News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 15th June 2011


Pirates: The Captain Kidd Story explores the myths and mysteries surrounding common perceptions of 17th and 18th century pirates. The exhibition also examines English society of the period, looking at gruesome ritual executions (including that of Captain Kidd on 23rd May 1701 at Execution Dock in Wapping), and the manipulation of the East India Company. The story of Scottish privateer William 'Captain' Kidd helped to create much of the pirate mythology that has been handed down since the Golden Age of piracy. Kidd's legacy is found in every tale of buried treasure, and with his contemporaries in crime, such as Blackbeard, has inspired fictional characters from Long John Silver to Captain Jack Sparrow. The exhibition reveals the close connection between the pirates of the high seas and the London that funded their activities, as Kidd was enmeshed in intrigue that involved corrupt MPs and the East India Company. The exhibition shows the remarkable breadth of pirate treasure plundered from ships bound for London's luxury goods markets. Over 170 objects in the display include images of the Quedah Merchant ship wreck, the vessel that was captured by Kidd on 30th January 1698; a real pirate flag; original maps of the period; the Admiralty Marshall's Silver Oar; a gibbet cage; an original 1724 edition of Captain Johnson's 'History of the Pyrates'; Kidd's last letter - with the promise of hidden treasure; and an early 18th century cannon. There is also an audio-visual presentation about the history of screen pirates, including Douglas Fairbanks in The Black Pirate, Errol Flynn in Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk, and of course, Robert Newton as Long John Silver. The Museum of London Docklands, until 30th October.

Ravilious In Essex features works painted by the watercolourist, illustrator and designer during the time he lived in Essex in the 1930s. Eric Ravilious had a particular talent for taking a relatively humdrum (if eccentric) subject, and making it an object of wonder. Rusting machinery, old trams, telegraph poles, iron fences, broken down cars and discarded farm equipment were all his favourites. Ravilious perfectly captured the timelessness of English village and rural life in the decade before the Second World War. This exhibition offers an opportunity to survey his development as a watercolourist, with paintings from his time in Great Bardfield: 'The Attic Bedroom' and 'Two Women in a Garden', Castle Hedingham: two different views of 'Hull's Mill' and 'Village Street', and Ironbridge: 'Ironbridge at Ewenbridge'. Other works include 'Butcher's Shop' and 'Tree Trunk and Wheel Barrow'. The paintings are accompanied by Ravilious's wood engravings, including book covers and other materials that have not been seen in half a century. There are even the wood blocks themselves, still ink-black and showing the signs of use. In addition, there is an opportunity to compare the designs Ravilious created for Wedgwood with the engravings and watercolours. Fry Art Gallery, Castle Street, Saffron Walden, Essex, until 12th August.

The Government Art Collection: At Work is the first in a sequence of 5 exhibitions providing an opportunity for the public to see a selection of works from the Collection for the first time. The Government Art Collection's 13,600 works dating from the 16th century to the present day are shown in 450 embassies and government buildings worldwide. The diverse nature of the Collection, and its role promoting British culture on the world stage, is open to public scrutiny in Britain after 113 years. Special guests selectors who have a close connection with the artworks, from leading political figures to staff who see works from the Collection every day, have chosen works revealing hidden stories. Among these, Peter Mandelson has selected a 16th century portrait of Elizabeth I by an anonymous painter; Samantha Cameron has chosen LS Lowry's 'Lancashire Fair: Good Friday, Daisy Nook' with matchstick figures shown at play at a country fair; Lord Boateng has picked 'Peas are the New Beans' by Bob and Roberta Smith, a humorous comment on accountancy; Dame Anne Pringle, British Ambassador to Moscow, has plumped for Derek Boshier's contribution to 1960s British Pop Art, 'I Wonder What My Heroes Think of the Space Race'; and Nick Clegg has opted for 'Tea' by academician David Tindle, a little known painter of still lifes and landscapes in washed-out hues. Whitechapel Gallery, London, until 2nd September.


