Private View held by Richard Andrews
The Somerset House Ice Rink is the latest attraction to open as part of the restoration of the former government offices to public use. For the first time London has an outdoor skating arena comparable to the traditional Holiday Season rink at the Rockefeller Centre in New York. The rink, capable of accommodating some 200 skaters an hour, has been installed on the southern half of the courtyard at a cost of around £300,000. It is open throughout the afternoon and evening as darkness falls and lights illuminate the building's 18th century facades. A Christmas tree has been erected at the north end of the courtyard, and both skaters and spectators can enjoy traditional hot snacks and drinks provided by resident restaurateur Oliver Peyton. The rink is open throughout the Christmas and New Year period, closing only on Christmas Day. Tickets must be purchased from the rink as no advance booking is available. At last London can return to the Thames Frost Fairs of yesteryear. Further information can be found on the Somerset House web site via the link from the Heritage section of ExhibitionsNet. Somerset House until 6th January.
Future Perfect: Art On How Architecture Imagined The Future presents a series of idealistic visions of future living (that in retrospect are always endearing in their naivety) something which we no longer seem to produce. Realism now prevails, as perhaps experience has finally cured us of idealism. This exhibition spans utopian, fantastic and futuristic visions from Paris to Portmeirion and from South America to Southern India. It comprises the work of ten visionaries, including Archigram's "Walking City, New York", a world of bug like architectural robotics; Buckminster Fuller's ecologically aware explorations; and Liam Gillick and David Thorpe taking a sideways fictionalised look at utopian projects. The show encompasses plans, models, renderings, sculpture, photography, sound and film - a wonderful collection of surreal imaginings and period barminess. Cornerhouse, Manchester, 0161 200 1500 until 21st January.
Turner: The Great Watercolours marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Britain's greatest painter with the first exhibition devoted to J.M.W. Turner's exploration of the scope and potential of watercolour (rather than his better known work in oils). The exhibition includes many of his architectural and country-house drawings, and works from the "Picturesque Views in England and Wales" series, generally considered to be the finest views of the British landscape ever made. It culminates in a group of Swiss watercolours from the 1840's in which Turner captured the beauty, luminosity and space of the Alps. This is an unparalleled survey of 100 of the artist's finished watercolours (as opposed to sketches for future oils), dazzling in their breadth of scale, depth of tone, richness of colour and wealth of detail. Royal Academy of Arts until 11th February.
The Great Court at the British Museum creates a two acre square enclosed by a spectacular glass roof designed by Foster and Partners. It transforms the museum's inner courtyard, with the Reading Room at its centre, into the largest covered public square in Europe. The £100m project has been supported by £45.75m Lottery funding. Despite controversy over the stone used and height of the roof, once again Norman Foster has demonstrated his expertise in transforming existing structures with glass and steel. The Great Court will increase public space in the museum by fifty per cent, allowing visitors to move freely around the main floor for the first time in 150 years. Inside the courtyard two monumental staircases encircle the drum of the Reading Room and lead to the new Great Court Gallery and restaurant, from where a bridge link takes visitors into the upper galleries of the museum.
Human Image, the new gallery's inaugural exhibition illustrates how the depiction and definition of the body have been of fundamental concern in the communication of ideas and information across all world cultures. It explores the representation of the human form beginning with early artefacts from pre-historic Europe and ending with examples from contemporary China and Nigeria. British Museum - Human Images until 11th February.
Andrew Logan trained as an architect but gave it up to make camp his life's work, expressed through costume and interior design, sculpture, and performance and installation art. He employs mirrored and coloured glass pieced together using a mosaic technique to create images and sculptures. Logan's obsession is trinket art, which has been reinforced by his travels to India. This selection of his work, reflecting this love of the fantastical and sparkling, makes a perfect celebration for the festive season. Typical of the kitsch and glittering awfulness which abounds is Piano Peacock, a figure of Liberace with a keyboard fan tail. Cheltenham Art Gallery until 13th January.
The Man Who Drew Pooh: The Art Of E. H. Shepard presents the illustrations for which he became famous: A. A. Milne's Winnie-The-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger. Pooh however, was only one achievement in a long and varied artistic career. Shephard started drawing and painting as a child, and went on to attend the Royal Academy Schools, where his first experience of copying from the old masters was Dulwich Picture Gallery's Philip IV of Spain. He painted portraits and landscapes, made on-the-spot drawings of both world wars, and produced political cartoons for Punch, as well as book illustrations of all types. Shepherd also wrote two children's books, and produced two illustrated volumes of autobiography. This exhibition of 170 pictures from his private collection, many previously unseen in public, include not only Pooh and friends but examples from his first painting aged seven through his whole career to his last aged ninety. Dulwich Picture Gallery until 21st January.
