Private View held by Richard Andrews
Guy Bourdin is the first retrospective of the influential French photographer known for dramatic fashion photographs, which owe more to documentary reportage than high gloss. Instead of the studio shot or glamorous location, his pictures look like Crime Scene Investigation officers have taken them in situations where the victim just happened to be wearing expensive clothes. In one, even the body has been removed, leaving just the chalk outline and the shoes. Bourdin was at the height of his career from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s, when he was working predominantly for French Vogue and Charles Jourdan shoes. An aura of voyeuristic violence, fear and cruelty surrounded his work, and a genuine unease is discernable in the models featured - although he often cropped their heads from the picture. Bourdin's 'colourful' personal life only added to the legend, not least because of the attempted and successful suicides of a number of the women with whom he was involved. As well as the photographs themselves, the display includes films made on fashion shoots revealing how he worked. There are also photographs, slides and notebook pages which record the images that Bourdin chased throughout his life, offering an insight into the his unrelenting mission to shape his experiences into a visual form. Both the character and the images used in the film The Eyes Of Laura Mars, about a fashion photographer who recreates visions of murders, owe a great deal to Bourdin. Victoria & Albert Museum until 17th August.
Thames At War: Secrets, Spies And Spitfires gives an insight into the strategic importance of the Thames during the Second World War, and highlights the significant role played by the people who lived and worked alongside it. Photos, artefacts and audio and video recordings tell the stories of the riverside armed forces, volunteers and communities mobilised to assist in the defence of the nation and in war production. Many of the legendary Little Ships that evacuated stranded troops from the beaches at Dunkirk were Thames cruisers belonging to houses backing on to the river. As the war progressed small boat building firms switched to producing military craft such as motor torpedo boats and air sea rescue launches. The local people were recruited into The Upper Thames Patrol, which stood by for a mission to blow up all the bridges if an enemy invasion took place. Large country houses along the Thames Valley housed key military operations, such as Danesfield House, which was the Central Interpretation Unit for the RAF's photographic reconnaissance work, and Caversham Park, which was home to the BBC Monitoring Service. River & Rowing Museum, Henley on Thames until 2nd November.
Arthur's Ark: A Silver Bestiary offers an opportunity to take a close look at some of the extraordinary birds and beasts in Sir Arthur Gilbert's silver collection, formed over four decades by a passion for great English and continental craftsmanship. Exhibits range from a life-size swan table centre made in England, to a tiny Indian rhinoceros which decorates a rare rhino horn cup, probably made in Flanders around 1590. The pieces include a gilded South America parrot made in Germany; an eagle gripping a lamb in its beak curving over a Georgian sauceboat; and lions supporting a pair of Stuart firedogs that once graced a Royal fireplace. The permanent collection features over 300 pieces of silver made between 1500 and 1830, from table settings to items made for religious and political ceremony, including two pairs of Russian Orthodox Church gates and a pair of Indian howdahs - chairs for riding elephants. Gilbert Collection, Somerset House London until 20th May.
Damien Hirst, a retrospective of the man with the formaldehyde is the exhibition which launches what will undoubtedly be the gallery of the year. Charles Saatchi has moved his collection from Boundary Road to the cultural heart of London on the South Bank. It comprises most of Brit Art's best known pieces, from Hirst's sheep, shark and giant anatomical model, to Tracey Emin's bed, not forgetting Marc Quinn's infamous head made of his own refrigerated blood (boasting the urban myth of a meltdown caused by a cleaner turning off the power) all of which Saatchi bought before various furores made them famous - not to say infamous. They are now displayed in what is euphemistically called the Riverside Building, but which most Londoners still call County Hall, home of the former London County and Greater London Councils. The gallery has hoovered up much of the remaining unused parts of the building, from wood panelled and memorial bedecked council chamber, entrance hall and grand staircase, to simple individual offices (and even the boiler house for new artists) and given a welcome simple restoration to the period features. The jury is out as to whether Brit Art sits comfortably in these surroundings, but the general public now has easy and continuing access to the works they have read a great deal about but never actually seen. So as well as all the tanked stuff, here are Hirst's A Thousand Years (see the maggots eat the cow, metamorphose into flies and head into the insect-o-cutor); Spot Mini, a mini car covered in spots (he does exactly what he says on the tin) driving down the stairs; and much more besides. The Emperor's new clothes? At least now everyone can decide for themselves. The Saatchi Gallery, Riverside Building - Damien Hirst until 31st August.