The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is with us again, as it has been every year since 1769 - the usual collection of the good, the bad and the ugly - from amateurs to RA's, proving that popular taste and critical approval find no meeting point. Around 1,250 works covering paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, sculpture, architectural designs and models have been selected from around 12,000 submissions, from 27 countries, for inclusion in the largest contemporary art exhibition in the world. The majority of works are for sale, offering visitors an opportunity to purchase original artwork by both high profile and up and coming artists. Over £70,000 is given out to artists included in the exhibition through 10 prizes. This year the show has been masterminded by Christopher Le Brun and Michael Craig-Martin, with Piers Gough and Alan Stanton overseeing the architecture section. There is no overall theme, but Gallery 3 is in the style of a 'salon hang' exploiting the grandeur of the Academy's principal room, with paintings of all sizes hung from the dado rail to the picture rail. Works on display include a large canvas by the Danish painter Per Kirkeby and Keith Tyson's apocalyptic painting 'Deep Impact'. One room features works by newly elected and established Royal Academicians, including Tacita Dean, Gary Hume, Allen Jones, Cornelia Parker, Jenny Saville and Alison Wilding. The Central Hall hosts a celebration of photography, including an image by Cindy Sherman. There is also a memorial gallery dedicated to showing the works of Ben Levene. Outside, the courtyard features the first public display of Jeff Koons's 'Coloring Book'. The Royal Academy of Arts until 15th August.

Jaume Plensa provides a rare opportunity to experience new and recent monumental works by the Spanish sculpture. Jaume Plensa encourages a tactile and sensory exploration of his work and this exhibition, with pieces displayed both inside in galleries and outdoors, includes large illuminated heads, human shapes formed of letters, angels suspended from walls and inscribed gongs waiting to be struck. In the Underground Gallery installations include 'Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil', three large fibreglass resin 'angels' that are fixed and constrained by their human bodies yet radiate white light to suggest the possibility of human spirit; 'In The Midst Of Dreams', a group of 3-metre tall illuminated heads with closed eyes, as though in deep contemplation, rising from a bed of white marble pebbles; and 'Jerusalem', a circle of 11 gongs engraved with text from Song of Songs, from the Biblical text Songs of Solomon, an exploration of love, eroticism, the human condition, our dreams and desires. Outdoor pieces include a 50-metre curtain of poetry made of suspended steel letters; and the 8-metre tall 'House of Knowledge', part of a group of works in which the physical form of the body becomes architecture, with text forming a large human shape, through which visitors can walk and see the landscape through the spaces between steel letters. Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, until 25th September.

James Stirling: Notes From The Archive is an exhibition of material from the archive of the renowned British architect and teacher. It is the first architecture exhibition to be shown at the gallery, and is displayed in the Clore Gallery, which was designed by James Stirling himself. Spanning 5 decades and showcasing over 300 rarely seen drawings, models, photographs, notebooks and sketches, the exhibition reveals Stirling's design process, and particularly his interest in the interplay between tradition and modernity. Stirling's groundbreaking practice and partnerships are also explored, including his early student work, the projects in partnership with James Gowan, which brought them international attention in the 1960s, and his collaborative work with Michael Wilford from 1971. Among the materials, a bird watching diary compiled as a schoolboy demonstrates Stirling's life-long appreciation of natural habitats, whilst illustrating his extraordinary talent for detailed observation, and notes on architectural history for lectures he gave at Harvard show his breadth of knowledge. Stirling was an early user of axonometric drawing, showing views of a building from above or below, enabling them to give 3D perspective. Acclaimed projects such as the Leicester University engineering building, the History Faculty building at Cambridge University, the Florey Building hall of residence at Queens College, Oxford University, The Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart and Arthur M Sackler Museum at Harvard University are investigated in detail, alongside unfinished and unrealised projects, highlighting Stirling's ambition to establish a style that was both British and modern. Tate Britain until 21st August.

