News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 23rd August 2006


A Particular English Music: John Betjeman 1906 - 1984 marks the centenary of the birth of the man often acclaimed as the best loved poet of the 20th century. His acute, witty, nostalgic, sometimes melancholy poems and prose pieces managed in their deceptively simple way to capture an essential Englishness.

Betjeman's textbook middle class upbringing and career: born in Highgate, London, educated at Marlborough and Oxford, on the staff of the Architectural Review, a journalist and, during the Second World War, working for various government departments, provided him with the ammunition for his satirical poems about lost suburban proprieties and aspirations. The exhibition celebrates Betjeman's life, his writing and his many enthusiasms in manuscripts, letters, books, photographs and memorabilia.

Pop Goes The Library: 50 Years Of The Album Charts is an audio display recognising the 50th anniversary of the album chart. Each of the LPs that reached the number one spot during that time is available at a number of listening stations, so visitors can choose from over 10,000 tracks, and discover how musical tastes have changed over the last half century. This is reflected in the range from the first number one, Frank Sinatra's 'Songs for Swinging Lovers', through Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, The Spice Girls and Take That, to this year's Arctic Monkeys and Gnarls Barkley.

The British Library, until 8th October and 31st December.

Richard Dadd 1817 - 1888 is a rare opportunity to see some of the lesser known but extraordinary paintings of the artist whose life was the stuff of a gothic novel. A Royal Academy graduate of great promise, Dadd began to show signs of insanity, and during his cultural grand tour in Europe, felt an uncontrollable urge to attack the Pope on a public appearance in Rome. Believing he was possessed by the Egyptian god Osiris, he killed his father, convinced he was the devil in disguise. In 1843 Dadd was committed to the lunatic asylum at Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, where he spent the rest of his life - a period of 42 years. He was allowed to paint during his incarceration, and the hospital authorities kept the hundreds of works he frantically produced, many of them vivid recreations of the hallucinatory visions he experienced. Dadd's 'Passions' series refers to extreme emotions - Hatred, Jealousy, Madness and Murder are some of the titles - while other scenes relate to his periods of ecstasy, populated by nymphs, fairies and mythical creatures. One of his most celebrated paintings is 'The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke', about which the rock band Queen wrote their eponymous song. Although many of them are smaller than postcards, Dadd's miniature paintings were created with obsessively precise details, and the maritime and landscape scenes are all the more incredible given that they were entirely painted from memory. Leamington Spa Art Gallery, The Pump Rooms until 1st October.

Oskar Kokoschka: The Prometheus Triptych is on show for the first time in over a decade, primarily because of its enormous size - the three canvases together measure over eight metres wide. The triptych was commissioned in 1950 by Count Antoine Seilern for the ceiling of his London house at 56 Princes Gate. The central panel depicts the Apocalypse, while the side panels show a scene with Persephone escaping from Hades, and the punishment of Prometheus by Zeus. Kokoschka intended the piece as a warning of the consequences of 'man's intellectual arrogance'. The dangers faced by contemporary civilisation were symbolised by the figure of Prometheus, whose overweening nature drove him to steal fire, so that man could challenge the gods. Kokoschka's fear was that culture and society were being dominated by science and technology, which threatened the freedom and individuality of mankind. He worked with unceasing passion and commitment on the triptych, driven by a belief in the painting's importance as his most complete and powerful artistic achievement. This unique work, combining the contemporary and the classical, and on a scale unparalleled at the time, is accompanied by a range of documentary material, comprising photographs, letters and catalogues. These provide the painting's contemporary context in the Cold War period, and explore the background of the commission, its execution and subsequent reception. A selection of Kokoschka's other works, including the celebrated early lithographs 'The Dreaming Youths', are included in an adjoining display. The Courtauld Institute Gallery until 17th September.


