Private View held by Richard Andrews
The Cheapside Hoard: London's Lost Jewels paints a vivid picture of one of the darkest and most visceral periods of London's history. The Cheapside Hoard is a collection of late 16th and early 17th century jewels and gemstones that was discovered in 1912, buried in a cellar on Cheapside in the City of London. The story of this extraordinary treasure is multi-faceted - a tale of war, murder on the high seas, chance discovery and clandestine dealings. A jeweller's stock in trade, the Hoard was buried between 1640 and 1666. Comprising nearly 500 pieces, it includes delicate finger rings, cascading necklaces, Byzantine cameos, beautiful jewelled scent bottles, and a unique Colombian emerald watch. It is the single most important source of knowledge on early modern jewellery worldwide. However, research has found that amongst the Hoard are two counterfeit balas rubies, fashioned from rock crystal, cut, polished and dyed to represent natural gems by the dubious jeweller Thomas Sympson. His relatives, John and Francis Sympson, received stolen goods snatched from the jeweller, Gerrard Pulman, who became victim of a plot and was murdered for his stash of jewels on board a ship travelling home from Persia to London in 1631. The exhibition offers new evidence about the individuals and communities engaged in mining, cutting, trading and buying jewels and looks at their creative talents, craft skills and manufacturing techniques. The jewels are shown with a range of objects and portraits of goldsmith-jewellers, patrons and consumers, to paint a picture of the fashions and culture at play in Tudor and early Stuart London, and illustrate the importance of jewellery in early modern society. Museum Of London, 150 London Wall, until 27th April.
Kabuki: Japanese Theatre Prints reveals the spectacular artwork and larger-than-life characters from a 19th century Japanese cultural phenomenon shown in woodblock prints. Striking designs present vivid depictions of Kabuki, the popular form of traditional, all male, Japanese theatre, which combines drama, music, dance and acrobatics in convoluted plots concerning dramatic, emotional conflicts and feats of derring-do. The woodblock prints were a cheap and colourful medium of entertainment, much like magazines and posters today. Their visual style is akin to those of Manga comics and Japanese cinema. Publishing houses commissioned designs from the greatest artists of the era, but the prints were affordable to the average person on the street. In the 19th century, both men and women clamoured to acquire pictures of their favourite actor in the latest play. Such prints often sold in the thousands, creating an almost endless demand for new compositions from artists. The obsession with Kabuki actors led artists to take backstage scenes or life offstage as subject matter and so, in a loose parallel with modern candid publicity pictures in celebrity magazines, some prints portray actors out for a walk, dressed as ordinary people, or attending festivals. There are also representations of their cultural activities, participating in salons for poetry composition and calligraphy. The time span of the exhibition, 1830s to 1870s, encompasses a period of significant unrest in Japan, culminating in the collapse of the feudal system in 1868, followed by a period of modernisation and social reform. The later prints reflect these changes, in the style and themes and also in the introduction of new technology and dyes, which expanded the possibilities for artists and publishers. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, until 2nd February.
Tomorrow - Elmgreen & Dragset At The V&A is a major installation by the Danish/Norwegian artist duo spread over 5 galleries, in the form of an apartment belonging to a fictional, elderly and disillusioned architect. The installation features over 100 historical objects from the museum's collection that sit alongside works by the artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, as well as items sourced from antique markets. The result appears like a set for an unrealised film. To accompany it, Elmgreen and Dragset have written a script, which is available to visitors as a printed book. The drama centres on a retired architect who had great vision but very little success in his professional life. In his twilight years, and with the family fortune long gone, he is forced to sell his inherited home and all his possessions. The script comments on issues of ageing, disappointment and alienation in today's society. Within the domestic setting, visitors are uninvited guests, able to curl up in the architect's bed, recline on his sofa, or rifle through books placed to hint at the imagined events that could have taken place here. The installation examines interests that have abided throughout Elmgreen and Dragset's careers - those of redefining the way in which art is presented and experienced, issues around social models and how spaces and objects both inflict on and reflect our behavioural patterns. Victoria & Albert Museum until 2nd January.
