Private View held by Richard Andrews
Searching For Shakespeare is the biggest ever exhibition to focus on Shakespeare in his own time, drawing directly on original records relating to the playwright and his contemporaries. The centrepiece is the first portrait presented to the newly founded National Portrait Gallery in 1856, which is considered to be of William Shakespeare, and is known as the 'Chandos' portrait. However, the identity of this picture is still considered unproven and there is no certain lifetime portrait of England's most famous playwright. Displayed together for the first time alongside the 'Chandos' portrait, are five other 'contender' portraits, purporting to represent Shakespeare, and once thought to derive from the 16th and 17th centuries. The exhibition presents the results of new technical analysis and research on several of these pictures, casting new light on the search for Shakespeare's authentic appearance. It demonstrates that the 'Chandos' portrait has the strongest claim to be an authentic likeness, and a presentation reconstructs its probable original appearance. The exhibition also features portraits of Shakespeare's contemporaries - actors, playwrights and patrons, original 17th century costumes, jewellery, silverware and manuscripts. Among the treasures are Shakespeare's will, manuscripts recording the plays performed at the court of James I, the purchase of a house in Stratford upon Avon, the acquisition of a family coat of arms, the Parish Register (the single most important document for determining the essential details of Shakespeare's biography) and a drawing of the Swan Theatre - the only known contemporary drawing of an Elizabethan stage. National Portrait Gallery until 29th May.
A Touch Of The Divine is the first exhibition in Britain devoted to the 16th century Italian artist Federico Barocci, exploring his career and examining the influence and impact of his work. Barocci was born in into a family of distinguished craftsmen and astrologers, and was one of the most famous artists in Italy of his day. Most of his paintings were altarpieces, and many of them are still in the churches for which they were made. He was also a prolific draughtsman and more than 2,000 drawings by him survive. This exhibition comprises over 90 items, two thirds of which are by Barocci himself, the remainder being examples of work by artists such as Raphael, who influenced Barocci, and subsequent artists who were influenced by him, such as Rubens. Some are studies for paintings, while others are drawings in their own right. They are almost exclusively religious in nature, thanks to the patronage he received, and range from a small study of a donkey to complex compositions. Many of the drawings are executed in pen and ink, some using chalk for highlighting. There is also a notable group of head studies in coloured chalks and some very detailed pieces such as 'Il Perdono di San Francesco', which was made by engraving and etching on copper plates. Among the highlights are 'Head and shoulders of a swaddled baby, lying down', 'Study for the head of St Francis', 'Study for The Institution of the Eucharist' and 'The Annunciation, with a view of Urbino through the window and a cat sleeping in the foreground'. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge until 29th May.
lbers And Moholy-Nagy: From The Bauhaus To The New World is an opportunity to rediscover two pioneers of Modernism, Josef Albers and Laszla Moholy-Nagy. Though their careers overlapped only briefly, teaching at the Bauhaus, they shared the same creative visions: an emphasis on experimentation, the subversion of traditional boundaries between high and applied art, and a Utopian belief in art as a force for positive social change. The exhibition starts with their early independent abstract work, centres on the creative explosion of the Bauhaus years, when they both moved freely between medias and disciplines, and then charts their separate paths following emigration to America, where both men continued to push the conventions of artistic practise. It comprises over 200 works in a variety of media, ranging from painting and moving sculptures, to photography, film, furniture and graphic design. They include Albers's glass constructions from the 1920s, his largely unknown photographic work, machine engravings, and a group of early 'Homage to the Square' paintings, together with Moholy-Nagy's innovative photography, such as his 'camera-less' photograms and photomontages, colour photography and film, and experiments with aluminium, and novel synthetic materials such as Perspex and Rhodoid. The highlight is a reconstruction of Moholy-Nagy's 1930 'Prop for an Electric Stage', a dramatically lit kinetic work, comprising several rotating elements on a plinth, which cast light and shadow on the surrounding walls - arguably one of the earliest examples of installation art. Tate Modern until 4th June.
Americans In Paris 1860 - 1900 examines the work of the American artists drawn to Paris to study and work during the second half of the 19th century. The exhibition includes works by high profile artists such as James McNeill Whistler, including his 'White Girl' (hugely controversial when first shown at the notorious Salon des Refuses of 1863) and 'Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 Portrait of the Artist's Mother'; and John Singer Sargent, including the painting that helped make him a sensation in Paris 'Portrait of Madame X', 'The Daughters of Edward Darley', 'Portrait of Carolus-Duran', 'Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood' and 'In the Luxembourg Gardens'. Alongside there are artists who are less familiar, such as Theodore Robinson - 'The Wedding March'; Henry Ossawa Tanner - 'The Young Sabot Maker'; Willard Leroy Metcalf - 'In the Cafe (Au Cafe)' and 'The Ten Cent Breakfast'; and Frank Weston Benson - 'Eleanor'. Something like a third of American art students in Paris at this time were women, and among those represented here are Cecilia Beaux; Elizabeth Nourse; Ellen Day Hale - 'Self Portrait'; Elizabeth Jane Gardner (the first American woman to win a medal at the Paris Salon) - 'The Shepherd David'; Mary Fairchild - 'In the Nursery - Giverny Studio'; and Mary Cassatt (the only American to show with the French Impressionists) - 'Young Woman in Black (Portrait of Madame J)'.
