News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 14th January 2004

Commencing

The Smithsons: The House Of The Future To A House For Today celebrates the architecture of Alison and Peter Samithson, who were both pioneers in the British Pop Art movement, and influential designers of landmark buildings. The exhibition traces the development of their architecture and ideas from their involvement with the Independent Group through the construction of major projects such as the Economist building in 1964, and the Robin Hood Gardens housing complex in 1972, to the present. It focuses on their houses, including two of their most important - and contrasting - projects: the House Of The Future designed for the Ideal Home Exhibition in 1956, and the little known house for today in rural Germany. The House Of The Future, conceived in an age of scientific optimism, was full of the gadgets that it was predicted would change our lives, but in fact never came to pass. These included retractable furniture, and a hot air curtain at the door to blast dirt off visitors as they entered. The house for today, a private commission built in Lauenforde, between 1985 and 2002, comes from the very different 'back to nature' movement. It is a simple functional design, constructed from traditional materials, and located in isolation in a wood, rather like a tree house, but on the ground. The exhibition charts both society's changing expectations and requirements for housing, and the Smithson's responses to them, drawing on their private archive, with plans, models and films. Design Museum until 29th February.

Travels With Edward Lear reveals a different side to the man who is best known as the author of some of the most idiosyncratic nonsense verse in the English language. Lear was in fact an outstanding watercolourist, who specialised in topographical and natural history subjects. After studying under the Pre-Raphaelite master Holman Hunt, Lear made his living throughout his life from art, by both selling his works and teaching - even giving drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. The 32 works in this exhibition are a recent acquisition and are on display for the first time. They are all depictions of locations in the eastern Mediterranean, which Lear painted during his grand tours in the 1840s and 1850s. Lear channelled his amusement at the quirkiness of human nature into his verse, which he illustrated accordingly. These sensitively observed watercolours reveal a comparable fascination with the marvels of the natural landscape, expressed in an entirely different way. National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh until 21st March.

Living And Dying looks at how people around the world deal with the tough realities of life, averting or confronting trouble, sorrow, sickness and death. Far from being unremittingly solemn, or indeed universal, this extraordinarily diverse collection of objects reveals man's infinite imagination and creativity, and the multiplicity of his beliefs. Among the many treasures in this lavish exhibition, there are fabulous dance masks from carnivals and rituals, representing gods and devils, with Diablada from Bolivia, and Kolam from Sri Lanka; personal spirit effigies to be carried for protection, such as the Hohao from Papua New Guinea and Durhig from Sarawak; large scale papier mache ceremonial figures representing famine, pestilence and death from Mexico; gold jewellery in the form of shaman from Colombia; a boy's protective tunic, made to ward off evil, from Afghanistan; a Moai 'hidden friend' stone statue from Easter Island; a carved wooden burial headrest from Zimbabwe; and paper replicas of motorbikes, telephones, and other symbols of worldly success to be burnt during funeral ceremonies from Penang. In providing the opportunity to look at and beyond objects as a means of comprehending common human experience, this exhibition opens a window on what life is and was like for people in widely different places and times. British Museum continuing.

Continuing

Enlightenment brings together almost 5,000 objects to show how people understood their world in the Age of Enlightenment, during the 18th and early 19th centuries. It explores a period that saw the development of a systematic approach to the way that people examined the world of nature and human achievement, and resulted in the founding of the Museum itself in 1753. The display also provides an introduction to the Museum and its collections - a museum of the Museum - highlighting the way that our understanding of much of the natural and human world has changed. It ranges from dinosaur fossils, to ceremonial and every day objects from all over the world, collected on voyages of trade and discovery by James Cook, Joseph Banks and others. The exhibition is housed in the former King's Library, hailed as 'the noblest room in London'. Named after King George III, it was built to house his collection of over 60,000 books, which was given to the nation shortly after his death in 1820. The books were transferred to the new British Library in 1998, and American architects HOK have now restored the room to its original glory, as one of London's finest and most beautiful neo-Classical interiors, at a cost of £8m. It is on a grand scale: 300ft long, 41ft high and 30ft wide, with a central section 58ft wide, requiring the pioneering use of concrete clad cast iron beams to support the ceiling. The exhibits are displayed in traditional glass cases, returning the world of museums to a proper examination and appreciation of the actual artefacts from the current fad of 'interactivity'. The British Museum continuing.

