News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 16th September 2009


The Darwin Centre is a spectacular new £78m building, designed by C F Moller Architects of Denmark, the main feature of which is a 65 metre long 8 storey high Cocoon, whose surface is 3,500 square metres of hand finished polished plaster, contained within an atrium, plus 1,040 square metres of laboratory space. The Cocoon is home to 17 million insect and 3 million plant specimens - from huge tarantulas to metre high poisonous plants - held in 3.3 kilometers of temperature controlled cabinets. For the first time, visitors are able to see into the hidden world of scientific research, where some of the centre's 220 scientists work on cutting edge research that could help protect the future of the earth, through viewing decks and video monitors, and ask questions via an audio link. Over 500 real insects and plants are on display, including 124 specimens in the introductory area, such as an Atlas moth with a 16cm wingspan, the 15.5cm elephant beetle and 3mm sandflies on microscope slides; a wall of 326 specimens over two floors, from a half-metre crayfish to a wingless termite; around 50 giant plants, including the 1.2m hemlock water dropwort Oenanthe crocata; a 12 metre wide interactive wall showing the consequences of human impact on the climate; 20 historically important 'iconic' specimens, including the vegetable lamb of Tartary, insects collected by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel, and a bound herbarium volume, containing plants gathered by the collector Sir Hans Sloane. In addition to real specimens and scientists, the Cocoon also features over 40 high tech installations and hands on interactive activities that reveal the field work, taxonomy and DNA work of other scientists. Natural History Museum, continuing.

Toy Tales is a celebration of 60 years of BBC children's television programmes, some of whose characters are still with us, and some of whom have disappeared to the great toy box in the sky. The exhibition offers the opportunity to renew acquaintances with Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, Rag, Tag and Bobtail, Paddington Bear, Sooty and Sweep, Basil Brush, The Magic Roundabout and Postman Pat. Visitors can reminisce about grainy black and white images of puppets such as Muffin the Mule and Pinky and Perky, and compare them with the hi-definition colour of today's favourites, like Charlie and Lola, 64 Zoo Lane, and In The Night Garden. All these characters and more are represented in various forms, including puppets, videos, original scripts, story boards, props and drawings. The exhibition also pays tribute to the animator, puppeteer and author Oliver Postgate, who, together with Peter Firmin, set up the company Smallfilms in a disused cowshed at Firmin's home in Kent, producing animated footage on a shoestring budget to great acclaim. Peter Firmin's own collection of The Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog, are featured in the exhibition, together with original Bagpuss story boards. The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, until 1st November.

Sound Designs: The Story Of Boosey & Hawkes illustrates the important contribution that the instrument maker Boosey & Hawkes and their employees made to the shaping of playing styles, the development of the brass band tradition and the sound of British orchestras. At one time, the huge Boosey & Hawkes factory in Edgware employed 700 people, who produced 1,000 musical instruments each week. The museum was able to acquire the prestigious Boosey & Hawkes collection of historic instruments and archives chronicling over 150 years of instrument making when the factory ceased production in 2001. Over 100 items, including fascinating drawings and photographs of musical instruments, instrument production records, stock books, minute books and tools, provide an insight into the manufacturing techniques and technical innovations that established Boosey & Hawkes as the premier British instrument manufacturer. Highlights of the exhibition include an engraved glass flute from 1816, a silver trumpet belonging to Queen Victoria's head trumpeter, and early designs of instruments that were the foundation of the British Brass Band tradition. Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London SE23, until 1st November.


The Art Of Plant Evolution is where art meets science, in an exhibition of botanical paintings arranged in the latest evolutionary sequence, determined by recent DNA analysis. New genetic discoveries have changed the nomenclature and evolutionary sequence of many plants during the last ten years. The paintings display a sampling of the plant world from fungi to daisies, including algae, mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants. The exhibition comprises 136 paintings by 84 contemporary artists from countries such as China, Australia, Japan and Britain, displaying 50 orders of plants, in 118 families, for a total of 133 species. This provides a sweeping overview of the evolution of plants on earth. Highlights include Manabu Saito's depiction of the colourful river weed Mourera fluviatilis; paintings by two members of the famous Demonte family of Brazilian artists, including the tropical 'Brazilian Dutchman's pipe'; and Beverly Allan's 'Wollemi Pine', featuring one of the oldest and rarest species of tree in the world, formerly believed to be extinct, which was rediscovered in Australia in 1994. There are also over 20 plant fossils, some dated from over 370 million years ago, including fern fronds, leaves of cycads, the Wollemi pine, ginkgoes and poplar, together with tiny walnuts and peas in a pod. These are placed near the matching paintings of their relatives living today. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew until 3rd January 2010.

