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Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art - National Gallery

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art will be on display at the National Gallery (Sainsbury Wing) from February 17 to May 22, 2016.

Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art, the first major presentation of Delacroix’s art in Britain for more than 50 years, surveys his dynamic career and then moves beyond it, to assess for the first time the influence he exerted for five decades following his death until the early years of the 20th century.

Few artists have had the same impact and lasting influence as Eugène Delacroix. He was the most famous and controversial French painter of the first half of the 19th century and one of the first modern masters. Each new work he exhibited was scrutinised by enthralled contemporaries including Courbet, Chassériau, and the poet and critic Charles Baudelaire.

Following Delacroix’s death in 1863, generations of artists continually turned to him to find new directions for their art. Although idolised as a pioneer by artists such as Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, and Matisse – unlike theirs, his name is not a household one today.

This exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to (re)discover this revolutionary artist. It will include over 60 works borrowed from 30 major public and private collections around the world, including the Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Petit Palais (Paris), the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the National Gallery of Art (Washington), and the Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam).

More than a third of the exhibition comprises a survey of works by Delacroix himself. Highlights include such masterpieces as his Self Portrait of about 1837 (Musée du Louvre, Paris); The Convulsionists of Tangiers of 1838 (Minneapolis Institute of Art); The Death of Sardanapalus, 1846 (Philadelphia Museum of Art); Bathers of 1854 (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut); and the ferocious Lion Hunt of 1861 (Art Institute of Chicago).

Half the exhibition comprises works by artists of later generations who also fell under the impact of Delacroix’s achievement. Chassériau’s art in particular would not have been possible without the example of the older master.

Among the masterpieces are Bazille’s rarely seen La Toilette (Musée Fabre, Montpellier), Van Gogh’s Pietà (after Delacroix) (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), Olive Trees (Minneapolis Institute of Art), Cézanne’s Battle of Love (National Gallery of Art, Washington), Apotheosis of Delacroix (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), and Matisse’s Study for Luxe, calme et volupté (Museum of Modern Art, New York).

The exhibition ends with Kandinsky’s Study for Improvisation V of 1910 (Minneapolis Institute of Art), arguing for a direct line of descent extending from the Romantic master to the origins of abstraction.

The complex and rebellious artist whom Baudelaire called ‘a poet in painting’ was the very model of the bohemian, driven by personal vision and unafraid of official opposition.

Delacroix is credited with liberating colour and technique from traditional rules and practices, paving the way for new styles of painting. His use of vigorous and expressive brushstrokes, his study of the optical effect of colour, his daring compositions and exotic subjects inspired the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Symbolists, and Fauves to push the boundaries of their own creativity. All these admirers saw in Delacroix’s trailblazing vibrancy of colour and vivid portrayal of human emotions the impetus to break the rules and to dare to innovate and experiment with their own work.

Delacroix caused a sensation on the art scene with his first submission to the Paris Salon in 1822, the monumental Barque of Dante (Musée du Louvre, Paris). It was largely derided, yet was later purchased by the French State.

This pattern of widespread condemnation, countered by a vigorous, enlightened support, would continue throughout Delacroix’s life. The painting was later copied by Manet and his version will be seen in the show, as will Renoir’s copy of Delacroix’s Jewish Wedding in Morocco (Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts). Many young artists began their education by emulating Delacroix.

Delacroix travelled to England in 1825 where he visited the studios of Thomas Lawrence and Richard Parkes Bonington. The colour and handling of English painting influenced his only full-length portrait, the elegant portrait of Louis-Auguste Schwiter of 1826–30 (National Gallery, London).

He also started exploring subjects of violence and sensuality, which would prove to be recurrent in his work. His 1827 The Death of Sardanapalus, even more controversial than the Barque of Dante when first shown at the Salon, is represented here by the 1846 replica (on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art), which Delacroix painted for himself when he finally managed to sell the original, large-scale work. It demonstrates how Delacroix effectively combined gruesome fantasy, sensuous beauty, exotic colours, and innovative composition to make a painting both pleasing and shocking.

In 1832, Delacroix travelled to Morocco, and that visit would provide subject matter for many of his future paintings, which would have a profound impact on the work of Renoir, Gauguin, and Matisse. From 1833 Delacroix received numerous commissions to decorate public buildings in Paris, including the Galerie d’Apollon of the Louvre and the Chapelle des Saints-Anges at St Sulpice. The latter is his spiritual testament and was understood by contemporaries to mark a stunning revival of creativity in Delacroix’s final years.

