Private View held by Richard Andrews
Royal Beasts tells the story of the exotic animals that once lived in the capital's fortress. The Royal Menagerie was founded during the reign of King John in 1210, and almost 300 animals of over 60 different species lived there during a period of over 600 years. Exotic animals were given as royal gifts and animals were kept for the entertainment and curiosity of the court. The first royal beasts to arrive - lion, polar bear and elephant - came from Europe and North Africa, but as more of the world was discovered, the variety of animals widened to include tigers, monkeys, leopards, grizzly bears, zebra, alligators, kangaroos and ostriches. The exhibition reveals how the building would have looked before the animals left in 1832, and explores some of their stories through interactive displays, showing how they lived, what they smelt like - and what happened when they escaped. It tells how the experience of the Royal Menagerie was often not a very happy one - for either the animals or the visitors. Relying on hearsay rather than knowledge, animals were sometimes mistreated (an ostrich died after being fed 80 nails by visitors because it was believed to be able to digest iron), and since the animals roamed freely, visitors often had their possessions snatched, and were sometimes attacked by lions or tigers, resulting in the loss of limbs or lives. When the Royal Menagerie was finally closed down most of the remaining animals were transferred to the newly opened London Zoo. Accompanying the exhibition contemporary artist Kendra Haste has created life-size sculptures of some of the royal beasts. Tower Of London, continuing.
Imagination And Reality: The Art Of Arthur Ransome comprises drawings and illustrations by the author of the famous children's series Swallows and Amazons. These children's tales of adventure, camping, sailing and piracy in the Lake District remain enduringly popular, despite the passage of time since they were originally published in the 1930s. The author, Arthur Ransome, illustrated the series of books himself, developing a unique and recognisable style of pen and ink drawings. This exhibition celebrates his work, and provides an opportunity to discover features around Coniston Water that were incorporated into Ransome's imaginary landscapes. The inspiration for Swallows and Amazons and other of his most famous works grew from the many summers he spent holidaying with the Collingwood family at Lanehead. Ransome returned again and again to Coniston Water because of its power to excite and inspire the imagination. In doing so, he made the landscape his own in a way which enabled millions of others to make it their own. Arthur Ransome chose to illustrate his own books after rejecting the work of professional illustrators commissioned for the first and second editions. In the process he developed a distinctive minimal and highly selective style, which invites the reader to construct their own picture and populate it with detail. Brantwood, Conniston, until 4th September.
Bell Epoque: 30 Years Of Steve Bell features examples of the legendary political cartoonist's work over a period that spans Margaret Thatcher to David Cameron. Steve Bell's attacking style has earned him the respect and admiration not only of his peers, but even of commentators politically opposed to him. His uninhibited inventiveness can be scatological but is always witty and finely honed. The exhibition comprises over 200 of Bell's leader cartoons, strip cartoons and comic pages produced for the Guardian and other periodicals. The works document many of the major events of our age: Thatcherism, the Falklands War, the Poll Tax, the death of Princess Diana, the rise of New Labour, the Iraq War, the war on terror, the international banking crisis and the coalition government. His viewpoint is one that takes the consternation of his audience and elucidates it in cartoons that are works of art in their own right. However, what marks Bell out as the leading cartoonist of his generation, is that in addition to iconic images poking fun of political leaders, such as John Major in his underpants and George Bush as a chimpanzee, he has a sensitivity that enables him to capture the grief of tragic events with unsentimental poignancy. Ronald Searle has said that Bell is in the true tradition of Thomas Gillray. The Cartoon Museum, London, until 24th July.
