News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 22nd February 2012


Picasso And Modern British Art is the first exhibition to examine the Spanish artist's evolving critical reputation in Britain, and British artists' responses to his work. The exhibition explores Pablo Picasso's rise in Britain as a figure of both controversy and celebrity, tracing the ways in which his work was exhibited and collected here during his lifetime. It also demonstrates that the British engagement with Picasso and his art was much deeper and more varied than generally has been appreciated. Pablo Picasso originated many of the most significant developments of 20th century art, and the exhibition looks at his impact on British modernism through seven figures for whom he proved an important stimulus: Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland and David Hockney. It is presented in a chronological order, documenting the exhibiting and collecting of Picasso's art in Britain, alternating with individual British artists' responses to his work. The show comprises over 150 works, with over 60 paintings by Picasso, including key Cubist works such as 'Head of a Man with Moustache', 'Man with a Clarinet' and 'Weeping Woman'. Among the works by British artists is Francis Bacon's 'Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion', alongside Picasso's paintings based on figures on the beach at Dinard, which first inspired Bacon to take up painting seriously. Also, to compliment Picasso's sets and costumes for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, English National Ballet will be rehearsing on site, culminating on 2nd March with three new ballets animating the exhibition. Tate Britain until 15th July.

Fascinating Mummies explores the beliefs and practices surrounding death and the afterlife in Ancient Egypt. The first part of the exhibition examines the complex rituals that evolved in this ancient civilisation. The concept of dying only to be born again demanded that the body be preserved. Over centuries the ancient Egyptians perfected the art of mummification. Through objects discovered in graves and tombs this is explored and explained. While these artefacts reveal much about the past, they are only part of the story. It is the mummies themselves that offer an insight into how people lived and died in ancient Egypt. The second part of the exhibition looks at how over time scholars, archaeologists and scientists have set about obtaining this information. While much data could be recovered from the inscriptions on coffins, early attempts to extract further information from the mummy meant un-wrapping it - a process that was invasive and destructive. Non-invasive techniques, such as x-rays and scanning, now mean that mummies can be examined without disturbing the body. Techniques such as facial reconstruction bring visitors face to face with the past. Key to the exhibition is the story of Ankhhor, a high priest of Thebes who lived around 650 BC. Information on his mummy and coffins has been drawn from a variety of sources, from his discovery in the early 19th century to the new data acquired recently from body scans. Ankhhor's story presents a fascinating glimpse into life and death in Ancient Egypt. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, until 27th May.

Her Maj: 60 Years Of Unofficial Portraits Of The Queen celebrates the Diamond Jubilee with a humorous history of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. A gallery of royal portraits - affectionate, teasing, and at times downright unflattering - shows how Her Majesty's appearance in cartoons has undergone a striking transformation during the course of her reign. Until the 1950s it was accepted that the monarch could be referred to but never depicted. The exhibition follows the Queen as she emerges from near invisibility into cartoons that echo her portrait on coins and bank notes, then as Elizabeth I or Britannia, and finally as 'Liz' an 'ordinary housewife' in a headscarf. The greater openness of the 1960s led cartoonists to imagine what life was really like 'at home with the Windsors' in royal residences ankle deep in corgis. The ups and downs of family life, the indiscretions of her husband, the difficulties with her children and their spouses, and problems with the press, provided a rich vein of material for cartoonists, as did the question of the monarchy and public money. Many of the works reflect the fact that the Queen represents both the Monarchy and the State, and thus her actions can convey historic significance beyond that of any prime minister. The exhibition includes 80 works by over 30 cartoonists, including Steve Bell, Peter Brookes, Dave Brown, Michael Cummings, Fluck and Law, Stanley Frankin, Nicholas Garland, Carl Giles, Martin Honeysett, Nicola Jennings, John Jensen, Richard Jolley, MAC Ken Pyne, Martin Rowson, E H Shepard, Ralph Steadman and Wally Fawkes aka Trog. The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russel Street, London WC1, until 8th April.


