News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 16th July 2003

Commencing

Medicine Man: The Forgotten Museum Of Henry Wellcome is a celebration of the British passion for collecting things. Henry Wellcome, the pharmacist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, saw human culture and history through medical eyes. A compulsive collector and traveller, he built up the world's largest, but least known, collection of medical exhibits. By his death in 1936, he had amassed over one million objects related to medical history - many (a la Citizen Kane) remaining still packaged and uncatalogued. This treasure trove of the bizarre, practical and exotic ranges from Chinese diagnostic dolls and Japanese sex aids to African masks and amputation saws, from amulets and ancient manuscripts to Napoleon's toothbrush and George III's hair. Among the more unlikely are: an English tobacco resuscitator kit used to revive the 'apparently dead' by blowing smoke through the nose, mouth or elsewhere; shrunken heads from the Shuar people of the Upper Amazon, created to control the avenging soul of the deceased (to be worn by the person who had removed the head); and a notebook alleged to be covered with the skin of the man whose execution is thought to have sparked the American War of Independence. British Museum until 16th November.

The Art Of Chess reflects how the game has been a source of artistic inspiration, featuring nineteen chess sets made by 20th and 21st century artists. Each set illustrates a move in a fictional last game played by Napoleon with General Bertrand on St Helena. In the starting position is the world's only known set designed by jeweller Carl Faberge. The game follows through on sets from the Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory in Leningrad, featuring Capitalists versus Communists; Marcel Duchamp, with a travelling foldaway table and a board with two stopwatches for timed games; Josef Hartwig, a geometric Bauhaus design based on the functions of the pieces; Max Esser, futuristic Art Deco terracotta and dark chocolate Meissen porcelain; Max Ernst, boxwood in an abstract design suggesting both the characters of the pieces and the way they move; Man Ray, in red and silver anodised alloy; Yoko Ono, classical in form - but all the pieces are white; and Takako Saito, identical white boxes with the pieces defined by their different weights. On public view for the first time are recently commissioned designs by Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Paul McCarthy, Yayoi Kusama and Maurizio Cattelan. The game ends with Napoleon winning in a set which features Rasputin, Donatella Versace, Mother Teresa and Superman as pawns. The Gilbert Collection at Somerset House until 28th September.

A Private Passion: Harvard's Winthrop Collection is the first opportunity to view a unique collection outside its home. In the early decades of the 20th century, Grenville L Winthrop, a New Yorker and Harvard graduate, assembled a remarkable collection of paintings and drawings by French, British and American artists of the 19th century. They include the finest group of works by Ingres outside France, including 'The Bather', and major canvasses and sheets by David, Gericault, Delacroix, Moreau, Renoir, Seurat and Degas. British works, beginning with Blake and Flaxman, include important Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Edward Burne-Jones, Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and a suite of drawings by Aubrey Beardsley. The Americans include Whistler, John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer. The collection, finally amounting to some 1,000 paintings and 3,000 objet d'art, was semi secret and no works were seen outside Winthrop's Upper East Side mansion during his lifetime. On his death in 1943 the collection passed to the Harvard University Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it remained until now. The National Gallery until 14th September.

Continuing

Bridget Riley celebrates the 40 year career of one of Britain's most distinctive artists. Since she invented what became known as Op Art in the 1960s, Riley has continued to develop optically vibrant paintings that engage the viewer's sensations and perceptions. Riley's work falls into five phases, starting with the swirling black and white patterns of dots, squares and zigzags that appear to move as you view them, which became an iconic image of Swinging London. In 1967 she moved on to contrasting colours (including white) in vertical stripes, exploring the interaction of the colours to similar optical effect, leading on to twisted shapes. A trip to Egypt in 1980 led Riley to work exclusively with the five colours used in the tomb decorations for some years. From 1985 the stripes themselves were created from diagonals, producing lozenge shapes, and since 1997 these have mutated into curved winding forms in a wider colour palette. Riley's latest work is comprised of a web of abutting, nearly touching and overlapping black hoops - coming (dare one say) full circle. Description or reproduction however cannot begin to capture the experience of actually seeing these works, and how the changes of light, distance from the canvass or wall, and scale of the painting can change the effects they produce on the viewer. A must see experience. Tate Britain until 28th September.

