Private View held by Richard Andrews
Sacred: Discover What We Share is a display of some of the world's earliest surviving, most important and beautiful religious texts from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. Many of the lavishly illustrated or decorated books and manuscripts have never, or seldom, been on public display before, and this is the first time that texts from these three faiths have been displayed and explored together, side by side, in a major British exhibition. The rare and exquisite texts are treated thematically, exploring points in common, looking at the ways in which they have been produced, interpreted and used. Among the treasures on display are: the Old English Hexateuch, the earliest copy in English of part of the Old Testament, produced in the first half of the 11th century, featuring over 400 illustrations; the Lisbon Hebrew Bible, one of the last great examples of Jewish art from Iberia, completed in 1482, containing many intricate floral and arabesque designs as well as superb ornamental Hebrew lettering and micrographic embellishments; the 'Golden' Haggadah, one of the most lavish and luxurious of all manuscripts ever created of the Passover Ritual, the miniature paintings all having backgrounds of tooled gold leaf, produced circa 1320; Sultan Baybars' Qur'an, one of the finest of all Qur'an manuscripts, written in large letters of gold in seven folio volumes, each containing a magnificent double frontispiece, with intricate Islamic geometric patterns; and a Book of Psalms in Arabic, a 16th century illuminated Christian manuscript, heavily influenced in its decoration, script, and layout by the manuscripts of Islam. The British Library until 23rd September.
Towards A New Laocoon considers how the sculptural aspects of Laocoon have been interpreted and re-interpreted by artists over time. The Antique group - which depicts the Trojan priest Laocoon and his sons in the grip of two giant snakes - was rediscovered in 1506 and almost immediately put on show in the Vatican. Since that time artists and writers have succumbed to its fascination, and its inspirational quality. This exhibition looks at Laocoon through a British lens, focusing on juxtapositions of seven works from the 18th and 20th centuries. While the historic works reference the original sculpture, highlighting interest in the Laocoon's drama, narrative, expression and status, the more recent pieces take the Laocoon's more formal characteristics, turning a figurative story into a more pop and abstract one. Eduardo Paolozzi, Tony Cragg and Richard Deacon have each made a number of works that respond to or mirror the Laocoon. Paolozzi was fascinated by classical heritage, and owned his own small scale cast of the group. His works variously redefine its serpentine coils and imprisoned forms. Cragg's works also focus on the forms, which are caught up by the snakes, binding them together in an endless deadly embrace, but rendered in everyday, urban found objects. Deacon's monumental Laocoon similarly plays on the quality of time, by locking straight and curved wooden sections into one great continuous spiral. There is an accompanying show of sculptor's drawings on photographs, providing their contemporary response to classical forms. Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, until 12th August.
Walking With Beasts, combines cutting edge technology with life size models of the extraordinary creatures which lived on earth up to 65 million years ago, after the dinosaurs had died out. Based on the ground breaking BBC television series, the exhibition takes visitors on a journey through time to distant worlds: from the hottest, wettest climate the earth has ever known, to one of the coldest - the Ice Age. It features models of Smildon, a sabre-toothed cat; Macrauchenia, a cross between a camel and a horse; Phorusrhacos, the 'terror bird' with razor sharp talons and a hooked beak large enough to swallow a cat whole; Doedicurus, an armadillo like creature with a giant spiked club of solid bone at the end of its tail; Megatherium, a bear the size of a double decker bus; a giant Woolly Mammoth; and man's early primate ancestors. The display reveals worlds where birds (Gastorni) were so large they could eat small horses (Propalaeotherium), and where elephants (Moeritherium) swam with fish. The exhibition brings these incredible creatures to life, animates the story of the evolution of mammals, and demonstrates how they came to shape the planet today. 'Interactives' offer visitors the chance to 'walk' in a prehistoric landscape via blue-screen technology. The exhibition is complemented by a selection of genuine items from the permanent collection, including fossil remains of these mammals, and a 10,000 year old mammoth tusk. Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London SE23, until 4th November.
Star Wars: The Exhibition in a location far, far away (well south of the river anyway) celebrates the 30th anniversary of the original film, providing an opportunity to discover some of the secrets behind the making of the Star Wars canon. It features over 280 original objects, costumes, masks, props, drawings, storyboards, vehicles and models selected from the production archive across the entire epic saga. Visitors are immersed in the Star Wars universe as huge landscape images are projected to recreate the atmosphere of a particular world, such as Tatooine, Naboo, Endor, Hoth, and Coruscant. Among the featured items on display are a life sized Naboo N-1 Starfighter, as piloted by the young Anakin, together with his Pod Racer; Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder; Queen Amidala's wardrobe, including her parade gown; and Princess Leia's bronze bikini, all accompanied by alien characters such as Darth Maul. There are several 'interactives', ranging from Jedi training to a greenscreen simulation that allows visitors to be 'in' the films. In addition, there is a documentary on 30 Years Of Visual Effects, which reveals how far this art has developed over the period, and optical illusions, picture overlays, pyrotechnics, stunt tricks, and other visual and special effects are also explained in relation to the films. Finally, Darth Vader himself can be seen stalking the the halls that once housed the local government of London. It is up to visitors to decide for themselves who is capable of wreaking more chaos in their lives - him, or the former incumbent, Ken Livingstone. County Hall, Westminster, London, until 1st September.