Lucian Freud: Portraits is the first exhibition to focus on the portraiture work of one of the most important and influential British artists of his generation. Paintings of people were central to the work of Lucian Freud, and this exhibition features 130 paintings and works on paper, spanning over 70 years. The show includes 'Portrait of the Hound', the unfinished painting of his assistant David Dawson and his dog Eli, on which Freud was working until shortly before his death last year. Freud's portraits are hard, disquieting things, attuned to the tough reality of bare, veiny sprawling bodies, and the jaundiced walls, gummy sheets and cruel furniture around them. Concentrating on particular periods and groups of sitters to show Freud's stylistic development and technical virtuosity, the exhibition includes both iconic and rarely seen portraits of the artist's lovers, friends and family. Described by Freud as 'people in my life', these portraits demonstrate the psychological drama and unrelenting observational intensity of his work. Sitters in the exhibition include family members, particularly his mother Lucie, artists such as Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Michael Andrews, John Minton and David Hockney, and the performance artist Leigh Bowery. Bowery's friend Sue Tilley, the 'Benefits Supervisor', who was immortalised by Freud in a series of monumental paintings in the 1990s, is also featured. Other sitters on view include photographer Harry Diamond, Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, Andrew Parker Bowles, Baron Rothschild, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza and Francis Wyndham. In addition, the exhibition also highlights the recurring importance of the self-portrait in Freud's work. National Portrait Gallery until 27th May.

The Living And The Dead: Paintings And Sculpture By John Kirby is the first retrospective of work by the contemporary Liverpool born artist. John Kirby's paintings and sculpture explores the themes of gender, religion, sexuality and race, and his complex relationship with each of them. Comprising over 50 paintings and 10 sculptures, the exhibition brings together a group of work spanning over 3 decades, from early paintings made at the Royal College of Art in the 1980s to recent pieces. Solitary figures in strange worlds dominate Kirby's work, and this has led many people to compare his paintings to those of Rene Magritte. However, Kirby cites the Polish-French Modern artist Balthus and American realist painter Edward Hopper as his major influences. The claustrophobic interiors charged with an uncomfortable eroticism seen in Balthus' paintings, and statements about the human condition in Hopper's, are themes that also underpin Kirby's work. Highlights of the exhibition include 'Lost Boys', an image of fighting altar boys that references Kirby's Catholic upbringing and is one of his favourite paintings; 'White Wedding', a painting depicting a civil partnership; and the sculpture 'Actaeon', a human head sprouting antlers, mounted on a wall like a hunting trophy. The sculptures in the exhibition are a more recent development in his artistic practice but also a continuation of it, with his ceramic sculptures of heads and figures bearing a striking similarity to the figures found in his paintings. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, until 15th April.

Queen Elizabeth II By Cecil Beaton: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration depicts The Queen in her roles as princess, monarch and mother. Photographer, designer and avid diarist Cecil Beaton's royal portraits were among the most widely published photographs of the 20th century. The exhibition explores Beaton's long relationship with Queen Elizabeth II, who was a teenage princess when she first sat for Beaton in 1942. Over the next three decades, Beaton photographed her on many significant occasions including her Coronation Day. The exhibition features nearly 100 portraits, from wartime photographs with her family, to tender images with her own young children, and official portraits that convey the magnitude of her role as Britain's monarch. It shows elegant and highly-staged photographs alongside informal moments of the Royal Family at home, interspersed with film and radio footage from the time. Extracts from Beaton's diaries and letters reveal an insight into the working practice of a royal sitting, from the intense planning beforehand to conversations with The Queen, and the pressures of achieving the perfect portrait. A selection of Beaton's original contact prints, from which the Palace chose the images released to the media are on display for the first time, with volumes of press cuttings. The exhibition also demonstrates how Beaton controlled the use of his photographs, revealing the press embargo, cropping instructions and notes on the sitting scribed on the reverse of his extensively published image of The Queen and newborn Prince Andrew from March 1960. The exhibition is arranged in five sections documenting important sittings and charting the shift in Beaton's photographic style, from his early Rococo-inspired portraits to a starker approach in the 1960s. Victoria & Albert Museum until 22nd April.

