News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 21st July 2004

Commencing

Saul Bass: On Film celebrates the work of one of the greatest graphic designers of the 20th century, and the undisputed master of film title design. The elegance of the titles he created for Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder and Stanley Kubrick in the 1950s and 1960s and, later in the 1990s, for Martin Scorsese, transformed a banal medium into an art form. Before Bass, titles were simple lists of the cast and crew projected on to cinema curtains that were only drawn when the film began. As this exhibition shows, Saul Bass turned the film title into a visual spectacle. When he devised a simple paper cut out of a heroin addict's arm for Preminger's The Man With The Golden Arm, it caused a sensation. Title sequences became independently shot short films or animations that set the tone for the film itself. Bass went on to create some of the most enduring images in design and cinema history, from the spiralling circles of Hitchcock's Vertigo, through the journey based animation of Michael Todd's Around The World In Eighty Days, and the emerging skyline of Manhattan in Jerome Robbins's West Side Story, to the frenzied neons of Scorsese's Casino. Underlying Bass's work were the principles of the Bauhaus movement, and a search for simplicity. Bass's greatest skill was to create a single symbolic motif or image to encapsulate and represent the film, and so his work also revolutionised the film poster, replacing the previous star portraits with an image that conveyed the film's essence. Design Museum until 10th October.

Walter Richard Sickert: The Human Canvas points up Sickert's influential role as a link between the French Impressionists and British art in the early 20th century. This exhibition of 43 paintings includes many of Sickert's most important works from each key stage his career. It highlights Sickert's technical mastery and experimentation, his uncompromising realism, and the innovative range of his subject matter. On display are nudes and portraits of cultural figures of the period, as well as townscapes, architectural subjects painted during his time in London, Venice and Dieppe, and the later works he derived from photographs. Sickert gained a reputation early in his career for a distinctive style, and range of subject matter inspired by his experience of London life, often characterised by the use of murky colours and a strong narrative. From his earliest music hall pictures, Sickert showed a fascination with people on the periphery of society, and those at the extremes of human behaviour. The exhibition includes several of his 'Camden Town Murder' series, which shocked critics of the time with their raw nudity in works such as 'La Hollandaise', and the juxtaposition of two figures to generate sexual tension and ambiguity, in paintings like 'L'Affaire de Camden Town'. Abbot Hall Gallery, Kendal until 30th October.

A Garden Of Fans is an exhibition of over 100 fans with floral motifs of every kind from Europe and Asia. In the 17th century fans were a status symbol and sported serious subjects such as copies of classical paintings with scenes deriving from mythology and history on the font, but flowers were often painted on the reverse (the side which was held up to the face). Tulips, much in vogue at that time, took pride of place beside the rose, the flower of Venus, goddess of Love. There were also hyacinths, jasmine and carnations, popular at the court of Louis XIV. The 19th century, particularly towards the end, with the emergence of Art Nouveau, produced spectacular fans painted with life size blooms of botanical precision, which were often signed. As trade with the East increased, artists and craftsmen from Europe were influenced and inspired by the importance of flowers in Japanese culture, and the way flowers were used in art in China. Also on display is a recent acquisition, an important fan painted around 1889 by Walter Richard Sickert, which cost £90,000. In gouache on vellum, it depicts the Music Hall artiste Little Dot Hetherington performing on stage at the Old Bedford Theatre in Camden. The spot lit performer, raising her face to the gods as she sings the song "The boy that I love is up in the gallery", is copied from an earlier Sickert painting, and has been slightly amended to suit the fan leaf shape, with which Sickert and his contemporaries were experimenting. The Fan Museum, Greenwich until 19th November.

Continuing

Mummy: The Inside Story is a unique project that unlocks the secrets of a 3,000 year old mummy to help visitors understand the civilisation of ancient Egypt through a virtual reality experience. The mummy of Nesperennub, a priest from the temple of Khons who lived in 800 BC has undergone the first ever 'virtual unwrapping'. Using leading edge computer technology and state of the art medical scanning techniques, the mysteries of Nesperennub's mummy are revealed non-invasively, without opening the case and disturbing the carefully arranged wrappings and amulets. The exhibition starts with an introduction about the world of ancient Egypt, the practice of mummification, and how 3D technology can reveal the secrets of an unopened mummy case. The 20 minute virtual reality experience is then shown in a specially designed immersive theatre, which is equipped with a 12m curved screen and stereo projection equipment. Wearing 3D glasses, visitors look inside the mummy case, discover how it was preserved, what special objects were placed in its wrappings, and even travel inside the mummy's body. The experience features computer generated models and historical reconstructions showing how Nesperennub would have lived. In the final area of the exhibition, Nesperennub's mummy is displayed in its painted coffin, alongside examples of the artefacts featured in the 3D projection, together with explanatory panels telling the stories from the hieroglyphs and inscriptions on the decorated case and coffin. British Museum until January.

