News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 14th December 2011


The Heart Of The Great Alone: Scott, Shackleton & Antarctic Photography features photographs taken in Antarctica by Herbert George Ponting and Frank Hurley, and marks the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott's ill-fated journey to the South Pole. Herbert George Ponting's extraordinary images record Scott's Terra Nova expedition of 1910-13, which led to the tragic death of five of the team on their return from the South Pole. The photographs capture scenes of life on board, the very first icebergs the ship encountered, and the stunning landscape and wildlife around them, including ice flowers, a grotto in an iceberg, the moment the sea began to freeze, and Captain Oates and his Siberian ponies. Frank Hurley's dramatic icescapes were taken during Ernest Shackleton's Polar expedition on Endurance in 1914-16, which included the heroic sea journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. They record life onboard Endurance before it was trapped in the ice floes, and include atmospheric pictures of it sinking beneath the sea, having been crushed by the enormous pressure of the ice, after which Hurley was forced to sacrifice all but 120 of his 500 glass plate negatives in order to carry them home on foot. Presented to King George V, these sets of photographs, which manage to encapsulate the brave and tragic elements of the expeditions undertaken in fatally freezing conditions, are among the finest examples of the artists' works in existence. In addition to the photographs, the exhibition includes some remarkable Antarctic ephemera, including Captain Scott's South Pole flag, together with photographs and paintings associated with The Duke of Edinburgh's visit to Antarctica in 1956-57. The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, until 15th April.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery has reopened after a £17.6m restoration and refurbishment project designed by architects Page / Park, which has increased the public and exhibition space by more than 60%, adding an education suite, seminar room, larger cafe and shop, and media centre. Among the opening displays are: Reformation To Revolution, an exploration of the significance of portraiture in a period of fundamental changes in religion, leadership and nationhood, from a time of Catholic absolute monarchy in the mid 16th century, to the Protestant revolution at the end of the 17th century; Citizens Of The World: David Hume & Allan Ramsay, telling the story of Scotland's contribution to the Enlightenment, through the portraits of the people who contributed to the paradigm shifts in attitudes towards humankind and the world during the 18th century; Out Of The Shadow: Women Of 19th Century Scotland, considering the lives of female intellectuals, writers and artists whose work helped to change the perceptions and aspirations of their female audience, and to advance the cause of women's rights in the 19th century; Migration Stories, highlighting the cultural diversity of Scotland and its impact on the world, exploring questions of identity, issues of place, belonging, exile and tradition; and Romantic Camera: Scottish Photography And The Modern World, exploring questions of national identity, with reference to the relationship between romanticism and photography in Scotland, ranging from iconic images by pioneers of photography Hill and Adamson, to new commissions. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, continuing.

A Hankering After Ghosts: Charles Dickens And The Supernatural explores the many ways in which Dickens used supernatural phenomena in his works, while placing them in the context of scientific, technological and philosophical debates of his time. Dickens's interest in the macabre was apparent from an early age, and as an adult, he was caught up in 'mesmeric mania' that swept Britain, developing an interest in the 'power of the human mind'. He believed that all supernatural manifestations must have rational explanations, but his investigations into animal magnetism and psychology showed him that science could be as chilling as any ghost story. Among the exhibits are: a letter from Dickens to his wife Catherine, alluding to a marital disagreement that arose after Catherine became jealous of the close attention he was paying to a lady named Augusta de la Rue, using mesmerism to treat her nervous condition after he learnt how to mesmerise people; 'Well authenticated rappings' written by Dickens for Household Words, questioning the motivation of spirits who would return to make general idiots of themselves by conveying inane messages full of spelling mistakes; The Terrific Register: or, Records Of Crimes, Judgements, Providences And Calamities, a penny weekly magazine that covered such topics as murder, ghosts, incest and cannibalism, which was a favourite of Dickens as a child; and a Punch cartoon of John Elliotson, the doctor who promoted mesmerism, where he looks remarkably like a hairdresser suggesting a trim to his woman patient. British Library until 4th March.