David Shrigley: Brain Activity is the first major exhibition of work by the British artist known for his humorous drawings that make witty and wry observations on everyday life. David Shrigley employs a deliberately crude graphic style, which gives his work an immediate and accessible appeal, while simultaneously offering insightful commentary on the absurdities of human relationships. The exhibition covers the full range of Shrigley's work from the past two decades, including drawing, animation, painting, photography, taxidermy and sculpture. There are some 80 drawings never before seen in Britain, plus around 45 larger new paintings on paper. Many of Shrigley's three dimensional works, ranging from hand-crafted sculptures made out of unusual materials, to larger series and installations, including '12 Large Eggs', 'Insects' and 'Black Boots', are characterised by their odd scale, lending the works a strange, uncanny edge. Death and the macabre are recurrent themes in Shrigley's work, treated with the same deadpan humour as the everyday. Other highlights include a large-scale in-situ wall painting; 'Swords and Daggers', a set of bronze weapons; 'The Contents of the Gap between the Refrigerator and the Cooker' a colorful strip that, upon closer inspection, reveals itself to be a pile of miniature plasticine creatures; and a series of photographs that feature discreet interventions that Shrigley has made in various landscapes and interiors, injecting comedic irony to otherwise everyday banal imagery. There is also a brand new animation, shown alongside a selection of Shrigley existing films, including 'New Friends', an ironic twist on peer pressure, 'Sleep', 'Light Switch' and 'Ones', in which the use of repetition brings familiar behaviour into view. Hayward Gallery until 13th May.

Harrogate For Health And Happiness - A Spa Town In The 20th Century charts the rise and fall of the Royal Baths in the 'Bath of the north'. The Royal Baths opened in 1897, featuring the strongest sulphur well in Europe, with the aim of being the most advanced centre for hydrotherapy in the world. At its peak it attracted 15,000 people each summer, including the Tsarina Alexandra of Russia in 1911, but in the period after the Second World War the 'curing' waters were not taken as frequently and it eventually closed in the 1960s. The exhibition examines this history through memories, historical objects, fashion, film, letters and photographs. Among the items on display are a Vichy Bath, a combined shower and bath that mimicked the restorative powers of the French resort, and a teak Peat Bath that moved on wheels and rails to the treatment room. Newly discovered 1930s film footage shows people enjoying a variety of treatments, including peat baths, as well as drinkers at the Royal Pump Room. Visitors can take a tour to see the sulphur wells, discover the history of Turkish Baths, and taste the water that helped to put Harrogate on the map as a popular spa town. The Royal Pump Room Museum, Crown Place, Harrogate, until 31st December.

Golden Spider Silk is a unique display, featuring the only large textiles in the world to have been created from the silk of spiders. It comprises two pieces, each made from the silk of female Golden Orb Weaver spiders collected in the highlands of Madagascar. The hand-woven textiles are naturally golden in colour, and each took over four years to create. A 4m long brocaded textile is on show, together with a golden cape, decorated with a wealth of complex embroidered and appliqued motifs celebrating the spider in myth and metaphor. Inspired by 19th century accounts and illustrations, Simon Peers, an Englishman, and Nicholas Godley, an American, started experimenting with spider silk in 2004 to see if they could revive this forgotten art. It is a highly labour intensive undertaking, making these textiles extraordinarily rare and precious objects. To create the textiles, spiders are collected each morning and harnessed in specially conceived 'silking' contraptions. Trained handlers extract the silk from 24 spiders at a time. It has taken over 1 million spiders to provide the silk for the brocaded textile and 80 people 5 years to collect them. The silk of 1.2 million spiders went into making the cape. After 'silking', the silk is taken on cones to the weaving workshop, where skilled weavers have mastered the special tensile properties of the silk. In the Malagasy textile, each warp is made from 96 spun strands of spider silk and each brocading weft has 10 of those threads together - 960 strands in total. In the cape, the main weave is also of 96 strands, the lining 48 strands and a large part of the embroidery is made using unspun 24 strand silk. On average, 23,000 spiders yield around 1 ounce of silk. Victoria & Albert Museum, until 5th June.


