Private View held by Richard Andrews
Eyes, Lies And Illusions is a treasure trove of optical devices and illusions, from magic lanterns, shadow plays, tricks of perspective and anamorphic images, to kaleidoscopes, zoetropes and other early forms of animation. Drawing on the collection of the German experimental film maker Werner Nekes, this exhibition includes over 1,000 of the most astonishing feats of optical wizardry, dating from the Renaissance to the early years of cinema. Alongside these are works by modern and contemporary artists, including Marcel Duchamp, Christian Boltanski, Tony Oursler and Carsten Holler, which demonstrate how perceptual ambiguities and paradoxes continue to fascinate and inspire artists today. Among the highlights are: 19th century hidden images, visual puzzles and optical riddles in a huge variety of forms; 'Witch' mirrors that multiply reflections to infinity; a camera obscura that shows the traffic on adjoining Waterloo Bridge upside down; shadow puppets of angels and devils circling the walls and concealed in unexpected corners; Line Describing A Cone, a seemingly 'solid' beam of light created from a projected white spot that grows into a complete circle filled with smoke; viewing devices made from prisms and mirrors presenting an inside-out, back-to-front illusion where solids appear void; and a reconstruction of an 'Ames Room', an Alice In Wonderland experience where visitors themselves are part of an astonishing shrinking and enlarging illusion. Hayward Gallery until 3rd January.
Wigan Casino: The Heart Of Soul is an exhibition featuring artwork, memorabilia, photographs and videos intimately connected with what was voted 'Best Disco in the World' by American music magazine 'Billboard' in 1978. It boasts original objects and previously unseen photographs courtesy of the DJ Russ Winstanley, who founded the Casino's legendary 'all-nighters', and even the sounds of those 'all-nighters' - complete with hand clapping - recorded live in the Casino in 1975. Complementing this is Granada television's controversial 1977 documentary, 'This England', directed by Tony Palmer. Soul fans themselves have contributed memories and memorabilia, including original badges, which were a great feature of the time, and clothing. In addition, new works by local artist David Barrow aim to give visitors a taste of what it was like to be inside Wigan Casino in its halcyon days. The exhibition also explores the wider history of the former Empress Hall, which opened in 1916, and quickly became a popular dancing venue. It attracted many famous acts during the 1950s and '60s, including American rock 'n' roll legends. In 1965 it was re-launched as the Casino Club and went on to host to such acts as the Rolling Stones, Tom Jones and David Bowie, before becoming THE Northern Soul venue from 1973 until its closure in 1981. The building was demolished in 1983 to make way for a civic centre, which was never built. History Shop, Wigan until 26th February.
G F Watts: Portraits - Fame And Beauty In Victorian Society is a rare exhibition of portraits by the Victorian painter, who was much feted in his time, but is now often forgotten. Watts was a central personality of the era: a friend of Tennyson, the Pre-Raphaelite artists, photographic pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron, and married (albeit briefly) to the actress Ellen Terry. Today he is best remembered for his large-scale symbolist paintings, such as 'Hope', and for the 'Hall of Fame' series of portraits of his eminent contemporaries, including Carlyle, Tennyson, Browning and Rossetti, yet he also produced some of the most glamorous full-length portraits of women of the Victorian period. As a portraitist Watts had an enormous output - over 300 images in oils and countless drawings - from the 1830s to 1904. Rich in colour and detail, these are little known and have never been seen together as a group, though they comprise the artistic and social elite of mid-Victorian London. Some of the most beautiful of Watts's paintings are portraits of his personal friends. This exhibition brings together over fifty works, including several showing the seven Pattle sisters; Mrs Nassau Senior; a double portrait of Ellen and Kate Terry known as 'The Sisters'; Violet Manners, later the Duchess of Rutland, a fellow artist; Blanche, Lady Lindsay, artist, musician, and co-founder of the Grosvenor Gallery; Lillie Langtry; and several drawings and oil paintings of Mary Augusta, Lady Holland, which reveal the nature of their 'close friendship'. National Portrait Gallery until 9th January.
Communicate: Independent British Graphic Design Since The Sixties is the first major exhibition to explore developments in British graphic design over the past four decades, and examine its influence on contemporary culture. Focusing on the smaller independent studios and teams who have produced the most creative, innovative and highly regarded design work, it presents an overview of the best design work, tracing how and why UK graphic design has developed in the way it has. It explores the emergence of independent graphic design within the music, publishing and cultural industries, its role in the shaping of identity, and the link between graphic design and the web. In addition, the exhibition highlights the place of graphic design as a medium of protest in society, as well as the increasingly important area of experimental self-initiated work undertaken by designers. The exhibition features more than 600 exhibits, spanning album covers for New Order and Primal Scream, identities for BBC 2 and Big Brother, Biba and Paul Smith, magazines including OZ and i-D, posters for CND and the Anti-Nazi League, and web sites for The Guardian and Donnie Darko. It celebrates the achievements of over 100 designers as diverse as Alan Fletcher, Ken Garland, Michael English, Barney Bubbles, Peter Saville, Neville Brody, The Designer's Republic, Tomato, Fuel, Intro and Hi-ReS! Barbican Gallery until 23rd January.