Formula One: The Great Design Race tells the story of motor racing since the 1950s, revealing the mysteries of the intensely secretive industry that invests millions of pounds in design and technology each year. The exhibition features an iconic car from each decade, including the Lotus 79, in which Andretti won the 1978 Drivers' Championship and Lotus won the Constructor's title, demonstrating the potential of ground-effect aerodynamics; and the MP4/4-2, driven by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, which won 15 of the 16 races for McLaren in 1988. It also includes an 'exploded' car, which deconstructs the design and development of the different parts. A series of design stories explain the aerodynamics of the chassis and cockpit; the power generated by the engine, gearbox and fuel; and the advances in suspension, brakes and tyres, which determine the drivers' ability to control their cars at extremely high speeds and in adverse weather conditions. As well as the history and technology of motor racing, the exhibition presents a year in the life of Formula One, a behind the scenes look at the complexity and logistics that enable a team to compete throughout a season. Each race team is represented: Ferrari, Honda, McLaren, Red Bull, Renault, Toyota and Williams. The exhibition also looks to the future, with key industry figures giving their predictions for the ways in which the design and technology of Formula One will develop. Design Museum until 29th October.

The Bath Spa has finally reopened - many times over budget and many years late (with many legal wrangles pending) - and after a gap of nearly 30 years, it is now possible to bathe again in the natural warm spa water for which Bath has been famous since Roman times. The project, masterminded by the architect Nicholas Grimshaw, has restored five listed buildings: The Cross Bath, the Hot Bath, 7-7a Bath Street, 8 Bath Street and the Hetling Pump Room, and within them, created modern facilities with both baths and wet and dry treatment rooms. In addition, a new open air pool has been created on the roof, surrounded by glass walls, offering spectacular views out over the Regency city. The 1.2 million litres of thermal spring water that rise daily in the centre of Bath, enriched with Sulphate, Chloride, Calcium, Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate and Silicate, feed the complex and its myriad treatments. A visitor centre describes and illustrates the colourful social and cultural history of Bath's Spa, from the founding of Roman Bath, through Saxon, Elizabethan and Georgian times, to the recent revival of the 'spa quarter', through interactive displays and archive records, photographs, audio recordings and film. An audio guide provides a tour of the surrounding spa quarter, and a drinking fountain allows visitors to once again take the waters and sample its 'unique flavour' (be forewarned by the use of the word 'unique'). The Bath Spa, continuing.

Antonioni's Blow Up is the first public showing of 'a mystery wrapped in an enigma' from the 1960s. Blow Up was the Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni's first film in English, made in 1966, which set out to capture the essence of 'Swinging London'. It did this through the experiences of its main character, a fashion photographer (not a million miles from David Bailey) who thinks he has discovered a murder, when he examines in detail photographs taken during a shoot in a park. This exhibition features the twelve photographs used in the film, which were actually taken by the war photographer Don McCullin. Alongside there are other photographs, taken on set by Arthur Evans, which are grouped in sections that correspond to key sequences in the film. Some concentrate on the photographing of models in the studio, others focus on the enigmatic documentation of the park, the later encounter with the unwitting 'heroine', and finally the process - in the dark room and studio - of rendering and disclosing an overlooked secret object.

The London Fire Brigade Archive presents a selection from the archive of over 300,000 black and white and colour photographs ranging from the foundation of the Brigade in the 1860s up to the present day. It focuses on the period between 1930 and 1970, and includes nearly 100 original images of scenes from domestic incidents across London and the stories behind them. Personal and individual tragedies are recorded and preserved in the detached and clinical method of the archivist, be it the blackened living room after a television explosion, or the scene of a child's bedroom in which little visible damage is detected, but the caption reads 'fatal fire'.

The Photographers' Gallery, London, both shows until 17th September.