Absolutely Insane is one of this year's new theme park attractions, which catapults victims 300ft into the air, generating a 2.5 G force in its vertical launch, and then bungee jumps them back to earth. It offers riders a unique 'hands on' movement of their seat, enabling them to rotate forward in mid air to create a free fall sensation, the first ride of its kind in the world to do so.The Eye On The Coast, also new this year, but in a gentler vein, is Europe's biggest classic Ferris Wheel, offering panoramic views from its forty gondolas, each carrying up to six passengers. At night, it looks even more spectacular, when illuminated by 64,000 light bulbs and two miles of neon tubes, with a winking eye at its centre.These join the existing white knucklers of Volcanic Impact, hurling captives 200ft into the air, travelling from 1-100km in less than 6 seconds - now with seats that tip forward without any warning; The Beast, tossing its prey twisting through the air at speeds of 60kph, ending with a 360 degree spin on a triple roll; Amazing Confusion, spinning victims round and round at the end of an arm, which itself swings around, up and over; and Jubilee Odyssey, boasting 6 inversions, and at 60%, the steepest drop of any suspended ride in Europe. Perhaps best to experience it all at second hand through the 'ride cams' which can be found on the Fantasy Island web site, via the link from the Attractions section of ExhibitionsNet. Fantasy Island, Skegness until 31st October.

About Face reveals how contemporary artists and photographers challenge the conventions of the photographic portrait, in a digital era when images are increasingly open to manipulation. Around 100 works by over 70 international artists and photographers employ a wide range of approaches, from straightforward photography, through photomontage, appropriation of found imagery, and multiple exposures, to complex computer manipulation. Alison Jackson uses look-a-likes to construct fictional narratives around celebrity figures such as the Royal Family; Taliban fighters in Thomas Dworzak's hand tinted prints have an effeminate quality; the glamorous subjects of Elisabeth Heyert's full colour images reveal themselves to be corpses, death's pallor having been corrected with cosmetics; Valerie Belin attempts to blur the perception of what is real and what is artificial by presenting models' faces side by side with those of mannequins; the symmetrically perfect features of Greek gods and goddesses are superimposed onto human models in the work of Lawick Muller; Tibor Kalman presents a vision of what the Queen or Arnold Schwarzenegger would look like if they were black; Chris Dorley-Brown has fused/montaged the faces of two thousand inhabitants from Haverill to make The Face of 2000; and Orlan engages in surgical procedures to alter her own facial features, and then employs computer manipulation to blend them with pre-Columbian pottery. All human life - and a few things on which the jury is still out. Hayward Gallery until 5th September.

Russian Landscape In The Age Of Tolstoy is an exhibition of 19th century paintings - many epic in scale - which played a critical role, along with music and literature, in defining Russia's national identity, and provided a vehicle for the exploration of political, social and moral issues. The exhibition includes 70 of Russia's best known and loved paintings, many of which have never left their homeland before, and are largely unknown in this country. There are works by fifteen artists dating from 1820 to the early years of the 20th century, showing lakeside and forest vistas, depictions of the endless Russian horizon, and the hard struggle of peasant life in both summer and winter. The exhibition opens with canvasses by the founder of Russian landscape painting, Aleksei Gavrilovich Venetsianov, who introduced realism to Russian painting, These hang alongside works by his contemporaries Silvestr Fedosievich Shchedrin and Mikhail Lebedev, both of whom travelled to Italy, where they learned 'plein-air' painting, influencing later generations of landscapists in Russia. It features many works by the giant figures of the age, Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin - the master of monumental woodland scenes, Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi - who had an eerie sense of colour, and Isaak Ilich Levitan - an artistic innovator who was a close friend of Anton Chekhov. The show culminates in Levitan's bleak vision 'The Vladimirka Road', the infamous pathway that led to Siberia and exile. National Gallery until 12th September.

Lasting Impressions: Collecting French Impressionism For Cambridge is the inaugural exhibition in the Mellon Gallery, which forms the centrepiece of the £12m courtyard development (similar in concept to that of the British Museum) designed by John Miller. Roofing over the central area has created an additional 3,000 square metres of space, providing education rooms, a ceramics study centre, the inevitable cafe and shop, and a ground floor area that can accommodate talks, concerts and a variety of other activities. The exhibition features paintings, drawings, watercolours, prints and sculpture by all of the major Impressionists. Works by Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir, Gauguin, Seurat, Boudin, Cezanne and Signac are featured, together with a large group of works by Degas, representing all aspects of his career, and all of the different media in which he worked. Highlights include pairs of paintings that show Pissarro's skill as a painter of snow; Monet's as a painter of the sea; contrasting views of Brittany by Renoir and Monet, both painted in the same year; and Degas oil paintings, ranging from a rare early landscape to his scene of two women 'au cafe', plus three of the unique waxes from which his bronze sculptures were cast. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge until 26th September.