The Real Mary King's Close is a warren of concealed streets beneath the Royal Mile, where people lived, worked and died in bygone centuries. It consists of a number of closes, which were originally narrow streets with houses on either side, stretching up to seven storeys high. In 1753 the Burgh Council developed a new building on this site, originally the Royal Exchange and now the City Chambers. The houses at the top of the closes were knocked down and part of the lower sections were kept and used as the foundations. Recently the remnants of the closes that were left beneath the building have been developed into a historically accurate interpretation of life in Edinburgh from the 16th to the 19th centuries and are open to the public mostly for the first time. Among the recreations, based on documentary and archaeological research, are a grand 16th century townhouse; the home of a grave-digger's family which reveals how the Burgh Council dealt with the plague epidemic of 1644; one of the best surviving examples of a 17th century house in Scotland; and a 19th century sawmaker's workshop. Visitors are guided through the underground closes by a character from the past whose life touched Mary King's Close, who reveals the dramatic events and legendary stories of the area - such as the room which is allegedly inhabited by the spirit of a child, for whom people have left toys (and still do). The Real Mary King's Close, 2 Warriston's Close, Writers Court, Edinburgh, 08702 430160, continuing.

Bob The Roman: Heroic Antiquity And The Architecture Of Robert Adam explores the work of Britain's first celebrity architect, who became one of architecture's the most influential figures. The Adam style, characterised by delicate neo-Antique ornamentation of festoons, ribbons and pilasters, is synonymous with the refinement and elegance of 18th century interiors. Yet there was another side to Robert Adam, a love for monumental grandeur, revealed in the exteriors of his buildings, which derived from three years spent in Rome prior to setting up his London practice in 1758. It was there that he encountered Heroic Antiquity, the grandeur of an architectural idiom that is articulated by bulk and mass, and by the solemn ordnance of columns, niches, aedicules and extensive colonnades. Totally immersing himself in the city's culture with unbridled enthusiasm he earned the soubriquet Bob The Roman. This exhibition focuses on how Adam learnt to draw in Rome, under the tutelage of the French artist Clerisseau, and on his great projects inspired by antiquity. These include a 9ft long design for an immense Palace, the Bath Assembly Rooms, a plan for a 720ft building for Lincoln's Inn, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, a speculative scheme for fashionable housing at the Adelphi, and Chandos House off Cavendish Square, which is currently undergoing a £6m restoration. The majority of exhibits are from the extensive collection of some 9,000 Adam drawings that Sir John Soane purchased in 1833. A Robert Adam Study Centre to house the 54 folios of material, which is being created in the adjoining building, will open next year. Sir John Soane's Museum until 27th September.

London 1753 is part of the British Museum's 250th birthday celebrations, aiming to create a picture of London at the time of its foundation, when London was the largest city in the western world - containing 11% of the British population. The display of over 300 objects is arranged in sections corresponding to five London areas: the City, the River, Covent Garden and Bloomsbury, Westminster, St James's and Mayfair, and shows the extremes of wealth and poverty that existed side by side. It includes both London wide vistas, and miniatures of real life in the city, from fashionable society and cultural events to the gin houses and the gallows, in watercolours by Paul and Thomas Sandby, drawings and prints by William Hogarth, engravings by Charles Mosley, and drawings by Canaletto. On a more personal note, there are portraits of aristocrats, artists and tradesmen, by John Faber, James Macardall and William Hoare, together with their actual watches, jewellery, fans, medals and coins. There are even the precise objects on an actual mantelpiece as depicted in Hogarth's painting Marriage A-la Mode II. Curiosities include shop signs, Spitalfields silk, spurs for fighting cocks, a first edition of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, John Roque's 1747 map which takes up 72 square feet of the gallery wall, and Hogarth's gold admission ticket to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. British Museum until 23rd November.

Dambusters 60th Anniversary: 617 Squadron And The Dams Raid celebrates the anniversary of the attack on the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany by nineteen Avro Lancasters of the specially formed No 617 Squadron, armed with the revolutionary Bouncing Bomb. The breaching of the dams crippled armament production in the Ruhr valley by both depriving it of power and flooding the factories. The exhibition details the entire process from the initial idea, through the testing of the bombs and training of the pilots, to the execution of the raids, and assessment of their success, through a remarkably comprehensive collection of original artefacts. There are Barnes Wallis's original plans and diagrams, together with his refinements and adaptations made as a result of the test programme, which is illustrated with photographs. The initial reluctance of the Air Ministry to back the idea is reflected in confidential letters and memos. The training, rehearsals and the raids themselves are documented in the reconnaissance photographs, maps and logbooks of the pilots, including that of their leader, Wing Commander Guy Gibson. The success of the raids is reflected in the subsequent photographic evidence, official Nazi records and testimonies of local residents, and examples of the extensive press coverage and propaganda materials from Britain and around the world. The aircraft collection also includes an Avro Lancaster 1. RAF Museum, Hendon continuing.