Festival Of Britain 60th Anniversary celebrations are spread over the entire 21 acre Southbank site. The outdoor festival experience is divided into four distinct 'lands', which take their inspiration from some of the themes of the 1951 South Bank exhibition: People of Britain, Land of Britain, Sea and Ships and Power and Production. The artists, designers and curators involved in creating the lands include Ben Kelly, Michael Marriott, Colette Bailey and Clare Cumberlidge. Visitors can find out about the Festival in the Museum of 1951 in the Royal Festival Hall, featuring memorabilia, artworks, personal histories, models, memories and photographs, including the newly restored 'Patchwork of the Century', which showcased political and social achievements of women during the previous 100 years; John Piper's 'The Englishman's Home', the 50ft mural celebrating English architecture; 2 panels from Feliks Topolski's 'Cavalcade of the Commonwealth' mural; and Reg Butler's sculpture 'Birdcage', the only surviving artworks from the Festival. Outdoors, visitors can go on a seaside holiday by the river, where there is a 70m urban beach and 14 artist commissioned beach huts; relax at the bar/cafe in a new garden on the rooftop of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, created in partnership with the Eden Project; visit the British countryside and its wildlife, including a giant straw fox; enjoy traditional vintage funfair rides, including Austin cars and a helter skelter; cool off in Jeppe Hein's Appearing Rooms fountain; listen to live music on the bandstand in Southbank Centre Square; have their 4D image encapsulated in crystal, or a memento photograph taken on a Royal Ensign motorbike and sidecar; and eat and drink al fresco at weekly markets and pop-up structures across the site, including a retro fish and chip van, a popcorn tricycle, and the Bombay beach-inspired cafe Dishoom Chowpatty Beach. Southbank, London until 4th September.
Atkinson Grimshaw Painter Of Moonlight is the first major exhibition in over 30 years devoted to self-taught Victorian artist. The exhibition charts John Atkinson Grimshaw's career from his early Pre-Raphaelite paintings of the 1860s, to the series of tiny, subtly toned oil paintings, produced at the end of his life, which captured the extraordinary light of sun, snow and mist on the beach - small symphonies in green and grey that link him with his friend and close contemporary, James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Grimshaw defied his strictly religious parents and left a good job with the railway to become an artist. He rapidly made a name for himself as a painter, first for Pre Raphaelite style landscapes, and then for his interpretation of the Victorian city and the new urban experience of its inhabitants, in nocturnal urban scenes, with distinctive leafless trees silhouetted against the moonlit sky. Grimshaw was not afraid to experiment, making theatrical fairy paintings and allegorical portraits of fashionable women, who could as easily have stepped out of a painting by the French artist Tissot. The exhibition brings together over 50 major works, including 'Silver Moonlight', 'In the Gloaming (A Yorkshire Home)', 'Blea Tarn, First Light', 'The Bowder Stone, Borrowdale', 'Autumn Glory: the Old Mill Cheshire', 'Leeds Bridge', 'October Gold', In Peril' and 'Sic Transit Gloria Mundi'. Also included in the show are Grimshaw's sketchbook and photograph album, which illuminate his research techniques, and newly discovered family photographs, which reveal his private life: his tenderness towards his children, his love of nature and his sense of fun. Mercer Gallery, Harrogate, until 4th September.
At Home in Japan - Beyond The Minimal House aims to question the widespread Western stereotype of the minimal Japanese house, characterised by large empty spaces devoid of people and things. The exhibition goes behind the doors of contemporary urban homes to find out how private domestic lives are actually lived in Japan today. It re-evaluates contemporary Japanese life through an ethnographic lens, re-examining a variety of aspects of the home, from decoration, display, furniture and the tatami mat, to eating, sleeping, 'gifting', cleaning, hygiene, and worship. The display recreates the layout of a standard urban apartment, with an entrance hall, a 'western style' room, tatami room, bathroom, and, finally, the LDK - living-dining-kitchen - area, the largest communal space inside the home. Each of the rooms is filled with a selection of the everyday possessions with which inhabitants might surround themselves. Through an active engagement with these day-to-day spaces and objects, visitors can not only experience a degree of what it feels like to be at home in contemporary Japan, but also to encounter another culture on an empathetic level, instead of gazing at and imagining its exotic nature from a distance. The exhibition is based on original ethnographic research by Dr Inge Daniels from Oxford University, carried out over a one year period inside 30 urban homes in the Kansai region (including Kobe, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka), and project specific photography by Susan Andrews from London Metropolitan University. Geffrye Museum, Hoxton, London, until 29th August.
