News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 20th July 2011


High Arctic is the first exhibition in a new £35m wing, which comprises an special exhibitions gallery, a permanent gallery that introduces the story of Britain and the sea; a state of the art library and archive; a restaurant and cafe featuring terraces with views over Greenwich; and a new main entrance from Greenwich Park. The exhibition conveys the scale, beauty and fragility of the unique Arctic environment through an immersive installation that encourages us to question our relationship with the world around us. In September 2010 Matt Clark travelled to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, which lies between mainland Norway and the North Pole, aboard The Noorderlicht, a 100 year old Dutch schooner. During the voyage he came into contact with scientists, poets, musicians and polar bears, and saw vast tundra, monochromatic rainbows and huge chunks of ice falling from calving glaciers. Conceived as a response to the expedition, the installation uses a combination of sound, light and sculptural forms to create an abstracted arctic landscape. Ultraviolet torches unlock hidden elements, and constantly shifting patterns of graphics and text that react to visitors approaching, as a soundscape weaving in the voices of arctic explorers across the centuries flows through the gallery. An archipelago of thousands of columns fills the space, each representing a real glacier in Svalbard, while an artificial horizon borders the gallery as a seamless canvas of light, shifting in intensity and colour. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, until January.

Stanley Spencer And The English Garden focuses on the garden views and rustic landscapes of the 1920s, 30s and 40s by the eccentric, quintessentially English artist. Stanley Spencer's garden pictures, which have often been overlooked by critics in favour of his more visionary subjects, are not just beautiful oils, but reflect the same passion as his nudes and biblical paintings. Spencer's virtuoso treatment of this highly accessible and enormously attractive subject demonstrates his immense feeling for, and understanding of, the way the English landscape and the traditional English garden were changing during the first half of the 20th century. They register and reflect his concern that contemporary building development was redefining or even eradicating familiar environments, as towns encroached on the countryside. The paintings also chart Spencer's personal vision of the garden as a 'private heaven'. Among the highlights are 'Ferry Hotel Lawn, Cookham', 'Wisteria at Englefield', 'Landscape, Cookham Dene', 'Cottages at Burghclere', 'Cookham Rise: Cottages', 'Greenhouse and Garden' and 'Wisteria, Cookham'. The paintings are accompanied by a number of photographs from the Spencer archive showing the working and home life of artist. Compron Verney, Warwickshire, until 25th September.

The Worlds Of Mervyn Peake examines the creative output of the novelist, poet, playwright and illustrator through the worlds he inhabited, both real and imagined. Mervyn Peake was a prolific and astonishingly original writer and artist, who touched at one time or another on almost every literary form. The exhibition brings together a wealth of material from the Mervyn Peake archive, with previously unknown works, including the manuscript of the soon to be published fourth Titus book 'Titus Awakes', completed by Peake's wife Maeve Gilmore after his death; and the complete first scene of his sci-fi play 'Isle Escape', in which a couple escape to a tropical island to wait out a world war that they later discover failed to take place. Other highlights include Gormenghast notebooks, illustrated with character drawings of the Prunesquallors, Flay and Barquentine; Peake's original drawings for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass'; a letter home to his wife from Germany in 1945, where he attended the war crimes trial of Peter Back and visited Bergen-Belsen as war correspondent for The Leader magazine; a storyboard for an animated television programme 'Just a Line', in which an ordinary little line transforms into pirates, princesses and other strange sights as it journeys across the screen; 'The White Chief of the Umzimbooboo Kaffirs', the earliest surviving story by Peake, written when he was 11 years old on his return from China, where he had spent the first part of his life; and correspondence from Dylan Thomas, Graham Greene and C S Lewis. British Library until 18th September.


Treasures Of Heaven: Saints, Relic And Devotion In Medieval Europe explores the spiritual and artistic significance of Christian relics and reliquaries in medieval Europe. Featuring some of the finest sacred treasures of the medieval age, the exhibition provides an opportunity to view over 150 objects from more than 40 institutions, many of which have not been seen in the Britain before, brought together for the first time. Sacred items related to Christ or the saints were first used during the early medieval period as a focus for prayer and veneration by Christians throughout Europe. Relics were usually human body parts, or material items sanctified through their contact with holy persons or places. This exhibition features a very broad range of the kinds of relics which were venerated, including 3 thorns thought to be from the Crown of Thorns, the breast milk of the Virgin Mary, and the Mandylion of Edessa, one of the earliest known likenesses of Jesus. The objects on display range from small portable reliquaries in the form of jewellery, such as a pendant reliquary housing a single holy thorn, to large containers opulently adorned with gems, silver and gold. The beauty of a reliquary was intended to reflect the spiritual value of what it contained, and so reliquaries were made of the highest quality, often crafted in precious metals by extremely skilled goldsmiths. Exceptional examples include the 12th century bust reliquary of St Baudime from St Nectaire in the Auvergne, which once contained a vial of the saint's blood; the bejewelled Holy Thorn reliquary, set amid an enamelled representation of the Last Judgement; and the splendid gold arm reliquary of St George, which has been housed in the Treasury of St Mark's in Venice since the Sack of Constantinople. A variety of objects such as manuscripts, prints and pilgrim badges are exhibited alongside the relics and reliquaries themselves, adding depth and context to the exhibition's examination of this critical aspect of European history. British Museum until 9th October.

