Private View held by Richard Andrews
Seaside Fun brings the seaside to London, without having to go to quite the effort or put up with all the inconvenience of the Mayor of Paris's similar scheme. Here, the upper gallery of the museum has been transformed into a seaside resort, complete with a beach, a pretend station for those arriving by train, a pier with deck chairs, and even seagulls. There are also sand castles, slot machines, classic posters, a Punch and Judy show, and one of those things with cut outs to put your face through for a photo. Young visitors can stop at the art cart and learn how to make their own souvenirs to take home - and as it's indoors, visitors don't even have to rely on British weather. Who needs CenterParcs? Bethnal Green Museum Of Childhood until 8th September.
Pickpocketing The Rich: Portrait-painting In Bath 1720-1800 celebrates the particular time when art and pleasure intermingled in the Georgian spa resort - a sort of 18th century Las Vegas. At its height the town attracted 20,000 fashionable members of society each year, and during the course of the century 160 artists opened businesses, including Thomas Gainsborough, Joseph Wright of Derby, William Hoare, Thomas Barker and Thomas Beach. Artists gained recognition and publicity by painting such celebrities as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the actors David Garrick and Sarah Siddons, 'Beau' Nash, Alexander Pope and the musicians Thomas Linley junior and senior. Business was particularly good for the makers of smaller portraits. People passing through the resort were eager to sit for inexpensive, portable pictures, such as miniatures in watercolour, cheap silhouettes or profiles painted on glass, which they could send home or give away to new friends as keepsakes. Artists would charge a shilling entrance fee to visit their studios, and sometimes provided entertainment by musicians and singers. Prices for portraits ranged from a few shillings for a head and shoulders sketch by a newly arrived artist, to 100 guineas for a full-length Gainsborough portrait in oils. Holburne Museum of Art, Bath until 15th September.
Electric Dreams explores and celebrates the fantasy glamour of city nightlife, as portrayed by ten international artists. Jack Pierson's found neon signs entice visitors with the illicit pleasures of 'adult video' or the mysteries of a 'psychic'; Kirsten Glass paints pictures of fashion models swirling in dark backgrounds overlayed with dark glitter and fluorescent colours; donAtella's new video, 'LonDonAtella' treats the city of London as a vast virtual stage-set for a surreal performance; whilst FischerSpooner show their unique pop-performance act as a large scale video installation entitled Sweetness. The other contributing artists are Charles Atlas, Martin Eder, Steven Gontarski, Chikashi Kasai, Jim Lambie and Eva Rothschild. The Curve at The Barbican Centre until 26th August.
Thomas Girtin And The Art Of Watercolour celebrates the achievements of one of Britain's greatest, but least known watercolour painters, 200 years after his death at the age of just 27. Girtin played a major part in transforming the art of watercolour, especially landscapes, which grew in scale and ambition. He abandoned careful stained drawings for a more dramatic and romantic style of painting, which captured moods and a range of light and weather effects. For a brief period watercolour painting was the epitome of modern art, and Girtin landscapes were both controversial and popular. Although influential, Girtin remained an outsider to the art establishment, as he did not study at the Royal Academy's school, and tried to break away from a reliance on patronage. He sold his work on the open market, and embarked on projects aimed at a mass audience, such as a group of twenty printed Views of Paris, and an exhibition of an enormous canvas of over 180 square yards, showing a 360 degree panorama of London, known as the Eidometropolis, which opened shortly before his death. This exhibition comprises 160 works by Girtin himself, together with 40 others by his contemporaries, including Turner, who always acknowledged Gritin's influence on his work. There is also an analysis of Girtin's working methods and materials. Tate Britain until 29th September.
Light The Blue Touchpaper tells the history of fireworks in Britain, in the most comprehensive exhibition on the subject ever staged. It draws on the extraordinary collection of Maurice Evans, with fireworks of all kinds - even pre-First World War indoor fireworks made in the shape of fruit - posters, programmes for firework displays, and a wide range of items using fireworks as the inspiration for their design. The Black Cat firework factory (formerly Standard Fireworks) has contributed firework making equipment, showing how a firework-filling shed was laid out, plus display samples, advertising posters and other archive material. Firework inspired memorabilia on view includes comics, stamps, jigsaw puzzles, promotional items, cigarette cards and post cards. Although the industry once boasted over twenty independent British manufacturers, very few fireworks are now made here, as most are imported from the Far East, and so there are examples of fireworks from sixteen other countries. There is also a permanent exhibition telling the story of how gunpowder was manufactured on this site from the mid 1600s to 1990. Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey until 27th October.
Forbidden City: Treasure Of An Emperor is an exhibition of treasures from the Forbidden City in Beijing, staged in a unique collaboration with the Palace Museum, which is housed in the former Imperial Palace. Over 50 of the objects on display have never before been seen outside China, and this is their only appearance. They include paintings, armour, robes, ornate furnishings and other objects that belonged to the Emperor Qianlong, who ruled Imperial China from 1736 until 1796. This is regarded as a golden age in China's history, when it was the wealthiest country in the world. Qianlong was known for his patronage of the arts, and was a painter and calligrapher, with a passion for collecting, antiques and history. His personal acquisitions form more than half the permanent collection of the Palace, which is China's most important museum. The key exhibits include an equestrian portrait of the Emperor, painted by Guiseppe Castiglione, an Italian artist at the Imperial Court, to celebrate Qianlong's coronation, together with the actual armour and equipment he is wearing in the painting, and a sacred gold cup decorated with rubies, sapphires and pearls. Royal Museum, Edinburgh until 15th September.