Christopher Riopelle, National Gallery Curator of Post-1800 Paintings said:

“The opportunity to reintroduce a stunningly original and audacious artist to the British public after far too long makes this an exciting exhibition. But to also show Delacroix as a leader among his contemporaries and a spur to creativity among artists for 50 years after his death – up to the time of Matisse and Kandinsky – reaffirms his central role in the development of modern art.”

Gabriele Finaldi, National Gallery Director said:

“Delacroix is one of the defining painters of the 19th century; trailblazing, passionate, totally committed to his art, and immensely influential. The exhibition explores his achievement and his impact on painters as varied as Van Gogh and Kandinsky.”

A book, Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art by Patrick Noon and Christopher Riopelle (pictured), will accompany the exhibition. Hardback £35. Paperback £19.95.

Admission: Members go free. Full price: £16. Senior/Concession/Disabled visitors (carers FREE): £14. Job seeker/Student/Art Fund/12–18s: £8. Under-12s (ticket required): Free.

Times: Daily from 10am–6pm (last admission 5pm); Fridays from 10am–9pm (last admission 8.15pm).

The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN


The Spring Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair 2016

Event preview

THIS year’s Spring Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair runs in Battersea Park from April 19 to April 24.

The Decorative Fairs run three times a year, and bring together 150 exhibitors from the UK and Europe offering a wealth of unusual period design, 20th century classics and eccentric accessories, mixed with fine and decorative antiques.

Works of art from the ancient to the contemporary, including sculpture, paintings, prints and photography are also sold.

At the recent Winter Fair (January 19- 24), decorators like Rose Uniacke, Olga Polizzi and Veere Grenney, and US trade buyers such as Billy Cotton, were in attendance. Well-known visitors included David Beckham and Sir Paul Smith.

Glamour was back in demand as buyers sought out deco- and Hollywood-inspired furniture and accessories. Sales of 20th century design proved strong, and antique country and Continental furniture also sold well.

Lovers of vintage fashion, jewellery and fine jewels are also treated to a choice variety from specialist dealers, including dress and collectors’ watches, mid-century designs by Andrew Grima and John Donald, and pre-owned couture pieces from Chanel, Vuitton, YSL, Hermes and Balenciaga.

The Spring Decorative Fair is always a good place to look for garden-related decoration, including planters, urns and statuary, stone benches, metal tables and unusual objets including antique or industrial metal window frames re-glazed with mirror. These make a pleasingly effective addition especially in small town gardens, where they can create the illusion of a larger space.

Coinciding with the 90th birthday of H.M. The Queen (April 21), the Spring Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair takes on a regal flavour. Exhibitors are being encouraged to search out relevant designs and works of art. The foyer display will bring together objects and art with a royal theme, and pieces relating to the Royal Collection, palaces and homes.

Visitors will find items such as ceremonial seating (chairs from the 1953 coronation, and the 1969 investiture of the Prince of Wales, have been much in demand lately), or classic furniture like the Carlton House desk, an early C19th design associated with the London residence of the Prince Regent, later King George IV.

What sets the Decorative Fair apart is the creativity and inspiration of the stand displays, the relaxed and cheerful atmosphere and a thrilling element of the unexpected; you never know what you might find around each corner. From period shop signs and advertising accessories to taxidermy, objets trouvés and fossils, exhibitors have an eye for the distinctly unusual! Decoration has never been such fun.

Easy to access from Chelsea, Sloane Square and Knightsbridge, there is a frequent courtesy shuttle service to the Fair from outside the Sloane Square Hotel. Delicious food from Megan’s Brasserie & Champagne Bar is available all day, whilst on-site packing and shipping facilities make life easy for international and UK buyers.

Well-behaved dogs (on leads) are welcomed, so take a walk in Battersea Park and bring your dog when you shop!

Tickets: £10 on the door including catalogue, which gives re-admission throughout the week, or register at to join the mailing list and receive free tickets to all future Decorative Fairs.

Times: Tuesday, 12pm – 8pm; Wednesday and Thursday, 11am – 8pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am – 7pm; Sunday, 11am – 6pm.

