News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 18th March 2009


Theatre And Performance Galleries are new spaces displaying some 250 highlights from the collection of the former Theatre Museum in Covent Garden, the largest collection of its type in the world. They show the history, development and practice of the performing arts in Britain over the last 350 years, embracing drama, dance, opera, musical theatre, circus, rock and pop and popular entertainment. The galleries focus on the process of performance, from the initial concept, through the design and development stages, to audiences' reactions. Arranged in three main themes - creating performance, staging performance and experiencing performance - the displays include costumes, set models, stage props, original posters and playbills, theatrical prints, paintings, archive footage and photographs. The objects range in size from stage machinery and architecture, through to theatre tickets and tokens, including a 1623 first folio of Shakespeare's plays; the only known Handel prompt book produced during his lifetime; an early draft manuscript of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's comedy The School For Scandal; an original 1957 poster for Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court Theatre; the 1971 score for Jesus Christ Superstar, marked with alterations made by the musical director during rehearsals; a guitar Pete Townshend smashed during a 1970s performance with The Who; and costumes worn by performers such as Richard Burton, Margot Fonteyn, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. A specially commissioned film features interviews with playwright Michael Frayn, directors Peter Hall and Peter Brook, actor Henry Goodman, and ballet director Monica Mason. There is also a space for temporary exhibitions, which is currently hosting a collection of theatre photographs by Reg Wilson. Victoria & Albert Museum, continuing.

George Always - Portraits Of George Melly By Maggi Hambling sees the many facets of 'Good Time George' - jazz performer, surrealist, comic, raconteur, critic and author - as captured by his great friend, the contemporary artist Maggi Hambling. The exotic nature of her subject has inspired a rich, compelling celebration in works that are being shown together for the first time. The exhibition includes the last portraits of Melly before his death in July 2007, as well as a series that Hambling has painted since, from memory and imagination. Her responses in paint to his death are far from morbid, but are tender, challenging, serious and funny. These highly original and imaginative portraits confront the question of death head on. Melly, whose energetic stage presence apparently inspired the young Mick Jagger, is portrayed singing, joking, drinking and laughing. The exhibition comprises 29 works, including Hambling's 1998 triple portrait, ink drawings from life, oil paintings executed during Melly's final days, 'George Always, I' and 'George Always, II' painted since his death, and a new waterfall triptych, inspired by Melly's favourite colours, making their public debut. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, until 31st May.

Wycinanki: The Art Of Polish Paper Cuts explores the traditional Polish folk art of cutting paper into intricate pictures and patterns. Wycinanki were traditionally used by Polish peasants from the mid 19th century onwards to decorate their cottages, and they often depicted scenes from daily life, such as weddings or holidays. They have become valuable documents of social history showing a disappearing way of life, such as one depicting peasant women using traditional flax brakes to make linen, a practice that has now died out. Wycinanki were generally made by women using sheep-shearing scissors and any readily available paper, and were replaced each spring when homes were whitewashed. With the advent of communism, Wycinanki were promoted as an example of non-bourgeois art, and enjoyed enormous popularity along with other forms of folk art. They are still popular and widely practised in two regions of Poland: Lowicz, where they are multi-coloured and made from multiple sheets, and Kurpie, where they are cut from a single sheet of coloured paper. The exhibition comprises some 50 diverse examples of decorative paper cuts, featuring geometric designs, scenes from rural life, and religious symbols, from the 1950s to the present day, including specially commissioned pieces by Apolonia Nowaka, Czeslawa Kaczynska and Helena Miazek. Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London, until 27th September.


Constable Portraits: The Painter And His Circle is the first exhibition dedicated to John Constable's portraits, and the insights they bring to his art, life and relationships. Spanning 30 years, the exhibition of some 50 works includes oil portraits, watercolours and sketches. Broadly chronological, it begins with images of the artist himself alongside portraits of his friends and family, created when he was a young man. It includes intimate portraits of Constable's wife, Maria Bicknell, produced in the early years of their romance and marriage. Portraiture, like letter writing, played an important part in their protracted courtship because they were frequently parted for long periods. It was only in the later 18th century that the commissioning of portraits had expanded beyond the aristocracy to middle class clients, including clergymen and their wives, doctors, landed gentry and families made wealthy through trade, represented here by portraits of Revd John Fisher, Mrs Pulham, Mrs Tuder and Mrs Edwards, who seem like characters from a Jane Austen or George Eliot novel. The exhibition ends with images of Constable in later life, and his son, Charles, painted before he went to sea at the age of 14.

Gerhard Richter Portraits comprises some 35 works by one of Europe's most prominent living painters, including the first showing of Richter's latest portrait, of his daughter Ella. With images dating from the 1960s to recent brightly coloured abstract paintings, it includes early black-and-white works made from magazine photographs, such as 'Mutter und Tochter' and 'Frau mit Schirm'; paintings based on private snapshots of close members of his family, such as 'Horst mit Hund' and 'Betty'; his series inspired by the assassination of President J F Kennedy, reunited for the first time; and an installation of his celebrated series '48 Portraits'.

