Private View held by Richard Andrews
The Darwin Centre is a dramatic new attempt to provide public access to one of the world's greatest collections of 54 million animal and plant specimens, 80% of which have previously only been seen by researchers. The £27m new building allows visitors to go behind the scenes, meet and talk to some of the 350 the scientists in their working environment, and ask questions about the items, which range from komodo dragons to plankton. It is called the Spirit Collection, as most of the 22 million specimens are in glass jars pickled in spirit alcohol, including 200,000 reptiles, 2m fish, 2m molluscs and 3m crustaceans. The collection has its origins in materials brought back from Australia by Captain Cook in 1768, and by Charles Darwin from his voyage on The Beagle in 1836. There are also video links to other laboratories and field stations around the world, so that visitors can see experimental work actually taking place. A second phase, giving similar access to the 'dry exhibits' of plants and insects in the Botany and Entomology departments will open in 2007, by which time 80% of the collection will be available to the public. There are guided tours and talks by curators every day, plus regular live webcasts on the NHM web site, which can be found via the link opposite. Natural History Museum continuing.
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.
Turner At Tate Britain expands what is already the finest exhibition of works by JMW Turner, one of Britain's greatest painters. Ten new displays of over 200 works are grouped around the themes of tourism, myths, landscape and the sublime. They include well known treasures such as Hannibal and his army crossing the Alps, and Self portrait, together with some works never before exhibited, many hung without frames. The gallery owns hundreds of oil paintings and thousands of watercolours by Turner, which were bequeathed to the nation in 1856. The collection also includes everything left in the artist's studio when he died. As well as finished oils and watercolours, the collection contains a wealth of unfinished and preparatory works. These document Turner's working methods and techniques, and offer an insight into his prolific career and extensive travels. Tate Britain continuing.
Painting, Passion and Politics: Masterpieces From The Walpole Collection is an exhibition of paintings with an unusual history. Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister, assembled one of the 18th century's most famous art collections for his estate at Houghton Hall in Norfolk. While in office, Walpole hung many of the pictures in 10 Downing Street. In 1778 his mercenary grandson caused a scandal by selling 204 works from the collection to Catherine the Great. This exhibition presents 34 of those paintings, most returning to England for the first time in over 200 years. Among these are works by 17th century Flemish, Dutch and Italian masters such as Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Frans Snyders, Guido Reni, Carlo Maratti and Salvator Rosa. In addition there are paintings by Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, plus a work by Bartolome Murillo in its original frame designed for Houghton by William Kent. The paintings are accompanied by Renaissance sculpture, 18th century furniture and other materials acquired for Houghton Hall. Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House until 23rd February.
The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the rise and fall of the British Empire. It covers the period from the early voyages of exploration in the 16th century, through the height of Empire in the late 1800s, to the break up of Empire and the emergence of the Commonwealth in the second half of the 20th century. £8m of private funds has been spent on its creation, and the restoration of the Grade 1 listed Old Station building, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, in which it is housed. The sixteen galleries are broken down into three phases: Britain Builds An Empire, has a wide range of objects from around the world, including porcelain, silks and furs, and a reconstruction of a Regency merchant's home in Britain, showing the influence of world trade. The Rise Of Victoria's Empire, features a huge painting of the Delhi Durbar, plus rare footage of the 1902 Durbar, a 10ft Victorian Clock Tower representing the standardization by the British of weights, measures, currency and time in the Empire, a recreation of a 19th century Missionary Chapel, and a Trompe L'oeil depicting an Imperial exhibition. End Of Empire, includes rare film showing aspects of colonial life in Africa and India in the 20's and 30's, and an installation with personal reflections on life in the colonies and immigration to Britain. The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum, Bristol continuing.
The Crystal Palace - Reinventing The Chandelier is a collection of chandeliers commissioned from some of the world's most innovative designers by Swarovski, the Austrian crystal company. As the nights draw in the lights go on, and among this spectacular collection are: Blossom, a crystal replica of a bough of blossom created by the Dutch product designer Tord Boontje, and Glitterbox, a contemporary reworking of an Art Deco boxed chandelier made by the Austrian designer Georg Baldele. Also on display is Crystal Frock, a model of a full-skirted fairytale frock made in pale pink crystals by the Dutch designer Hella Jongerius. Design Museum until 5th January.