Walter Sickert: Drawing Is The Thing opens up a new front in the current Sickertmania by examining the core of his creative process. Sickert drew constantly in order to capture new subjects for his paintings - theatrical interiors, the stage, and highly charged domestic dramas. By bringing together over 150 works, with every form of drawing Sickert made, and a number of related paintings and prints, it offers an insight into his techniques, themes and reasons for drawing. Sickert's earliest, small drawings, quick, evocative sketches made in the semi-darkness of the theatre, are evidence of his daily (or rather nightly) practice of drawing from real-life situations. His depictions of couples in an interior, recognised as his major achievement, form a large part of the exhibition. Just as many of the theatrical interiors featured the dynamic tension between audience and performer, so his domestic dramas are full of psychological tension. A central feature of the exhibition is the assembling of all the known drawings for his composition Ennui, together with the paintings and prints they inspired. The unusual nature of Sickert's subject matter extended to his choice of unconventional models, both architectural and human. He rejected professional models and preferred unglamorous, working class parts of town. The exhibition also explores the relationship between Sickert and one of his models, a young art student Cicely Hey, whom he drew many times. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester until 5th December.
Bouchier: Seductive Visions is a new display of spectacular creations from the worlds finest collection of works by the most beguiling of 18th century French Rococo painters. Bouchier's gods and goddesses, shepherds and shepherdesses, cherubs and mythical creatures, inhabited a unique ethereal world, somewhere between Paris and Versailles. The exhibition reflects how this little known painter rose from obscurity to reach the heights of the academic hierarchy, and work for a prestigious clientele. This included King Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour, for whom he created the masterpieces 'The Setting of the Sun' and 'The Rising of the Sun', which form the centrepiece of the exhibition. Bouchier was prolific, and his influence soon extended beyond paintings, as he became an arbiter of society's taste. This is borne out by the inclusion here of Sevres porcelain, miniatures, gold work, boxes, furniture and tapestry reflecting his style. He also designed elaborate settings for opera, ballet and comedies, and murals for public and domestic interiors. Bouchier's female nudes and poetically imaginative pastorals led to him being acclaimed as 'the Painter of the Graces' and 'the Anacreon of Painting'. His extravagant, idealised scenes perfectly captured the hedonistic mood of the Enlightenment, but his enchanted visions of gods and goddesses were swept away by the harsh realities of the ensuing Revolution. The Wallace Collection until 17th April.
Encounters: The Meeting Of Asia And Europe 1500 - 1800 brings together a range of objects from Asia and Europe from the period when Europeans first discovered the sea route to the Indies. It shows how Europe was fascinated by the East, prizing its artistic treasures and exotic materials, while absorbing its culture, from drinking tea out of a porcelain cup to wearing printed cotton and acquiring spices, ivory, wood, silk and precious stones. Equally, Asians were influenced by Westerners, assimilating aspects of European culture from dressing in European clothing to acquiring new technologies such as clocks, mirrors and perspective in painting. On show are over 200 objects, including rare porcelain, jewel-encrusted caskets and miniature paintings made for European princes and collectors, together with luxury goods created for the European market, such as furniture made of lacquered wood and ivory, scroll paintings, willow pattern porcelain, painted silks, wallpapers and cashmere. Highlights include an Indian mother-of-pearl casket owned by Francois I and reputedly given to Henry VIII; the Fonthill Vase, the earliest recorded Chinese porcelain in Europe; the suit of samurai armour sent by a shogun to James I; the earliest known terrestrial globe made in China; a Ceylonese rock-crystal figure of the Child Jesus set in gold, sapphires and rubies; and Tipoo's Tiger, a near life size automaton of a British soldier being mauled by a tiger that encases an organ. Victoria & Albert Museum until 5th December.
Shakespeare In Quarto marks the digitising of the British Library's collection of original copies of Shakespeare plays, which are now available to view on its web site. It comprises 93 copies of the 21 plays by Shakespeare printed in quarto before the theatres were closed in 1642, with a facility to compare the different versions, expert commentaries on the texts and their variations, and reference works for further study. The site also explains how the plays were printed, published and sold when Shakespeare was writing, together with background material about the companies and actors that used them, and the first public playhouses in London. There is further information about the playwright's life and work in both Stratford-upon-Avon and London. Another section shows how the plays have changed in both print and in performance, as theatres, staging techniques, and fashions in costume, scenery and acting styles have altered, from the reopening of the theatres in 1663 to the present day, together with information about the actors who performed them, including rare archive recordings. There is a link to the BL web site from the Galleries section of ExhibitionsNet.