National Portrait Gallery, Constable until 14th June, Richter until 31st May.

Greenway Agatha Christie's holiday home from 1938 until 1959, is now open to the public after a 2 year, £5.4m refurbishment, which restores it to what she described as 'the loveliest place in the world'. Visitors have the opportunity to view many personal collections and mementoes of Britain's best loved mystery writer and five generations of her family, in a house that portrays the spirit of a holiday home in its 1950s heyday. Here Agatha Christie gathered with her family and friends, often to celebrate a novel just completed for publication. The rooms on view are the library, with a frieze painted by Lt Marshall Lee, while the house was requisitioned by the admiralty in 1943, portraying scenes of wartime Dartmouth, including the bombing of a warship and a naked lady; the drawing room, where the gilding on the architrave was undertaken by one craftsman, to ensure all of the brush strokes were the same; Agatha Christie's bedroom, which retains scratch marks on the door left by Cheekyi, the family dog; the dining room, with family silver and chinaware; and the 'fax room', with a huge number of Christie's first editions and her American and English titles, demonstrating her enormous output. In addition, part of the house has been converted into a holiday apartment, which is decorated as it was for modern living in 1938, and so continues its legacy as a holiday retreat. The Greenway estate boasts 278 acres, and includes the garden, farm, and woodland with romantic pathways that lead down to the Dart estuary, with over a mile of picturesque river frontage. Greenway, Dartmouth, Devon, 01803 842382, continuing.

British Music Experience is a new permanent, interactive music exhibition that tells the 60 year story of the British rock music industry. A combination of cutting edge audio-visual technology and music memorabilia enables visitors to trace musical trends through the decades, learn about music's influence on art, fashion and politics, and even download music from its archive. Hundreds of artists feature in the exhibition from The Beatles to Iron Maiden, from Cilla Black to Elastica, and from David Bowie to Motorhead, with in depth looks at musical genres from Skiffle to Reggae, from Rock n Roll to Blues, and from Punk to Grime. Visitors can scroll through years of music, video clips, stories and images of artists, explore the continual invention of how music is listened to, and search across an interactive music map of Great Britain. It is completely 'hands on', with a studio where anyone can be guided through playing guitars, pianos and drums. Among over 500 key pieces of British music memorabilia featured are David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes clown suit and Ziggy Stardust costume, Noel Gallagher's Epiphone Union Jack guitar, Roger Daltrey's Woodstock outfit and a vintage Amy Winehouse dress. There is also an educational programme with workshops, lectures, masterclasses and concerts, aiming to help teachers raise standards in schools. British Music Experience, The O2, Greenwich, continuing.

Van Dyck And Britain reveals the Flemish artist's unique impact on British cultural life, by bringing together some of the most magnificent paintings that van Dyck produced during his years in Britain. Anthony van Dyck became the outstanding painter at the court of art enthusiast Charles I, where he re-invented portrait painting in Britain, bringing more life and realism to his subjects. Working in the period of intense political ferment prior to the Civil War, van Dyck portrayed many of the main protagonists, and his iconic portraits of Charles I have shaped history's view of the Stuart monarchy. Van Dyck's compositions, his use of costume, and his depiction of the rich fabrics of the period, were to influence subsequent generations of British painters. Highlights include royal portraits, such as 'The Great Piece' - Charles I and Henrietta Maria and their two eldest children, 'Charles I on Horseback with M de St Antoine', and Charles II as Prince of Wales in armour; full length portraits, such as Lucy Percy, Countess of Carlisle, and the rarely exhibited late Self Portrait; and friendship portraits, such as Self Portrait with Endymion Porter, and Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport and George, Lord Goring. The exhibition comprises more than 130 exhibits, with around 60 works by van Dyck, together with 'van Dyckian' works by later artists, including Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, John Singer Sargent, and Philip de Laszlo, showing how his influence has endured. Tate Britain until 17th May.

70 Years Of Penguin Books, celebrates the history of iconic Penguin book cover design, showing how Penguin responded to - and influenced - changing trends in British culture. Penguin was launched with the pioneering concept of publishing well designed, inexpensive paperback editions of distinguished books, priced at just sixpence per title. Its distinctive approach to cover design and typography was equally advanced, and has become an integral part of publishing and graphic design history. Since 1935 each Penguin book cover has captured the culture of its time. The story began with the simple bands of colour (orange for fiction, blue for biography, and green for crime) and the classic Gill Sans typeface - a formula that was rigorously applied for some time. A major revolution came in the 1960s with creative rule breaking, such as The Medium Is The Massage, where a printer's error was incorporated into the title, the striking monochrome cover of Ulysses, and the menacing design of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. It continues today, with contemporary covers by artists such as Peter Saville and Sara Fanelli. The display features original artwork, hand-drawn roughs, corrected proofs and intriguing in house notes that bring the finished designs to life. Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead until 31st May.