Treasures Of Catherine The Great launches the Hermitage Rooms, which are the final phase in the liberation of Somerset House from occupation by Civil Servants by the forces of culture. The rooms will act as an introduction to The Hermitage, Russia's finest museum which is situated in the Imperial Winter Palace in St Petersburg. Housed in five buildings constructed between 1754 and 1762, the collection comprises over 3 million items. The five rooms at Somerset House recreate the splendour of the imperial decor of a wing of the Hermitage in miniature, with marquetry floors, 19th century furnishings and chandeliers. Catherine the Great was probably the greatest collector of all time, accumulating over 4 thousand paintings, medals, jewels, antique sculpture, clocks, ornaments, porcelain and other works of art. This exhibition of over 500 items presents an intimate picture of her personal possessions, her gifts to close family members and her many lovers, and diplomatic gifts received from fellow rulers, including the Emperor of China. Further information can be found on the Heritage Rooms web site via the link from the Museums section of ExhibitionsNet. Heritage Rooms at Somerset House until 23rd September.
Portraits Of John Ruskin marks the centenary of the death one of the most influential writers and critics of the 19th century. A series of works, including informal sketches, caricatures and photographs, as well as the formal paintings, busts and other portraits, trace his life from infancy to old age. Ruskin, an eco warrior, social reformer and champion of the arts was a century ahead of his time, and many of his visionary ideas (like a minimum wage and free access to museums) were virtually ignored in his lifetime. The centrepiece of the exhibition is the portrait of Ruskin at Glenfinlas painted by Sir John Everett Millais in 1853, together with the preparatory study and several other drawings made during the visit (before he ran off with Ruskin's wife Effie).
Ruskin And The Geographical Imagination is a smaller exhibition which runs alongside, exploring Ruskin's involvement with (and pronouncements on) the natural world, and includes sketches, watercolours and contemporary photographs. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford until 21st January.
Funny is a surreal concoction lurking in a basement, which looks like a cross between a teenage bedroom and an old curiosity shop. It encompasses a macabre mixture of paintings by Peter Harris, Peter Blake's Dickensian etchings of sideshow freaks, Peter Doig's painting of country and western singer Hank Williams, Chris Coombes official portrait of the Queen, Theo Sykes painting of Marilyn Monroe and live performances by Nigel Burch and The Flea Pit Orchestra of songs by Brecht and Weil. Andrew Mummery Gallery, London EC1, 020 7251 6265 until 20th January.
Hubble's Universe is a collection of photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, which is in continuous orbit around the earth, about 380 miles, up facing outwards into the depths of space. They give visitors the opportunity to see a cluster of newly formed stars about 1,500 light years away in the Orion Nebula, and a colour-coded image showing Saturn's reflected infra-red light, providing detailed information on its clouds and hazes.
Space And Ocean consists of four islands, where visitors can discover the sea from the bridge of a ship and see the role played by satellites in navigation, as well as learning about aquatic life. They show how observation satellites reveal facts about the oceans, examine the earth's climate, and help to plan the protection of the environment. Other interactive exhibits explain the way in which the sun and the moon affect the behaviour of the sea, and how clouds are created. The Museum Of Science And Industry In Manchester, Hubble's Universe & Space And Ocean until 7th January.
Lantern-lit Tours feature guides in full period costume who give visitors a taste of the atmosphere of a historic palace after dark. They bring to life the events that took place, together with the personalities involved, during a period of almost two hundred years when this royal residence on the Thames was at the centre of court life, politics and national history. Tours (which may be unsuitable for young children) include mulled wine and Tudor-style canapés served before a roaring log fire. Booking in advance only for Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5.30pm, 6.00pm and 6.30pm.
Tudor Christmas will celebrates Christmas with jesting and fire juggling in the palace courtyards. Visitors will be able to watch the palace's Master Cook and his team of chefs prepare a feast fit for a King, and even join in the farandole (a Tudor conga) in the state apartments. Hampton Court Palace, Lantern-lit Tours until 20th December - Tudor Christmas from 27th December to 1st January.
The Wapping Project is a new arts centre created within the former Grade 2* listed Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, opposite the Prospect of Whitby, east of Tower Bridge. Built in 1890 for the London Hydraulic Power Company, its turbines provided the force to lift the safety curtains of West End theatres, power the elevators in Claridges and the National Gallery, and raise and lower Tower Bridge, by pumping millions of gallons of water under high pressure through a system of pipes across London. A £4m project undertaken by the Women's Playhouse Trust (without Lottery funding) has saved the almost derelict building, preserved its industrial heritage, and created a multi use arts space. It opens with Conductor, an installation by Jane Prophet, created by flooding the Boiler Room and hanging 120 electro luminescent cables from a grid on the ceiling, thus linking the building's historic past to a creative future. Amid the preserved machinery in the Turbine House, alongside a performance space, there is a bar and restaurant, the furniture of which forms an exhibition in itself. Installed is a continually changing selection of contemporary furniture which can be tried out, and purchased at exhibition prices. Future plans include a bookshop and further performance spaces. Not quite on the scale of Tate Modern but nevertheless a gem. The Wapping Project, Wapping Wall E1, 020 7680 2080 until 21st December.