News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 23rd September 2009


Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler tells the story of Moctezuma II, the last elected ruler of the Aztecs. From 1502 until 1520 he presided over a large empire embracing much of what is today central Mexico. Moctezuma was regarded as a semi- divine figure by his subjects charged with the task of interceding with the gods. This exhibition examines his life, reign and controversial death during the Spanish conquest. The Spanish were initially well received in the Aztec capital, but distrust and violence ensued. Moctezuma was captured and met his death shortly afterwards. Overcoming resistance, the Spanish went on to conquer his empire. Moctezuma's life and dramatic death are explained through objects ranging from sculpture, gold and mosaic items, to European paintings. The exhibition presents masterpieces of Aztec culture, including the stone monument known as the 'Teocalli of Sacred Warfare', amongst other works commissioned by Moctezuma himself, which bear his image and his name glyph; a turquoise mask and goldwork showcasing the consummate craftsmanship of artisans employed in the Aztec court; paintings known as 'Enconchados' - oil paintings on wooden panels with inlaid Mother of Pearl detail - portraying the events of the conquest in vivid detail; a model of the Great Temple and other ritual buildings in the capital, revealing where Moctezuma carried out blood-letting rituals, and ordered the sacrifice of captives; and idealised European portraits of Moctezuma and colonial Codices, showing how interpretations of Moctezuma and his world have been shaped. British Museum until 24th January.

Commando - Art And Action is an opportunity to view original, never seen before artworks from the archives of the iconic British comic Commando, which has fed the fevered imaginations of men and boys for almost 5 decades. Launched in 1961 by DC Thompson, the company that published comic favourites The Beano and The Dandy, Commando was a competitor to Fleetway's pioneering War Picture Library. It soon became the benchmark in war comic publishing, eventually eclipsing its competitors, and is now, remarkably unchanged, the sole remaining survivor. The Commando story formula remains simple: tales of courage, cowardice, and comradeship, usually set against the backdrop of the Second World War. The format of the comic also plays a significant part in explaining its enduring popularity: always a 63 page story, always in black and white, and always high quality artwork. Some of the best examples of works in the display from DC Thomson's roster of artists are by the likes of Commando stalwarts Ian Kennedy and the great Gordon Livingstone, an artist who remained with the company all of his working life, until his retirement in the 1990s. In addition to the artworks themselves, the exhibition also reveals the process of how a story is created and put into production, following the tale of a REME engineer in 'Front Line Fixer'. REME Museum of Technology, Isaac Newton Road, Arborfield, Berkshire, until 30th October.

In A Bloomsbury Square: T S Eliot The Publisher explores the ways in which the poet and playwright nurtured and developed some of the most significant writers of the 20th century while, working for the publisher Faber and Faber. In the 1930s and beyond, Eliot used his roles as editor and publisher to promote modernist writing, successfully lending it authority, asserting its significance, and making it both respectable and accessible to a wider public. During this time he worked with, amongst others, James Joyce, W H Auden, Marianne Moore, David Jones, and Ted Hughes. As well as shedding light on the various inter-relationships between Eliot's roles as publisher, editor and author, the exhibition also explores his belief in the wider social and cultural mission of publishing. The display comprises original manuscripts, correspondence, art works and sound recordings, as well as previously unseen material from the Faber archive and the Eliot estate. Exhibits include: a letter from Eliot to Geoffrey Faber from 1936 urging publication of Djuna Barnes's novel Nightwood, (Eliot was the only publisher who did not reject it); Ted Hughes journal entry from 1960, giving his impressions on meeting the luminaries of the first generation Faber poets, including W H Auden, Stephen Spender and Louis MacNeice; and letter from Eliot to his 3 year old godson Tom Faber, including the verse "Invitation to all Pollicle Dogs and Jellicle Cats to come to the Birthday of Thomas Faber", testing out his ideas for what was to become one of his best known works. The British Library until 6th December.


The Darwin Centre is a spectacular new £78m building, designed by C F Moller Architects of Denmark, the main feature of which is a 65 metre long 8 storey high Cocoon, whose surface is 3,500 square metres of hand finished polished plaster, contained within an atrium, plus 1,040 square metres of laboratory space. The Cocoon is home to 17 million insect and 3 million plant specimens - from huge tarantulas to metre high poisonous plants - held in 3.3 kilometers of temperature controlled cabinets. For the first time, visitors are able to see into the hidden world of scientific research, where some of the centre's 220 scientists work on cutting edge research that could help protect the future of the earth, through viewing decks and video monitors, and ask questions via an audio link. Over 500 real insects and plants are on display, including 124 specimens in the introductory area, such as an Atlas moth with a 16cm wingspan, the 15.5cm elephant beetle and 3mm sandflies on microscope slides; a wall of 326 specimens over two floors, from a half-metre crayfish to a wingless termite; around 50 giant plants, including the 1.2m hemlock water dropwort Oenanthe crocata; a 12 metre wide interactive wall showing the consequences of human impact on the climate; 20 historically important 'iconic' specimens, including the vegetable lamb of Tartary, insects collected by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, and a bound herbarium volume, containing plants gathered by the collector Sir Hans Sloane. In addition to real specimens and scientists, the Cocoon also features over 40 high tech installations and hands on interactive activities that reveal the field work, taxonomy and DNA work of other scientists. Natural History Museum, continuing.