Cruel And Tender: The Real In The Twentieth Century Photograph explores the realist tradition in 20th century documentary photography, taking its title from Lincoln Kirstein's description of the work of American photographer Walker Evans, who, together with German photographer August Sander, provides the historical axis for the exhibition. The result is a type of photographic realism that avoids nostalgia, romanticism, or sentimentality in favour of straightforward observation. Rather than the drama of photojournalism, the images here tend towards the quiet documentation of overlooked aspects of day to day life, whether architecture, objects, places or people. They record what Philip-Lorca diCorcia described as "that which was never really hidden, but rarely is noticed". Images are grouped thematically rather than arranged chronologically to allow comparisons and juxtapositions, thus starving sharecroppers of the American depression rub shoulders with today's homeless in the former USSR. The exhibition brings together works by 23 of the century's greatest photographers including Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Paul Graham, Andreas Gursky, Boris Mikhailov, Thomas Ruff, August Sander, Stephen Shore and Thomas Struth. Tate Modern until 7th September.

Concluding

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 1200 works covering paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, architectural designs and models have been selected from over 12,000 submissions. Among this year's outrages are David Mach's collage showing nudists in St James Park (with Buckingham Palace in the background), and Dilek O'Keefe's estimation of where Kylie Minogue's talent really lies (it's behind her). Architecture takes a prominent role, with Norman Foster's 'Sky High: Vertical Architecture' exploring the development of the skyscraper from its earliest days in Chicago through to the most innovative skyscrapers currently being developed. Historic designs, such as William Van Allen's Chrysler Building, rub shoulders with contemporary proposals, ranging from candidates for the redevelopment of the World Trade Centre site to Renzo Piano's controversial London Bridge Tower. Models and graphics show how the skyscraper is taking a central role in urban redevelopment in cities around the globe. In a new feature this year the Royal Academy Schools, the Royal College of Art, Goldsmith's College and the Slade School of Fine Art, present work by emerging artists. There is an accompanying programme of lectures and events covering all aspects of the exhibition. Royal Academy of Arts until 10th August.

Pissarro In London marks the centenary of the death of Camille Pissarro by bringing together a group of paintings made on his four visits to London, in 1870-1, 1890, 1892, and 1897. Pissarro had strong links with the city, as his half-sister and, later, three of his sons lived there. It provides an unusual opportunity to see London through Impressionist eyes. The exhibition is all the more intriguing because the views are of everyday scenes of ordinary people at work or at leisure, in his immediate surroundings of the then rural suburbs, and are therefore generally unknown and otherwise unpainted. The major architectural landmarks, which are usually the subjects, such as the Crystal Palace, here, only form part of the background to a couple strolling down a street or a cricket match. These paintings also show the evolution of Pissarro's style over almost three decades. The works range from the better known 'Fox Hill, Upper Norwood' and 'The Avenue, Sydenham' to the rarely seen 'The Train, Bedford Park' and 'Bank Holiday, Kew'. A gem. National Gallery until 3rd August.

St Petersburg: A 300th Birthday Tribute marks the anniversary of the founding of St Petersburg by Peter the Great as a window to the West, with an exhibition of some 200 photographs from the Hermitage Museum collection. They present a profile of the city as it was a century ago when it was at its most splendid and still the capital of Russia - a feast of 18th and 19th century architecture and the centre of high society. Special emphasis is placed on the interiors of the Winter Palace, home to the Romanov rulers of Russia until their fall in 1917, and the Hermitage, then still an imperial museum. Another group of images focuses on the mansions of those late 19th century wealthy individuals whose treasures were to enter the Hermitage after the Revolution. Complementing photographs of the magnificent 200th birthday celebration masquerade ball held in the Winter Palace in 1903 are some of the original costumes worn at the event. In contrast to this opulence there is also a selection of images of ordinary people and the less salubrious parts of the city that they inhabited. Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House until 27th July.