Private View held by Richard Andrews
Aztecs is the most comprehensive survey of Aztec culture ever mounted, with some 350 works, which reveal the splendours, variety and sophistication of this mysterious civilisation. It is mainly devoted to the art of the Aztec Empire, which dates from 1325, when the Aztecs settled at Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City) to its demise in 1521, following the arrival of the Spanish in 1519. The exhibition explores the key themes of Aztec culture, including the importance of the cosmos, the role of the different gods, the issue of kingship, the culture of war and human sacrifice as part of the cycle of life and death, and the natural world. The largest display is centred on the Templo Mayor or the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, the symbolic and physical centre of the Aztec world, with many of the ritual objects found on the site, including the life size terracotta figures of the eagle warrior and of the Lord of Death, Mictlantecuhtli, which are on show for the first time outside Mexico. The Aztecs fashioned objects from a wide variety of materials, and creating highly detailed depictions of gods, people, and the natural world. In addition to monumental sculptures in stone and wood, featherwork objects and ceramics, there are works of art made of turquoise mosaics, gold and other precious materials. The exhibition also reunites some of the most important codices or pictorial manuscripts, which the Aztecs used to record their history and communicate information, in the largest group of these documents ever to be displayed. Further information can be found on a special section of the Royal Academy web site via the link opposite. Royal Academy of Arts until 11th April.
Santa's Kingdom blurs the line between exhibition and performance art with an interactive Christmas experience. A visit to the themed extravaganza lasts two and a half hours and covers an area of over 60,000 sq ft. Features include a journey through a winter wonderland to a huge ice cave, a toy factory with elves in full production, Santa's North Pole village (with real reindeer), Mrs Claus house and official post office, a 100ft toboggan ride and snowballing area (with 250 tonnes of real snow), and all sorts of weird and wonderful characters guiding visitors around, plus of course, an opportunity to meet Father Christmas himself. Only in America you might think, but no, it's here - and nationwide. Wembley Exhibition Halls, London; NEC, Birmingham; and SECC, Glasgow, 9.30am to 10pm until 23rd December.
Mad Bad And Dangerous: The Cult Of Lord Byron examines the Byronic phenomenon, which almost invented 'celebrity culture', charting how it was created and maintained. Bringing together over 100 works, including paintings, photographs, letters, literary manuscripts, memorabilia and examples of Byronic dress, this exhibition explores how Byron's literary fame and social notoriety were intertwined, and fuelled by the many carefully controlled visual representations of the poet. It also looks at Byron's influence on leading figures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Oscar Wilde, T E Lawrence and W H Auden, as well as the more recent stars of popular culture, such as Rudolf Valentino, James Dean and Mick Jagger. National Portrait Gallery until 16th February.
Art In The Making: Underdrawings In Renaissance Paintings looks the drawings with which artists sketched out their compositions on the prepared panel or canvas before painting. By their very nature, these underdrawings are normally hidden from view under layers of paint, and special photographic techniques using infrared radiation were required to make them visible. This exhibition reveals fascinating and spectacular images of the drawings beneath twenty familiar 15th and 16th century paintings. Although only ever created as preparatory sketches, and never intended to be seen, some of the underdrawings appear as brilliant creations in their own right, such as the free loops and whirls found beneath Altdorfer's 'Christ Taking Leave Of His Mother' or the delineation of the Master of the View of Saint Gudula's 'Portrait Of A Young Man'. In other examples, dramatic changes of composition by the artist are revealed, such as the complete reversal of Pontormo's design for 'Joseph With Jacob In Egypt'. National Gallery until 16th February.
Dennis Severs House, 18 Folgate Street is a step back in time to experience life in a house in Spitalfields between 1724 and 1914. It is a journey through ten rooms, from cellar to attic, telling the story of the invented Jervis immigrant family in London. Dennis Severs created the experience in his home over a twenty year period, during which he filled it with original objects and furniture found in local markets, and lit them by candles and chandeliers. Sounds and scents bring the Jervis's world to life - floorboards creak, fires crackle, a kettle hisses on the hob, and a wig dangles from the back of a chair. The experience can be undertaken every Monday evening, and on the first Sunday afternoon and Monday lunchtime of each month. Further information about the house and visiting times can be found on the Dennis Severs House web site via the link from the Heritage section of ExhibitionsNet. Dennis Severs House, 18 Folgate Street continuing.
BBC Backstage Tours of the Television Centre and News Centre in west London have replaced the now defunct BBC Experience at Broadcasting House, as the public's opportunity to what lies behind the world's first and premier broadcasting organisation's mission 'to and inform and entertain'. It allows visitors to look round one of the largest and most famous purpose built television centres in the world, where thousands of programmes are produced here each year, including a peek behind the scenes of the BBC's News Centre, and visits to the dressing rooms, studio floor, production gallery, scenic construction area and Weather Centre. Visitors can see the television production process in action at first hand. The content varies according to the programmes being made on any particular day. Tours last one and a half hours and run throughout the week. Study notes are available for media studies students. BBC Television Centre London continuing.
