News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 17th October 2001


Radical Fashion is yet another milestone on the "Culture Lite" road hewn by the V&A. Once again an ephemeral industry, which is already treated more seriously than it deserves, receives the same respect as a genuine art form. On the other hand, given that no one actually wears the stuff that appears on the catwalk in the street (not that couture clients would ever go into the street) the creations could be described as art works, since they have no practical function. Either way, this is a showcase of the work of 11 of the most spectacular and feted frock makers: Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Martin Margiela, Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe, Azzendine Alaia, Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood and Helmut Lang. Giorgio Armani had to fork out for a 'vanity publishing' retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York earlier this year, but here we roll over for free in the name of 'accessibility'. Which approach most compromises an institution's integrity? The tailor's dozen here have each been given carte blanche to create an installation which describes/comments on/illustrates the creative journey they undertake to produce their particular Emperor's new clothes. Victoria & Albert Museum until 6th January.

Autumn Countryside Celebration is a glimpse of how the countryside used to be, with the hiss of steam engines, the chug of the threshing box, the chink of the plough horses chains and the scrape of metal on earth as the plough eats into the ground. The museum comprises a medieval farmstead, with farmhouse, barns, orchard, garden and cultivated fields. This year's crop of thatching straw, grown to supply local thatchers and repair its own buildings, will be threshed with steam driven machinery in the traditional way. Heavy horses and vintage tractors will plough the stubble left by the harvest. Twenty pairs of Shires, Suffolk, Clydesdales and British Percheron draught horses, 15 vintage tractors, a threshing drum and a steam engine will all be at work. There will also be demonstrations of countryside skills and crafts, trade stands and musicians performing songs and tales of Sussex past. A programme of activities for children related to traditional rural crafts and trades will take place throughout the half term period. Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, Chichester 27th and 28th October.

Art On The Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780 - 1836 is a recreation of the golden age of British art. Some 300 paintings, watercolours and drawings are hung in period fashion, frame-to-frame and from floor to ceiling, as represented in the famous Rowlandson and Pugin work 'Exhibition Room, Somerset House'. The Royal Academy was founded in 1768, and twelve years later moved into the newly completed Strand block of Somerset House, where its annual exhibitions took place until 1836. Today's display is staged in the recently restored Fine Rooms, designed by Sir William Chambers, centring on the Great Room as it did in the past. Painters competed to secure places for their works as near as possible to the famous Line, a wooden moulding that runs round the walls at the height of the doors. Positions were allocated 'on the Line' itself for the most important pictures, with smaller canvases hung at eye level and lower, and less fortunate works suffering the fate of being 'skied'. Because artists also put their reputations 'on the line' every time they exhibited, the decisions about where the pictures would be hung provoked frequent and heated rows. The works cover portraiture, landscapes, architecture and animals, as captured by Joshua Reynolds (the RA's first president), Constable, Danby, Gainsborough, Russell, Stubbs, Turner and Wilkie. Courtauld Institute Gallery, Somerset House until 20th January.


Langlands & Bell Installation is the first exhibition in the New Artists House designed by Stephen Marshall, which will feature art in a modern domestic environment, and in which artists can stay. Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell specialise in exploring relationships between people and architecture, examining buildings and the way we think about them. This installation combines new pieces with key elements of their past work.

Tim Harrison: New Stone Carvings in the New Gallery explore the fabric of the stone, through cutting, carving and polishing, revealing the geology that lies within it. A feature of Harrison's work is the way that it changes in shape, form and texture as the viewpoint or light source shifts.

The Sculpture Park is a permanent outdoor exhibition of work from 1950 onwards, and is the sole representative of the estate of Barbara Hepworth, with many of her pieces in wood, marble, stone and bronze. Other artists whose works are displayed include Kenneth Armitage, Lynn Chadwick, Antony Gormley and Rachel Whiteread. New Art Centre Sculpture Park & Gallery, Salisbury - both exhibitions until 30th November - park open all year round.

The Golden Age Of Watercolours: The Hickman Bacon Collection is the first chance for the public to see this collection of British landscape drawings and watercolours since 1948. From its creation in the early years of the last century it has been recognized as the best private holding of such works anywhere, and the eighty two pictures on display here represent the cream of the collection. It is especially strong in the late ethereal Turner watercolours that only became widely popular with the advent of abstract painting in the 1940s and 50s. In addition to twenty one Turners, there are watercolours and drawings by Girtin, John Sell Cotman, David Cox, Peter de De Wint, John Robert Cozens, Francia, Bonington and Boys. They demonstrate how these artists expanded the visual, spatial, emotional and technical dimensions of landscape art during their careers, as well as their mastery of a range of watercolour techniques. Dulwich Picture Gallery until 6th January.

Mike Nelson has a newly commissioned work that is installed not only in the galleries, but also in the public spaces of the building. Nelson is renowned for creating large scale environments, jammed with the detritus of modern living, which are theatrical, elaborate and surprising. Here he has built a maze-like structure, designed to transform the existing spaces, and disorientate the visitor. As always Nelson has filled this labyrinth with assorted paraphernalia that he has salvaged, with particular reference to his interest in sci-fi, B-movies and pulp fiction. The experience has the feel of stepping into a drama that has been temporarily suspended, like illicitly walking through a stage set during the interval. Mike Nelson has been shortlisted for this year's Turner Prize. Institute of Contemporary Arts until 11th November.