Out Of This World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It explores science fiction through literature, film, illustration and sound. The exhibition traces the development of the genre from True History by Lucian of Samosata written in the 2nd century AD to the recent writings of Cory Doctorow and China Mieville, and shows and how visions of the future have evolved. It also examines how science fiction is distinct from other related genres such as fantasy and horror. Highlights include Thomas More's Utopia, which coined the word that became the name of the ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in his book; Lucian's True History, depicting a group of adventurers setting out on a sea voyage, visiting a number of fantastical lands, who, lifted up by a giant waterspout, are deposited on the Moon; Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race, about a subterranean world occupied by advanced beings, the Vril-ya, who use a substance Vril as an energy source that makes them powerful and potentially dangerous to the Earth - together with an original advertisement for Bovril (which derived its name from 'Vril'); Luigi Serafini's Codex Seraphinius, an encyclopedia of an imaginary world, in an imaginary language, which is as yet undeciphered, describing both the natural world, dealing with flora, fauna and physics, and the various aspects of human life: clothing, history, cuisine, and architecture; and H G Wells's The War of the Worlds, one of the earliest stories that details a conflict between mankind and an alien race, which is also variously interpreted as a critique of evolutionary theory, British imperialism, and Victorian fears and prejudices. British Library until 25th September.
Peter Blake: Museum For Myself is the first exhibition following a refurbishment and extension that has seen the museum's 18th century classical building restored, and joined by a contemporary building with a ceramic and glass facade, designed by Eric Parry. This has doubled its space, allowing an improvement in all aspects of the museum's departments and services, including exhibitions, collection, library, teaching, cafe and shop. The exhibition combines many of the extraordinary objects from Peter Blake's personal collection with some of his important works, exploring the creative relationship that he has with this cabinet of curiosities. Blake's astonishing collections include Victorian collage and folk art, pop ephemera, works by his artist friends, showbiz autographs and marching troupes of toy elephants. They embrace such strange and wonderful things as General Tom Thumb's boots, Max Miller's shoes and Ian Dury's Rhythm Stick. Works by Blake from throughout his career include pioneering pieces such as 'Locker', with its collage of images of Brigitte Bardot; collages of found objects including the title work 'A Museum for Myself', an arrangement of some of his favourite things; and more recent works such as 'Elvis Shrine', and his series of 'Museums of Black and White'. Arranged around him in his West London studio Blake's collection offers a kaleidoscopic mirror of his mind and obsessions that have been reflected in his work for decades: stuffed animals in tableau from Mr Potter's Museum of Curiosities; Punch and Judy Puppets; the paraphernalia of the fairground; souvenirs of the wrestlers and pop-stars who feature in his art; and the waxwork of Sonny Liston, which features on the cover of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper album, Blake's most famous work. Holburne Museum, Bath, until 4th September.
Women War Artists explores the experiences and achievements of female war artists from the First World War to the present day. The exhibition examines the importance of women artists as eyewitnesses, participants, commentators and officially commissioned recorders of war, considering their experiences both in theatres of conflict and at home. The artists' experiences range from official commissions to secret observations and provocative interpretations of the world at war, capturing and interpreting key moments in history through art. Organised into three different themes, War Zone, Working Together, and Costs Of War, the exhibition shows the diversity of the artists' reactions to war and conflict. Personal reflections from some of the artists provide an insight into how war has shaped their lives. Among the highlights are 'A Shell Forge' by Anna Airy, one of the first women officially commissioned during the First World War; Priscilla Thornycroft's 'Runaway Horse in an Air Raid Alarm 1939', on public display for the first time; 'The Nuremberg Trial' and 'Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech-ring' by Laura Knight, the first woman for 150 years to be elected to the Royal Academy; Doris Zinkeisen's 'Human Laundry, Belsen, April 1945', arguably the most powerful of all works that emerged from the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp; works by Linda Kitson, the first female artist officially commissioned to accompany troops in battle, in the Falklands conflict; and Frauke Eigen's photographs of the exhumation of mass graves in Kosovo. Imperial War Museum until 8th January.