Hidden Heroes - The Genius Of Everyday Things examines the ingenuity of a group of seemingly run-of-the-mill everyday objects. The exhibition looks at the inspiration involved in items whose design and purpose are so well matched that they remain uncelebrated, but heavily used, in the fabric of our lives. The 36 inventions which deserve their moment in the spotlight include the ring binder, rubber band, spring clothes peg, sticking plaster, paperclip, Velcro, umbrella, zip and ballpoint pen. The featured inventions are presented alongside original sketches and drawings by their inventors, illustrating the process from idea to final object. Patent specifications and original advertisements reveal the efforts made to establish each product. Many of the objects have remained unaltered since their invention, demonstrating a simple, ingenious design. In some cases, the success of each product reflects changes in cultural and industrial history: the pencil suggests the spread of education and writing; the tin can illustrates the industrialisation of food production; and Post-it Notes have proliferated in tandem with computers, staging a final stand for scribbled communication in a digital age. Among the stories contained within the exhibition are: how a descending aeroplane may have inspired the design of bubble wrap; how an engineer hired to install electrical fittings at the British Museum invented the rawlplug; how a packed coat rack could have inspired the wire coat hanger; how a request by Napoleon for the preservation of food for his troops led to the eventual development of the tin can; and how the tea bag may have been discovered accidentally when customers dipped unopened packets in hot water to test quality of a tea shipment. Science Museum until 5th June.

Galleries Of Ancient Egypt And Nubia is a £5m redevelopment designed by Rick Mather Architects and Metaphor Design, which has created a suite of 6 galleries that present a chronological journey covering more than 5,000 years of human occupation of the Nile Valley. This expanded space allows for considerably more of the collection to be seen, grouped around 6 themes: Egypt At Its Origins, dominated by two limestone statues of the fertility god Min, which are among the oldest preserved stone sculptures in the world, and featuring the ceremonial 'Two-Dog' palette - a double-sided cosmetic palette of the type used for grinding eye paint; Dynastic Egypt And Nubia, the centrepieces of which are the Shrine of Taharqa, the only pharaonic building in Britain, and an entire Pan-Grave burial assemblage; Life After Death In Ancient Egypt, with the nested coffins and mummy of Djeddjehutyiuefankh, funerary models, amulets and canopic jars, surrounded by faithful reproductions of tomb paintings; The Amarna 'Revolution', with fragments of wall and floor paintings depicting Akhenaten and Nefertiti in their palace in the new capital; Egypt In The Age Of Empires, revealing the lives of the community of the masons, craftsmen and artists who built the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, through thousands of limestone ostraca; and Egypt Meets Greece And Rome, charting the changes brought about in Egypt by Greek and Roman invaders, with funeral portrait statues and wooden mummy portraits. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, continuing.

Painting Canada: Tom Thomson And The Group Of Seven features some of Canada's most famous landscape paintings created in the early part of 20th century. The exhibition comprises 122 paintings, not seen in Britain since 1925, as well as Tom Thomson's sketchbox. Tom Thomson and J E H MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, Frank Johnston and Franklin Carmichael met as employees of the design firm Grip Ltd in Toronto, and were joined by A Y Jackson and Lawren Harris, The group often met at the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto to discuss their opinions and share their art. Their mission was to engage with the awesome Canadian wilderness, a landscape previously considered too wild and untamed to inspire 'true' art. Harris and MacCallum collaborated to create a studio building that opened in 1914 to serve as a meeting and working place for the group. The exhibition presents a journey across Canada, from East to West, framed by Tom Thomson's electrifying sketches and paintings of Algonquin Park, and Lawren Harris's other-worldly paintings of the Arctic and the Rocky Mountains. Between these two 'poles,' is a selection of the group's best work, paintings that bear some similarities to the landscapes of the Scottish Colourists. A special feature of the show is the juxtaposition, wherever possible, of the initial sketch with the finished canvas. One room is devoted entirely to a display of these vibrant sketches, which represent one of Canada's most impressive contributions to 20th century art. Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, London SE21, until 8th January.