Blackpool Illuminations have extended the holiday season and entertained visitors to the seaside town since 1879, when 8 plain electric arc lamps bathed the Promenade in what was described as 'artificial sunshine'. While the basic idea remains the same, the style and scale of Blackpool's end of season electrical extravaganza have little in common with that first experiment in lighting. Traditional lamps are still used, but now alongside the newest technology such as lasers, fibre-optics, low-voltage neon and even real fire and water. The show now costs £2.4m to stage, and stretches for six miles of spectacular colour, light and movement. New features this year include the Rengoli Peacock, using video projection and LED lighting, as well as sound effects, music and eye catching imagery to tell the story of Divali; 3 new monsters, including the Red Darlek, in an expanded Dr Who section; and a laser projected tableau featuring all the CBBC favourites, including 'In The Night Garden'. Visitors can become part of the display, as they travel along the Promenade aboard a tram dressed up by lights as a wild west train, ocean liner or space rocket, from dusk to 11.30pm most nights. Blackpool Promenade, until 8th November.

Undercover - Life In Churchill's Bunker examines the living and working conditions in the Cabinet War Rooms during the Second World War. The exhibition draws on new personal accounts to build a picture of life under London streets, where events of the war were shaped, and world changing decisions made. Stories, historic images, documents, letters, previously unseen personal objects, and the voices of War Room veterans combine to create the tense, but often humorous, atmosphere in the series of rooms selected as the secret headquarters for Churchill, his war cabinet, and intelligence processing centre. Created in 1938, the War Rooms were originally the storage areas of the Office of Works Building, but were soon pressed into service as the country's operational nerve centre. By 27th August 1939, a week before the invasion of Poland, the rooms were fully operational, and remained the central shelter for government and military strategists for 6 years, staffed 24 hours a day. The exhibition examines the safety and security of the War Rooms, shows Churchill's idiosyncratic methods of operation, how people worked with him, and how they coped with a daily underground existence in 14 hour shifts throughout the entire war. Among the key objects on display for the first time are a transcript of the speech made by Churchill on 9th September 1940, accusing Hitler of trying to terrorise Britain, with several handwritten notes added to the original draft; and a letter recounting Churchill's forthright reaction on finding out that the War Rooms were not actually bomb proof. Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, Whitehall, until 30th September 2010.

Picturing Britain: Paul Sandby celebrates the bicentenary of the death of the artist who is best known for promoting British landscapes, at a time when Italianate views were the normal artistic fare. However, this exhibition, bringing together artworks including drawings, watercolours and gouaches, etchings, aquatints and a few rare oils, also reveals Paul Sandby as an acute observer of society and razor-sharp satirist. The kind of landscape that Sandby painted is so familiar now, that it is hard to realise how innovative it was when it was first created. Sandby took the 'topographical scene' and developed it into 'art'. Although he was an artist well versed in continental traditions, his early employment as a map maker and topographical draughtsman led him to produce carefully observed and composed views of the native British landscape, including scenes taken in and around London, and on extensive tours through the great estates of England, Wales and Scotland. He often collaborated on paintings with his elder brother, who was an architect, landscape designer and draughtsman, and they shared a fascination both with perspective and with the camera obscura. Sandby's pictures always reward a closer look, as they are richly peopled and animated, revealing a world where work, social interaction, arrivals and departures along roads and tracks, take place against a backdrop of antiquities and natural wonders, landscape parks and forests, road side inns, forges and gallows. Nottingham Castle, until 18th October.

Andre Kertesz: On Reading is the first time images from the On Reading series by the Hungarian born photographer have been exhibited in Britain. Andre Kertesz was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. These photographs, taken between 1915 and 1980 in the many places he lived, visited and worked, including Argentina, France, Hungary, Britain and America, are a celebration of the absorptive power and pleasure of reading. Kertesz was intrigued by the universal appeal of reading, revelling in the privacy of the moment. Over the course of his career, Kertesz captured readers of all ages in various locations - on rooftops and balconies, in parks, on crowded streets, at train stations, in libraries - creating a poetic study of the act of reading. The photographs range from abstract formal compositions to playful, often humorous observations, a signature style of Kertesz's work. Some photographs in the exhibition also celebrate the book as an object, through paintings, still life compositions and images of book shelves and library interiors. At the moment when digital technologies threaten to render the printed page obsolete, this exhibition is a timely, humorous and nostalgic reminder of the importance of the book, and the culture of reading. The Photographers' Gallery, London, until 4th October.