Shunga: Sex And Pleasure In Japanese Art examines the often tender, funny, beautiful and sexually explicit works of art known as 'spring pictures' (shunga) that were produced between 1600 and 1900 by some of the masters of Japanese art. The exhibition features some 170 works including paintings, sets of prints and illustrated books with text. Shunga were mostly produced within the popular school known as 'pictures of the floating world' (ukiyo-e), by celebrated artists such as Hishikawa Moronobu, Kitagawa Utamaro and Katsushika Hokusai. Luxurious shunga paintings were also produced for ruling class patrons by traditional artists such as members of the Kano school, sometimes influenced by Chinese examples. This was very different from the situation in contemporary Europe, where religious bans and prevailing morality enforced an absolute division between 'art' and 'pornography'. The exhibition explores key questions about what shunga is, how it circulated and to whom, and why was it produced, thus establishing the social and cultural contexts for sex art in Japan and reaffirming the importance of shunga in Japanese art history. In early modern Japan Confucian ethics that focused on duty and restraint were promoted in education for all classes, and laws on adultery, were severe. There were also many class and gender inequalities, and a large and exploitative commercial sex industry (the 'pleasure quarters'). However, the values promoted in shunga are generally positive towards sexual pleasure for all participants. Although men were the main producers and consumers, it is clear that women also were an important audience. The custom of presenting shunga to women in a marriage trousseau seems to have been common, and some works seem to have been created more for women than for men. During the late 19th and 20th centuries, shunga was all but removed from popular and scholarly memory in Japan and became taboo. British Museum until 5th January.
Mystery, Magic And Midnight Feasts: The Many Adventures Of Enid Blyton is the first major exhibition to celebrate the life and work of Britain's most popular - and yet most reviled - author of books for children. The display aims to reveal Blyton's creative imagination and the events that shaped her life and storytelling, in the series she created, such as Noddy, the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and Malory Towers. Enid Blyton was the best selling English language author of the 20th century, and remains one of the most popular writers of all time. In a career that spanned 5 decades, she wrote an astonishing 700+ books and some 4,500 short stories. At the height of her powers, from 1951 to 1954, Blyton produced 192 books, an average of one a week. The books, which were often serialised, captivated children in the same way that Harry Potter has in recent times. Among the highlights of the exhibition are: original hand corrected typescripts including Five Have Plenty of Fun, Last Term At Malory Towers, Look Out, Secret Seven and Cheer Up Little Noddy; personal and nature diaries spanning the 1920s, 1930s and 1960s; Harmsen van der Beek's first Noddy illustration, and a letter to Enid Blyton; personal family photographs, including Blyton as a child; a recently discovered unpublished typescript of Mr Tumpy's Caravan; and her famous typewriter; together with recreations of the Secret Seven's legendary Shed, a Malory Towers classroom, and a life size Noddy car that visitors can sit in. Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books, Ouseburn Valley Newcastle upon Tyne, until February.
Attack: Histories Of British Iconoclasm is the first exhibition to explore the history of physical attacks on art in Britain, with examples from the 16th century to the present day. Iconoclasm describes the deliberate breaking of images, and the show explores 500 years of assaults on art, with paintings, sculpture and archival material, examining how and why icons, symbols and monuments have been attacked for religious, political or aesthetic motives. State-sanctioned religious iconoclasm of the 16th and 17th centuries is represented by medieval stained glass panels removed from the windows of Canterbury Cathedral, exhibited alongside Thomas Johnson's painting of the Cathedral's interior showing Puritan iconoclasts in action. Suffragette attacks on cultural heritage are shown by John Singer Sargent's 'Henry James', slashed at the Royal Academy, with archival documentation of the attacks, as well as police surveillance photography of the militant protagonists. Other actions against figures and symbols of political power include fragments of the statue of William III and of Nelson's Pillar, destroyed in Dublin in 1928 and 1966, and fragments of Joseph Wilton's statue of George III, blown up during the American War of Independence. Art that stimulates aesthetic outrage is represented by Carl Andre's 'Equivalent VIII' (the legendary Tate 'bricks'), the subject of not only verbal vitriol but also physical attack. As well as attacks on art, the show reveals how for some artists destruction can be utilised as a creative force and have transformed images into new works with new meanings. A piano destroyed by Raphael Montanez Ortiz during the Destruction in Art Symposium is on display together with an audio recording of the event, as well as works by Gustav Metzger, John Latham and Yoko Ono. Tate Britain until 5th January.