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius Of Illumination provides a rare opportunity to see richly illuminated manuscripts previously belonging to the kings and queens of England. The exhibition comprises 154 colourful and gilded handwritten books, dating from between the 9th and 16th centuries. The manuscripts offer unique insights into the lives and aspirations of those for whom they were made, enriching understanding of both the monarchy and the Middle Ages. Many documents played an active role in the development of kings and knights, and provided moral and practical guidance, as well as lessons in history, politics and geography. A critical part of the nation's cultural heritage, these manuscripts have survived in astonishingly good condition, retaining their vivid colours and gleaming gold detail. English kings from the Anglo-Saxons to the Tudors commissioned and owned luxurious handwritten copies of Christian texts. These included small, handheld prayerbooks for personal devotion, and large, lavish Gospel books and Bibles given to royal foundations for display and liturgical use. Their magnificence reflects both the status and wealth of their owners and the desire to glorify God by adorning his Word with the most precious of materials. A range of manuscripts aided monarchs in understanding and presenting their status as royalty. Genealogical rolls and historical chronicles underpinned their right to rule, while coronation books documented the formal ceremony authenticating their authority. Accompanying objects providing context for the manuscripts include a life size standing king from the Bristol Cross; a 15th century stone shield carved and painted with the arms of England; the skull of a medieval lion previously kept at the Tower of London; and a tapestry depicting the dead body of the Trojan hero Hector. The British Library, until 13th March.

Gainsborough's Landscapes: Themes And Variations is the first exhibition in 50 years devoted solely to the 18th century artist's landscape paintings and drawings. For Thomas Gainsborough, portraiture was his business, but landscape painting was his pleasure. The landscape paintings and drawings reveal his mind at work, the breadth of his invention, and the quality of his technique. Gainsborough sold relatively few of his landscape paintings, and none of his drawings, but he regarded them as his most important work. These paintings do not represent real views, but are creations 'of his own Brain', as he put it. A limited number of rural subjects exercised his imagination from one decade to the next, changing as he developed an increasingly energetic 'hand', or manner of painting, and becoming ever grander in conception. This exhibition includes some of Gainsborough's most famous and popular works, including 'The Watering Place', together with less well known works such as 'Haymaking from Woburn'. The paintings show Gainsborough returning to the same themes again and again, and demonstrate the longevity of each theme, and the degree of experimentation that was involved in the search for the perfect composition. The evolution of Gainsborough's style is traced from early naturalistic landscapes in the Dutch manner, enlivened with small figures, to grand scenery that is dramatically lit and obviously imaginary, such as the 'Romantic Landscape'. The sketches drawings that accompany the paintings clarify the development of Gainsborough's constructed vision, revealing how his style evolved. Holburne Museum, Bath, until 22nd January.

Terence Conran - The Way We Live Now explores the unique impact on contemporary life in Britain of the designer, retailer and restaurateur. Through his own design work, and also through his entrepreneurial flair, Terence Conran has transformed the look of the British home. He has established a design studio and an architectural practice with a worldwide reach. He was the founder of Habitat and a pioneer of the new restaurant culture driven by a passion for simplicity. The exhibition explores Conran's impact, whilst painting a picture of his design approach and inspirations. It traces his career from post war austerity through to the new sensibility of the Festival of Britain in the 1950s, the birth of the Independent Group with its flare for the avant-garde and the Pop Culture of the 1960s, to the design boom of the 1980s, and on to the present day. The show opens with a collection of Conran's own pieces from the late 1940s and 1950s, when he was welding steel chairs himself, designing textile designs, ceramics and magazine covers. The Habitat story includes the reconstruction of one of the room sets shown in the Habitat catalogues that were so influential in the 1960s and 1970s. Conran's role in professionalising the practice of design is charted by the work of the various Conran Design studios, which undertook projects as diverse as lighting, furniture, kitchenware, packaging, architecture and retail design. Conran's approach to food is traced by a look at the many restaurants that he has designed and opened. A recreation of Conran's study from his home in Barton Court offers a glimpse into his private world. Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 until 4th March.