Battersea Evolution, Battersea Park, London, SW11

Sicily: culture and conquest - British Museum

Exhibition preview

IN APRIL 2016, the British Museum will open the first exhibition in the UK to explore over 4000 years of history on the island of Sicily. Sponsored by Julius Baer, Sicily: culture and conquest will provide new insight into the vibrant past of the Italian island familiar to so many visitors today.

The exhibition will shed light on the remarkable artistic and architectural achievements of the island through objects in the British Museum’s own collection alongside outstanding loans from Sicily and around the world, including many objects coming to the UK for the very first time.

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and across time it has been shaped by the aspirations of many different peoples and cultures. Its perpetual allure lay in its fertile soil, fed by the volcanic dynamics of Mount Etna. Across time, people from as far and wide as the eastern Mediterranean and northern Europe settled on Sicily, forging a varied and sophisticated culture.

The exhibition will focus on two major eras: first, the arrival of the Greeks from the latter half of the 7th century BC and their encounters with earlier settlers and with the Phoenicians, and second the extraordinary period of enlightenment under Norman rule, about AD 1100 – 1250. The exhibition will explore how an astonishingly rich material culture flourished in both of these periods.

Over 200 objects will be brought together to reveal the richness of the architectural, archaeological and artistic legacies of Sicily.

When the Greeks made their first official colony at Naxos in around 735 BC, they brought new ideas and forged cultural and trading links with the earlier indigenous settlers. Sicily’s undemocratically elected rulers, known as ‘Tyrants’, and civic governing bodies displayed their wealth and power through the building of temples, sometimes of colossal dimensions, competing against the largest temples in Greece and the ancient Greek world.

A rare and spectacularly well preserved, brightly painted terracotta altar, dating to about 500 BC, is one of the highlights of the loans coming from Sicily. It shows a scene of an animal combat on the upper tier, while below stand three striking fertility goddesses. The British Museum is also fortunate to be receiving on loan a magnificent terracotta architectural sculpture of a Gorgon, the famous Greek monster, that was once perched on the highest point of a building at Gela in south-east Sicily.

Terracotta ornaments were frequently used to decorate the upper levels of buildings on Sicily and are amongst the finest that have survived from the ancient world.

Another important Sicilian loan is a rare and iconic marble sculpture of a warrior from ancient Akragas, modern Agrigento. Marble statues were likely to have been commissioned, carved and imported into Sicily from overseas or made by local sculptors, trained in the Greek tradition. Such rare statues decorated major temples or were part of sculptural groups, most of which are long gone.

After a long series of wars involving Greek Sicilians, Carthaginians, and Romans, the island was eventually conquered by Rome. The exhibition will include a direct remnant of the final battle of that conquest which took place on March 10, 241 BC: a bronze battering ram that was fitted on the front of the Roman warships to sink enemy ships, and which was only recently excavated from the waters around the island.

For Rome, Sicily’s primary role was to supply its population and its armies with grain; otherwise it cared little for the province. Following Rome’s ‘fall’, Christian Byzantines and Muslim Arabs competed for domination over Sicily, each ruling the island for several centuries. At the end of the 11th century, however, Norman mercenaries who had been settling and ruling in the south of Italy, in turn conquered the island, now inhabited by Byzantine Greek, Muslim, Jewish and Norman people.

Under Kings Roger II, William I and William II, Sicily once again became one of the Mediterranean superpowers, easily rivaling the Byzantine Empire in the East, the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt and the Papal States around Rome.

Through the coexistence of Norman, Islamic and Byzantine cultures on Sicily, Roger II created a climate of multicultural collaboration. Unique forms of art and architecture emerged from the mixture of influences. In 2015, nine buildings in the Arab-Norman style that emerged in Palermo and the surrounding area were elected as UNESCO world heritage. Coming on loan from several of these buildings are a twelfth-century Byzantine-style mosaic, and marble and wooden Islamic-influenced architectural decorations that will give visitors a sense of this extraordinary architectural style that emerged under Roger II.

At the same time, the palace workshops produced beautiful objects, from ceremonial glassware and ivory, gold pendants and intricate enamel mosaics and cameos. Each object demonstrates the skills of the craftsmen and the variety of cultural influences that inspired their artistic production and experimentation.

