News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 23rd July 2003

Ossie Clark celebrates the work of the fashion designer whose most productive period coincided with London's magical, optimistic, rule-breaking decade, in which fashion, photography, music and the cult of personality converged. From 1965 to the mid 1970s Ossie Clark dressed the famous and fashionable in unabashed show-stoppers. Mick and Bianca Jagger, Julie Christie, Marsha Hunt and Marianne Faithful commissioned clothes from him, Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton and Penelope Tree modelled his designs for photographers David Bailey, Norman Parkinson and Helmut Newton. Clarke graduated from the Royal College of Art in London in 1965, and three months later his graduation collection appeared in British Vogue. Simultaneously, he began designing for Alice Pollock's shop Quorum. Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell met as students, began colaborating in 1965, and married in 1969. Clark's flattering silhouettes combined with Birtwell's romantic textiles, featuring a vibrant range of patterns inspired by the natural world, produced some of the most memorable garments of the period. Above all, Clark was an expert cutter, executing an accomplished range of superbly fitted classical coats, suits and jackets in wool, Harris tweed, suede and crepe. The cut and construction of these clothes demonstrate Clark's extraordinary precision and his understanding of how textiles behave on a three-dimensional form. Fab gear from one of the most important figures of Swinging London. Victoria & Albert Museum until 2nd May.

Red House is of great significance in the history of domestic architecture and garden design. Commissioned by William Morris in 1859, and designed by Philip Webb, it laid the foundation for the Arts And Crafts Movement. The experience of furnishing the house led Morris to set up his company producing wallpaper and fabrics, whose designs have defined taste ever since. The unique building is constructed of red brick, under a steep red tiled roof, with an emphasis on natural materials and a strong Gothic influence. The garden was designed to 'clothe' the house with a series of sub-divided areas, which still clearly exist today. Inside, the house retains many of the original features and fixed items of furniture designed by Morris and Webb, as well as wall paintings and stained glass by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. During the five years Morris lived there it was at the centre of the social life of the Pre-Raphaelites. Originally surrounded by orchards and countryside, Red House is now an oasis in the midst of suburbia. The property has been lived in as a family home for nearly 150 years during which time many changes have taken place. Red House was acquired by the National Trust six months ago, and is now open so that visitors can see it in its current condition, and follow its progress as research reveals the house and garden that Morris and Webb originally created, and restoration returns it to that vision. Red House, Red House Lane, Bexleyheath, Kent, 01494 755588 continuing (pre booked tours only).

Shakespeare In Art considers how the world's greatest and most performed dramatist provided inspiration for many of Europe's greatest artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. With some seventy works, by artists such as Hogarth, Delacroix, Romney, Blake, Huskisson, Millais, Turner and Holman Hunt, there are many different views of Shakespeare's plays, some visionary, some horrific, many romantic, others contemporary and realistic. This exhibition includes a wide range of styles, from Rococo to Sublime, from Classic to Romantic, and looks also at theatrical production and scenography. This Shakespeare is familiar, but different from ours, reflecting both the changes in presentational styles of productions, and the individual preoccupations of the artists involved in them. The painters recorded both the 'acted' and the 'imagined' Shakespeare. Zoffany and Fuseli painted scenes from Macbeth, but while Zoffany records a famous production, starring David Garrick and Mrs Cibber - emoting beneath a towering horsehair wig, literally dressed to kill in the height of contemporary fashion - Henry Fuseli's The Weird Sisters is a nightmarish vision of the Witches, from the darkest recesses of his unconscious. Other great actors whose portraits are featured include John Philip Kemble, Sarah Siddons, Charles Kemble, George Frederick Cooke and Charles Macklin. Dulwich Picture Gallery until 19th October.

Continuing

Medicine Man: The Forgotten Museum Of Henry Wellcome is a celebration of the British passion for collecting things. Henry Wellcome, the pharmacist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, saw human culture and history through medical eyes. A compulsive collector and traveller, he built up the world's largest, but least known, collection of medical exhibits. By his death in 1936, he had amassed over one million objects related to medical history - many (a la Citizen Kane) remaining still packaged and uncatalogued. This treasure trove of the bizarre, practical and exotic ranges from Chinese diagnostic dolls and Japanese sex aids to African masks and amputation saws, from amulets and ancient manuscripts to Napoleon's toothbrush and George III's hair. Among the more unlikely are: an English tobacco resuscitator kit used to revive the 'apparently dead' by blowing smoke through the nose, mouth or elsewhere; shrunken heads from the Shuar people of the Upper Amazon, created to control the avenging soul of the deceased (to be worn by the person who had removed the head); and a notebook alleged to be covered with the skin of the man whose execution is thought to have sparked the American War of Independence. British Museum until 16th November.