Treasures Of The Black Death brings to London for the first time two hoards of medieval gold and silver jewellery, found at Colmar in the 19th century, and at Erfurt in the 1990s. Both hoards were buried at the time of the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century, in the Jewish quarters of these towns. They were almost certainly hidden by Jewish families who were expelled or murdered, because the Jews were blamed for spreading the disease, by poisoning the wells. These people presumably buried their most treasured possessions with the intention of returning, but owing to the ensuing pograms, they were never able to come back and reclaimed them. Among the jewellery on display are three of the earliest known Jewish wedding rings, in the form of miniature houses, symbolising both the marital home and the Temple of Jerusalem; 'double cups' used in wedding ceremonies, betrothal gifts; and other personal items with inscriptions such as 'Amor' and 'Little Anna'. In addition, there is coinage from all over Europe; silverware, including a silver bottle that once contained beauty accessories; and the only known surviving medieval toilet seat in the world. These objects illuminate not only the lives of the communities who buried them, but tastes of medieval fashion, and the highly skilled craftsmanship that went into their creation. The Wallace Collection, London, until 10th May.


Magnificence Of The Tzars: Ceremonial Men's Dress Of The Russian Imperial Court 1721 - 1917 is a display of rare and lavishly decorated costumes and uniforms worn by the Tsars and court officials of Imperial Russia, most of which have never been publicly exhibited before, either in Russia or abroad. These come from the Moscow Kremlin Museums, which together with the Armoury Chamber, form Russia's oldest national treasury, and their collections include the dress of the emperor and other participants in ceremonies at court. Over 40 ensembles include the extensive silver and gold embellished wardrobe of Peter II, ranging from brocade jackets to formal nightgowns made of satin and lined with fur, and the coronation uniforms of the succeeding seven Tzars, concluding with the 5m long ermine trimmed Imperial coronation mantle of Nicholas II, together with dress uniforms of court officials, coachmen, postilions and other servants. These spectacular garments show the work of the most eminent master craftsmen of the period, giving a taste of the legendary magnificence and luxury of the Imperial Russian Court. In addition, there are hats and boots, dress weapons worn at court, an enamelled gold snuff box, a jewelled gunpowder flask, a pocket telescope, a herald's staff, insignia, jewellery, illustrated books and portraits of the Tzars. Victoria & Albert Museum until 29th March.

Lee Miller And Friends features the work of the legendary beauty and fashion model, who became an acclaimed photographer, first of fashion, and then on the battlefield. Miller's relationships with Surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray, and painter and collector Roland Penrose, placed her at the heart of 20th century artistic and literary circles, and in a career spanning more than three decades, she came into contact with an astonishing range of people. Many of these became her friends and were the subjects of her penetrating portraits, including Max Ernst, Jean Cocteau, Colette, Fred Astaire and Marlene Dietrich. This exhibition places Miller's images alongside original pieces by her artist friends, including Eileen Agar, Leonora Carrington, Joan Miro, Eduardo Paolozzi, Paul Eluard and Pablo Picasso, given to Miller in exchange for her photographs. Among the more unlikely images are a photograph of Picasso standing in front of an English village signpost, alongside his drawing of a lithograph of flying bullets made the same day in the visitor's book of Lee's home, Farley Farm; a shadow portrait of Eileen Agar appearing 'pregnant with a camera' against the Brighton Pavilion; and a picture of Miller in Hitler's bathtub, taken in his apartment in Munich. Pallant House Gallery, Chichester until 29th March.

Treasures From Shanghai: Ancient Chinese Bronzes And Jades features objects awarded to nobles for exceptional service, together with others used for ritual and burial, from the collection of Shanghai Museum. The exhibition comprises some 60 ancient Chinese jades and bronzes, plus a few Neolithic ceramics, from the area around Shanghai. It explores their role in ancient China as ritual objects, and demonstrates their legacy for later generations. This is illustrated on two silk scrolls that show the collection of the major official and diplomat Wu Dacheng, seen for the first time outside China. Jade has been central to China's culture from the Neolithic period, worked into mysterious ritual implements, used as emblems of power, and as messengers to the spirit world. The Neolithic jades on display feature fine line designs of strange human-like figures, birds and monsters with large teeth. The highpoint of bronze casting came during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, whose rulers believed that if they properly venerated, their ancestors these would intercede in the spirit world on their behalf, and assist in resolving their worldly difficulties and ensure prosperity. The act of making food and wine offerings in spectacular bronze containers was a major part of respect for the ancestors. The bronzes on view from that period are made in elaborate shapes with intriguing ornament. In later eras, bronze was highly valued for many other purposes, including incense burners, lamps and highly decorated belt ornaments and weapons. British Museum until 27th March.