Radical Bloomsbury: The Art Of Duncan Grant And Vanessa Bell, 1905 - 1925 looks at a significant contribution to the development of 20th century British painting, exploring the relationship between the Bloomsbury artists and avant-garde art. The unconventional household established by the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant was often depicted in their paintings, and their house itself is a distillation of what has come to be known as the 'Bloomsbury style'. The exhibition demonstrates how these Bloomsbury painters were among the earliest British artists to look at new developments in European art, such as French Post-Impressionist practices, and the importance of their role in modernising British art. Grant was one of very few British artists who knew Picasso and Matisse in their early days, and Bell was an international pioneer of abstract painting. Around 80 paintings and drawings are on show, together with painted room panels and screens and some textiles, which embody the new social, emotional and sexual attitudes of what became known as the Bloomsbury Group. The exhibition also provides the cultural and social context within which Grant and Bell worked. For example, Grant spent almost the first 10 years of his life in India and Burma, and this backdrop of a still Imperial world is explored, through photographs and watercolours of Indian scenes by other European artists. Brighton Museum & Art Gallery until 9th October.

Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978 - 2010 provides a rare opportunity to view the German photographer's large-scale images of people and structures from all over the world. Thomas Struth travels widely and brings his intense and precise vision to subjects as diverse as visitors looking at famous works of art in the world's great museums, family portraits and the dense undergrowth of the Asian jungle. The exhibition comprises over 70 works that reveal the important role Struth has played in redefining fine art photography. It includes his iconic museum series of lifesize photographs showing tourists admiring Michelangelo's 'David' statue in Florence, and pupils chatting in front of Velazquez's 'Las Meninas' at the Prado in Madrid. The works show the awe that art can inspire on people's faces, without revealing the object they are looking at. Several photographs depict a range of places in which people invest faith and belief, from French Gothic cathedrals, to the El Capitan rock in Yosemite National Park in California, and high-tech research laboratories pushing the boundaries of science. Struth once compared the space shuttle programme to the construction of medieval cathedrals, reflecting on "the extremes of human effort, conviction, organisation and perhaps also hubris". This interest in human construction also encompasses huge-scale panoramic photographs of sites of shipyards, oil rigs and sprawling cities in Asia, structures which make our modern way of life possible, but at the same time dwarf people in their scale and ambition. The most recent images of sites at the cutting edge of technology include an almost 4m wide panorama of the space shuttle undergoing repair at the Kennedy Space Centre on Cape Canaveral. The exhibition also includes the dense jungles and forests from Struth's Paradise series, which are a detailed presentation of nature, with no human presence, in contrast to his other works about culture and systems of belief. Whitechapel Gallery, London, until 16th September.

Forests, Rocks, Torrents: Norwegian And Swiss Landscapes From The Lunde Collection features landscape paintings, primarily of the 19th century, which have rarely been on public view before. This exhibition of 51 paintings introduces lesser known skilled and innovative European landscape artists, many of whom enjoyed great reputations during their lifetimes. The paintings are of two principal kinds: small-scale landscape oil sketches and 'finished' paintings, some very large. The works show how the Norwegian and Swiss landscapes often resemble each other, with their snow-capped peaks, glacial valleys and dense forests, and also demonstrate the similarities of the Norwegian and Swiss traditions. Yet they also reveal the many differences that climate, character, national temperament and political regimes can impose on art. The Norwegian landscape tradition is traced primarily through the artists Johan Christian Dahl, who committed himself to depicting his nation, although he worked in Dresden as seen in 'The Lower Falls of the Labrofoss'; his friend Thomas Fearnley, who unites the two schools with his Swiss paintings 'Near Meiringen', 'The Mountain Wetterhorn' and 'Valley of Lauterbrunnen'; and Peder Balke, whose specialised in scenes of storms at sea and shipwrecks on rocky coasts, as in 'Seascape'. The Swiss artists are headed by Caspar Wolf, whose interests lay in the depiction of rocks, caves and water as in 'The Geltenbach Falls in the Lauenen Valley with an Ice Bridge'; and Alexandre Calame, who portrayed mountains, dense fir forests and raging torrents, such as 'Cliffs of Seelisberg, Lake Lucerne', and 'Mountain Torrent before a Storm'. National Gallery until 18th September.