The Art Of Chess reflects how the game has been a source of artistic inspiration, featuring nineteen chess sets made by 20th and 21st century artists. Each set illustrates a move in a fictional last game played by Napoleon with General Bertrand on St Helena. In the starting position is the world's only known set designed by jeweller Carl Faberge. The game follows through on sets from the Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory in Leningrad, featuring Capitalists versus Communists; Marcel Duchamp, with a travelling foldaway table and a board with two stopwatches for timed games; Josef Hartwig, a geometric Bauhaus design based on the functions of the pieces; Max Esser, futuristic Art Deco terracotta and dark chocolate Meissen porcelain; Max Ernst, boxwood in an abstract design suggesting both the characters of the pieces and the way they move; Man Ray, in red and silver anodised alloy; Yoko Ono, classical in form - but all the pieces are white; and Takako Saito, identical white boxes with the pieces defined by their different weights. On public view for the first time are recently commissioned designs by Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Paul McCarthy, Yayoi Kusama and Maurizio Cattelan. The game ends with Napoleon winning in a set which features Rasputin, Donatella Versace, Mother Teresa and Superman as pawns. The Gilbert Collection at Somerset House until 28th September.

A Private Passion: Harvard's Winthrop Collection is the first opportunity to view a unique collection outside its home. In the early decades of the 20th century, Grenville L Winthrop, a New Yorker and Harvard graduate, assembled a remarkable collection of paintings and drawings by French, British and American artists of the 19th century. They include the finest group of works by Ingres outside France, including 'The Bather', and major canvasses and sheets by David, Gericault, Delacroix, Moreau, Renoir, Seurat and Degas. British works, beginning with Blake and Flaxman, include important Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Edward Burne-Jones, Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and a suite of drawings by Aubrey Beardsley. The Americans include Whistler, John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer. The collection, finally amounting to some 1,000 paintings and 3,000 objet d'art, was semi secret and no works were seen outside Winthrop's Upper East Side mansion during his lifetime. On his death in 1943 the collection passed to the Harvard University Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it remained until now. The National Gallery until 14th September.

Bridget Riley celebrates the 40 year career of one of Britain's most distinctive artists. Since she invented what became known as Op Art in the 1960s, Riley has continued to develop optically vibrant paintings that engage the viewer's sensations and perceptions. Riley's work falls into five phases, starting with the swirling black and white patterns of dots, squares and zigzags that appear to move as you view them, which became an iconic image of Swinging London. In 1967 she moved on to contrasting colours (including white) in vertical stripes, exploring the interaction of the colours to similar optical effect, leading on to twisted shapes. A trip to Egypt in 1980 led Riley to work exclusively with the five colours used in the tomb decorations for some years. From 1985 the stripes themselves were created from diagonals, producing lozenge shapes, and since 1997 these have mutated into curved winding forms in a wider colour palette. Riley's latest work is comprised of a web of abutting, nearly touching and overlapping black hoops - coming (dare one say) full circle. Description or reproduction however cannot begin to capture the experience of actually seeing these works, and how the changes of light, distance from the canvass or wall, and scale of the painting can change the effects they produce on the viewer. A must see experience. Tate Britain until 28th September.

The Real Mary King's Close is a warren of concealed streets beneath the Royal Mile, where people lived, worked and died in bygone centuries. It consists of a number of closes, which were originally narrow streets with houses on either side, stretching up to seven storeys high. In 1753 the Burgh Council developed a new building on this site, originally the Royal Exchange and now the City Chambers. The houses at the top of the closes were knocked down and part of the lower sections were kept and used as the foundations. Recently the remnants of the closes that were left beneath the building have been developed into a historically accurate interpretation of life in Edinburgh from the 16th to the 19th centuries and are open to the public mostly for the first time. Among the recreations, based on documentary and archaeological research, are a grand 16th century townhouse; the home of a grave-digger's family which reveals how the Burgh Council dealt with the plague epidemic of 1644; one of the best surviving examples of a 17th century house in Scotland; and a 19th century sawmaker's workshop. Visitors are guided through the underground closes by a character from the past whose life touched Mary King's Close, who reveals the dramatic events and legendary stories of the area - such as the room which is allegedly inhabited by the spirit of a child, for whom people have left toys (and still do). The Real Mary King's Close, 2 Warriston's Close, Writers Court, Edinburgh, 08702 430160, continuing.