Robot - A Collection of Robots, Cyborgs and Androids brings together a group of robots in all their guises, some are friendly, others helpful, and a few simply scary. The exhibition encompasses full size robots, robot parts, film props, and promotional costumes and toys, plus collectible robot models. Visitors have the opportunity to come face to face with some of the metal stars of the big screen such as the Planet Robot, thought to be inspired by Robby the Robot from the Hollywood movie Forbidden Planet; a vintage Robocop and a B9 robot torso made by Andy Shaw, the original Dalek builder; Fem-bots represented by the beautiful Grace; a promotional battle droid; a rare Sonny, who starred alongside Will Smith in the film I, Robot; R.A.D. personal robots as featured on Tomorrow's World; and the famous Scooter 2000; plus The Terminator and Judge Dred. In addition to the exhibition, 'Riveting Robots' workshops with robots to make, art and craft activities and prizes to win in robot themed party games, plus a giant robot sculpture to make and a have-a-go obstacle using radio controlled robots, will take place during school holidays and bank holiday weekends. The Historic Dockyard Chatham until 17th June.
David Hockney: Bigger Trees Near Warter is the first time this huge painting has been seen outside London. 'Bigger Trees Near Warter', is the largest painting David Hockney has ever produced, and measures 40ft wide and 15ft high (12m by 4m). Featuring two copses, a huge sycamore tree, buildings and early flowering daffodils, the painting in oils is comprised of 50 individual canvas panels, and takes inspiration from a site at Warter in the Yorkshire Wolds. It was painted 'en plein air' (outside) in 6 weeks - 3 weeks preparation and 3 weeks of furious painting before the arrival of spring changed the composition. Hockney used digital technology to help him complete the work, creating a computer mosaic of the picture that enabled him to 'step back' and see it as a whole. Thus the painting neatly combines a return by Hockney to his Yorkshire roots, with his continuing exploration of new technology. Films, including Bruno Wollheim's documentary A Bigger Picture, showing Hockney at work, are being shown in the same gallery, alongside additional information on how Hockney created this incredible painting. York Art Gallery until 12th June.
Watteau: The Drawings is the first major retrospective of drawings by the influential 18th century French artist. Drawing lay at the heart of Jean-Antoine Watteau's creative process. He prized his drawings and kept them in bound volumes which enabled him to refer to them when composing his paintings, as they were an essential source of inspiration for figure poses. Although Watteau worked in red chalk throughout his career, represented here by 'The Shipwreck' and 'Interior of a Draper's Shop', he is best known for his 'trois crayons' technique, the subtle manipulation and expert balancing of red, black and white. This exhibition of some 80 drawings demonstrates the breadth of Watteau's oeuvre and his lightness of touch, including 'fetes galantes', the genre he invented, which depicted social gatherings of elegant people in parkland settings. Watteau made drawings of figures in poses that were charming, ambiguous and natural. The subjects depicted in his drawings varied enormously from the joyous spirit of fantasy as depicted in 'Woman on a Swing, Seen from the Back', to his theatrical works inspired by the commedia dell'arte, 'Two studies of Mezzetin and a Pierrot', to the highly exotic, portrayed in works such as 'Seated Persian Wearing a Turban', and to the itinerant, 'Standing Savoyard'. Watteau is renowned as a painter, and although he executed drawings initially for their own sake, he reproduced many of his drawn figures in his paintings. The figure of a 'Woman on a Swing, Seen from the Back', features in his oil on canvas 'The Shepherds'. Watteau's influence was profound, pre-empting the spirit of the French Rococo and foreshadowing the work of the Impressionists in execution and treatment of colour. His work both as a draughtsman and as a painter influenced subsequent generations of French artists, notably Francois Boucher and Jean-Honore Fragonard. Royal Academy of Arts until 5th June.