Roger also welcomed scholars of all races and faiths to his court and took a direct interest in scientific innovation. The exhibition will display one of the oldest surviving copies of a new world map that Roger commissioned from al-Idrisi, an Arab cartographer, instructing him to base it on new research.

The interest in innovation and scientific experiment was continued by Roger II’s grandson, Frederick II, who as Holy Roman Emperor ruled a large part of Europe, but based his court in Palermo. His desire to found a new Roman Empire was unfulfilled when he died heirless, and for the rest of its history, Sicily returned to being part of larger empires and states, rather than being its own master.

The British Museum has worked closely with the Sicilian Ministry of Culture since 2010 on several loans, both at the British Museum and in Sicily. This exhibition presents the next collaboration between curators of the British Museum and Sicily. Objects of outstanding cultural significance have been carefully selected through consultation with Sicilian specialists from different museums across the island. These objects will be displayed alongside loans from Italy, the US and the UK, as well as items from the British Museum collection.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by an events program with contributions by Sicilian lecturers and artists.

Joanna Mackle, deputy director of the British Museum said: “It gives me great pleasure to announce the British Museum’s exhibition on the rich cultural history of Sicily. We are hugely grateful to Julius Baer for their long term partnership with the British Museum and their generous support of this exhibition. We are also delighted to be working in collaboration with Sicilian colleagues to bring the fascinating story of this island to life.”

David Durlacher, Julius Baer International Limited, said: “Julius Baer, the international reference in wealth management, is proud to continue its long-lasting partnership with the British Museum, and to support the 2016 exhibition Sicily: culture and conquest. The exhibition will provide a fantastic insight into how Sicily has been shaped by many different peoples over centuries. By developing a long-term partnership with the British Museum, Julius Baer shows its commitment and passion for arts and culture.”

Carlo Vermiglio, Minister of Cultural Heritage of the Autonomous Region of Sicily, said: “We are honoured to be in the British Museum today for the presentation of the exhibition Sicily: Culture and Conquest, dedicated to Sicily. This exhibition is part of a cultural cooperation between this prestigious museum and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage of Sicily. We hope that we can continue on this path and therefore we are still open to and ready for new initiatives that will make our region known throughout the world for its outstanding cultural patrimony.”

The exhibition catalogue will be available from April 2016 by British Museum Press: Sicily: culture and conquest, editied by Dirk Booms and Peter Higgs. A rich and vivid account of the island of Sicliy and its diverse cultural history. £30 (paperback).

Sicily: culture and conquest Gallery

Image: Byzantine-style mosaic showing the Virgin as Advocate for the Human Race, Palermo Cathedral. c.1130 – 1180 AD, Museo Diocesano.

Dates: April 21 to August 14, 2016.

Tickets: £10, children under 16 free. Group rates available. To book, call +44 (0)20 7323 8181 or visit

Times: Saturday to Thursday, 10am to 5.30pm; Friday, 10am to 8.30pm. Last entry 80 minutes before closing time.

The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG

Westminster Abbey - kids go free at half-term

EXPERIENCE over 1,000 years of history at Westminster Abbey this half-term with free entry for kids from Saturday, February 13 to Saturday, February 20, 2016.

Families can experience a memorable day out discovering the nation’s coronation church, where royal weddings and funerals have taken place for hundreds of years, with an adult ticket (£20) providing free entry for up to three kids – saving up to £27.

Kings and queens, statesmen, writers and musicians – over 3,300 of them – are buried or commemorated at the Abbey including Edward the Confessor, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

Kids will enjoy exploring with the free Children’s Trail packed with fun questions and entertaining facts which has the incentive of a giant chocolate coin for all those who finish it! To replenish energy levels, the Cellarium Café housed in the former 14th century store house of the Abbey serves kids’ meals for the under 12’s, with one free kid’s meal for every adult main meal purchased.

The Abbey is open daily (except Sundays).

For more information call 020 7222 5152 or visit

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers will be on display in the Barbican Art Gallery from March 16 to June 30, 2016.

Curated by the iconic British photographer Martin Parr, this exhibition is a timely consideration of how international photographers from the 1930s onwards have captured the social, cultural, political and topographical identity of the UK through the camera lens.