Pearls explores the history of pearls from the early Roman Empire to the present day. The exhibition examines how pearls have been employed over centuries as a symbol of status and wealth, and how tastes vary in different cultures. Over 200 pieces of jewellery and works of art are on display, showcasing the extraordinary variety of colour and shape of natural and cultured pearls. The introductory section reveals the working methods of pearl divers and the trading practices of pearl merchants, together with examples of early experiments in producing cultured pearls attempted in the 18th century by Carl Linnaeus, and scientific instruments used in the first half of the 20th century to distinguish between the natural and the cultured pearl. Among the highlights of the jewels on show are a Roman gold hair ornament, set with pearls, emeralds and sapphires; a pearl-drop earring worn by Charles I at his execution; the 17th century Queen Mary II pearls; a set of buttons finely enamelled and framed with pearls worn by George III; the Dagmar necklace given to Princess Alexandra on her marriage to the future King Edward VII; a pendant locket with black pearl commemorating Prince Albert; an Icon with Virgin and Child decorated with Russian freshwater pearls; the Rosebery pearl and diamond tiara; an Imperial robe from China studded with pearls; an Art Deco brooch designed by Jean Fouquet; a necklace of pearls given to Marilyn Monroe by Joe DiMaggio; and Elizabeth Taylor's Bulgari pearl-drop pendant earrings. The diversity of contemporary jewellery with pearls is illustrated by the designs of the Munich jeweller Stefan Hemmerle using rare melo pearls; unusual figurative creations by Geoffrey Rowlandson; and the complex use of pearls in a necklace by Sam Tho Duong. Victoria & Albert Museum until 19th January.
Thomas Scheibitz: One-Time Pad features new and recent work by one of the leading figures in the current generation of German artists. Thomas Scheibitz began developing a new form of conceptual painting during his studies at the School of Art in Dresden in the early 1990s. The exhibition brings together over 200 works, including painting, sculpture, drawing and works on paper, tracing the conceptual and painterly development of his career, with a particular focus on the human figure and the determination of form between figuration and abstraction. Scheibitz draws upon motifs and themes from the everyday and popular culture and architecture, but he also takes inspiration from art historical imagery such as Renaissance paintings or Medieval engravings, which he places in new perceptual contexts. He feeds his visual memory with a collection of found material, including photos, drawings, newspaper clippings, memos, book pages and objects, filters these through his thought processes, and retrieves them as a basis for the forms and structures of his paintings and sculptures. The exhibition includes an archive of Scheibitz's source material and models together with a new specially commissioned sculptural piece. The title of the exhibition (also the title of a painting), takes its name from a method of encryption that is used to transmit secret messages and is considered to be impossible to crack if used correctly. It alludes to the coding process Scheibitz employs in his work that audiences are invited to unlock. Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, until 3rd November.
After Life features poignant and surprising photographic portraits of extinct and endangered animals. Fascinated by taxidermy since childhood, photographer Sean Dooley brings to life the stories of the earth's lost and fading species through his pictures of specimens preserved in musems and private collections across the country. Each portrait captures a species that is losing, or has lost, the fight for survival. Exploring the consequences of man's actions, and inactions, in taking species for granted, this series of striking images includes portraits of a baby polar bear, the extinct passenger pigeon, the critically endangered ruffed lemur, and the Lord Howe swamphen, now extinct, of which there are only two (stuffed) examples in the world. Because of the rarity of these specimens, sometimes the last remnants of a particular species, they are important, either as sources of knowledge that can help conservation, or as reminders of creatures that no one will ever see again. Though often beautiful, the images underline that these examples are an extremely poor substitute for having the animals live in the wild. The exhibition also includes Dooley's photographs from BioBlitz, the museum's review of its Natural History collections. These images capture and record the process of reviewing some 250,000 specimens, from chimpanzee skeletons to a cupboard full of stuffed owls, over a 12 month period, giving an insight into the diverse collection and how better to understand and use it in future. Hornuman Museum, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23, until 2nd March.