Toy Tales is a celebration of 60 years of BBC children's television programmes, some of whose characters are still with us, and some of whom have disappeared to the great toy box in the sky. The exhibition offers the opportunity to renew acquaintances with Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, Rag, Tag and Bobtail, Paddington Bear, Sooty and Sweep, Basil Brush, The Magic Roundabout and Postman Pat. Visitors can reminisce about grainy black and white images of puppets such as Muffin the Mule and Pinky and Perky, and compare them with the hi-definition colour of today's favourites, like Charlie and Lola, 64 Zoo Lane, and In The Night Garden. All these characters and more are represented in various forms, including puppets, videos, original scripts, story boards, props and drawings. The exhibition also pays tribute to the animator, puppeteer and author Oliver Postgate, who, together with Peter Firmin, set up the company Smallfilms in a disused cowshed at Firmin's home in Kent, producing animated footage on a shoestring budget to great acclaim. Peter Firmin's own collection of The Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog, are featured in the exhibition, together with original Bagpuss story boards. The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, until 1st November.

Sound Designs: The Story Of Boosey & Hawkes illustrates the important contribution that the instrument maker Boosey & Hawkes and their employees made to the shaping of playing styles, the development of the brass band tradition and the sound of British orchestras. At one time, the huge Boosey & Hawkes factory in Edgware employed 700 people, who produced 1,000 musical instruments each week. The museum was able to acquire the prestigious Boosey & Hawkes collection of historic instruments and archives chronicling over 150 years of instrument making when the factory ceased production in 2001. Over 100 items, including fascinating drawings and photographs of musical instruments, instrument production records, stock books, minute books and tools, provide an insight into the manufacturing techniques and technical innovations that established Boosey & Hawkes as the premier British instrument manufacturer. Highlights of the exhibition include an engraved glass flute from 1816, a silver trumpet belonging to Queen Victoria's head trumpeter, and early designs of instruments that were the foundation of the British Brass Band tradition. Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London SE23, until 1st November.

The Art Of Plant Evolution is where art meets science, in an exhibition of botanical paintings arranged in the latest evolutionary sequence, determined by recent DNA analysis. New genetic discoveries have changed the nomenclature and evolutionary sequence of many plants during the last ten years. The paintings display a sampling of the plant world from fungi to daisies, including algae, mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants. The exhibition comprises 136 paintings by 84 contemporary artists from countries such as China, Australia, Japan and Britain, displaying 50 orders of plants, in 118 families, for a total of 133 species. This provides a sweeping overview of the evolution of plants on earth. Highlights include Manabu Saito's depiction of the colourful river weed Mourera fluviatilis; paintings by two members of the famous Demonte family of Brazilian artists, including the tropical 'Brazilian Dutchman's pipe'; and Beverly Allan's 'Wollemi Pine', featuring one of the oldest and rarest species of tree in the world, formerly believed to be extinct, which was rediscovered in Australia in 1994. There are also over 20 plant fossils, some dated from over 370 million years ago, including fern fronds, leaves of cycads, the Wollemi pine, ginkgoes and poplar, together with tiny walnuts and peas in a pod. These are placed near the matching paintings of their relatives living today. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew until 3rd January 2010.

Blackpool Illuminations have extended the holiday season and entertained visitors to the seaside town since 1879, when 8 plain electric arc lamps bathed the Promenade in what was described as 'artificial sunshine'. While the basic idea remains the same, the style and scale of Blackpool's end of season electrical extravaganza have little in common with that first experiment in lighting. Traditional lamps are still used, but now alongside the newest technology such as lasers, fibre-optics, low-voltage neon and even real fire and water. The show now costs £2.4m to stage, and stretches for six miles of spectacular colour, light and movement. New features this year include the Rengoli Peacock, using video projection and LED lighting, as well as sound effects, music and eye catching imagery to tell the story of Divali; 3 new monsters, including the Red Darlek, in an expanded Dr Who section; and a laser projected tableau featuring all the CBBC favourites, including 'In The Night Garden'. Visitors can become part of the display, as they travel along the Promenade aboard a tram dressed up by lights as a wild west train, ocean liner or space rocket, from dusk to 11.30pm most nights. Blackpool Promenade, until 8th November.