Quentin Blake: 50 Years Of Illustration is a retrospective of the drawings of the man best known as the illustrator of the works of Roald Dahl, and for being the first Children's Laureate, appointed in 1999. Spanning his 50 year career, it features everything from his earliest drawings, published in Punch when he was 16, through cartoons seen in The Spectator, to illustrations from nearly 300 books. The latter include his highly successful collaborations on children's books with both Dahl and other writers, such as Russell Hoban, Joan Aiken, Michael Rosen and John Yeoman, and his own writing in which he created characters such as Mister Magnolia and Mrs Armitage, as well as illustrations from classic books for adults. The comprehensive display, with rough designs, preliminary drawings and finished originals, as well as the final publications, provide a unique insight into the working methods of one of Britain's best loved illustrators. The exhibits come from the collection of The Quentin Blake Gallery of Illustration, which is planning to set up a permanent space to display the thousands of drawings in its archive. The Gilbert Collection at Somerset House until 28th March.

New Painting Galleries is a suite of five galleries built in the 1850s and recently returned to their original use, recreating the feeling of the rooms of a great Victorian collector. They contain over 200 paintings and watercolours, plus French sculpture, Oriental ceramics, and a decorated piano designed by William Morris. Three rooms focus on landscapes, with works by Constable, Turner and their contemporaries, including James de Loutherbourg, Peter De Wint, Francis Danby and James Ward. One of these rooms features Gainsbourgh's experimental 'shadowbox' with its back-lit landscapes, painted in oils on glass, and viewed through a magnifying lens. Another contains a rotating display of watercolours, drawings and illustrations from the national collection. The centrepiece is a room housing the bequest of the merchant Constantine Ionides. This embraces both Old Masters, including Tintoretto, Botticelli and Delacroix, and contemporary works, by Degas, Ingres, Burne-Jones and Millais, and Ionides friends Rossetti, Legros and Watts. The final room houses 70 works by Blake, Landseer, Fuseli, Millais and others, hung in the 'crammed in' style of the period, as satirised in paintings and cartoons of the Royal Academy. These works were first displayed in 1857 in what was then the first National Gallery of British Art. Victoria & Albert Museum continuing.

Illuminating The Renaissance: The Triumph Of Flemish Manuscript Painting In Europe brings together some of the greatest works of the quintessential medieval art form, painted between 1470 and 1560. In the wake of the invention of printing, Flemish illuminators created extravagant and lavish manuscripts in which their art was revitalized and given new direction, resulting in some of the most colourful and luminous examples of the late medieval era. Their work was characterised by innovations in colour, light and texture, and naturalistic detail and illusionism, which rivalled the best panel panting of the period. Flemish illuminators also gave attention to the borders surrounding the text and accompanying miniatures. Previously stylised and two dimensional, they brought them to life with vivid, naturalistic detail, so that at first glance it might seem as though the text was actually surrounded with flowers, fruits and insects. The manuscripts displayed here reveal the full range of sizes and formats in which illuminators worked, from a monumental genealogy to diminutive private altarpieces on parchment, from huge folio sized volumes to tiny prayer books, and from single independent miniatures to books containing a hundred or more examples. The types of texts also vary, from histories, chronicles and romances, to Christian devotional writings, breviaries and books of hours. The fact that they have rarely been displayed means that the colours they retain their brilliance despite being 500 years old. The Royal Academy until 22nd February.

Degas And The Italians In Paris is the first exhibition to explore the connections between the French Impressionist painter, Edgar Degas and a number of Italian artists working in Paris, who were inspired by his sense of design, incisive line and range of experimental techniques. Degas technical and compositional innovations drew partly on the camera, partly on Japan, and partly on the five years he spent in Italy studying the masters of the Italian Renaissance. The exhibition consists of some ninety works in a variety of media - oils, pastels, drawings, prints, and sculptures - of which roughly fifty are by Degas, with ten each by his Italian colleagues Giovanni Boldini, Federico Zandomeneghi, Giuseppe de Nittis and Medardo Rosso. Although each of them worked in a distinctive manner, they all responded to Degas as a classical painter of modern life, to his compositional innovations, and to his technical virtuosity. Some of Degas greatest early portraits are of his Italian relations and a number are included in the show, such as the double portrait of Edmondo e Therese Morbilli. Works are grouped in themes: portraits, the nude and modern life, and their juxtaposition is revealing. Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh until 29th February.