Cassatt was also an accomplished print maker, and a separate solo exhibition includes prints from all stages of her career.
National Gallery until 21st May.
Charley Peters: My Secret Rooms merges the boundaries of the real and the imaginary within the home. Peters has created a collection of photographic narratives, where the domestic environment becomes the setting for a series of visual stories. They are tales in which dreamers furtively aspire to the mythologies of the movie world, or enact various enigmatic rituals, generally involving feminine empowerment. In Peters's images something exquisitely sensual, although somewhat otherworldly, always appears to be going on behind half closed doors. Her disguised protagonists are drenched in a suspenseful mood of film noir shadows, wearing stiletto heels, fishnet stockings, and Monroe wigs. Looking at female protagonists in literature and using imagery built around make believe, childhood play and fantasy, Peters investigates the links between the interior spaces of the physical body, the mind and the home. Often taking the lead role in her own scenarios, she invites visitors to take a peek into a world inhabited by familiar faces in this series of secret rooms. Leeds Metropolitan University Gallery, until 8th April.
Amazon To Caribbean: Early Peoples Of The Rainforest explores the cultural links between the inhabitants of mainland South America and the Caribbean. This exhibition looks at the Amerindian cultural identity from the rainforests to the islands. It comprises ethnographic cultural artefacts, from headdresses made of parrot and other feathers, decorated combs, armlets, body ornaments and jewellery, body paint containers and applicators, jaguar skin belts and other items of ceremonial dress, decorated canoe paddles, anaconda themed textiles, baskets and carved stools (representing power), to archaeological finds, including weapons and hunting implements (both ceremonial and practical, such as clubs, blowpipes, arrows and spears), ceramic pots and gourds, utensils employed in the production and consumption of the staple crop cassava, and tools of all kinds, many of which have never been on display in Britain before. These traditional artefacts are accompanied by carving, sculpture and paintings by leading contemporary artists, such as Aubrey Williams, Ronald Taylor and Oswald Hussein, whose works, though modern, draw on traditional themes, narratives and motifs, that portray the Amerindian spirit as a force that continues to endure. Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London SE23 until 31st October.
Tropicalia: A Revolution In Brazilian Culture 1967 - 72 endeavours to capture the revolutionary movement that influenced the art, politics, music and fashion that exploded onto the cultural scene of late 1960's Brazil - the South American equivalent of Swinging London. It revisits the energy and excitement of this seminal moment in Brazilian culture, and examines its relationship with the complicated urban and political landscape of Latin America in the late '60s and early '70s. The exhibition includes over 250 exhibits, showcasing the range and breadth of the movement, including album covers, fashion, posters, documentaries, advertising, books, pop influenced paintings, theatre sets, architectural drawings and models, television footage and music. At its centre is a recreation of Helio Oiticica's 1969 Whitechapel Art Gallery installation 'Tropicalia', comprising straw beds, tents pitched on an indoor sandy beach dotted tropical plants, gravel walkways between wicker screens, live parrots, the music of Caetano Veloso and ramshackle huts evoking the shanty town dwellings of a Brazilian favella. The exhibition also includes seminal works by visual artists of the era, including Lygia Clark, Amilcar De Castro, Antonia Dias and Lygia Pape. The movement continues to have an impact on a new generation of artists, writers and musicians working in Brazil today, who are represented by Arto Lindsay, Marepe, Ernesto Neto, Rivane Neuenschwander and Dominique Gonzalez-Forster. Let the sunshine in! Barbican Gallery until 21st May.
Please Close The Gate is a collection of mostly new sculpture, largely shown outdoors, which is generally formed in metal or wood and then given a layer of paint. This acts as a kind of shell, and either helps to give it an image, or to dematerialise its form. Among the highlights are: Rose Finn-Kelcey's 'Pearly Gate', an oversized painted wooden five bar gate standing slightly ajar; Keith Wilson's 'Thames Walkway: Boat Race (sheeted)', made in painted galvanised steel, mapping the path of the Oxbridge boat race from Putney Bridge to Chiswick Bridge; Bob and Roberta Smith's 'Vegetable Sculptures', comprised of gaudily coloured vegetables balanced precariously on top of each other; Franz West's 'Sitzwust', a giant shocking pink aluminium sausage; and Helen Chadwick's best known work 'Piss Flowers', casts in white painted bronze exhibited outside on grass as was originally intended; together with classic works by Barbara Hepworth, 'Sphere with Inside and Outside Colour' and 'Makutu', which use colour in more subtle ways. Works by Phyllida Barlow, Franz West and William Turnbull feature one colour over a single medium; and wall mounted works by Ellen Hyllemose and Cedric Christie take 'ugly', building materials, such as scaffolding and mdf, and make them beautiful through the addition of paint. New Art Centre Sculpture Park & Gallery, Roche Court, Salisbury until 7th May.
