Private View held by Richard Andrews
Rapture: Art's Seduction By Fashion Since 1970 does exactly what it says on the tin, exploring the process by which the cancer of fashion and celebrity has eaten away at the body of art over the past 30 years. It features painting, photography, sculpture, installation and video, with works by 45 key British and American artists responsible for this process. 'Historical' figures include Nan Goldin, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Duggie Fields and Cindy Sherman. Most of the exhibition however is devoted to figures who have emerged in the last ten years, including star Young British Artists Tracey Emin, Sarah Morris and Jake and Dinos Chapman. It opens with Marc Quinn's life-size sculpture of Kate Moss wearing an Alexander McQueen dress, produced for a project commissioned by Vogue, and concludes with New York artist E V Day's specially made 'exploded dress' piece.
LaChapelle: Photographs is the first British exhibition of work by the cult American fashion and portrait photographer, whose unique blend of surrealism and kitsch has changed the direction of fashion and portrait photography over the past decade. David LaChapelle endeavours to capture popular icons as they have never been seen before: Madonna becomes an ethereal goddess served by three white swans, and Britney Spears is a glamorous Lolita in a bedroom full of stuffed toys. The exhibition also includes portraits of Alexander McQueen, Naomi Campbell and (inevitably) David Beckham. The Barbican Art Gallery until 23rd 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.
Americans is a celebration of Americans and American history through portraits from the painting and photographic collections of the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. An astonishing diversity of subjects, from George and Martha Washington to Martha Graham and Audrey Hepburn, are recorded in a similarly diverse ways, from quintessentially staid 18th century portraits to arty 20th century photographs. Perhaps the one thing that these forms and faces share is a certain air of determination - a sense of the true grit of the frontier settler. There are representatives who have shaped every facet of American history, with Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln, Generals Custer and Sherman, Paul Revere and Davy Crockett, P.T. Barnum and Tom Thumb, Henry James and Mark Twain, George Gershwin and Tallulah Bankhead. For the early artists there were no art schools in America, and Charles Peale began as a saddle maker, graduated to sign writing, and was sent to London to study. His path was followed by Gilbert Stuart, who made an entire career out of painting George Washington, and John Singleton Copley, the most innovative of the group. An interesting accompaniment to the recent exhibition of heroic American landscapes. National Portrait Gallery until 12th January.
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.
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.
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.
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.