From social documentary and street photography, to portraiture and architectural photography by some of the leading lights of 20th century photography such as Henri Cartier-Bresson (France), Edith Tudor-Hart (Austria), Candida Höfer (Germany), Robert Frank (USA), Evelyn Hofer (Germany), Gian Butturini (Italy), Akihiko Okamura (Japan), Axel Hütte (Germany), Sergio Larrain (Chile), Tina Barney (USA), David Glodblatt (South Africa) and Hans van der Meer (The Netherlands).

An extensive photobook section brings together an array of rare, new and out-of-print publications by international photographers from the 1930s to today, constituting a parallel history of Britain alongside the works exhibited.

Designed by Stirling Prize-winning London based architects Witherford, Watson, Mann, Strange and Familiar presents a vibrant portrait of modern Britain.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: “Since its earliest days, the Barbican has been at the forefront of promoting photography. It is wonderful to welcome Martin Parr back to the Barbican 14 years after his hugely successful retrospective. As curator, Martin will bring a discerning eye, his fascination with people and British culture, as well as his formidable knowledge and appreciation of international photography. This show promises to be a rich, varied and thought-provoking portrait of modern Britain.”

Each of the photographers in the exhibition records different characteristics of life around Britain in their own distinctive style. Henri Cartier-Bresson visited Britain on numerous occasions; capturing the celebratory spirit at the Coronation of King George VI in 1937 and portraying the euphoria of the Silver Jubilee in 1977. Cartier-Bresson focused his lens on the street parties that marked the occasion.

Equally Sergio Larrain’s take on London in the late 1950s is a spontaneous response to a city that was undergoing dramatic change in the post-war era and is marked by unusual vantage points and blurred images that capture the dynamism of the city.

Far away from the Premier League, Dutch photographer Hans van der Meer captures the rural locations of lower league football across the UK.

For many of the photographers, Britain was a foreign country that prompted a new approach to their image making.

Martin Parr said: “The exhibition will reveal a very different take on British life than that produced by British photographers. It is both familiar and strange at the same time.”

Described as a ‘chronicler of our age’, Martin Parr has been a critical figure in British photography for the last three decades. Renowned for his oblique approach to social documentary, his colour photographs touch on themes of leisure, consumption and communication all infused with humour and wit.

He has published over 80 books of his own work including Bad Weather (1982), The Last Resort (1986), Signs of the Times (1992), Home and Abroad (1993), Think of England (2000), Life’s a Beach (2012) and most recently Black Country Stories (2014).

His contribution to photographic culture both nationally and internationally was acknowledged through his appointment as President of Magnum Photos and he has curated a number of critical exhibitions including Rencontres d’Arles (2004), New York Photo Festival (2008) and Brighton Photo Biennial (2010). He has also enjoyed countless solo exhibitions, including a major retrospective organised by Barbican Art Gallery (2002) that toured extensively.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an introductory essay by Martin Parr. A rich programme of talks and events also accompanies the exhibition, details to be announced.

Opening hours: Saturday to Wednesday, 10am – 6pm, Thursday and Friday, 10am – 9pm, Bank Holidays: 12noon – 6pm.


Tel: 0845 120 7550

Exhibitions at Rich Mix - February and March 2016

Exhibition preview

RICH Mix has a number of exhibitions lined up for the coming weeks.

Joha – The Journey – in the Mezzanine Gallery from Wednesday, February 3 to Friday, February 26. All day. Free.

An exhibition of paintings based on Joha’s personal experience, shared stories, intense discussions and deep questions.

Bounty Bars and Oreo Cookies – in the Lower Café Gallery from Wednesday, February 3 to Saturday, February 20. All day. Free.

A new work by Alexandrina Hemsley and Katarzyna Perlak taking inspiration from Alexandrina’s experiences of feeling not white or black ‘enough’.

All of This is Temporary – in the Main Space on Tuesday, February 23 at 6pm. Tickets: £4.

From immersive artworks and live performance to theoretical discussion from key speakers, explore what it means to live in a capitalist world and what it could mean to live in a post-capitalist world.

Incloodu Atfaluna Exhibition – in the Lower Café Gallery from Tuesday, February 23 to Sunday, February 28. Free.

Atfaluna Deaf Society/School, Gaza, Palestine in collaboration with Incloodu present an exhibition giving a unique picture of Deaf life in the war zone which is Gaza.

Textural Thread – in the Mezzanine Gallery from Wednesday, March 2 to Saturday, March 19. Free.