Royal Beasts tells the story of the exotic animals that once lived in the capital's fortress. The Royal Menagerie was founded during the reign of King John in 1210, and almost 300 animals of over 60 different species lived there during a period of over 600 years. Exotic animals were given as royal gifts and animals were kept for the entertainment and curiosity of the court. The first royal beasts to arrive - lion, polar bear and elephant - came from Europe and North Africa, but as more of the world was discovered, the variety of animals widened to include tigers, monkeys, leopards, grizzly bears, zebra, alligators, kangaroos and ostriches. The exhibition reveals how the building would have looked before the animals left in 1832, and explores some of their stories through interactive displays, showing how they lived, what they smelt like - and what happened when they escaped. It tells how the experience of the Royal Menagerie was often not a very happy one - for either the animals or the visitors. Relying on hearsay rather than knowledge, animals were sometimes mistreated (an ostrich died after being fed 80 nails by visitors because it was believed to be able to digest iron), and since the animals roamed freely, visitors often had their possessions snatched, and were sometimes attacked by lions or tigers, resulting in the loss of limbs or lives. When the Royal Menagerie was finally closed down most of the remaining animals were transferred to the newly opened London Zoo. Accompanying the exhibition contemporary artist Kendra Haste has created life-size sculptures of some of the royal beasts. Tower Of London, continuing.

Imagination And Reality: The Art Of Arthur Ransome comprises drawings and illustrations by the author of the famous children's series Swallows and Amazons. These children's tales of adventure, camping, sailing and piracy in the Lake District remain enduringly popular, despite the passage of time since they were originally published in the 1930s. The author, Arthur Ransome, illustrated the series of books himself, developing a unique and recognisable style of pen and ink drawings. This exhibition celebrates his work, and provides an opportunity to discover features around Coniston Water that were incorporated into Ransome's imaginary landscapes. The inspiration for Swallows and Amazons and other of his most famous works grew from the many summers he spent holidaying with the Collingwood family at Lanehead. Ransome returned again and again to Coniston Water because of its power to excite and inspire the imagination. In doing so, he made the landscape his own in a way which enabled millions of others to make it their own. Arthur Ransome chose to illustrate his own books after rejecting the work of professional illustrators commissioned for the first and second editions. In the process he developed a distinctive minimal and highly selective style, which invites the reader to construct their own picture and populate it with detail. Brantwood, Conniston, until 4th September.

Bell Epoque: 30 Years Of Steve Bell features examples of the legendary political cartoonist's work over a period that spans Margaret Thatcher to David Cameron. Steve Bell's attacking style has earned him the respect and admiration not only of his peers, but even of commentators politically opposed to him. His uninhibited inventiveness can be scatological but is always witty and finely honed. The exhibition comprises over 200 of Bell's leader cartoons, strip cartoons and comic pages produced for the Guardian and other periodicals. The works document many of the major events of our age: Thatcherism, the Falklands War, the Poll Tax, the death of Princess Diana, the rise of New Labour, the Iraq War, the war on terror, the international banking crisis and the coalition government. His viewpoint is one that takes the consternation of his audience and elucidates it in cartoons that are works of art in their own right. However, what marks Bell out as the leading cartoonist of his generation, is that in addition to iconic images poking fun of political leaders, such as John Major in his underpants and George Bush as a chimpanzee, he has a sensitivity that enables him to capture the grief of tragic events with unsentimental poignancy. Ronald Searle has said that Bell is in the true tradition of Thomas Gillray. The Cartoon Museum, London, until 24th July.


