News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 24th October 2007


Pop Art Portraits is the first exhibition to examine the role and significance of portraiture within one of the world's most popular and influential art movements. A visual dialogue between American and British Pop, it brings together 52 key works by 28 Pop artists working on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1950s and 1960s. These include major portraits by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as works by lesser known artists such as Mel Ramos, alongside those of Peter Blake, Allen Jones, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield. The exhibition examines these artists' shared engagement with depicting the famous, using images taken from advertising, pop music, cinema, comic books, magazines and newspapers. It also shows how Pop Art exploded the conventions of portraiture, creating a new genre of fantasy portraits, using images drawn from popular culture. The display is divided into six sections: Precursors Of Pop; Portraits And The Question Of Style; Fantasy And Fame; Film; Marilyn; Innocence And Experience. The Marilyn section is one of the highlights of the exhibition, bringing together works by British and American Pop artists in the context of their shared obsession with images of Marilyn Monroe. This section focuses on one of the principal themes of the show: the way Pop portraits transformed familiar images into works of art of great technical virtuosity, lasting originality, and enduring fascination. National Portrait Gallery until 20th January.

Justin Coombes: Urban Pastoral is an enticing and unsettling collection of Justin Coombes magical photographs. Using slide projection and other unconventional lighting techniques, Coombes projects images onto buildings or interiors at twilight, and then re-photographs the scenes using long exposures. Developing his technique further, in this exhibition Coombes has used more direct interventions in the landscape, such as subtly rearranging objects to create tableaux that are both recognisable and unnerving. Toxic skies and strange effects charge the banal with a striking atmosphere, recreating the sense of romance, adventure and threat he found upon first moving to London after a childhood spent in the countryside. In 'Urban Pastoral', a recollection of Coombes's mother landscaping their Devon garden is recreated on a South London allotment - tempestuous blue clouds, barbed wire fences, a scarecrow and looming tower blocks undercut the idyllic nature of the memory; in 'Vanitas with Fox', the urban predator is caught in the headlights of a car whilst scavenging in rubbish, with a skull design on a cardboard box the fox has torn open; and in 'Bully', a group of kids assembles in a council estate playground, loitering with ambiguous intent, the mist of an early dawn shrouding the scene with a sense of melancholy distance. Other new photographs are incorporated into Coombes's short video and performance pieces, where the literary and historical aspects of his image making are brought to the fore. BCA Gallery, Bedford, until 1st December.

The Golden Age Of Couture: Paris And London 1947 - 1957, explores one of the most glamorous and remarkable decades in fashion history. Starting with the impact of Christian Dior's New Look after the Second World War, it looks at the work of Dior and his contemporaries during the period when haute couture was at its height. The launch of the New Look signalled the return to luxury and elegance after wartime austerity, and a group of designers, Dior, Christobal Balenciaga, Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain in Paris, and their London counterparts Norman Hartnel and Hardy Aimes, quickly attracted worldwide attention for elegance and glamour combined with impeccable tailoring. The production of couture was important to the prestige and economy of both France and Britain. While traditionally catering for wealthy private clients, the couture houses also sought new markets, and as the decade progressed, they created perfumes, opened boutiques and licensed their designs to foreign manufacturers. By the late 1950s, the leading couture houses had ceased to be the product of their individual designers, and had become global brands. Over 100 dresses are on display, including daywear, cocktail and evening dresses made for society and royalty, alongside photographs by Cecil Beaton and Richard Avedon, and original Hollywood and documentary film. Accompanying these are audio recordings, textiles and archive material, such as letters and bills of sale. As well as the finished products, the exhibition looks at the design process, the skills and techniques of makers in the workshops, the undergarments and insides of the dresses, employed to create the look, and the effect these new fashion houses had on the revival of the economies of France and Britain. Victoria & Albert Museum until 6th January.