Ron Mueck is the largest ever exhibition to be held in Britain of pieces by the Australian sculptor who specialises in ultra realistic models - although often on radically different scales. Mueck's work concentrates almost exclusively on the human figure, tracing the passage through life from birth to death. All his sculptures are made with an obsessive attention to realism, from the pores in the skin, or a mole on the neck, to the hairs on the body (individually applied) the attention to detail is breathtaking. They are so realistic that people find it hard to believe at first sight that they are not real. The power, however, is in the way Mueck uses pose, gesture and scale to engage the viewer's emotions, and to enter into the psyche of the figures he depicts. Mueck first came to prominance in 1997 with 'Dead Dad', an astonishingly lifelike (though half size) sculpture of his dead father's small, naked, vulnerable body lying on the floor. This show comprises ten works. Half of them are his most recent, including the tiny huddled, gossiping 'Two Women', the giant melancholic woman 'In Bed', the miniature 'Spooning Couple' and a new commission 'A Girl' - a giant 15ft newborn baby. Half of them are important previous works, such as 'Man in a Boat', and 'Ghost', a near 8ft figure of an adolescent girl. The show also features a film of Mueck at work, a number of documentary photographs of his studio, and a display of models, maquettes and moulds. Royal Scottish Academy Building, Edinburgh until 1st October.

Being There: Harry Benson's Fifty Years Of Photojournalism is a retrospective of the work of the man responsible for some of the most iconic photographs of modern times, published in both newspapers, principally the Daily Sketch and Daily Express, and magazines, notably Vanity Fair and Life. It is a behind the scenes view from Benson's camera, in the right place at the right time - sometimes by design, sometimes by accident - at some of the most defining moments of world history: in the hotel kitchen at the moment that Robert Kennedy was shot; in Berlin the day the Wall came down; next to Coretta King at Martin Luther King's funeral; in a Paris hotel when The Beatles found out that I Want To Hold Your Hand had become number 1 in America (triggering a pillow fight), and subsequently on the flight that first brought them to New York; in the room when Richard Nixon resigned; in a Mujahideen camp in the mountains of Afghanistan with Soviet prisoners of war; with Sammy Davis Jnr on his deathbed from cancer; in the crowd witnessing the fall of the communist regime in Romania; and round the corner when the first plane hit the twin towers in New York. In addition to these, amongst over 100 images, there are a host of less dramatic but award winning photographs of screen legends, world leaders and supermodels, often caught in unfamiliar moments of revelation, including Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Truman Capote, Muhammad Ali, Woody Allen, Michael Jackson, Georgi Armani and every US President since Eisenhower. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until 7th January.

David Shrigley Recent Prints includes over 50 etchings and woodcuts, together with a specially commissioned screenprint - 'News, nobody likes you'. Although primarily known for his often darkly humorous drawings, either in published collections such as 'Kill Your Pets' and 'The Book of Shrigley', or appearing regularly in the Weekend Guardian, Shrigley is also prolific in other mediums, having variously produced sculptures, photographs, paintings, public art projects, animated films and even T-shirts. However, across the majority of this wide ranging output, certain characteristics remain constant. In terms of drawing, the style is simple and direct - almost childlike in its immediacy and apparent awkwardness. These variously wayward and profound doodles are very rarely reworked, and any 'mistakes' are left to stand, although that doesn't mean that he isn't ruthless in editing what he produces. Shrigley's work is done intuitively, he doesn't start with any ideas, just with a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and keeps drawing and writing things until he 'does something that seems to make sense'. Despite their deceptive air of intuitive spontaneity, his images are as often the stuff of absurdist hysteria and dread as they are of playful mischief and tragi-comic relief. Titles have ranged from 'Let Not These Shadows Fall Upon Thee' to 'Drawing Whilst on the Phone to an Idiot'. Edinburgh Printmakers Gallery until 16th September.