Undercover - Life In Churchill's Bunker examines the living and working conditions in the Cabinet War Rooms during the Second World War. The exhibition draws on new personal accounts to build a picture of life under London streets, where events of the war were shaped, and world changing decisions made. Stories, historic images, documents, letters, previously unseen personal objects, and the voices of War Room veterans combine to create the tense, but often humorous, atmosphere in the series of rooms selected as the secret headquarters for Churchill, his war cabinet, and intelligence processing centre. Created in 1938, the War Rooms were originally the storage areas of the Office of Works Building, but were soon pressed into service as the country's operational nerve centre. By 27th August 1939, a week before the invasion of Poland, the rooms were fully operational, and remained the central shelter for government and military strategists for 6 years, staffed 24 hours a day. The exhibition examines the safety and security of the War Rooms, shows Churchill's idiosyncratic methods of operation, how people worked with him, and how they coped with a daily underground existence in 14 hour shifts throughout the entire war. Among the key objects on display for the first time are a transcript of the speech made by Churchill on 9th September 1940, accusing Hitler of trying to terrorise Britain, with several handwritten notes added to the original draft; and a letter recounting Churchill's forthright reaction on finding out that the War Rooms were not actually bomb proof. Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, Whitehall, until 30th September 2010.


Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science And The Visual Arts reveals the impact of Charles Darwin's theories on artists of the late 19th century. The exhibition explores both Darwin's interest in the visual arts, and the vast range of artistic responses to his revolutionary ideas, through a diverse selection of exhibits from around the world. It is arranged in a sequence of thematic sections, which together highlight the significance of visual traditions for Darwin, and the often surprising ways in which his theories inspired artists. The display brings together nearly 200 objects, including paintings, drawings, watercolours, prints, photographs, sculptures, caricatures, illustrated books and a range of natural history specimens. Some of the paintings are by famous artists, such as J M W Turner, Frederick Church, Edwin Landseer, Monet, Degas and Cezanne, while other spectacular works are by lesser known artists such as John Gould, Bruno Liljefors, Felicien Rops and American landscapists. Art works are seen in juxtaposition with scientific material of all sorts, from geological maps and botanical teaching diagrams, to fossils, minerals, and ornithological specimens. They reveal the many interactions between natural science and art during this period. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until 4th October.

Andre Kertesz: On Reading is the first time images from the On Reading series by the Hungarian born photographer have been exhibited in Britain. Andre Kertesz was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. These photographs, taken between 1915 and 1980 in the many places he lived, visited and worked, including Argentina, France, Hungary, Britain and America, are a celebration of the absorptive power and pleasure of reading. Kertesz was intrigued by the universal appeal of reading, revelling in the privacy of the moment. Over the course of his career, Kertesz captured readers of all ages in various locations - on rooftops and balconies, in parks, on crowded streets, at train stations, in libraries - creating a poetic study of the act of reading. The photographs range from abstract formal compositions to playful, often humorous observations, a signature style of Kertesz's work. Some photographs in the exhibition also celebrate the book as an object, through paintings, still life compositions and images of book shelves and library interiors. At the moment when digital technologies threaten to render the printed page obsolete, this exhibition is a timely, humorous and nostalgic reminder of the importance of the book, and the culture of reading. The Photographers' Gallery, London, until 4th October.

Samuel Johnson And London follows the bookseller, poet, compiler of the Dictionary of the English Language, and coiner of the aphorism "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life", his friends and collaborators around the 18th century city, and looks at the many facets of his varied literary career and legacy. Among the original books, letters and artefacts on display are: a copy of A Dictionary of the English language; Johnson's poem 'London'; a copy of 'Logick' by Isaac Watts, showing Johnson at work; Hester Lynch Piozzi's, 'letters to & from the late Samuel Johnson'; accounts kept by the printer William Strahan, regarding the dictionary; a copy of Thomas Rowlandson's 'Picturesque Beauties of Boswell'; a letter from Johnson to the King's librarian; an Invitation from John Wilkes to Johnson; an 'Ode by Dr Johnson to Mrs Thrale upon their supposed …. Nuptials'; a copy of 'The Beauties of Johnson'; a list of members of 'The Club'; a copy of James Boswell's 'The Life of Samuel Johnson'; corrected proofs of Johnson's 'Preface on Dryden'; Boswell's letter to Johnson's friend Bennet Langton; and a ticket for Johnson's funeral. The British Library until 30th September.