Seduced: Art And Sex From Antiquity To Now explores the representation of sex in art through the ages. It features around 300 works, spanning over 2,000 years, including Roman marbles, Indian manuscripts, Renaissance and Baroque paintings, Chinese watercolours, Japanese prints, 19th century photographs and modern and contemporary art. There are works by around 70 known artists, including Nobuyoshi Araki, Francis Bacon, Aubrey Beardsley, Hans Bellmer, Louise Bourgeois, Chris Cunningham, Marcel Duchamp, Marlene Dumas, Tracey Emin, Jean-Honore Fragonard, Henry Fuseli, Gustav Klimt, Jeff Koons, Leonardo ds Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Rembrandt van Rijn, Auguste Rodin, Giulio Romano, Egon Schiele, J M W Turner and Andy Warhol. The exhibition runs the gamut from Francois Boucher's 'Leda and the Swan' to Robert Mapplethorpe's 'X Portfolio' - and includes a plaster cast of a bronze fig leaf for Michelangelo's sculpture of David from the Victoria & Albert Museum, specially made to spare Queen Victoria's blushes. It claims to 'provide the historical and cultural framework to explore the boundaries of acceptability in art', and aims to 'generate a lively public debate about shifting attitudes towards sexually explicit imagery', or maybe it's just a good piece of marketing, like the 'over 18s only' entry restriction. Barbican Art Gallery until 27th January.

Dan Shipsides: Radical Architecture offers Dan Shipsides response to the ideas about public access to - and interaction with - landscape, promulgated by 19th and 20th century figures such as social critic John Ruskin, activist Benny Rothman (instigator of the 1932 Mass Trespass over Kinder Scout) and avant-garde climber Joe Brown. Shipsides makes art from rambling in the countryside, but unlike Richard Long, who 'rearranges' nature into art as he goes, Shipsides recreates it indoors when he gets home. Shipsides has visited significant sites in the Peak District that were made accessible and internationalised by the pioneering vision of the aforementioned individuals, and has used the experience to create a climbable sculpture, based on a rock climb at The Roaches. A fragmentary text, 'Angels Wall', gives a taste of the installation's strenuous physicality and multifaceted cross referencing. It is accompanied by drawings and images based around other rock climbs in the Peak District. Alongside are works by Ramsey Richard Reinagle, John Ruskin, and Grete Marks, giving the background to the radical outdoor movements of the 19th and 20th centuries that inspired Shipsides. Presumably this is what makes it art - rather than just a climbing wall you would find in an activity centre. Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, until 25th November.

Objects Of Instruction: Treasures Of The School Of Oriental And African Studies launches a new gallery featuring the School's rich but little known artistic and archival collections, bringing together a broad range of interesting and beautiful objects from across Asia and Africa. The show is divided into five geographical areas: East and South East Asia, South Asia, the Himalayas, the Middle East and Africa, together with a section on 'European views of Asia and Africa', reflecting the 'Orientalist' perspectives of early explorers and traders. Among this wealth of material are illustrated Islamic manuscripts, from Persia, Armenia, Crimea, Turkey and India, with gold leaf and lapis lazuli dye, including a luxurious Mughal copy of the Anvar-i Suhayli, a book of animal fables; Chinese and Japanese paintings and prints; many lavishly illustrated books, including one with oriental drawings of animals, and a Sumatran 'book of magic'; varied ceramic objects from the Middle East and East Asia, including from Ming dynasty China; decorative Buddhist manuscripts and sculptures from South-East Asia, including a Khmer stone lion sculpture from Cambodia, and a 200 year old alabaster sculpture of seated Buddha, once the property of King Thibaw of Burma; newly restored 18th century Tibetan silk hangings donated by the 14th Dalai Lama; contemporary African paintings and textiles; and important archaeological collections from East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London until 15th December.