Part of Arab Women Artists Now, Textural Threads features the work of female Arab artists of different generations and experiences. Their artwork illustrates varying energies and concerns, as well as techniques, influences, interests and themes.

Ana Djazairi – in the Lower Café Gallery from Wednesday, March 2 to Saturday, March 19. Free.

Part of Arab Women Artists Now, this exhibition seeks to showcase the variety of the migrated diaspora, challenge cultural stereotypes and reconnect us with our heritage through interviews of British Algerians by the artist Nadira Amrani.

For more information call 020 7613 7498 or visit

America in Revolt: The Art of Protest - Shapero Modern

America in Revolt: The Art of Protest

Exhibition preview

SHAPERO Modern is presenting America in Revolt: The Art of Protest, an exhibition of original posters and artwork created by students and activists during the landmark ‘Berkeley demonstrations’ in California in the early 1970s – from February 3 to February 27, 2016.

Drawn from the archive of the late publisher Felix Dennis, and curated by the revered writer and counterculture historian Barry Miles, the collection is comprised of more than 150 posters, each one capturing the incendiary spirit of that time.

While the demonstrations were initially sparked by the massacre of four unarmed student protesters at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970, they were also a response to the reinstatement of the military draft by President Nixon, and the escalation of the Vietnam War into Cambodia.

America in Revolt: The Art of Protest is made up of 50 works from the Felix Dennis collection, which was recently acquired by Shapero Rare Books. All of the posters demonstrate the swift organisation of the student body.

Just days after the Kent State shooting, the Berkeley Political Poster Workshop, made up of art, design and political students, took over a small space donated by a sympathetic contingent of the faculty. Here they quickly disseminated their message through an ad-hoc production line. Posters were silkscreened onto recycled computer paper and psychedelic calendars; others went straight onto cardboard to be used immediately at demonstrations.

Only a few of each of these posters were made and most did not survive, such was their immediate necessity. They are supplemented by supporting material outlining the atmosphere of unrest in America, including works illustrating solidarity with Vietnamese civilians, details of American weapons, and questions over President Nixon’s integrity.

Curator Barry Miles said: “These posters were not designed as art, but for a specific political purpose, and yet they inevitably fit into the history of graphic art, borrowing heavily from the Atelier Populaire posters of the student uprising in Paris of May 1968 and the counter-cultural posters of the period. They are a frozen snapshot of American graphic design at the end of the sixties, as well as a unique sociological record of a society in crisis.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated colour catalogue with a foreword by Barry Miles.

Shapero Modern, 32 St. George Street, London, W1S 2EA

Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York - V&A

Exhibition preview

THIS February, the V&A will celebrate the rich creative theatre talent in the West End of London and New York’s Broadway, two world class centres of theatrical excellence.

Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York (February 9 to August 31, 2016) will explore the extraordinary range of craft and collaboration that goes into creating award-winning plays, musicals and productions.

The show will be a free and immersive theatrical experience taking visitors from the stage, to the design workshops and through the history of the awards to the red carpet.

Curtain Up is designed by RFK Architects and Tom Piper, the acclaimed designer and theatre maker renowned for his Tower of London poppies installation, Blood Swept Lands And Seas of Red, a collaboration with ceramic artist Paul Cummins.

Curtain Up will bring together costumes, designs, models, photographs, archival production material, film and awards, much on display for the first time.

On display will be objects drawn from the collections of the V&A and The Library for the Performing Arts supplemented with key loans from private collections.

Highlights include original costume designs from The Phantom of the Opera by Maria Bjornson (1986), one of the longest running West End musicals, and the longest running Broadway production in history, shown alongside the costume worn by a recent West End Phantom; a selection of golden top hats from A Chorus Line which won both the Tony Award (1976) and the inaugural Olivier Award (1976) for Best New Musical; a tunic worn by Rudolf Nureyev in Romeo and Juliet which won the Olivier in 1977; and Dame Helen Mirren DBE’s dress designed by Bob Crowley and worn in The Audience, a role which she won both an Olivier (2013) and Tony Award (2015) for Best Actress.