Winter Wonderland, set between Hyde Park Corner and the Serpentine, is the ultimate winter theme park experience. The 20 acre site features London's largest outdoor ice rink - created with 130,000 litres of frozen water, weighing 130 tonnes - able to accommodate up to 400 skaters at a time, with ice guides to help beginners; a toboggan slide; a haunted mansion; an ice palace mirror maze; a traditional Christmas Market, with over 50 separate wooden chalets, offering arts, crafts, presents and foods; numerous cafes and bars serving traditional food and mulled wine; a 50m observation wheel providing a panoramic view of London above the park; a big top presenting Zippo's Circus with a special 50 minute Christmas themed show and Winter Cirque featuring a Wheel of Death a final Battle of Fire; Carter's Steam Fair traditional rides and attractions; thrill rides including Power Tower and Black Hole; a ski jump and snow ride; and a selection of gentler amusement rides for younger children; plus Father Christmas in his own Santa Land. To add to the atmosphere, the trees along Serpentine Road sparkle with thousands of Christmas lights highlighting the natural beauty of Hyde Park. Entrance to the Winter Wonderland site is free, with fees for individual attractions. Hyde Park, 10am-10pm daily (except Christmas Day) until 3rd January.

Comedians From The 1940s To Now charts 70 years of British light entertainment through over 50 photographic portraits. The exhibition starts with comedians who began their careers while serving in the armed forces during the Second World War, including Kenneth Horne and Eric Sykes. From the 1950s a new captive audience was created with enduring radio shows such as Hancock's Half Hour staring Tony Hancock and Sid James, and The Goon Show with Spike Milligan. After them came performers from the satirical Establishment Club in the 1960s, including John Fortune, Eleanor Bron and John Bird. From the 1970s onwards, stars were made on television, from The Morecambe and Wise Show to The Catherine Tate Show, some of whom also forged film careers, such as Simon Pegg, Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais. On show for the first time are recent portraits of Jimmy Carr and Mitchell and Webb by Barry Marsden, Omid Djalili by Karen Robinson, Matt Lucas by Nadav Kander, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon by Rich Hardcastle, and Johnny Vegas by Karl J Kaul. Works by celebrated photographers such as Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibovitz are shown alongside portraits by less well known photographers such as Bob Collins, who documented the rise of radio and television performers in the 1950s; Lewis Morley, who became the 'official' photographer of the satire boom of the 1960s; and Trevor Leighton, who produced a survey of alternative comedians from the 1990s. The display includes a video introduction by Paul Merton, discussing the history of British comedy. National Portrait Gallery until 2nd January.

Separation And Silence: Wandsworth Prison marks the 160th anniversary of Britain's largest penal institution with an examination of how the treatment of its inmates has developed in that period. From an execution box to a letter from Oscar Wilde's wife Constance, desperate to see her husband, the display explores the past of Wandsworth Prison, its inmates, and the changes that have taken place in the prison system, from the punitive measures employed to the conditions of an inmate's cell. The exhibition focuses on the harsh corrective methods used in the 19th century, the 'separate system' adopted in the 1840s and the 'silent system' adopted in the 1830s. The former drove inmates mad through solitary confinement, while the latter broke the will of prisoners through needless hard labour. Highlights include an execution box (which contained the necessary equipment to perform an execution: two ropes, a white hood, and pinioning straps) dating from the 1920s; Inside Eye, a photography project that took place in the prison in the early 1990s; a handmade quilt produced by recent prisoners; photos taken by the prisoners that show their perspective of life on the inside; paintings created by inmates as part of their rehabilitation; and a noose used for capital punishment during the 1920s, along with original execution documents. Wandsworth Museum, 38 West Hill, London SW18, until 31st December.