Private View held by Richard Andrews
Madame de Pompadour: Images Of A Mistress illustrates the life of the woman who rose from modest beginnings to become Louis XV's acknowledged mistress and one of the most powerful women of 18th century France. Attractive, educated, highly intelligent and a lavish patron at a time when France dominated the European artistic scene, she employed the best of her country's artists to depict her and to embellish her various residences. This exploration of one of the first examples of social and political 'spin' shows how Madame de Pompadour created an image of herself against a background of increasing domestic and international tensions. The exhibition comprises paintings, sculpture, porcelain, furniture, gems and prints. These include a number of portraits by Boucher (who made a career out of painting her) most notably the study with her back to a mirror, revealing the original Pompadour hairstyle, Carle Vanloo's portrait of her in oriental dress from St Petersburg, Greuze's Simplicity from Fort Worth, and one of her writing desks from Versailles - complete with a secret compartment. National Gallery until 12th January.
The Art of Love: Madame de Pompadour is a companion exhibition which centres on Madame de Pompadour's patronage of the arts and the furnishings of her residences. These reflected the epitome of fashionable taste of the time, and exhibits include lacquer furniture, four painted scenes depicting each of the arts, a gold snuff box with enamelled miniatures, a rock crystal ewer and basin, a design for her chateau at Bellevue, Sevres porcelain tea services and elephant shaped vases, and the pair of Boucher mythological paintings which depict Louis XV as the god Apollo and Madame de Pompadour as the sea nymph Tethys. The Wallace Collection until 5th January.
2D>3D: Contemporary Design For Performance is a showcase for the work of British theatre designers. It aims to demonstrate the process by which the initial two dimensional sketch comes to life in three dimensional reality, with costumes, scale models, photographs, design drawings, story boards, puppets, masks and props. It also features interactive digital displays of lighting designs, so that visitors can run their own scenic and lighting changes. The exhibition includes work created by 151 designers for 217 productions made between 1998 and 2002, across the full range of drama, dance, musicals and opera. These range in scale from the bigger budgets of national and regional theatres, to the more modest achievements in community and educational theatre. There is also a section devoted to new talent with work by theatre design students from major colleges. The event is organised by the Society of British Theatre Designers and is accompanied by an extensive programme of conferences and workshops. Millennium Galleries, Sheffield until 12th January.
London Before London is a new permanent prehistoric gallery, devoted to the story of the 450,000 years from the arrival of the first human species in the Thames valley until the Roman invasion. Items on display include not only human skeletal remains, pottery, wooden vessels, cooking pots, jewellery, coins, tools and weapons, but a mammoth jaw found in Ilford, a hippopotamus vertebra discovered Regent Street, and a rhino tooth unearthed in Brentford. Together they chart both the technological advances made by man, and the changes in climate that resulted in the evolving natural resources, both animal and vegetation, at his disposal. The Thames is central to the story of the people who lived along its banks. It was established as a major artery of communication and trade as long as 6,000 years ago and has provided a rich source of objects preserved in its mud, including a recently discovered boat about 3,500 years old. Human remains and objects usually associated with burials have also been found in the Thames. These suggest the use of the river as a burial site, or as a sacred place to make offerings to the ancestors or gods. A River Wall features almost 400 objects recovered from its banks. Museum Of London continuing.
Bond‚ James Bond celebrates the 40th anniversary of the films based on Ian Fleming's super agent by exploring their science and art, through the greatest collection of original 007 objects‚ images‚ concept drawings‚ storyboards and costume designs ever assembled. From Rosa Klebb's flick-knife shoe, Jaws' teeth and Oddjob's killer bowler hat, through the Aston Martin DB5 (complete with its weaponry), the Acrostar Jet and the Hasselblad Signature Gun, to plans for spectacular stunts, it is a behind the scenes tour of the creative talents and technical wizardry which made them possible. Themed areas include: a mission briefing in M's office, a visit to Q's gadget workshop‚ an interactive death defying stunt, and a mirrored maze in the villain's lair. Science has moved so fast that a number of the fantasy objects of early films, such as mobile phones and satellite tracking devices, are now everyday objects. Others, like the jet plane that folded into a horsebox, and the personal jet pack, have so far eluded practicality. Sadly, a number of the doomsday scenarios envisioned by the villains seem closer to reality too. The good news is however, that the scientific examination of these dastardly plans provided here, reveals that they would be harder to pull off than the villains thought. The Bond exhibition microsite on the Science Museum web site, which can be found via the link opposite, contains all manner of interactive secret agent wizardry. Science Museum until 27th April.
Versace At The V&A is a retrospective of the 30 year career of fashion designer Gianni Versace, which could be considered another milestone on the "Culture Lite" road. An ephemeral industry, which is already treated more seriously than it deserves, receives less scrutiny than it demands. At over 130 items, it the most comprehensive collection of originals from the Versace archives ever exhibited. All the favourites are here: Liz Hurley's safety pin dress, Elton John's check jacket, Linda Evangelista's gold, silver and black second skin outfit, and the shoes Naomi Campbell fell off. They illustrate the various influences at work on Versace, from the grandiose Imperial Greek and Roman, to the works of pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. The result was the most expensive clothing ever worn - trailer trash glamour at haute couture prices. Perhaps better known for the outlandishness, rather than the craft or quality of his designs, Versace certainly caught the mood of the '90s, when a dress could launch a career (and did). In addition to the creations themselves, there is also documentary footage of the life and career of the master of conspicuous consumption. Whether he genuinely deserves a place here alongside William Morris, or this is just a cheap marketing ploy by the V&A is debatable. Victoria & Albert Museum until 12th January.
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.
An Area Of Outstanding Unnatural Beauty is the latest project of Artangel, the arts agency best known for the Rachel Whiteread's inside out concrete house in Mile End. This one is provides "an alternative information bureau" in a similarly run down part of London - King's Cross. Local artist Richard Wentworth has put together a collection of curios amassed over his 25 years in the area, "a cartographic archive of tracks and traces, maps and meanders", which creates a rather different picture from the seedy transient image with which it is usually associated. It encapsulates King's Cross at a point of resolution, with the vast tracts of land that have been under the threat (or promise) of redevelopment for the entire quarter century finally seeing the bulldozers moving in. The Victorian domestic scale and its bohemian existence (not to mention the famous gasometers) are now being replaced by the Channel Tunnel link and a massive housing development. Located in a former plumber's merchants, the installation will play host to weekly salon evenings celebrating its disorderly past, including a table tennis competition with a prize of a trip to King's Cross in Sydney. Further information can be found on the Artangel web site via the link from the Others Organisations section of ExhibitionsNet. General Plumbing Supplies, York Way N1 until 4th November.
Autumn Countryside Celebration offers an experience of the countryside as it used to be, with the crop of thatching straw, grown each year to supply local thatchers and to repair its own buildings, being threshed with steam driven machinery in the traditional way. Twenty pairs of heavy horses, including its own pair of Shires, and fifteen vintage tractors plough the stubble left by the harvest, together with demonstrations of other countryside skills and crafts. Set in fifty acres of Sussex countryside the museum comprises a collection of over forty five historic buildings dating from the 15th century, many with period gardens, together with farm animals, including rare breeds. There is a working 17th century water mill where stone ground flour is produced daily, 16th century market hall, Victorian school, medieval shop and carpenters, plumbers and brickmakers workshops. All the buildings were rescued from destruction, carefully dismantled, conserved and rebuilt to their original form. Weald & Downland Open Air Museum on 26th and 27th October, with children's activities continuing through half term week until 1st November.
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.