Thinktank, Birmingham's new £50 million science and discovery visitor attraction at Millennium Point is now in business, although the formal opening is not until next July. Divided into ten themed sections over four floors, and covering over 12,500 square metres (including an IMAX cinema), it is one of the largest attractions of its kind outside London. It tells the story of innovation in science and technology through the city's past, relates the latest advances to everyday life today, and examines expectations for the future. Topics covered include Manufacturing, Transport, Power, Space, Medicine, and Natural History. As well as over 200 new interactive exhibits, there are also many of the favourites from the former Museum of Science and Industry which closed in 1997, including the City of Birmingham steam locomotive, Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft, John Cobb's Railton car, and the world's oldest working steam engine. The Millennium Point project, which is designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners, will also house the Technology Innovation Centre and the University of the First Age, plus shops, bars and restaurants. Thinktank, Birmingham continuing.

Facts Of Life: Contemporary Japanese Art is one of the major exhibitions in the Japan 2001 Festival, and the largest show of contemporary Japanese art ever shown in the UK. It includes works by 25 artists, from key figures such as Nobuyoshi Araki, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tatsuo Miyajima and Yayoi Kusama, to a younger generation of rising talent. These range over painting, photography, installation, video and performance, with some created specially for this exhibition. Many are motivated by social concerns, such as the alienation and vulnerability of the individual within the urban landscape, social engagement, and the nature of the material world. These themes emerge in some of the most cutting edge contemporary art being made today, together something that is often missing - humour. Hayward Gallery until 9th December.

Surrealism: Desire Unbound is the first major British assessment of the Surrealist movement for twenty five years. During this period surrealist images have moved from the avant-garde fringe to the stuff of advertising campaigns, so the question is, can the works fulfil their original brief? On the strength of the pieces selected here the answer is yes. The usual suspects appear, including de Chirico, Dali, Duchamp, Max Ernst, Dalí, Giacometti, Man Ray, Magritte and Miro, together with other lesser known artists, and surrealist pieces by those whose main body of work lies outside the movement. The exhibition reveals the group's obsession with desire and sexuality and how it encompassed everything they did. Through painting, sculpture, installation and film, it charts the varied paths chosen to bypass conventional reason and rationality in order to explore the mind's potentially limitless capacity to imagine, dream and invent. The exhibition is dramatically staged in 13 themed sections, each taking its title from a well known work. Further information and an Online Surrealism Shop can be found on the Tate web site via the link opposite. Tate Modern until 1st January.


75 Years Of Creativity: A Rambert Dance Company Retrospective charts the creative highlights of the company that was founded by Marie Rambert in the classical tradition in 1926, but moved to a modern non-narrative repertoire in the 1960s. It draws on artefacts, designs and other materials from both the Rambert archive and the museum's permanent collection.

Margot Fonteyn Costumes celebrates the acquisition of five of the ballerina's costumes, in which she danced the roles of Aurora, Odile, Chloe and Juliet, which are on display for the first time, together with photographs of her in other roles.

Taking Shape is a journey through a landscape of changing shapes where everyday materials are transformed into animated worlds inhabited by the creations of Sue Buckmaster. Visitors can interact with moving sculptures and puppet characters, made out of anything from paper to metal, some from Buckmaster's past productions, and some made specially for this exhibition. The Theatre Museum - all until 28th October.

Walsall Illuminations, Britain's biggest inland illumination display, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, as lights and lasers transform Walsall's arboretum. The season starts with a procession from Walsall town centre that includes 350 pyramid shape lanterns made by local children, plus five 12ft long by 7ft high lanterns, each representing a decade from the last 50 years of pop music. Presumably this symbolises the triumph of exuberance over good taste. The illuminations themselves consist of lakeside lights, state of the art laser shows, floodlit gardens and over 50 different light scenes, including tableaux of favourite children's characters. In addition there are street entertainers, puppet shows, food stalls and fairground rides, plus extra Half Term events during the final week of the season. Walsall Arboretum until 28th October.

London Transport Museum Depot at Acton houses the museum's reserve collection and conservation site, and is open to the public on just a few days each year. It holds a treasure trove of over 370,000 objects, including a host of rare road and rail vehicles, station models, signs, equipment, ceramic tiles, ticket machines, uniforms, posters, engineering drawings, photographs and nearly one million feet of original archive film. Open Days provide an opportunity to explore the main sheds and discover the stories behind the collection, with a programme of talks, stalls and special themed displays. Guided Tours, led by knowledgeable museum representatives, offer an in depth insight into the collection, with access to stores not normally open to the public. Open Day tickets can be bought on the door but Guided Tours must be booked in advance. Further information can be found on the London Transport Museum web site via the link from the Museums section of ExhibitionsNet. London Transport Museum Depot - Guided Tours on 26th October.