Jacob Van Ruisdael: Master Of Landscape is a retrospective of the work of the pre-eminent landscape painter of the 17th century, renowned for the unmatched number of subjects he depicted and the wealth of clearly observed naturalistic detail. It comprises some 50 of Ruisdael's paintings, alongside 36 of his drawings and rarely seen etchings, illustrating the diversity and scope of the landscapes he depicted. The grandeur of Ruisdael's compositions, with ruined castles on rocky crags and torrents cascading down hillsides, coupled with his skill in portraying natural phenomena and carefully observed detail, made him one of the greatest masters of the Golden Age of Dutch painting. Such was Ruisdael's ability to render nature's subtleties in a faithful manner, that botanists have been able to identify species of plants and trees in his paintings, and oceanographers have marvelled at his accurate depiction of breaking waves, as in 'A Rough Sea at a Jetty'. But that was not all. Reality and imagination coexist in Ruisdael's work - his landscapes tell a story. The inimitable and versatile style he pioneered broke with painting traditions set by previous generations, and his innovative approach to depicting nature had a profound effect not only on landscape painting in Holland, but it also in England, France and America. The drawings on display include sketches, initial studies for paintings and finished stand-alone works, while the etchings represent the range of his output as a printmaker. Royal Academy until 4th June.
Dan Flavin: A Retrospective is the first comprehensive exhibition of the work of one of the most innovative figures in 20th century art, who made pieces using fluorescent light, becoming a key exponent of minimalism. The exhibition brings together over 60 light works from the 1960s to the 1990s, more than half of which are being shown in Britain for the first time. At the heart of Flavin's artistic project was the transformation of mass produced, commercially available fluorescent light tubes into works of surprising intensity and beauty. Using what appear to be very limited materials - standard two/four/six/eight foot strip lights, in less than a dozen basic colours - Flavin created an extraordinarily diverse body of work, each piece possessing its own subtle, expressive power. A pioneer of installation or 'situational' art, as he called it, Flavin described these light sculptures as 'structural proposals', relating their forms, colours and textures to the particular surroundings in which he placed them. This exhibition charts the development of Flavin's practice over his thirty year career, beginning with his 1961 experiments with electric light and painted constructions, known as the 'icons', and his first work in fluorescent light alone, the diagonal of May 25, 1963, with diverse works including corner pieces, corridors, barriers and room size installations. There are also are a selection of rare sketches, drawings, and early collage constructions in which Flavin explored his ideas. Hayward Gallery until 2nd April.
Visions Of The Low Countries: A Golden Age Of Dutch And Flemish Art brings together rarely seen works by some of the most highly skilled (but less well known) artists of the 16th and 17th centuries, including Jan Van Goyen, Joos de Momper II, Aert van der Neer and David Teniers the Younger. The exhibition focuses on naturalistic landscapes and seascapes, with moody highly dramatic weather effects, and scenes depicting the everyday lives of Dutch and Flemish people. These beautiful and intricately detailed paintings reflect the flourishing cultural scene in the Low Countries, fuelled by an expansion of trade and the resulting boom in the art market, as the new middle class became patrons. The period marked a major cultural shift away from mythological and religious subjects and towards a concentration on mankind's place within the natural, material and social environment.
Another Land is a contrasting and complementary display of photo-works by Nicky Coutts, inspired by the medieval Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch. Coutts has digitally removed all the blessed and damned protagonists from three of Bosch's best known paintings, 'The Garden of Earthly Delights', 'The Temptation of St Anthony' and 'The Last Judgement', leaving only the background, thus turning them into landscapes, littered with abandoned belongings.
Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield until 1st April.
Ugo Rondinone - zero built a nest in my navel is the first major UK exhibition of the leading Swiss artist, who has been described as 'a visionary trapped by reality'. Working across a bewildering range of different media and styles, Rondinone references literature, music and theatre as well as the visual arts, to create sensory and theatrical installations. He came to prominence in Europe in the early 1990s with installations combining photography, video, painting, drawing, sculpture, light and sound. Rondinone's exhibitions can include India ink landscapes in the Romantic tradition and target paintings recalling the images of 1960s psychedelia. Pop art inspired works with an up beat feel are often contrasted with the longing of photographs of a man and woman who never meet, or films of clowns slumped in the corner of the gallery. For this exhibition, Rondinone has created a new installation that centres on a large structure in reflective Perspex, like an open ended maze, which frames a series of masks and sculptures that project an interior mental state onto a spectral, Gothic landscape. Pre-recorded dialogue of a man and woman arguing loops in a darkened sensory environment, and like a Beckett play, presents a never ending circle of disconnection. Then there's the giant 6ft light bulb hanging from the roof. The exhibition title is taken from a number of haikus Rondinone has been writing every day like a diary, and transferring onto canvas and other materials, which are scattered around the walls. Whitechapel Gallery until 26th March.