Crowns And Crests: Heraldry In The Round is a unique exhibition of 45 carved and painted wooden heraldic crests and crowns originally made for Knights and Ladies of the Garter, and displayed during his or her lifetime above their stall in the Chapel of St George in Windsor Castle. Founded by Edward III in 1348, the Order of the Garter is England's oldest order of chivalry. Each knight displays his arms, banner and crest (or, if a sovereign ruler, crown) in St George's, and after his death, the banner is taken down, and the crest or crown returns to the custody of Garter King of Arms. This exhibition is a melee of golden crowns, lions, eagles, fabulous beasts and other elements of heraldic design, most of it not seen in public for many years. Famous Knights of the Garter represented include: Sir Winston Churchill; Field-Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke; Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein; the Duke of Windsor; Haile Selassie, the last Emperor of Ethiopia; Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone; the Earl of Longford; Lord Shackleton and Lord Wilson of Rievaulx. Further information and a selection of the crests can be found on the College Of Arms web site via the link from the Heritage section of ExhibitionsNet. Earl Marshal's Court, College Of Arms until 27th September.
The Falkirk Wheel, which opened recently, is the world's first rotating boat lift. The £17m Wheel is part of the £78m Millennium Link project to link Scotland's Forth and Clyde Union canals. The 115 foot high steel structure replaces a series of 19th century lock gates long since demolished. It re-establishes coast to coast navigation of the canals for the first time in over 35 years. In addition to the actual Wheel, the project required the of building an aqueduct and a tunnel - the first canal tunnel to be built in Britain for over 100 years - to protect woodland and the scheduled monument of the Roman Antonine Wall, as well as the main Glasgow to Edinburgh railway line 50 feet above. At each end of the Wheel are caissons able to lift 300 tonnes of boat and water - about eight craft at a time. The journey from the mooring basin below to the aqueduct above takes 15 minutes. Visitors can "ride" the Wheel in a boat, or watch it in action from the adjoining visitor centre. Further information about the Wheel, its design and construction, and 2 live webcams can be found on The Falkirk Wheel web site via the Attractions section of ExhibitionsNet. The Falkirk Wheel continuing.
The Wernher Collection is one of the finest and most unusual 19th century mixed art collections in the world. Sir Julius Wernher was a millionaire diamond importer with a passion for collecting, and this is reflected in the eclectic mix on display. Over 650 exhibits range across jewellery, bronze, ivory, tapestry, furniture, porcelain and paintings. Among the highlights is what is believed to be the largest collection of Renaissance jewellery in the country, which includes a gold and opal encrusted pendant in the shape of a lizard adorned with rubies for its collar and tongue. The paintings include old masters by Francesco Francia, Filippino Lippi, Hans Memling and Gabriel Metsu, and English portraits by Reynolds, Romney and Hoppner. There are also carved medieval, Byzantine and Renaissance ivories, Limoges enamels and Sevres porcelain. The most unusual items are enamelled skulls, and a miniature coffin complete with 3D skeleton. Ranger's House, Greenwich until 23rd December.
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. Since last year the courtyard has had a makeover, with fountains placed to represent the position of the stars at the birth of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the Academy's first President, creating a new exhibition space, which features a giant snowman by Gary Hume. Following Peter Blake's changes last year, works are divided into categories of Royal Academicians, Honorary Academicians, Invited Artists and Submissions, and hung in different rooms, thus separating professionals from amateurs. This year's senior hanger, sculptor Bryan Kneale, has gone further, increasing the prominence of sculpture over painting, so it now encompasses four rooms, including works by Ivor Abrahams, Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, and the exhibition 'signature' shop window mannequins by Allen Jones. Under the aegis of Will Alsop, even the architecture display has gone 3D, with more models and fewer drawings on show. Unfortunately this dash for 21st century, instead of enhancing the best qualities of the original, has the effect of turning it into a poor imitation of the Turner Prize. As our American cousins say "Baby/bathwater - you do the math".Royal Academy of Arts until 19th August.
Seeing Things: Photographing Objects 1850-2001 is a whistle stop tour of some of the best known and most unusual images in the history of photography. It surveys the range of ways photographers have interpreted objects and people to compose a memorable image, including as museum specimens, direct facsimiles, Surrealist surprises, natural history, found objects, impossible objects, domestic details, personal accessories and advertising. Sometimes a single frame can immortalise a whole era, such as Lewis Morley's nude portrait of Christine Keeler astride that '60s chair, displayed here along with the original contact sheet - and the chair. With everything from early Daguerreotypes to contemporary digital images, this exhibition takes in the full spectrum of documentary, fine art, advertising and portraiture. Among the photographers whose works are featured are Eugene Atget, Julia Margaret Cameron, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helen Chadwick, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Andre Kertesz, Richard Prince and Man Ray. Victoria & Albert Museum until 18th August.
Matisse Picasso brings together major works by the two giants of modern art, who between them originated many of the most significant developments of 20th century painting and sculpture. The exhibition provides an opportunity to compare and contrast Matisse's expressive use of colour and line, alongside Picasso's stylistic virtuosity through a series of over thirty groupings of paintings and sculpture. Juxtapositions of portrait, still life and landscape, demonstrate both their affinities and their differences. The show traces the artists intricate relationship from its beginnings in Paris in 1906, when they first met regularly in the studio of the collectors Gertrude and Leo Stein, to the period after Matisse's death in 1954, when Picasso paid tribute to him in his work, both directly and indirectly. In spite of their initial rivalry, each artist came to acknowledge the other as his only true equal, and in old age they became increasingly close personally, and increasingly important to each other artistically. The largest part of the exhibition is devoted to the early years, when there was open rivalry between them leading to intense creative innovation, which produced some of the greatest art of the century. Tate Modern until 18th August.