, an illuminated manuscript providing a visual record of all the ships in Henry's navy, interspersed with a list of their seamen and armaments; a love letter from Henry to Anne Boleyn, stolen from Anne to serve as evidence by the Vatican against his divorce; various books that Henry himself chose, read and annotated; and an Inventory of the Henry's assets at the time of his death, including furniture, numerous pictures, great quantities of jewellery, over 2,000 pieces of tapestry (the largest collection on record) and 2,028 pieces of plate, 70 ships, 400 guns and 6,500 handguns in the Tower of London and 2,250 guns in other coastal and border fortresses. The British Library, until 6th September.

Sally Matthews - Denis O'Connor - Light are a series of concurrent outdoor sculpture exhibitions. Sally Matthew's exhibition features a range of animals, including sheep, cows, stags, zebra, wolves and hounds, waiting to be discovered in the undergrowth and hidden spaces, together with a horse welded from old chains on show for the first time. Matthews's sculptures deal with not just what each animal looks like, but its nature, how it moves, how it lives and what it is. Each is anatomically honed, but rendered to heighten the viewer's awareness of particular character traits. Denis O'Connor has made gravity-defying stainless steel constructions, which evoke vertiginous perspectives from which the landscape might appear as simultaneously alarming and thrilling. Precarious composites of tiny houses, looming towers and ladders leading nowhere, they come across as props for some outdoor tragic-comic dreamscape. The highly reflective surfaces of the stainless steel elements heighten their soaring vertiginous qualities. They join O'Connor's permanent installation 'Tower 4', a dry stone conical tower that soars upwards towards several ancient oak trees. There is also a group show, exploring the theme of light, which includes two pieces by Michael Shaw: a floating and breathing sculpture, and a luminous piece that will change colour through the season. Burghley House Gardens & Deer Park, Stamford, until 29th October.

Gallery Of Medieval Europe is a new gallery that places the collection of British, European and Byzantine treasures in their fullest historical context, integrating art with archaeology, covering the period from 1050-1500 AD. Among the highlights are the Royal Gold Cup, made of solid gold and lavishly decorated with translucent enamels; an intricately carved citole, a unique medieval English musical instrument; the Lewis Chessmen, elaborately worked walrus ivory and whales' teeth, in the forms of human figures and obelisks; a shield of parade, decorated with a painting of a lady in courtly dress and a knight kneeling before her; the Dunstable Swan Jewel, a livery badge made of opaque fused white enamel over gold; an icon portraying of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, from Constantinople, believed to have been painted by St Luke, with a life portrait of the Virgin Mary; 1,273 gold coins from the Fishpool hoard; a 2m long double handed Sword of State, with a hilt of gilt brass with enamel and incised decoration; a reliquary of St Eustace, in the form of a head, made of acer wood, covered in silver-gilt plates and decorated with jewels; the tiled pavement from Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire; and intricately carved monastic sculpture from Lewes Priory in East Sussex.British Museum, continuing.

William Blake's 1809 Exhibition is a recreation of the ill fated exhibition held to launch the career of the engraver, visionary poet and painter William Blake. The show was held in the upstairs rooms of his brother's hosiery shop in Golden Square, Soho. Inside were 16 paintings in watercolour and tempera. Visitors were charged two shilling and sixpence, for which they also received a 66 page pamphlet entitled 'A Descriptive Catalogue', in which Blake discussed the pictures and his ambitions as an artist. Blake hoped the exhibition would help him to become a painter of large scale public schemes, what he termed 'the Grand style of art'. However, almost no-one came to the exhibition, and even his friends were baffled by his strange descriptions of his pictures. Only one review appeared at the time, which was brutally dismissive: the poor man fancies himself a great master, and has painted a few wretched pictures, some of which are unintelligible allegory, others an attempt at sober character by caricature representation, and the whole 'blotted and blurred' and very badly drawn. These he calls an Exhibition, of which he has published a Catalogue, or rather a farrago of nonsense, unintelligibleness, and egregious vanity, the wild effusions of a distempered brain. Blake was bitterly disappointed, and became increasingly withdrawn and depressed. Two centuries later, 10 of the surviving pictures are exhibited here, including 'Jacob's Ladder', 'The Soldiers Casting Lots for Christ's Garments', 'Christ in the Sepulchre', and 'The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth', together with a copy of the original Catalogue. The missing works, including a large scale painting of 'The Ancient Britons', are represented by blank spaces. Pictures by other artists exhibited during 1809 are also shown, giving a sense of what was different about Blake's exhibition - and why contemporaries may have found his work so strange and confusing. Tate Britain until 4th October.

Sizergh Castle has just completed a £1.5m restoration programme, repairing the fabric of the building. The major works included pointing removal, chimney rendering, parapet rebuilding, roof insulation and re-leading, and replacement of the cement structure of the tower with traditional lime mortar, to reveal the natural stone building and preserve it from damp. Historic glazing and carved stonemasonry and the front garden steps of the building have also been repaired. A particular complication was that the roof work had to be carried out with disturbing its resident population of bats. With the removal of the covering of Boston Ivy from the outside, and the old cement pointing, features that have not been seen for centuries have been uncovered, including the original doorway into the tower. The castle contains an exceptional series of oak panelled rooms, culminating in the Inlaid Chamber, with portraits, furniture and objet d'art, accumulated over centuries by the Strickland family, by whom it was built in the Middle Ages, and whose descendants still live there today. An exhibition of photographs and videos reveal the skilled traditional craftspersons at work during the 2 year restoration programme. Visitors can also watch the movements of tower's winged residents via a 'bat cam'. Sizergh Castle, near Kendal, Cumbria, continuing.