Constance Spry - A Millionaire For A Few Pence is the controversial exhibition that celebrates the work of the society florist and social reformer, who taught millions of mid 20th century Britons how to beautify their homes. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Constance Spry was the dominant influence on British homes, through her own flower arrangements, a floristry school, correspondence courses, radio broadcasts and best selling interior design and cookery books. In an era when many people were furnishing their homes for the first time, hers was the only name that counted in British home making. Although she arranged flowers for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's wedding and the Queen's coronation, Spry's early experience was as a domestic science teacher in the East End of London in the 1920s. This had convinced her that everyone had the right to become 'a millionaire for a few pence' by beautifying even the poorest of homes. She championed arranging flowers, weeds, twigs from hedgerows and wasteland - and even vegetable leaves - in impromptu vases such as baking trays and gravy boats, as beautifully as expensive cut flowers in crystal. Drawn from Constance Spry's archive, this exhibition explores her role in democratising design in mid 20th century Britain and her enduring influence. She was the Martha Stewart of an earlier, simpler time. Design Museum until 28th November.
Timeframes: Lodge Jeapes McGhie - TV Title Pioneers salutes the work of three BBC designers, who played a crucial role in transforming titles of television programmes, from little more than silent film captions, into a creative art. In the 1960s, Bernard Lodge, Alan Jeapes and Charles McGhie were the first to realise the potential of moving graphic sequences combined with sound. In 30 seconds they were able to capture the mood of the programme and engage the viewers. The exhibition is a combination of stills, screenprints, storyboards, lightbox slides and moving images of work by Lodge: 'Dr Who', 'The Late Show', 'Tea Party' and 'Telltale'; Jeapes: 'Thorndyke', 'Famous Gossips' and 'Softly Softly'; and McGhie: 'Late Night Horror', 'Out Of The Unknown' and '13 Against Fate'. When they joined the BBC there were no rules to break, as the department consisted of signwriters who created basic handwritten captions. Lodge, Jeapes and McGhie were art college trained, and used design, animation and experimental visuals to create kinetic solutions. The results were original and creative, and their seminal work has influenced television design ever since. What Saul Bass was to film titles, these three designers were to television - they invented the genre of the title sequence. Kemistry, London EC2, 020 7729 3636, until 30th October.
Walter Richard Sickert: The Human Canvas points up Sickert's influential role as a link between the French Impressionists and British art in the early 20th century. This exhibition of 43 paintings includes many of Sickert's most important works from each key stage his career. It highlights Sickert's technical mastery and experimentation, his uncompromising realism, and the innovative range of his subject matter. On display are nudes and portraits of cultural figures of the period, as well as townscapes, architectural subjects painted during his time in London, Venice and Dieppe, and the later works he derived from photographs. Sickert gained a reputation early in his career for a distinctive style, and range of subject matter inspired by his experience of London life, often characterised by the use of murky colours and a strong narrative. From his earliest music hall pictures, Sickert showed a fascination with people on the periphery of society, and those at the extremes of human behaviour. The exhibition includes several of his 'Camden Town Murder' series, which shocked critics of the time with their raw nudity in works such as 'La Hollandaise', and the juxtaposition of two figures to generate sexual tension and ambiguity, in paintings like 'L'Affaire de Camden Town'. Abbot Hall Gallery, Kendal until 30th October.
From Quill Pen To Computer: The Bank Of England's Staff From 1694 celebrates the personalities who have conducted the business of the now august institution (which opened in rented premises with a staff of just 19) and reflects on how their working methods and conditions have changed. Objects, paintings, prints, books, documents and photographs bring to life people such as William Maynee, an Accountant's Office clerk found guilty of forgery of Bank notes, who was hanged in 1731; William Guest, a teller who committed High Treason by filing gold coins, and was drawn on a sledge to Tyburn and hanged in 1767; and Kenneth Grahame, the author of The Wind In The Willows, who was Secretary of the Bank for ten years from 1898, and is believed to have drawn inspiration for some of his characters from fellow workers. Although the Bank is not known for innovation, in 1894 it was amongst the first organisations in the City to employ women on clerical duties, causing shock waves among many business establishments. The exhibition reveals the skills required in earlier times, when prospective employees had to pass an examination involving handwriting, orthography (that's spelling), arithmetic, English composition and geography. To demonstrate how working conditions have changed, one of the latest computers in use in the Bank has a scrolling display of images of newly refurbished offices, together with the contrasting 18th, 19th and early 20th century workplaces. The Bank of England Museum until 27th October.