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.
In Splendid Isolation is a 'through the looking glass' experience, with new works by Helen Maurer and Sarah Woodfine which play with perception and illusion. Helen Maurer explores the properties of light and glass, using overhead projectors and fibre optics to create scenes. Everyday glass objects and layers of glass sheets are arranged on projectors and shelves, so that the light source casts or reflects an image onto a wall. Sarah Woodfine's meticulous pencil drawings of buildings play with perspective, slipping between two and three-dimensional realities. These include flat-pack models of Tudor-style barns and cottages, which are not fully functional and point toward an illogical place - a shadowy realm where apparitions reach out and unspeakable terrors lie behind their two dimensional walls. Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth until 19th October.
Japanese Prints During The Allied Occupation 1945-1952 shows how Japan recovered culturally after its disastrous defeat in the Pacific War in 1945. It examines how one school of printmakers, under the leadership of Onchi Koshiro, found themselves as artists among the spokesmen for a new search for the nation's heart in its aesthetic traditions. Connoisseurs among the occupying forces and administrators rapidly appreciated their work, and an important part of this process was the meeting of Onchi and his circle, together with another artist Munakata Shiko, and the American graphic artist Ernst Hacker. This exhibition is principally comprised of material collected by Hacker at that time, including prints, printed books, archives and contemporary photographs, which were recently acquired by the museum and are on public display for the first time. By 1952, when the Allied Occupation ended, Onchi and Munakata were being eagerly collected in the USA. The two are now recognised throughout the world as Japan's greatest 20th century print artists, but it was the Americans who introduced them to the world. This exhibition provides an opportunity not only to see their works, but also to appreciate Japanese society in the transitional period under the Allied Occupation. British Museum until 1st December.
Over The Rainbow: Selected Works By Peter Blake is an update on the recently knighted (and unbelievably 70 year old) grandfather of British pop art. Since his retrospective at the National Gallery six years ago, Blake apparently considers himself in semi retirement, producing only small shows which he calls 'encores'. This particular encore, which is the first exhibition of his own material Blake has curated outside London, focuses on printed works. His images are fuelled by a love affair with the ephemera of consumer culture from the 19th century to the present day. Blake is best known for the brightly coloured works he created during the 1960s, which conjure up the vitality and excitement of Carnaby Street and Swinging London. The silkscreen prints, which mix newer work with the familiar, include his celebrations of the Fab Four, and his series of images of bikini clad 1960s fantasy girl Bobbie The Babe. There is also the first wood engraving he created after leaving college. Harley Gallery, Worksop 01909 501700 until 13th October.
Mackintosh In France is an unusual exhibition of watercolours by the architect, designer and polymath Charles Rennie Mackintosh. These were created in the final years of his life, which he spent in the South of France. Dividing his time between the coast at Port Vendres and the Pyrenean mountains, he devoted himself to painting, producing a series of over 40 landscapes. These works record the man made and natural landscapes of the area, distilled through an architect and designer's eye. The Mackintosh House Gallery at The Hunterian Glasgow until 12th October.
Gio Ponti - A World celebrates the achievements of one of the most influential European architects and designers of 20th century. A painter, poet, writer and teacher, as well as an architect and designer, Ponti led Italy's post war design renaissance. He also founded and edited the much respected architecture magazine Domus. Sixty years of work in thirteen countries spanned the extravagant Villa Planchart in Caracas (known as the Butterfly House) to the La Pavoni espresso machine that came to symbolise La Dolce Vita in the 1950s. Along the way, it took in stage sets and costumes for La Scala Milan; the Casino at San Remo, decorated with enormous playing car motifs; Murano glassware; the elegant Superleggera Chair, which is still in production after 40 years; Taranto Cathedral, conceived as 'a sail'; the interiors of four liners; and the recently newsworthy Pirelli Tower, dubbed 'Europe's first true skyscraper' in Milan. Ponti was influential not just because he was so prolific, but because much of his work was in collaboration with other artists, designers and craftsmen. Design Museum until 6th October.