Bob The Roman: Heroic Antiquity And The Architecture Of Robert Adam explores the work of Britain's first celebrity architect, who became one of architecture's the most influential figures. The Adam style, characterised by delicate neo-Antique ornamentation of festoons, ribbons and pilasters, is synonymous with the refinement and elegance of 18th century interiors. Yet there was another side to Robert Adam, a love for monumental grandeur, revealed in the exteriors of his buildings, which derived from three years spent in Rome prior to setting up his London practice in 1758. It was there that he encountered Heroic Antiquity, the grandeur of an architectural idiom that is articulated by bulk and mass, and by the solemn ordnance of columns, niches, aedicules and extensive colonnades. Totally immersing himself in the city's culture with unbridled enthusiasm he earned the soubriquet Bob The Roman. This exhibition focuses on how Adam learnt to draw in Rome, under the tutelage of the French artist Clerisseau, and on his great projects inspired by antiquity. These include a 9ft long design for an immense Palace, the Bath Assembly Rooms, a plan for a 720ft building for Lincoln's Inn, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, a speculative scheme for fashionable housing at the Adelphi, and Chandos House off Cavendish Square, which is currently undergoing a £6m restoration. The majority of exhibits are from the extensive collection of some 9,000 Adam drawings that Sir John Soane purchased in 1833. A Robert Adam Study Centre to house the 54 folios of material, which is being created in the adjoining building, will open next year. Sir John Soane's Museum until 27th September.

Concluding

Guy Bourdin is the first retrospective of the influential French photographer known for dramatic fashion photographs, which owe more to documentary reportage than high gloss. Instead of the studio shot or glamorous location, his pictures look like Crime Scene Investigation officers have taken them in situations where the victim just happened to be wearing expensive clothes. In one, even the body has been removed, leaving just the chalk outline and the shoes. Bourdin was at the height of his career from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s, when he was working predominantly for French Vogue and Charles Jourdan shoes. An aura of voyeuristic violence, fear and cruelty surrounded his work, and a genuine unease is discernable in the models featured - although he often cropped their heads from the picture. Bourdin's 'colourful' personal life only added to the legend, not least because of the attempted and successful suicides of a number of the women with whom he was involved. As well as the photographs themselves, the display includes films made on fashion shoots revealing how he worked. There are also photographs, slides and notebook pages which record the images that Bourdin chased throughout his life, offering an insight into the his unrelenting mission to shape his experiences into a visual form. Both the character and the images used in the film The Eyes Of Laura Mars, about a fashion photographer who recreates visions of murders, owe a great deal to Bourdin. Victoria & Albert Museum until 17th August.

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 1200 works covering paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, architectural designs and models have been selected from over 12,000 submissions. Among this year's outrages are David Mach's collage showing nudists in St James Park (with Buckingham Palace in the background), and Dilek O'Keefe's estimation of where Kylie Minogue's talent really lies (it's behind her). Architecture takes a prominent role, with Norman Foster's 'Sky High: Vertical Architecture' exploring the development of the skyscraper from its earliest days in Chicago through to the most innovative skyscrapers currently being developed. Historic designs, such as William Van Allen's Chrysler Building, rub shoulders with contemporary proposals, ranging from candidates for the redevelopment of the World Trade Centre site to Renzo Piano's controversial London Bridge Tower. Models and graphics show how the skyscraper is taking a central role in urban redevelopment in cities around the globe. In a new feature this year the Royal Academy Schools, the Royal College of Art, Goldsmith's College and the Slade School of Fine Art, present work by emerging artists. There is an accompanying programme of lectures and events covering all aspects of the exhibition. Royal Academy of Arts until 10th August.

Pissarro In London marks the centenary of the death of Camille Pissarro by bringing together a group of paintings made on his four visits to London, in 1870-1, 1890, 1892, and 1897. Pissarro had strong links with the city, as his half-sister and, later, three of his sons lived there. It provides an unusual opportunity to see London through Impressionist eyes. The exhibition is all the more intriguing because the views are of everyday scenes of ordinary people at work or at leisure, in his immediate surroundings of the then rural suburbs, and are therefore generally unknown and otherwise unpainted. The major architectural landmarks, which are usually the subjects, such as the Crystal Palace, here, only form part of the background to a couple strolling down a street or a cricket match. These paintings also show the evolution of Pissarro's style over almost three decades. The works range from the better known 'Fox Hill, Upper Norwood' and 'The Avenue, Sydenham' to the rarely seen 'The Train, Bedford Park' and 'Bank Holiday, Kew'. A gem. National Gallery until 3rd August.