Outbreak 1939 examines events surrounding Britain's declaration of war on Germany at 11.15am on 3rd September 1939 and looks at how the country mobilised. Seventy ears after the announcement that signified the start of the Second World War and changed the lives of millions, this exhibition explores how being a nation at war shaped the lives of ordinary men and women, as well as those who were actively involved in the political negotiations and their aftermath. Historical material and personal memorabilia illustrate the build up to war, an hour by hour countdown of events on 3rd September, and the early months of the conflict. Among the items on display are the jacket worn by King George VI when he broadcast to the nation; a wedding dress worn for a hastily rearranged ceremony when the outbreak of the war appeared imminent; a purse and coin belonging to an 11 year old boy who survived the sinking of the SS Athenia, the first British merchant vessel to be destroyed by a German U Boat; the medal awarded to Thomas Priday, the first British soldier to be killed in action; the German machine gun taken as a souvenir by fighter ace 'Cobber' Kain from the first aircraft he shot down; a teddy bear belonging to a little girl evacuated from London; and posters informing (and cajoling) the public of what was expected of them. Despite only limited military action during the early months of on the home front, a nationwide blackout was introduced on the 1st September, barrage balloons were launched and air raid precautions taken, the carrying of gas masks and identity cards became compulsory, and plans to evacuate civilians from towns and cities were put into action, so that millions of children's lives changed forever. Imperial War Museum until 6th September 2010


Samuel Johnson And London follows the bookseller, poet, compiler of the Dictionary of the English Language, and coiner of the aphorism "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life", his friends and collaborators around the 18th century city, and looks at the many facets of his varied literary career and legacy. Among the original books, letters and artefacts on display are: a copy of A Dictionary of the English language; Johnson's poem 'London'; a copy of 'Logick' by Isaac Watts, showing Johnson at work; Hester Lynch Piozzi's, 'letters to & from the late Samuel Johnson'; accounts kept by the printer William Strahan, regarding the dictionary; a copy of Thomas Rowlandson's 'Picturesque Beauties of Boswell'; a letter from Johnson to the King's librarian; an Invitation from John Wilkes to Johnson; an 'Ode by Dr Johnson to Mrs Thrale upon their supposed …. Nuptials'; a copy of 'The Beauties of Johnson'; a list of members of 'The Club'; a copy of James Boswell's 'The Life of Samuel Johnson'; corrected proofs of Johnson's 'Preface on Dryden'; Boswell's letter to Johnson's friend Bennet Langton; and a ticket for Johnson's funeral. The British Library until 30th September.

Medals Of Dishonour is the first ever exhibition to examine the intriguing but relatively unappreciated tradition of the medal as an indicator of dishonour. It features examples from the past 400 years that denounce their subjects, and reveals the long and rich tradition of this largely unexplored type of medal. The historic medals are hugely revealing about the political and cultural opinions that were prevalent in the times in which they were made, as are accompanying modern works, which are the creations of current artists such as Steve Bell, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Ellen Gallagher, Richard Hamilton, William Kentridge, Michael Landy, Langlands and Bell, Cornelia Parker, Grayson Perry and Felicity Powell. The first part of the exhibition focuses on satirical and political historical medals, ranging from the sombre and the bizarre to the scatological and the humorous, which are placed in context through the use of contemporary prints and drawings. These include a medal by a Dutch artist attacking France and its king, created in response to the financial scandals that occurred in Europe in the 1720s, featuring a humiliating image of Louis XIV ejecting the contents of his stomach and bowels; and a German anti-war medal from 1915, showing a figure of Death seated on a cannon, happily smoking, while a city is in flames in the background. The second part of the exhibition features medals specially commissioned for the exhibition from contemporary artists, dealing with a wide range of current issues, from the war in Iraq and consumerism, to ASBOs and the credit crunch. British Museum until 27th September.

London Open House is the annual scheme that allows public access to architecturally interesting but usually private buildings across the capital. Over 700 buildings of all kinds, both historic and new, include Hackney Empire, National and Sadler's Wells theatres; King's Place, Royal Albert and Wigmore concert halls; Admiralty Buildings Whitehall, Horse Guards and Marlborough House; Brockwell Lido, Greenwich Yacht Club and London Regatta Centre; Foster and Partners and Hopkins Architects' offices; Bank of England, Apothecaries and Painters Livery Halls; Alexander Palace TV studios and theatre, BBC Bush House and Sands Film Studios; Gray's Inn, Middle Temple Hall and the Royal Courts of Justice; Dorchester, Grosvenor House and Andaz (Great Eastern) hotels; Brompton, Kensal Green and Nunhead cemeteries; City Hall and Guildhall; Dulwich College, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Old Royal Naval College Greenwich; Beefeater Distillery, King George V Pumping Station and Markfiel Beam Engine House; Old Turkish Baths Bishopsgate, Roof Gardens Kensington and the 2012 Olympic Park construction site. There are also talks, conducted walks and other accompanying special events taking place at various locations over the course of the weekend. Entrance is free, but because of limited access, a few of the buildings require prebooking. Further details and how to obtain a directory of participating buildings can be found on the London Open House web site via the link from Festivals in the Others section of ExhibitionsNet. Across London on 19th and 20th September.