Dame Helen Mirren DBE said: “Having worked on both Broadway and the West End, I am delighted that Curtain Up, marking 40 years since the Olivier Awards were inaugurated, honours the shared artistic heritage binding London and New York and showcases the wealth of creative talent that brings great productions to the stage on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Curtain Up will consider the central role the West End and Broadway have in London and New York today as well as exploring the evolution of these two transatlantic theatre cities.

A spotlight on the awards will reveal how they have developed since their inception and how an entire company – from back-of-house to centre stage – contribute to an award-winning production including such material as correspondence and production material relating to the original production of Evita.

Script-writing, production, direction, design (lighting, sound, set, and costume), music, choreography and the evolution of technology will all be considered.

Plays and musicals which have performed well both in London and New York will be highlighted with costumes on display from Disney’s The Lion King, designed by Julie Taymor, costume designs by William Ivey Long for Chicago and The Producers and Christopher Oram’s costume designs for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

There will be the opportunity to see the set models for Matilda the Musical, an RSC musical which won seven Olivier awards and five Tony awards, designed by Rob Howell, as well as models from the National Theatre’s award-winning production War Horse (2007).

On display for the first time in the UK will be set models for the New York productions of Carousel (1994) and Sunday in the Park with George (1983).

Film clips from notable theatre productions from the V&A’s National Video Archive of Performance (NVAP) and the NYPL’s Theatre on Film and Tape archive (TOFT) will be embedded throughout.

The display will tour to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center from October 19, 2016 to June 2017.

Alongside Curtain Up, SOLT will present an event and education programme with activities taking place at the V&A and throughout the West End. These will include talks, tours, workshops and free film screenings of notable productions from the V&A’s National Video Archive of Performance (NVAP).

Image: Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and Michael Elwyn as Anthony Eden in a scene from The Audience. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Admission: Free.

Times: 10am to 5.45pm and until 10pm on Fridays.

Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7

Also at the V&A: Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection (until March 28, 2016).

Krishna in the Garden of Assam: the cultural context of an Indian textile - British Museum

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled Krishna in the Garden of Assam: the cultural context of an Indian textile is on display at the British Museum (Room 91) from January 21 to August 15, 2016.

Assam is today little-known outside the Northeast of India. However, in the late medieval period it was the centre of a vibrant culture of devotion to the Hindu deity Krishna, a movement that was founded by the saint Shankaradeva (died 1568) and which continues to this day.

A striking element of this devotional cult is the re-enactment of scenes from the Life of Krishna, all over Assam but especially on the island of Majuli in the Brahmaputra River during the Ras Lila festival. These Krishna narratives were recorded not only in music, drama and dance, but also in woven textile imagery.

This is the first exhibition in Britain to explore the impressive cultural history of Assam through objects.

The largest surviving example of such a woven silk cloth, or Vrindavani Vastra, will be the centrepiece of this exhibition at the British Museum. One of the most important Indian textiles in the Museum’s collection, it is dated to about 1680 and is today over 9 metres long.

Assam has been renowned for many centuries as a centre for weaving both silk and cotton. The lampas technique of weaving was used to produce the Vrindavani Vastra and this example would have been woven on a wooden draw-loom using two sets of warp and two sets of weft threads. The lampas technique is now lost in India but produced vibrant and highly sophisticated figured textiles between the 16th and 18th centuries.

This textile is associated with the cult of the Hindu god Krishna. It is today made up of 12 strips of woven silk, each one being figured with depictions of the incarnations of Vishnu and with captioned scenes from the life of Krishna, These scenes are recorded in the 10th century text, the Bhagavata Purana, and elaborated in the dramas written by the saint Shankaradeva.

The 12 individual strips were perhaps used to wrap copies of the Bhagavata Purana and decorate the altar used for venerating this text. The episodes depicted include the defeat of the snake-demon Kaliya, the battle with the crane-demon Bakasura, swallowing the forest-fire, and hiding the ‘gopis’ clothes in the trees.

The dramas of Shankaradeva are still performed today, especially at the festival of Ras lila on the island of Majuli.

The later history of these twelve strips of cloth is fascinating. They were taken to Tibet, stitched together to make a massive hanging and then, years later, were discovered in the monastery at Gobshi near Gyantse in southern Tibet during the Younghusband Expedition.

This military foray was sent by Lord Curzon to open a trade route between India and Tibet. The correspondent of The Times on that expedition was Perceval Landon, a close friend of Rudyard Kipling. It was Landon who acquired the textile and then in 1905 gave it to the Museum.