Afghanistan: Crossroads Of The Ancient World features some of the most important archaeological discoveries from ancient Afghanistan, with precious and unique pieces on loan from the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul, which currently undergoing reconstruction. The geographical position, overland connections and history ensured that Afghanistan, at the centre of the Silk Road, enjoyed close relations with its neighbours in Central Asia, Iran, India and China, as well as more distant cultures stretching as far as the Mediterranean. The exhibition features over 200 stunning objects, ranging from Classical sculptures, polychrome ivory inlays originally attached to imported Indian furniture, enamelled Roman glass and polished stone tableware brought from Egypt, to delicate inlaid gold personal ornaments worn by the nomadic elite. Together they showcase the trading and cultural connections of Afghanistan and how it benefited from being at the crossroads of the ancient world. All of these objects were found between 1937 and 1978 and were feared to have been lost following the Soviet invasion in 1979, the civil war which followed, and the rule of the Taliban. The earliest objects in the exhibition are part of a treasure found at the site of Tepe Fullol, which dates to 2000 BC, representing the oldest gold objects found in Afghanistan, showing how it was already connected by trade with urban civilisations in ancient Iran and Iraq. The later finds come from three additional sites, dating between the 3rd century BC and 1st century AD. These are Ai Khanum, a Hellenistic Greek city on the Oxus river and on the modern border with Tajikistan; Begram, a capital of the local Kushan dynasty, whose rule extended from Afghanistan into India; and Tillya Tepe, (Hill of Gold), the find spot of an elite nomadic cemetery. British Museum until 3rd July.

Robin And Lucienne Day: Design And The Modern Interior features the work of the couple whose designs were a quintessential part of the Contemporary style in Britain in the 1950s. The exhibition features over 50 Lucienne textiles alongside rare, early furniture by Robin, including key pieces such as the Royal Festival Hall lounge, dining and orchestra chairs. The most celebrated designer couple of the post war years, the Days rose to prominence during the 1951 Festival of Britain. Robin Day was commissioned to design the furniture for the Royal Festival Hall and Lucienne's arresting abstract-patterned textiles and wallpapers were displayed alongside Robin's steel and plywood furniture in the Homes and Gardens Pavilion. Like many architects and designers during the optimistic post-war period, the Days believed in the power of modern design to make the world a better place. Lucienne Day's fresh and progressive textile designs were revolutionary, inspired by plant forms, composed of spindly lines and irregular cupped motifs in earthy and acid tones. The originality of these early patterns grew from Lucienne's love of modern art, particularly the paintings of Joan Miro and Paul Klee. Robin Day's furniture designs were a direct rejection of the solid and ponderous form of pre-war furniture. His response to technology reflected the positive, forward looking mood of the early post-war era, and his sparing use of materials and economical approach to construction stemmed from the enforced austerity of the war years, when materials and labour were in short supply. The results included his famed armchairs with moulded plywood wings for arms and spindly legs that emphasise lightness and space. These habits became deeply ingrained in his design psyche, eventually finding their logical conclusion in the multi-million selling 1963 polypropylene chair, perhaps the most ubiquitous piece of furniture on the planet. Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until 26th June.

Ida Kar: Bohemian Photographer 1908 - 1974 is the first exhibition for 50 years devoted to the work of the woman photographer at the heart of the creative avant-garde. The display of almost 100 photographs by Ida Kar offers a fascinating insight into the cultural life of post Second World War Britain, and an opportunity to see both iconic works, and others not previously exhibited. It charts Kar's life and career from her first studio in Cairo in the late 1930s through her move to London in 1945, where she was introduced to the British art world through the family of Jacob Epstein and her husband Victor Musgrave. The exhibition includes striking portraits of artists such as Henry Moore, Georges Braque, Gino Severini, Feliks Topolski, Stanley Spencer, Alberto Giacometti, Man Ray, Le Corbusier, Barbara Hepworth and Bridget Riley, and writers such as Iris Murdoch, Jean-Paul Sartre, Doris Lessing, Colin MacInnes and T S Eliot. Among the portraits on display for the first time are of artist Yves Klein, shown at his first highly controversial London exhibition in 1957 in front of one of his famous monochrome works, in the distinctive blue-colour he was later to patent as his own; the 'art strike' artist and political activist Gustav Metzge, taken at an exhibition entitled 'Festival of Misfits'; and Royston Ellis, a poet and friend of John Lennon who inspired the song 'Paperback Writer'. Kar was instrumental in encouraging the acceptance of photography as a fine art when, in 1960, she became the first photographer to be honoured with a major retrospective in London, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Other material on display from the photographer's archive includes letters, a sitters' book and a portfolio book made in 1954 of her trip to the artists' studios of Paris. National Portrait Gallery until 19th June.