Amazing Rare Things: The Arts Of Natural History In The Age Of Discovery brings together the works of four artists and a collector who have shaped our knowledge of the world around us. Leonardo da Vinci, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian and Mark Catesby are diverse figures who shared a passion for enquiry and a fascination with the beautiful and bizarre in nature. All lived at a time when new species were being discovered around the world in ever increasing numbers, and many of the plants and animals represented in the exhibition were then barely known in Europe. Today some are commonplace, while others are now extinct. Leonardo's drawings include parts of a cow, horse and bear, as well as the earliest evidence in Italy of the grass 'Job's tears'. Cassiano commissioned artists to record plants, birds and animals for his museo cartaceo (paper museum), a pictorial encyclopaedia. Marshal's florilegium (flower-book) documented the contents of English gardens, with indigenous species alongside new and exotic flowers, such as the crown imperial, hyacinth and broken tulip. Merian had a lifelong fascination with flies, spiders, caterpillars, butterflies and moths, and her watercolours include a pink toed tarantula about to devour a hummingbird. Catesby produced a comprehensive survey of the flora and fauna he saw during visits to America, which astonished the people of Europe on his return. The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, until 16th September.
Lawrence Weiner: Inherent In The Rhumb Line explores the concept underpinning maritime navigation. On a flat surface, a straight line is the shortest distance between two points while maintaining a constant direction, however, on the curved surface of the Earth, these two properties cannot be true at the same time. The rhumb line is the path of constant compass direction, potentially continuing into infinity. In the 16th century, Gerald Mercator's revolutionary mathematical flat projection made rhumb lines the easiest way to steer from one place to another. It distorts the size of the land masses and shows rhumb lines crossing the meridians at a constant angle, although, were a rhumb line followed around the globe a spiral course would be traced. Lawrence Weiner is a poet painter who takes fragments of stories, slogans and poems, and presents them as cryptic clues. These have been written on the walls inside and outside the gallery, as well as taking the form of spoken words and printed matter. In this exhibition Weiner proposes a method that uses the rhumb line to lose, rather than find, one's way. Shown beside Weiner's film 'Inherent In The Rhumb Line' are the words to an old sea shanty, alluding to the freedom of the seas and navigating over the bounding main. This song has been handed down, passed around, reinterpreted and repeated, with each version different from, but as true as, the next. Twelve drawings also punctuate the gallery spaces in reproduced form, and as with map making, each reproduction produces distortion. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, until 9th December.
Home And Garden: Domestic Spaces In Painting 1914 - 1960 explores the representation of urban domestic interiors and gardens in paintings, providing a vivid and intimate glimpse into private worlds not often on view. The focus is on the valued domestic spaces of the middle classes rather than those of Royalty or the aristocracy. It brings together paintings and drawings from collections across the UK, shown not simply as works of art, but interpreted as historical documents, with detailed evidence for understanding the nature of middle class domestic interiors and gardens. The exhibition comprises around 40 works, by both famous artists, including Vanessa Bell, Walter Sickert, Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious, Victor Passmore and Patrick Caulfield, as well as those who are less well known, such as Charles H H Burleigh, Howard Gilman, Donald Towner and Harry Bush. In all of these paintings the complex nature of the urban English middle classes begins to be revealed, providing an insight into the culture, habits, taste, values and social melieu of the times. The subjects are mainly located in London, but also embrace other major cities and towns. The exhibition reflects the astonishing transformation in domestic life, from the left over Edwardian, to the brink of Contemporary. Long undervalued as 'high art' these paintings reveal real lives, and unlike scratchy newsreels or faded family snaps, are as fresh and as colourful as the day they were painted. Geffre Museum, London until 24th June.
Something That I'll Never Really See: Contemporary Photography From The V&A offers an opportunity to see a selection from the significant additions to the collection of works acquired over the last ten years. On display are images by some of the most innovative international contemporary photographers, including well known names such as Cindy Sherman, Nick Knight, Nan Goldin and Susan Derges, together with emerging new talents such as Frances Kearney, Sarah Jones and Hannah Starkey. Despite their range of subject matter, the selection has in common their creative genre-blurring, typical of the period: fashion images draw on gritty documentary, abstract fine art works use scientific imaging, and apparently realistic photos are actually elaborately staged sets. The grand scale of many of the photographs engross the viewer in the image, whilst smaller scale works draw attention to the traditions of photographic history and fine printing by hand. Among the highlights are Corrine Day's iconic Vogue portrait of Kate Moss (with fairy lights); Stephen Gill's 'L'Oreal Paris Because You're Worth It' - the junkyard of detritus behind the billboard; Richard Billingham's portrait of his mother, with tattoos in a floral dress doing a jigsaw; Neeta Madahar's 'Sustanance 114', featuring birds feeding in the foliage of a tree; and Huang Yan's 'Plum', a face with a classic Chinese landscape painting on it. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, until 24th June.