Gainsborough brings together the largest group of works by the 18th century master ever assembled, from collections around the world. Alongside some of the most iconic images in British art, the selection includes many lesser known pieces, some being seen in Britain for the first time in living memory. They demonstrate the range, quality and originality of Thomas Gainsborough's art, from the glamour of his society portraits, to the naturalism of his rural landscapes. He was one of the few major painters to be equally at home in both genres. There are works from his early years in London, less successful times in Ipswich, the 15 year period he spent in Bath where his 'face paintings' became the rage - "phizmongering" as he called it - to his later experimental period which put him in conflict with the Royal Academy. Among the grand full length portraits are Mary, Countess Howe, Sir Edward Turner, Lady Anne Rodney and The Linley Sisters. The landscapes, which Gainsborough referred to as his "fancy pictures" include The Harvest Wagon, Wooded Landscape with Country Wagon, Milkmaid and Drover, The Watering Place and Cottage Door with Girl and Pigs. This exhibition is spectacular proof (if it were needed) that Gainsborough deserves his place as one of the greatest British artists. Tate Britain until 19th January.
A Maverick Eye: The Photography Of John Deakin brings together images that are among the most significant - and the most overlooked - in the history of 20th century photography. His work has an intensity, clarity of vision, and brutal directness, that is fascinating and shocking in equal measure. Whether he was photographing writers, artists, fashion models or Hollywood stars for British Vogue (where he achieved notoriety for being fired twice) in the late 1940s and early 1950s, or portraying his artist and poet friends in the bohemian world of Soho, Deakin made no concessions to the vanity of his subjects, or 'victims' as he called them. His friend, the painter Francis Bacon, also commissioned and used Deakin's photographs as the basis for several of his works. The exhibition has been selected by Robin Muir, former picture editor at Vogue, and specialist on Deakin's work. It includes over 100 photographs, many previously unseen, of people and places, captured by the unrelenting eye of a photographer who was both loved and loathed for his character and his work. Dean Gallery, Edinburgh until 12th January.
Under Mussolini: Decorative And Propaganda Arts Of The Twenties And Thirties does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides an analysis of the events and tastes of the Fascist era through examples of furniture, glassware, ceramics, painting, sculpture and graphic design. Many of the leading artistic figures of the day are represented, including Gio Ponti, Duilio Cambellotti, Mario Sironi, Galileo Chini, Marcello Piacentini and Gerardo Dottori. The exhibition reveals how Fascist iconography, although frequently incorporated into the design of everyday objects, exerted only a minimal influence on the development of the applied arts, which drew more inspiration from the motifs of the vernacular tradition and the principle lines of modernism during this period. The image of Fascist Italy which the government sought to promote is explored through examples of political art and propaganda relating to a number of historically significant events, such as the colonial aggression of the 1930s, when the promotion of the image of a Fascist empire resulted in references to imperial Rome. It is the first time much of the work has been shown outside Italy. Estorick Collection until 22nd December.
Dirty Linen presents a visual history of how 'doing the laundry' has changed over the period from Victorian times to the present day. Housed in a building that was once a 19th century East End wash house, it comprises posters, pamphlets, advertisements and even washing machine manuals, which trace the history of scrubbing. The exhibition explores how cleaning clothes has shaped women's lives for rewards that range from free gifts with 1970s washing machines to the more psychological lure of being whiter than white. The Dirty Linen Laundrette hosts a sound installation of East End women's washing memories, and a film reel captures the changing faces of the women who sold and still sell washing products. Artist Katja Then has created 'Redwash' and 'Fluffy Shirts', taking a contemporary look at the act of cleaning clothes through video and textiles. An accompanying series of study days and evening talks examine specific aspects of cleanliness from The Great Stink of 1858 to contemporary kitchen design. The Women's Library until 21st December.
Sphere brings an extra and contemporary twist to what is already probably the most eclectic collection in Britain. Since 1997 works from Peter Fleissig's 'Invisible Museum', a nomadic collection with no permanent home, have been exhibited in a series of site specific installations around the world, travelling over 7,421 miles to 11 destinations. Now, works by Louise Bourgeois, Damien Hirst, Callum Innes, Anish Kapoor, Paul Morrison, Marc Quinn, Sam Taylor-Wood, Mark Wallinger, Rachel Whiteread, Richard Wright and other young international artists have been secreted among the treasures bequeathed to the nation by Sir John Soane. The eccentric and fantastical collection of antiquities and works of art that Soane built up filled not only his own house from cellar to attic (and the courtyard outside too), but also the houses next door on either side. It has been likened to an up market jumble sale, as every nook and cranny is stuffed with exhibits, including the room which Soane designed to display his collection of Hogarths. Just finding the places to put things has been a work of art in itself. Sir John Soane's Museum until 21st December.
David Wilkie: Genre Painter celebrates the work of one of the most spectacularly successful British artists, who, despite being compared to Hogarth, and receiving the tribute of a painting by Turner commemorating his death, is now little known. Wilkie specialised in scenes of everyday, domestic life - genre painting - which were in some ways the equivalents of modern soap operas, being based on the little dramas of home life with which everyone could identify. The greatest years of Wilkie's popular acclaim were during the Napoleonic Wars, when he created images of the ordinary man and woman, which made an enormous emotional impact at a time of national crisis. His pictures were all the more effective by virtue of their psychological realism, telling a complex emotional story, by combining warm-hearted humour with more ambiguous small details. Wilkie was also the most technically gifted British painter of the Romantic period, with a striking ability to render the reality of things, and he drew comparisons to the Old Masters with his depictions of the human form. This is the first major survey in Britain of Wilkie's extraordinary achievements for over forty years, and includes many virtually unknown works from private collections. Dulwich Picture Gallery until 1st December.