The Road To Byzantium: Luxury Arts Of Antiquity brings to London a collection of classical Greek, Roman and Byzantine luxury artworks, including finely decorated silver and gold, Athenian red-figure vases and exquisite cameos. Over 160 objects tell the story of the development of art and civilisation over more than a thousand years, from 5th century BC Greece to the Middle Ages, and overturn assumptions that ancient Classical influence on art disappeared from the Christian art of the Byzantine Empire. The story starts with the 'Greek Revolution,' which combined fidelity to nature with ideals of harmony and beauty, represented by items such as the 'First Swallow of Spring' vase from the late 6th century BC, and examples of goldwork, including a quiver cover with scenes from the life of Achilles. Roman artists drew on Greek conventions, as illustrated by delicately engraved gems and cameos, and adapted them to the representation of Roman subjects, such as the marble bust of the Emperor Augustus's wife Livia. Even after Christianity had become the dominant religion of the Empire in the 4th century AD, and Constantine the Great had moved the heart of the Roman Empire to Constantinople, the Classical style continued, as shown by a group of textiles, including a portrait of the goddess Ge, reflecting the continuing interest in 'pagan' mythological themes. Highlights include a group of silver and silver-gilt dishes from the 6th and 7th centuries AD, one depicting a pastoral scene that harks back to the art of Hellenistic Greece. Even later pieces still show stories of Greek heroes: Ajax quarrelling with Odysseus, the doomed lovers Meleager and Atalanta, and Silenus and Maenad, the followers of Dionysus. Hermitage Rooms, Somerset House until 3rd September.

Devil In The Detail: The Paintings Of Adam Elsheimer celebrates one of the unsung heroes in the history of European art. Born in Germany, but working mainly in Italy, Elsheimer died aged just 32, and only about 35 of his pictures survive. His first solo British exhibition brings all but 3 of these works together for the first time, alongside some 20 drawings and prints. Elsheimer worked on a small scale, producing extraordinarily detailed paintings on copper. He is a pivotal figure in the development of Western art, transforming every genre he touched - narrative, landscape and the depiction of interiors - and exerting a profound influence on his contemporaries, especially Rubens and Rembrandt. Though Elsheimer's paintings drew on traditional subject matter - biblical, historical, devotional and mythological - his treatments of them were totally original, often depicting scenes or themes that were hitherto unknown in painting. Elsheimer's innovative compositions and experimentation with the possibilities of light had a tremendous impact on other artists who saw his work. Among the highlights are 'Aurora', which elevated landscape and its atmosphere to the main subject of a picture for the first time; 'The Flight Into Egypt', which contained the first exact rendering of the moon's surface and the Milky Way as a dense array of stars; 'Jupiter and Mercury in the House of Philemon and Baucis', remarkable for its depiction of interior light effects; and 'The Exaltation of the Cross from The Finding and Exaltation of the True Cross' from the Frankfurt Alterpiece, broken up and dispersed during the 18th century, but painstaikingly reassembled again over a 30 year period from 1950. Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh until 3rd September.

Satirical London: Three Centuries Of Satire, Sex And Scandal reveals the absurdity and stupidity of the London scene over the last three centuries, with over 350 social and political satires in all media. The display spares no one, with images often shocking and always spiced with popular prejudices, from caricatures of the great and not so good, whether in etchings of George III or Prince Charles teacups, to the 'types' recognised by all Londoners: a line up of bankers, businessmen, aldermen, pickpockets, prostitutes and urchins. The exhibition includes William Hogarth's prints dissecting the social mores and manners of 18th century London; James Gillray's engravings attacking the art establishment; Thomas Rowlandson's Georgian images; illustrations by George Cruickshank, William M'Connell and John Leech from the serialised Victorian novels of Charles Dickens, William Thackeray and Anthony Trollope; cartoons from Punch (The London Charivari), launched in 1841, which made satire available to a wider public; the more contemporary and savage cartoons of Private Eye launched a century and a quarter later; the Spitting Image latex heads of Margaret Thatcher and the Queen Mother; plus Toby jugs, 'sculptoons', snuff boxes, chamber pots with reviled characters inside, and the English phenomenon of the novelty teapot. In addition, the original front of Mrs Humphrey's print shop at 27 St James's, immortalised by Gillray in his 1808 print 'Very Slippy Weather', is reconstructed to show how window displays brought irreverent prints to the masses. The London Museum until 3rd September.