Louise Bourgeois is the first major survey in Britain of the work of the French born artist. It spans seven decades of varied and prolific artistic output, ranging from small scale experimental works, to large scale installations from the 1980s and 1990s. Beginning with Bourgeois's earliest drawings, prints and paintings, the show features more than 200 works in many different materials, including her most recent works using fabric, such as 'Couple IV', 'The Three Horizontals' and 'Rejection'. Over her long career Bourgeois has worked in dialogue with most of the major international avant-garde artistic movements of the 20th century, from Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism to Conceptual art, but has always remained uniquely apart, inventive and often at the forefront of contemporary practice. Engaging in a wide variety of both modern and traditional techniques Bourgeois has explored her themes in a great variety of styles from abstraction to the realism of the ready-made. The exhibition includes many well known pieces, such as 'Personages', 'The Blind Leading the Blind', 'Cumul I', 'Arch of Hysteria', 'Cell (Eyes and Mirrors)', 'Seven in Bed' and on display in Britain for the first time, Bourgeois seminal work, 'The Destruction of the Father', which is approximately 12ft long by 8ft high and 8ft deep, made of rubber, latex, wood, fabric and lit with a red glow. The piece references a family dinner table, headed by a tyrannical father and husband, surrounded by a family rendered terrified by his dominance, who are driven to suddenly attack and devour him. In addition, 'Maman', one of a series of giant spiders, standing around 27ft high, is on display outside the gallery. Tate Modern until 20th January.

Victorian Artists In Photographs: G F Watts And His World is a remarkable exhibition of photographs of the Victorian art world, many exhibited for the first time. The display features some 160 images of the leading artists of the day and their studios, including George Frederic Watts, Edward Burne-Jones, George Cruickshank, William Holman Hunt, Frederic Lord Leighton, John Everett Millais, William Morris, Dante Gabrielle Rossetti, E J Poynter, Lady Butler, Alma Tadema, Val Prinsep and Philip Morris, together with their models, wives and families, including Fanny Cornforth, Phoebe 'Effie' Cookson, Dorothy Dene, Edith Holman Hunt and Margaret Burne-Jones. In addition, there are rare images of royalty and politicians, including Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, William Ewart Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli; influential thinkers, such as John Ruskin, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Darwin and J S Mill; literary figures, including Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, George Elliot and Wilkie Collins; and members of the theatrical profession, such as Ellen Terry. The 100 year old Arts & Crafts building, created by Watts and his wife, which houses his extensive studio collection, was the first purpose built art gallery in Britain dedicated to the work of a single artist. Watts Gallery, Compton, near Guildford, until 31st December.

Vaulting Ambition: The Adam Brothers, Contractors To The Metropolis In The Reign Of George III tells of how in the 18th century, four Scottish brothers embarked on an architecturally ambitious regeneration scheme for a huge brownfield site in the centre of London, to be known as the Adelphi. Drawings from the Adam collection - one of Royal Terrace almost 9ft long - are displayed alongside paintings of the Adelphi, together with documents, drawings, paintings and portraits, many never on public display before. It focuses on the Adam brothers and on the rupture in their relationships, caused by the uncertain nature of their grand venture, the bank crashes of 1772, and their recourse to a Lottery to escape financial disaster. They were sons of the most eminent 18th century Scottish architect William Adam, and their business became the biggest building company of the age, encompassing supply, materials, contracting and speculative development on a breathtaking scale - at its height employing 3,000 men. In many ways the scheme set the template for modern metropolitan development. The Adelphi was a showcase for elegant new architecture, setting standards for urban development throughout Britain. The exhibition also explores the subsequent speculative projects of the Adams in Portland Place and Fitzroy Square in London, as well as Robert's visionary designs for Bath, and his proposals for Edinburgh and Glasgow. It also reveals how these Scottish entrepreneurs promoted their scheme, installed anchor tenants within the development to attract potential investors and purchasers, targeted clients of high net worth, faced down a potentially devastating financial crisis and in the end, were forced to pay an exceptional price for their 'vaulting ambition'. Sir John Soane's Museum, London until 12th January.