Serial Killers: The Chamber Of Horrors - Live! is a new live action 'extreme scream' attraction, which has given the legendary Chamber Of Horrors a lethal terror injection, returning to the roots of its original macabre morbidity. The Chamber has been scaring the living daylights out of people for over 200 years, as they came to recoil in horror at wax portraits of the killers of their day. But a simple waxwork of mild mannered Dr Crippen is no longer enough. Visitors can now pass through an arch bearing the inscription "Abandon hope all ye who enter here" and into a cage that descends to the depths of this hell of incarceration. Here they find themselves in a maximum-security prison with the most scurrilous and infamous real life serial killers, but where some of the inmates are on the loose - and then the lights go out. Cage Man, Hatchet Harry, The Man In The Mask and their accomplices create mayhem, with dead ends, hidden corners, and unexpected sights, sounds and touches, through which visitors must pass before they can escape to safety again. Naturally the experience is intensified by all the shock techniques that the latest audiovisual and special effects technology can muster. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Madame Tussauds continuing.
Teddy Bear Story - 100 years Of The Teddy Bear commemorates the centenary of both the creation of the first jointed bear by German toy manufacturers Steiff, and American President Theodore Roosevelt's nickname Teddy being associated with the toys - a smart marketing move by a New York store owner. Among over 400 bears, the exhibition features some of the oldest surviving historic teddy bears, as well as several celebrities, including Rupert, Paddington, Winnie the Pooh, Sooty and Aloysius from Brideshead Revisited. Guest bears will make special appearances, such as the original animatronics bear from the film AI, Andy Pandy's friend Teddy, and Alfonzo, a red mohair bear belonging to Princess Xenia of Russia who was marooned at Buckingham Palace when the Russian Revolution began. The exhibition looks at the whole world of teddy bears from the original E H Shepard drawings of Winnie the Pooh to 21st century bears such as the Philippe Starck teddy bear, and Bear from Bear In The Big Blue House, and relates how they have become popular children's characters. It also examines bears doing good works, with Paddington as the mascot for Action Research, and BBC Children In Need's Pudsey. A display showing how bears are made highlights the particular characteristics given to teddies by individual manufacturers, and how they differ in countries around the world. A series of accompanying special events will be held for arctophiles - teddy bear collectors. Museum Of Childhood, Bethnal Green until 31st December.
Marilyn Monroe - Life Of A Legend is the world premiere of the biggest ever exhibition devoted to the life of the ultimate screen icon. Showcasing more than 250 works from over 70 artists and photographers, alongside films and memorabilia, it charts every stage of Monroe's life and career, both public and private. Works on display include pieces by Andy Warhol, Allan Jones, Peter Blake, Richard Avedon and Henri Cartier-Bresson, as well as previously unseen works by Conny Holthusen, Antonio de Felipe, Jose de Guimares and Ernesto Tatafiore. Accompanying the art and photography is a selection of music and film clips, plus personal memorabilia provided by Cooper Owen, the world's leading celebrity memorabilia auctioneers. This ranges from Monroe's costume from the film Bus Stop and the diamonds that were a girl's best friend, to the dress and jewellery worn on her first date with Joe DiMaggio, and a drawing she did when she was still Norma Jeane. The County Hall Gallery until 14th September.
Boys At Sea brings together costumes, documents, instruments, paintings and prints to reveal the lives of the cabin boys - some as young as 12 - who formed part of the crew of a sailing ship in the time of Captain Cook. It is staged in the museum which is located in the 18th century ship owner's house in which James Cook lodged while apprenticed to Captain John Walker, where he learnt his seaman's skills. It looks out across the harbour to the shipyards where later, the ships in which Cook sailed on his famous voyages of discovery, Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure, and Discovery would be built. The ground floor rooms are furnished according to an inventory of items in the house in 1751, as Cook would have known them. The other rooms contain a collection of artefacts relating to Cook's life and career, including paintings and prints, ship plans and maps, manuscripts and letters, as well as objects such as Captain Walker's own copy of A Voyage Towards The South Pole - Cook's account of his second voyage - a travelling desk, and models of some of the ships. Recent acquisitions include William Hodges 'A View In The Island Of Madeira', and two pastel portraits of Captain William Bligh and his wife. Hodges was the official artist on Cook's second voyage, and Bligh sailed as master on Cook's third voyage. Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby until 31st October.