Rene Magritte: The Pleasure Principle is the most comprehensive exhibition of the work by the Belgian Surrealist ever staged in Britain. The exhibition brings together over 100 paintings by Rene Magritte, some never seen in Britain before, as well as a selection of his little known drawings, collages, photographs, home movies and commercial art. Renowned for witty images depicting everyday objects such as apples, bowler hats and pipes in unusual settings, Magritte plays with the idea of reality and illusion. The display explores compositional and conceptual devices that are present in Magritte's work, such as veiling and revelation (through curtains and stage sets), the uncanny double (the encounter with mannequins ambiguously located between life and death), paradoxical realities (the simultaneous state of night and day) and the metamorphic transformation of objects (through scale or petrification) to create an enigmatic and continually mesmerising world. Among the highlights are 'The Threatened Assassin', 'The Human Condition', 'Time Transfixed', 'The Dominion of Light', 'Golconda' and 'The Listening Room'. In addition to these iconic works, the exhibition includes paintings from his lesser known 'Vache' period, erotic works and examples of his commercial designs. Rare photographs and home movie footage illuminate the life and work of Magritte, providing insights into his relationship with his wife and muse Georgette, and his collaborations within the Belgian Surrealist group. What emerges is a versatile artist and complex figure with an often anarchic sense of humour whose art transcends the image of the unexciting bourgeois which he liked to project. Tate Liverpool until 16th October.

The Art Of Harmony explores traditions of Western classical music and the role of instruments as makers of music, works of art and emblems of social status. The exhibition focuses on particular instrument traditions of Western classical music from 16th to 19th centuries, and features some of the finest, rarest and most ornate examples of their types. The 44 instruments are divided into 6 groups: according to their function under the titles Consort, Continuo and Salon, and constructional or acoustical features under the titles Resonances, Virtuoso and Encore. The oldest instrument on display, the Jerome of Bologna harpsichord from 1521, is seen together with its red and gold tooled leather outer case. Many of the stringed instruments, including lutes and viols, have intricate inlay work in ivory, ebony and mother of pearl. Others, like the exquisitely carved octagonal recorder by Anciuti, are made entirely of ivory. Among the celebrity items are a compact violin used for dance lessons by Louis, le Grand Dauphin of France; the Grand Duke Ferdinand II of Tuscany's guitar; and Rossini's oboe. The instrument display is enhanced and set into context with photographs and facsimiles of rarely seen archival materials. In addition to the instruments themselves, the exhibition explores the social milieu in which the collection of over 7,000 objects was begun, and the way the collection is cared for and used today, including the lengths to which conservation and curatorial teams go to protect the instruments. Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London SE23, until March.


Street Cries: Depictions Of London's Poor considers how the urban poor and underprivileged were reflected in art from the 17th to the 19th century. The exhibition comprises significant paintings, prints and drawings by artists including Edward Penny, Marcellus Laroon, Phoebus Levin, Gustave Dore, Theodore Gericault, Thomas Rowlandson and Paul Sandby. The prints and drawings illustrate street vendors and London's urban poor, including travelling carpenters and cane-weavers, prostitutes and criminals. Some of these images present an idealised vision of the poor, while others are amongst the first works of art to attempt a more realistic view of London's underprivileged inhabitants - although these tended to be commercial flops. This is a fascinating exhibition that combines social history and the development of illustration and printmaking. The collection poses questions about how society in these periods was organised, the motives of those making, selling and buying the prints, and the status and identity of the people portrayed. The exhibition explores these issues and offers a chance to see some real gems that are rarely displayed for conservation reasons: delicate watercolours depicting gritty London subject matter. Museum of London until 31st July.

Bell Epoque: 30 Years Of Steve Bell features examples of the legendary political cartoonist's work over a period that spans Margaret Thatcher to David Cameron. Steve Bell's attacking style has earned him the respect and admiration not only of his peers, but even of commentators politically opposed to him. His uninhibited inventiveness can be scatological but is always witty and finely honed. The exhibition comprises over 200 of Bell's leader cartoons, strip cartoons and comic pages produced for the Guardian and other periodicals. The works document many of the major events of our age: Thatcherism, the Falklands War, the Poll Tax, the death of Princess Diana, the rise of New Labour, the Iraq War, the war on terror, the international banking crisis and the coalition government. His viewpoint is one that takes the consternation of his audience and elucidates it in cartoons that are works of art in their own right. However, what marks Bell out as the leading cartoonist of his generation, is that in addition to iconic images poking fun of political leaders, such as John Major in his underpants and George Bush as a chimpanzee, he has a sensitivity that enables him to capture the grief of tragic events with unsentimental poignancy. Ronald Searle has said that Bell is in the true tradition of Thomas Gillray. The Cartoon Museum, London, until 24th July.

Extinct comprises specimens and images of extinct and endangered animals. This wide ranging exhibition displays the remains of prehistoric giants, such as the woolly mammoth, the megalodon shark, a megatherium sloth and a mastodon, together with a leg from an Irish elk and the obligatory dodo skeleton, alongside creatures lost only a few decades ago, including the Tasmanian tiger and the quagga, a subspecies of zebra, which is only partly striped. A forewarning of extinctions yet to come is given by a display on today's critically endangered species, including the polar bear, panda and gorilla, raising questions about human interaction with the natural world. While mankind is not extinct, the 7ft 7in tall 'Irish Giant' Charles Byrne certainly is, and his 230 year old remains can also be viewed.

Ivory: Treasures From The Odontological Collection comprises a selection of ivory specimens from terrestrial and marine mammals that have teeth or tusks large enough to be classed as 'ivory', ranging from the prehistoric to the elusive narwhal. Also included are a selection of historical medical instruments and dentures fashioned from ivory. These items are normally used only as a teaching resource. Hunterian Museum, 35 - 43 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, until 23rd July.