France In Russia: Empress Josephine's Malmaison Collection brings together some of the paintings, sculpture and furnishings that Napoleon's consort Josephine acquired for her chateau of Malmaison, which were purchased by Tsar Alexander I in 1815. In addition to 16th and 17th century paintings by Claude, Potter and Teniers, sculpture by Canova and decorative arts, the exhibition also includes luxury items borrowed from Josephine's fashionable country retreat, such as textiles, personal effects and letters. Among the highlights are: Antonio Canova's contemporary life size marble sculpture 'Dancer', commissioned by Josephine; Claude Lorrain's 'Landscape with Tobias and the Angel' from the four part Times of Day series; Francois Gerard's iconic portrait of Josephine, originally on display at Malmaison; 22 pieces from a 213 piece porcelain dessert service, including the a series of 'picture plates' reproducing paintings from Josephine's collection, such as Metsu's 'Breakfast' and Francois Fleury Richard's 'Valentina of Milan'; Paulus Potter's almost life size definitive dog painting 'A Wolfhound'; a clock base in the form of a triumphal arch by the Florentine mosaicist Giacomo Raffaelli; a console table with sphinx legs and sea-bed mosaic top by Jacob Desmalter; Francois Flameng's informal painting 'Reception at Malmaison', showing Napoleon in game of tag with his stepdaughter in the grounds, watched by members of the families; 'The Gonzaga Cameo', showing a double portrait of an emperor and his wife; and personal effects belonging to Josephine, including a silver embroidered court dress and an ecritoire designed by the goldsmith Martin-Guillaume Biennais, together with letters on widely diverse subjects. Hermitage Rooms, Somerset House until 4th November.

WAS Benson: Genius Of The Arts & Crafts looks at the work of William Arthur Smith Benson, one of the most significant and forward looking of the Arts & Crafts designers. Benson played a central role in the creation of the Arts & Crafts movement and, in his commercial success, highlighted many of the most critical dilemmas of what was, in parts, a reactionary and idealistic movement. Benson came into contact in the 1880s with Sir Edward Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, who had a great impact on his life. Burne-Jones encouraged Benson's interest to make things, and it is believed that Benson designed and made much of the romantic, chivalric armour, as well as models of ships and crowns, that feature in Burne-Jones's paintings. It was near the Burne-Jones's house that Benson set up his first workshop where he made and sold items. Frustrated by the unwillingness of the Royal Academy to exhibit items of craft in its Summer Exhibition, it was Benson's idea to set up 'The Combined Arts Exhibition Society', which later became the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society and gave a name to the movement it encapsulated. Benson's designs were ingenious, as well as beautiful, with double jacket dishes pre-dating Pyrex oven-to-tableware, reflecting social changes, with people cooking for their guests and serving them, and he formulated a thin lacquer applied to brass and copperware that sealed the surface and prevented tarnishing, as servants were no longer there to polish them. The exhibition explores the different aspects of Benson's work through a variety of elegant exhibits, a number of which are from private collections, and have therefore not been seen in public before. It is shown in the perfect setting at Blackwell, a house designed in the Arts & Crafts style by M H Baillie Scott. Blackwell, Bowness-on-Windermere until 4th November.

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. Among featured tableaux in this year's free show are 'Decodance' designed by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, and monsters from Dr Who. 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 8pm to midnight most nights.

The Festival Of Light is an accompanying programme of events and contemporary light installations. These include 'Artificial Sunshine - The Story Of The Illuminations' exhibition, where visitors can get up close to working illuminations, and see original drawings and diagrams dating back to the 1930's; Andy McKeown's 'Kaleidoscopia', in which images provided by visitors are kaleidoscoped and projected on to buildings across the town; Blachere Illumination's 'Wonderland', a sparkling canopy curtain of LED lights floating as if suspended in mid air, mysteriously supporting 6 giant chandeliers; Michael Trainor's giant mirror ball installation 'They Shoot Horses Don't They?' spectacularly illuminated by Greg McLenahan; and Kate Walker's 'Rain', consisting of multiples of lamp-worked glass with water inside, suspended on fibre optic lighting, like a cloud suspended in space made up of hundreds of glass raindrops. Blackpool Promenade until 4th November.