The Tower Environs Scheme, an eight year, £20m scheme to improve the setting of the Tower of London, and provide a new public space for London, has finally been completed. The last phase, designed by Stanton Williams, created a new square on Tower Hill almost the size of Trafalgar Square, on a gentle slope leading down to the entrance, paved with York stone and granite. Most importantly it has cleared away the tourist clutter that had begun to create the aura of a Middle Eastern souk, and given the approach to the Tower back its dignity. In addition, it has cunningly introduced a drop at the edge of the square, like a ha-ha in an 18th century garden, thus allowing unobstructed views of the Tower. The scheme includes the provision of new ticketing facilities and a Welcome Centre in a restrained new building at the edge of the site, a shop in the restored Salvin's Pumphouse, an education centre within the Tower Vaults building, and the re-installation of an historic road under its traditional name of Petty Wales. Previous phases restored the historic riverside Wharf, opening up lost vistas of the Thames, renovated Tower Pier, opened up better views of the archaeological remains of medieval buildings, and improved links to the nearby St Katherine's Dock. There is now a growing demand for the moat, which was drained in the 1840s, to be refilled to complete the picture. The Tower Of London, continuing.

Concluding

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is with us again, as it has been every year since 1769 - the usual collection of the good, the bad and the ugly - from amateurs to RA's, proving that popular taste and critical approval find no meeting point. Around 1,200 works covering paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, architectural designs and models have been selected from over 12,000 submissions, for inclusion in the largest contemporary art exhibition in the world. This year, the show has been masterminded by Allen Jones and David Hockney, and there is a special focus on drawing, reflecting their joint passion, and underlining the importance of draughtsmanship in all the various media on display. There are works included by people from outside the spectrum of Fine Art, who nevertheless use drawing as an essential part of their creative process. The featured artist is Richard Long, who explores elemental materials, like mud, dust, water and stones, and has made a new sculpture on the floor of the Central Hall 'White Light Crescent'. Anish Kapoor has selected and hung the gallery dedicated to the display of sculpture, and has co-ordinated the placing of work in the Courtyard. There are memorial displays to Terry Frost, Patrick Procter, Lynn Chadwick, Colin Hayes and Philip Powell. An accompanying programme of lectures, events and workshops covers all aspects of the exhibition. Royal Academy of Arts until 16th August.

Barbican Art Gallery celebrates its re-opening after a £1m makeover designed by architects Allford Hall Monaghan, which has provided an additional 140 sq metres of display space and new reception area, thanks to the bridging of the central void and removal of a staircase, with two exhibitions that demonstrate the new adaptability of the space. Tina Modotti and Edward Weston: The Mexico Years, in the upper level, is the first major exhibition in the UK of photographs by two key figures of Modernist photography. It features over 150 vintage images, including some never before exhibited, and focuses on their work during the 1920s in post-Revolutionary Mexico, when the two photographers worked together, and considers their role in Mexican Modernism, and how the period impacted on their careers. Helen Chadwick: A Retrospective, on the lower floor, is a comprehensive display of large installations by one of the most important British artists of the late 1980s and early 1990s, who specialised in creating art from waste products. The scale on which she worked meant that they would have been difficult to accommodate before the refurbishment. Among the 70 pieces present are the self portrait based 'Ego Geometria Sum', 'The Oval Court', 'Cacao' - a fountain of hot bubbling chocolate, and 'Piss Flowers'. Barbican Art Gallery until 1st August.

Censored At The Seaside: The Censored Postcards Of Donald McGill examines a bizarre event in the life and work of a man now regarded as a national treasure. For more than fifty years Donald McGill was the pre-eminent exponent of the British saucy seaside postcard. Yet in the 1950s, his postcards became the subject of complaints and he fell foul of the antiquated 1857 Obscene Publications Act. In May 1954, fifty years after he had produced his first postcard, McGill was brought to trial in Lincoln, and fined £50 plus costs. This exhibition looks at the story behind the prosecution, showing for the first time documents from the public prosecutors office relating to many of the censored cards, as well as the postcards themselves. It also presents a less than flattering picture of the Britain of the time that such a prosecution could have been brought. In addition to the condemned designs, the exhibition includes rare 'roughs' of ideas, and over 30 original works by McGill from all periods of his career. A prolific worker, McGill created new designs each year. Also featured are examples of tributes to McGill by cartoonists Larry, Steve Bell and Biff amongst others. Cartoon Art Trust Museum until 31st July.