Blinky Palermo is the first major solo exhibition in Britain for the man who was himself as much a creation as his work. Born Peter Schwarze in Germany in 1943, he assumed the name of the American boxing promoter and mafioso figure Blinky Palermo at the suggestion of Joseph Beuys whilst studying under him at the Dusseldorf school of art in 1964. Palermo produced an important body of work between then and his premature death in 1977. He experimented with non-traditional forms of painting, extending its format from two-dimensional canvases to three-dimensional architectural environments, and shifting from the medium of paint to found materials. This exhibition includes his speciality 'fabric paintings', which consist of coloured fabrics sewn together in horizontal bands mounted on stretchers; and 'objects' - irregularly-shaped materials or canvases and supports which are painted or covered in coloured plastic tape; as well as paintings on paper, steel and aluminium; plus sketches related to many of his wall drawings, produced for temporary exhibitions and private homes. A unique opportunity to view the work of a rare talent. Serpentine Gallery until 18th May.
Will Alsop And Bruce McLean: Two Chairs is the first exhibition to present the results of a unique ongoing collaboration between architect Will Alsop and artist Bruce McLean. Alsop is an architect with a painterly eye, who follows no single theoretical school, and believes that to build is to exercise the heart rather than the intellect. McLean is a sculptor who has moved into performance art, painting, prints, ceramics and furniture design. For over twenty years they have been enjoying annual creative encounters in Spain, aiming to discover forms and relations that feed their individual disciplines. These meetings in Malagarba on the island of Minorca have produced a series of dramatic large-scale highly colourful 3D abstract paintings, and architectural sized sculptural works. McLean's boldness of spirit and risk, combined with Alsop's organic and playful architectural resolutions, make an exhibition that is fluid, experimental and spontaneous. The Two Chairs of the title refers not only to the inclusion of two identical wooden chairs in photographs of their joint works, which they use to establish scale, but also to the fact that both these eminent anti-establishment figures hold professorial chairs in major academic institutions. Cube Manchester 0161 237 5525 until 8th May.
Flower Power is the first major exhibition to explore the symbolism of flowers. It surveys five hundred years of visual and decorative arts, from the spiritual symbolism of early religious art to tulipomania in 17th century Holland, and from intricate botanical illustration to vibrant modern art. Flowers are a universal language, and have been used as a symbol of life, beauty and death throughout the centuries, and by many cultures. This exhibition looks at the meaning of flowers through paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, metalwork, jewellery, books and manuscripts. It examines the way in which flowers have acquired meanings in different cultures, and been adopted by both Western Christianity and Eastern religions. Illustrating the differences and commonality between cultures and faiths, it shows how the meanings of flowers have remained constant through the years or changed according to the society of the time. Over 130 exhibits span old masters by Caravaggio, Michaelangelo, Van Dyck and van Huysum, iconic twentieth century works by Howard Hodgkin and others, and contemporary contributions by Marc Quinn, Helen Chadwick and Richard Slee. In addition, fresh cut flower arrangements, inspired by the works on display, bring elements of perfume, texture and colour, adding an evocative sensual aspect to the show. Norwich Castle Museum And Art Gallery until 5th May.
Real/Surreal: Photographs By Lee Miller is an exhibition of images showing the full range of the extraordinary personal and commercial portfolio of one of the most remarkable photographers of the twentieth century. Few others have had a career than spans fashion shoots for Vogue and the documentation of concentration camps as an official American army correspondent in the Second World War. Originally a Vogue cover model in New York herself, she fell in love with Surrealist artist Man Ray in the 1920s and moved to Paris. There she rapidly became part of the avant-garde art world, and became associated with many artists, including Picasso, Max Ernst and Roland Penrose. Influenced by Ray, she developed her own unique style - bold, surreal and hard edged, experimenting with floating heads and negative images. Miller carried this approach over into her war pictures, creating images that give the reality of combat a further striking twist of horror. After the war she changed course again, married Penrose and settled in rural Sussex. Whitworth Gallery Manchester until 27th April.