Madness & Modernity looks at the relationship between mental illness, the visual arts and architecture in Vienna around 1900. The exhibition presents the range of ways madness and art interacted in Vienna, from designs for utopian psychiatric spaces, to the drawings of the patients confined within them. It shows how psychiatry influenced early modernism in the visual arts, and how modernism shaped the lives and images of mentally ill people. Vienna was one of Europe's leading centres for psychiatric innovation around 1900, and there was an overwhelming sense of the Viennese living in 'nervous times'. Anxieties about mental health were allied to anxieties about the modern, capitalist city, with its new technologies, modes of work and play, and speeds of life. The experience of modernity gave a new impetus to the study of madness. The exhibition comprises around 80 exhibits, including the work of artists such as Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, and leading modernist designers and architects Josef Hoffmann and Otto Wagner, who sought to create a new kind of environment for the care and confinement of mentally ill people. As well as original paintings, drawings and design objects, the display also includes artworks by asylum patients, therapeutic equipment, architectural models and drawings, and two specially commissioned films by the artist David Bickerstaff. These contrast the buildings of Wagner with the kind of asylums they were designed to replace, taking viewers on a journey through the spaces of Vienna asylums of the 18th and 20th centuries. The Wellcome Collection, London, until 28th June.


Whistler: The Gentle Art Of Making Etchings showcases a research project, currently underway at the University of Glasgow's Department of Art History, in collaboration with the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Art Institute of Chicago. James McNeill Whistler's wide ranging output included some of the most beautiful and influential etchings of the late 19th century. The project explores Whistler's innovative creative processes, from unmarked copper plate to finished print, providing an illuminating picture of the working artist and his distinctive technique. The choice of subject, composition and materials, in addition to the exhibition, publication and marketing of the etchings, is also examined. Whistler's full output is represented, from the earliest etchings to the impressive late Amsterdam views, together with working tools, copper plates, and rare archival material. The history, context and subjects of Whistler's etchings repay close examination. His titles provide clues as to the subject, but these were often clearer to a Victorian connoisseur than to 21st century viewers. The project's research team has carefully studied each etching, identifying models and sites, history and fashion, and the symbols and stories that underlie the compositions. Whistler did not always date his copper plates, but the form of his butterfly signature helps to date the printing of particular impressions. Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, until 30th May.

Annette Messager: The Messengers is the first British retrospective of the contemporary European artist Annette Messager. The exhibition presents a panoramic survey from the intimate and conceptually driven pieces Messager made in the early 1970s, to the very large sculptural installations of the past 15 years, in which movement plays an increasingly important role. It reveals her use of an astonishing repertoire of forms and materials, among them soft toys, stuffed animals, fabrics, wool, photographs, text and drawings. Many of Messager's art pieces are inspired by dreams, often reinventing the monsters of her childhood nightmares, each installation playing on the contradictions of an enclosed space being a shelter and a prison to an altogether unnerving degree. Highlights include a recreation of 'Casino', the installation that won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2005, where visitors walk into a strange and furtive world of mechanical puppets and pallid apparitions bobbing on a crimson sea, inspired by Pinocchio and all the creepy allusions that malevolent fairytale throws up; 'My Trophies', where painting is added to blown up black and white photographs of parts of the human body; 'Collection Album', which conjures up the private rituals developed by women in response to living in a male dominated culture; and 'My Wishes', in which tiny photographs of body parts are hung by string from the wall to form an elegant votive-like display. Hayward Gallery until 25th May.

Le Corbusier: The Art Of Architecture is the first major survey in London of the work of the man who is widely acclaimed as the most influential architect of the 20th century. Le Corbusier was also a celebrated thinker, writer and artist, and his architecture and radical ideas for reinventing modern living, from private villas to large scale social housing to utopian urban plans, still resonate today. The exhibition contains a wealth of original architectural models, interior reconstructions, drawings, furniture, vintage photographs, films, tapestries, paintings, sculpture and books. It charts how Le Corbusier's work changed dramatically over the years, from his early houses inspired by the regional vernacular of his native Switzerland, through the iconic Purist architecture and interiors for which he is best known, his master plan for Paris in the 1920s, and the shift to organic forms in the 1930s, to the dynamic synthesis achieved between his art and architecture as exemplified by his buildings in the 1950s. Highlights include a monumental mural painting 'Femme et coquillage IV'; a reconstruction of his Plan Voisin for Paris; a complete original kitchen designed with Charlotte Perriand from his Unite d'habitation, Marseille; original models of the chapel at Ronchamp, Unite d'habitation, and Parliament Building Chandigarh; and the film version of Le Corbusier and Edgard Varese's 'Poeme Electronique'. The exhibition also offers an opportunity to see the influence of Le Corbusier's architecture and ideas on the Barbican complex itself, designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bonn in the late 1950s. Barbican Art Gallery, London until 24th May.