Private View held by Richard Andrews
Linley Sambourne House has reopened after a two year conservation and restoration programme, and now includes the studio. It is a fine example of a late Victorian London townhouse in Classical Italianate style, with four floors above a basement, and it survives with almost all of its extensive furniture and fittings intact. The cartoonist, illustrator and photographer Edward Linley Sambourne made it his home for 36 years from 1874, soon after it was built, and decorated it in the fashionable aesthetic style of the period. The house remained in the family largely untouched until 1980, when it was taken over by the Greater London Council and opened as a museum. Sambourne specialised in grotesque caricatures of people and animals, and was a prolific contributor to the magazine Punch for 43 years. Approximately 1000 cartoons, drawings and sketches and nearly 15,000 photographs, cyanotypes and glass plate negatives survive as part of the Linley Sambourne collection, many of which adorn the walls. Visits to the property are by guided tour only, lasting around one and a half hours, led by an actor in period costume, who gives an insight into the life and times of the Sambourne family. Linley Sambourne House, 18 Stafford Terrace London W8, 020 7602 3316 extn 305, Saturdays and Sundays continuing.
Faberge is a selection from the Royal collection of over 300 pieces by Carl Faberge, the greatest Russian jeweller and goldsmith of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection is unparalleled in size, range and quality, and was acquired almost uniquely through the exchange of personal gifts between the Russian, Danish and British Royal families. Faberge revived traditional techniques of enamelling, multi-coloured gold decoration and the use of carved semi-precious hardstones, but applied them with unsurpassed skill and great originality. He sought inspiration in many sources, from antiquity and Oriental art to the contemporary Art Nouveau movement. The assimilation of these different styles, using raw materials of supreme quality and craftsmanship of the highest standard, gave Faberge's work its unique character. Tsar Alexander III of Russia appointed Faberge Supplier to the Imperial Court in 1885. King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra's enthusiasm for Faberge's work encouraged the jeweller to open a London branch in 1903. Their taste was for animal sculptures, modelled from life at the Sandringham Estate farm, and deceptively simple wild flower ornaments. Queen Mary, consort of King George V, acquired four of Faberge's celebrated Easter Eggs, three of which had been made for the Russian Imperial family. These are the greatest expression of Faberge's ingenuity, and their year long production was carried out in great secrecy. The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh until 12th October.
Restoration Lives: Samuel Pepys And His Circle marks the tercentenary of the death of the famous diarist, who recorded his observations about life in London after the Restoration - one of the most dramatic periods in British history. The 1660s not only foreshadowed the 1960s as a period of immense vitality, confidence and reinvention in the arts and public life, but also included the horrors of the Plague and the Great Fire. Pepys was among those who brought Charles II back to England to be crowned King, and as a successful civil servant was at the centre of events, with access to influential social and political circles. His diary records both key historical events, and his relationships with hundreds of men and women of the period. Portraits on display include many of those who knew Pepys well, such as Navy colleagues, actresses, painters, his patron Edward Montagu, and King Charles II himself. Portraits of his associates John Harman, William Petty, George Monck and Christopher Wren have been brought out of storage especially for this exhibition. There is also a bust of Pepys long suffering wife Elizabeth. National Portrait Gallery until 28th September.
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.
Cristina Iglesias: New Corners Of The World is the first major presentation in Britain of the work of the Spanish artist, bringing together 40 sculptural and architectural pieces installed in a sequence of spaces. There are various 'flying ceiling' pieces, like the roof of a cave or a fossilised seabed, surrounded by screens of enormous copper sheets, containing silk-screened images of a mysterious metropolis, formed by creating ramshackle maquettes from cardboard boxes, and enlarging them to a human scale. Then there are Vegetation Rooms, larger-than-life organic mesh screens, like the ornamentation of Moorish architecture, joined together to form intimate chambers and environments, which reduce the viewer in scale like an episode from Alice In Wonderland. While Passages comprise overlapping canopies that recall sunscreens in Arab street markets. Inspired by the trompe l'oeil effects of Baroque architecture, Iglesias plays tricks with perspective, creating intricate bas-reliefs so that entire concrete walls peel apart to reveal 18th century tapestries, and elegant canopies of veined alabaster like the domes of ancient Persian mosques or Byzantine churches. An extraordinary experience. Whitechapel Art Gallery until 18th May.
Manola Blahnik is the ultimate fusion of art and commerce - the first museum retrospective of the work of the most fashionable shoe designer in the world. Sensationally sexy yet impeccably elegant, his shoes are perfectly proportioned feats of technical virtuosity and craftsmanship. Their exuberance and extravagance, not to mention the vibrancy of their colours, make them more art object than practical footwear - ideal for his core clients of supermodels, Hollywood stars, and the characters in Sex And The City (actually a very small, but incredibly influential group). Working alone without apprentices or assistants, Blahnik designs and makes the prototype for each of his shoes from start to finish, drawing the initial sketches, chiselling the wooden lasts on which they are moulded, sculpting the heels, and personally supervising their production. This exhibition is drawn from Manolo Blahnik's private archive, and traces the thirty year career of this remarkable designer-maker, by deconstructing his design process and reflecting his influences, from the films of Luchino Visconti and Irving Penn's photography, to the portraits of Francisco Zurbaran. Blahnik started designing in the early 1970s for the Zapata boutique in London, which he later took over. Despite the impracticalities of some of his early designs (which couldn't cope with someone actually walking in them) word of mouth soon attracted the attention of the style centred worlds of fashion and show business. His empire has now spread worldwide, and he has created shoes for many couture collections. Design Museum until 11th 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.