Task Force Falklands aims to tell the story of the Falklands War from the perspective of those who lived and fought through it - in pictures, memories personal memorabilia and media. Iconic photographs of the conflict are displayed alongside previously unpublished images. Outnumbered in the air and on the ground, the small task force of British service personnel sent to retake the Falklands were up against the odds - the kind of situation in which British forces have excelled in the past. Theirs was the last conflict that Britain fought alone, and their victory changed the outlook of a nation and its international standing, and helped to define the 1980s. Visitors can listen to the stories of the soldiers who fought the battle for the Falklands, and the stories of the Islanders who lived through it, told in their own words. Another perspective is revealed through letters sent by Argentine school children to Argentine soldiers at the front. Among the other exhibits on display are the Victoria Cross awarded to Colonel 'H' Jones'; the joystick of the helicopter flown on his rescue mission; the diary and medals of the Royal Navy Surgeon Commander who established and ran the British field hospital at Ajax Bay, which became known as the 'Red and Green Life Machine'; sketches made by Official War Artist Linda Kitson and original drawings by Raymond Briggs; and the actual note (written with indifferent spelling on scrap paper) recording the radio transmission made by Governor Rex Hunt to the Argentine military personnel who had landed illegally on South Georgia. National Army Museum, Chelsea, until September.
Lady Mary Wortley Montague celebrates the life of one of the most influential women of the 18th century, described by one of her contemporaries, Joseph Spence, as "the most wise, the most imprudent, loveliest, disagreeablest, best natured, cruellest woman in the world". Lady Mary Wortley Montague was a key figure in the introduction of the smallpox inoculation in England, a practice she came across while living in Turkey. She left her husband and spent many years travelling across Europe, where she embraced the cultures of the countries she visited. A close friend of the women's rights campaigner Mary Astell, she fought resistance to new ideas, and led a defiantly non-conformist lifestyle. Intelligent, witty and sometimes eccentric, Lady Mary composed hundred of letters throughout her life, commenting on both her experiences, and the work of other writers of the period, such as Alexander Pope, Samuel Richardson and Jonathon Swift. Centred on a portrait of Lady Mary by Jonathan Richardson, this exhibition brings together a selection of paintings and prints depicting the lady herself, her family, friends and adversaries, alongside a selection of their original letters, providing a vivid picture of 18th century society and cultural life. Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield until 3rd June.
Face Of Fashion celebrates current fashion portraiture, as the boundaries between advertising, editorial and fine art blur, and the world's fashion photographers shape society's ideas of beauty, sexuality and fame. The exhibition features five photographers from Europe and America. Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott are famous for off beat but glamorous portraits of stars such as Kate Moss, Uma Thurman, Drew Barrymore and Bjork. Producing a strange, and at times anxious, intensity in their constructed images, they create fantasy for the modern age. Corinne Day, an ex-model who has worked with Kate Moss for 15 years, collaborates closely with her subjects, developing a rapport that results in some of the most candid portraits in fashion. Her portraits generated much of the anti-glamour movement of the 1990s. Steven Klein often creates complex and dark narratives in his portraits, including a 'family' sequence with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in which they mock their perceived personas. He is widely acknowledged as one of the most subversive and transgressive of contemporary fashion photographers. Paolo Roversi uses traditional studio techniques and stage lighting to create naturalistic, fragile portraits of his subjects, among them Sting, Juliette Binoche and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Influenced by 19th century portrait photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron, he revels in an ethereal, soulful beauty. Mario Sorrenti is fascinated by people's faces and the passions, fears and vulnerabilities they are capable of communicating. Equally adept at endorsing conventional notions of glamour as he is at subverting them, Sorrenti embodies much of the ambiguity of today's fashion photography. National Portrait Gallery until 28th May.
Alvar Aalto: Through The Eyes Of Shigeru Ban is the first major UK retrospective of the work of the Finnish architect who was a landmark figure of 20th century architecture and design, ranking alongside Modernist masters such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. The exhibition is designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, renowned for his original use of materials, and explores the themes linking these two influential architects, demonstrating how they share an organic approach to design. Both architects combine traditional materials with modern technology and experimented with the idea to provide an individual human touch to pre-fabricated housing structures. It examines the development of Aalto's architectural ideas and style, featuring models, drawings, photographs and artefacts from 14 of his key projects, built mainly in Finland, Denmark, Russia and the USA. Spanning six decades, featured projects include Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium, Villa Mairea, AA-System Houses, Experimental House, North Jutland Art Museum and the development of the urban centre for Seinajoki. Shown alongside Aalto's original models and maquettes are newly commissioned analytical models of his buildings produced by Shigeru Ban Laboratory, Keio University, Tokyo. Also displayed are recent photographs of Aalto's buildings taken by American photographer Judith Turner, which shed new light on his work. In addition, the exhibition showcases Aalto's wide ranging product designs, including his famous stacking stool and other furniture, as well as glassware, light fittings and textiles. Barbican Art Gallery until 27th May.