Foreign Office Architects: Breeding Architecture is the first British exhibition of the work of the architectural practice founded ten years ago by Alejandro Zaera Polo and Farshid Moussavi. Hailed as the "coolest architects in the world" by The Times, they are the most successful practitioners of their thirtysomething generation. Based in London, they have a global reach, with landmark projects commissioned or realised in cities as various as New York, Tehran and (their greatest claim to fame so far) Yokohama, where they won a competition against a field of 600 worldwide submissions. FOA is dedicated to the exploration of contemporary urban conditions and construction technologies. Their irregularly shaped, intriguingly patterned buildings, like those of Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind, aim to actively contribute to the activities that take place within them. This exhibition not only explores their projects, and the particularities of each city in which they have been built or are planned, but also examines the range of influences on their work, including music, film and literature, and provides a critical insight into the office's internal 'operating system'. During the course of this year FOA has been commissioned to design the new BBC Music Centre in White City, and chosen as part of the multi-national consortium creating the master plan for London's bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Institute of Contemporary Arts until 29th February.

Concluding

A Celebration Of Hungarian Gold And Silver is an exhibition drawn from the most important gold and silver plate collections in Hungary, the great Treasury of Esztergom Cathedral, established in the 11th century, the Eger Franciscan Church, and the Hungarian National Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest. It highlights the unique features of the gold and silver working tradition in Hungary from the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century, from metal that is engraved, pierced and embossed, to pieces encrusted with gems. The display of around 50 works includes a spectacular group of ecclesiastical objects, such as the 13th century gold cross on which the Kings of Hungary took their coronation oath, the 14th century sceptre of the Bishop of Esztergom, a large filigree enamel drinking cup, the reliquary of St Imre, and an 18th century monstrance. Secular treasures include cups, beakers and ewers, often richly embossed with classical scenes, and many bearing the name and coat of arms of their former owners, coffee pots, tankards, table fountains, and filigree figures. Gilbert Collection, Somerset House until 1st February.

Somerset House Courtyard Ice Rink, is now as regular a Christmas feature in London as the Holiday Season outdoor skating arena at the Rockefeller Center in New York (although the skating is possibly not as stylish). The rink, covering 9000sqm and capable of accommodating some 2000 skaters a day, has been installed in the courtyard at a cost of around £300,000. It is open from 10am to 10pm, and as darkness falls the courtyard is transformed, with music playing, and illumination from flaming torches and architectural lighting on the building's 18th century facades. A 40ft Christmas tree has been erected at the north end of the courtyard. Both skaters and spectators can enjoy the traditional fare of baked potatoes, hot chocolate and mulled wine in the rinkside cafe. Tuition is available for beginners and ice guides can accompany inexperienced skaters. The rink is open throughout the Christmas and New Year period, closing only on Christmas Day. Somerset House until 26th January.

Saved! 100 Years Of The National Art Collections Fund celebrates the centenary of the National Art Collections Fund by bringing together over 300 masterpieces which have been saved for the nation with the Fund's help. Spanning 4,500 years of great works of art from prehistoric times to the present, they comprise sculptures, paintings, drawings, ceramics, costumes, textiles, photographs, archaeological treasures and ethnographic material. Among the highlights are 'Jacob and the Angel' by Epstein; Canova's 'The Three Graces'; Picasso's 'Weeping Woman'; the Roman 'Bronze Head of Augustus', circa 27-25BC; major paintings and drawings by masters such as Botticelli, Constable, Holbein, Michelangelo, Rembrandt; and contemporary works by Lucian Freud, Anish Kapoor, Julian Opie and Rachel Whiteread. Other treasures include jewels recovered from the Spanish Armada shipwreck of the Girona; the carved stern post of a Maori war canoe; van de Cappelle's seascape 'A Calm'; and the last letter of Mary Queen of Scots, written hours before her execution. A number of these works would have disappeared from public view or left Britain without the Fund's intervention, and the exhibition also tells the often dramatic stories behind their acquisition. Photographs, legal documents, letters and press cuttings illustrate the history of the Fund and its campaigning work. This exhibition marks the reopening of the Hayward Gallery after cosmetic surgery by Dan Graham and Haworth Tompkins, giving it a more prominent and spacious entrance, and a new small gallery. Hayward Gallery until 18th January.