Terence Conran - The Way We Live Now explores the unique impact on contemporary life in Britain of the designer, retailer and restaurateur. Through his own design work, and also through his entrepreneurial flair, Terence Conran has transformed the look of the British home. He has established a design studio and an architectural practice with a worldwide reach. He was the founder of Habitat and a pioneer of the new restaurant culture driven by a passion for simplicity. The exhibition explores Conran's impact, whilst painting a picture of his design approach and inspirations. It traces his career from post war austerity through to the new sensibility of the Festival of Britain in the 1950s, the birth of the Independent Group with its flare for the avant-garde and the Pop Culture of the 1960s, to the design boom of the 1980s, and on to the present day. The show opens with a collection of Conran's own pieces from the late 1940s and 1950s, when he was welding steel chairs himself, designing textile designs, ceramics and magazine covers. The Habitat story includes the reconstruction of one of the room sets shown in the Habitat catalogues that were so influential in the 1960s and 1970s. Conran's role in professionalising the practice of design is charted by the work of the various Conran Design studios, which undertook projects as diverse as lighting, furniture, kitchenware, packaging, architecture and retail design. Conran's approach to food is traced by a look at the many restaurants that he has designed and opened. A recreation of Conran's study from his home in Barton Court offers a glimpse into his private world. Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 until 4th March.

A Hankering After Ghosts: Charles Dickens And The Supernatural explores the many ways in which Dickens used supernatural phenomena in his works, while placing them in the context of scientific, technological and philosophical debates of his time. Dickens's interest in the macabre was apparent from an early age, and as an adult, he was caught up in 'mesmeric mania' that swept Britain, developing an interest in the 'power of the human mind'. He believed that all supernatural manifestations must have rational explanations, but his investigations into animal magnetism and psychology showed him that science could be as chilling as any ghost story. Among the exhibits are: a letter from Dickens to his wife Catherine, alluding to a marital disagreement that arose after Catherine became jealous of the close attention he was paying to a lady named Augusta de la Rue, using mesmerism to treat her nervous condition after he learnt how to mesmerise people; 'Well authenticated rappings' written by Dickens for Household Words, questioning the motivation of spirits who would return to make general idiots of themselves by conveying inane messages full of spelling mistakes; The Terrific Register: or, Records Of Crimes, Judgements, Providences And Calamities, a penny weekly magazine that covered such topics as murder, ghosts, incest and cannibalism, which was a favourite of Dickens as a child; and a Punch cartoon of John Elliotson, the doctor who promoted mesmerism, where he looks remarkably like a hairdresser suggesting a trim to his woman patient. British Library until 4th March.

Magic Worlds delves into the realms of fantasy, illusion and enchantment, revealing how magic has been embraced for hundreds of years. The exhibition explores the world of fairy tales and fantasy literature, the history and origins of magic, and how themes of magic have influenced many artists and writers over the last 300 years. It is a journey into miniature magical worlds, complete with witches, wizards, fairies and magical creatures, showing the ways magical beliefs become magical fictions, how fairytales evolved into fantasy literature, and how real superstition merged into conjuring tricks. Objects on display include posters, costumes, tricks and illusions from Music Hall and stage magic shows; props and merchandise from films featuring fantasy and magical creatures; optical toys such as the zoetrope and the praxinoscope, magic lanterns and parlour games based around magic; children's magic, conjuring sets and playing cards featuring classic tricks; paintings, drawings and ceramics inspired by the theme of fairies and enchantment; the supposedly real photographs of the Cottingley fairies; otherworldly dolls and puppets; and illustrated books, such as a 16th century book on witchcraft that includes a depiction of the fairground trick known as the beheading of John the Baptist - a Tudor version of the modern magic trick of the assistant sawn in half; together with interactive hands-on activities. Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London, until 4th March.