Magical Books: From The Middle Ages To Middle-earth features the work of five celebrated authors of children's fantasy literature: C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Philip Pullman. The exhibition offers an access to authors' private papers, and original manuscripts, many of which have not been seen in public before. Highlights include a selection of Tolkien's original artwork for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; the manuscript of 'The Fall of Arthur', a previously unknown (and uncompleted) epic poem by Tolkien on the Arthurian legend; C S Lewis's 'Lefay notebook' and his map of Narnia; plus some of the books and manuscripts that contain the myths, legends and magical practices that these authors used for research and from which they freely drew inspiration, including a First Folio of Shakespeare's Macbeth, the 'Ripley Rolls', which illustrate the quest for the life-prolonging philosophers' stone; mediaeval demonic spellbooks; Grimoires and richly illuminated mediaeval bestiaries; Philip Pullman's alethiometer or truth telling sphere; one of Alan Garner's original 'owl service' plates; and a variety of magical objects, such as a 17th century marble copy of the 'Holy Table', which John Dee used to converse with angels. Bodleian Library, Oxford, until 27th October.
Estuary brings together the work of 12 artists who have been inspired by the outer limits of the Thames where the river becomes the sea. With its dramatic landscape of desolate mudflats and saltmarshes, vast open skies, container ports, power stations and seaside resorts, the Estuary has long been a rich source of inspiration for artists and writers. Through film, photography, painting and printmaking, the contemporary artists featured in this exhibition offer new insight into this often overlooked, yet utterly compelling, environment and the people that live and work there. The works comprise 'Thames Film' by William Raban; 'Seafort Project' by Stephen Turner; 'Thames Painting: The Estuary' and 'Study for The Estuary' by Michael Andrews; 'Purfleet: from Dracula's Garden and Dagenham' by Jock McFadyen; 'Horizon (Five Pounds a Belgian)' by John Smith; 'Southend Pier 2011' from the series 'Pierdom' by Simon Roberts; 'Medway' by Christiane Baumgartner; '51º 29'.9" North - 0º11' East Rainham Barges' by Bow Gamelan Ensemble; 'The Golden Tide' by Gayle Chong Kwan; 'Jaunt' by Andrew Kotting; 'Thames Gateway' by Peter Marshall; and a new film by Nikolaj Larsen. The exhibition is a reminder of the changing face of this country's infrastructure, its natural landscape, and an insight into the Thames's own resultant shifting importance. Museum of London Docklands, West India Quay, E14, until 27th October.
The Lyons Teashops Lithographs: Art In A Time of Austerity 1946 - 1955 features lithographs commissioned by catering giant J Lyons & Co to combat a wartime decline in the interior decor of their famous teashops, and a post-war austerity lack of decorating material. War artists, Royal College of Art alumni, and well-known and emerging practitioners were chosen to produce tasteful works of art that would appeal to the typical Lyons Teashop customer. Through the company's imaginative approach to interior decoration, the cream of modern British art reached a wider public audience in the 200 Teashops nationwide. Three series of lithographs were commissioned, including works by artists such as Edward Bawden, John Piper, David Gentleman, John Minton, Ruskin Spear, William Scott, Duncan Grant, John Nash and L S Lowry. The exhibition comprises 40 lithographs, together with a selection of the original paintings and working drawings. Whilst some of the artists were able to produce their own lithographs, others created watercolour, oil, gouache, pen and ink, or collaged works that were then turned into the final lithograph. Presenting a very particular British idyll, the lithographs depict urban, industrial, rural and coastal landscapes, domestic interiors, street scenes and still-lifes. Pictures of leisure pursuits such as billiards, cricket, fishing, punting, boxing and piano-playing vie with scenes of a railway station, a hotel lobby and fishmonger's shop, while apple pickers in a Kent orchard contrast with yeoman warders at the Tower of London and afternoon tea in Henley. Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, until 22nd October.