Contemporary commissions from Majuli (dance masks) and from the artists group, Desire Machine Collective, will be on display. The work by DMC, funded by the Gujral Foundation, is a video artwork, a response of the Collective to the Vrindavani Vastra.

The dance masks are of the type used in performances at the annual Ras lila festival. Their acquisition has been funded by the Luigi and Laura Dallapiccola Foundation. A 3 minute film, shot at the 2014 Ras lila festival introduces the exhibition.

Loans from the British Library are of illustrated manuscript leaves from the Brahmavaivarta Purana. These have very lively painted scenes from the life of Krishna, of great quality.

A remarkable survival, now housed in Chepstow Museum, has also been generously loaned. This is an 18th century English gentleman’s silk ‘banyan’ or dressing gown. The exterior is of subtle monochrome Chinese silk damask while the lining inside is of brilliantly-coloured Assamese Vrindavani Vastra textile with, woven into it, scenes from the life of Krishna as well as bloodthirsty depictions of the lion-man incarnation of Vishnu, Narasimha.

Elements of the exhibition will be shown at the Chepstow Museum following the London display.

The accompanying book written by Curator Richard Blurton is available from the Museum shops or online at”:

A full public programme accompanies the exhibition, booking line +44 (0)20 7323 8181.

Krishna in the garden of Assam – in Room 91 on February 2 and April 8 at 1.15pm. Free, just drop in.

Gallery talks by Exhibition Curator Richard Blurton, British Museum.

Curator’s introduction – in the BP Lecture Theatre on February 26 at 1.30pm. Free but booking essential.

With Exhibition Curator Richard Blurton, British Museum.

Mudra, manuscript and music from Assam – in the Stevenson Lecture Theatre on March 7 at 1.30pm. Free but booking essential.

Ethnomusicologist and artist-in-residence at the University of Oxford, Dr Menaka P P Bora, discusses her work recreating the rare classical performance traditions of Assam within a contemporary context.

Sattriya Dance Theatre: dance and identity in globalising India – in the Stevenson Lecture Theatre on March 18 at 6.30pm. Tickets: £5, Members/concessions £3.

Award-winning Indian classical dance soloist, choreographer and ethnomusicologist, Dr Menaka P P Bora, presents a dance, theatre and music performance of the 16th-century classical art form from Assam known as Sattriya.

Yoga: austerity, passion and peace – in the BP Lecture Theatre on April 8 from 6.30pm to 8pm. Tickets: £5, Members/concessions £3.

This interdisciplinary panel of experts will examine yoga from ancient Indic times to the present. Chaired by independent scholar and founding director of Calm Energy Yoga Hilary Lewis Ruttley, panellists include Dr Jason Birch of The Hatha Yoga Project at SOAS, novelist, journalist and award-winning BBC broadcaster Jameela Siddiqi, and Sunil Khilnani, Avantha Professor and Director, King’s India Institute.

Myth and the imagination in yoga – in Room 33 on April 9 at 1.15pm. Free, just drop in.

A gallery talk by Hilary Ruttley, founder and owner of Calm Energy Yoga.

Sounds of India – in Room 33 on April 15 from 7pm to 8pm. Free, just drop in (limited seating).

Enjoy an evening of Indian classical music in the South Asia Gallery.

Assam and its neighbours: the evidence of the Vrindavani Vastra – in Room 91 on June 1 and July 14 at 1.15pm. Free, just drop in.

Gallery talks by Exhibition Curator Richard Blurton, British Museum.

Transmission and performance in Krishna’s garden – in the Stevenson Lecture Theatre on July 8 at 10am. More details online in April.

An academic seminar responding to the exhibition.

Threads through Assam – in the Stevenson Lecture Theatre on July 10 at 3pm. Tickets: £3, Members/concessions £2.

A new documentary by director Leona Chaliha.

Image: Body mask of the five-headed serpent demon, Kaliya. Made in the workshop of Hem Chandra Goswami, Chamaguri monastery, Majuli island, Assam. 2015. Funded by the Luigi and Laura Dallapiccola Foundation. 2015,3041.1 © The Trustees of the British Museum.

British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG

Tel: 020 7323 8181


Also at the British Museum: Egypt: faith after the pharaohs (until February 7, 2016).

Imran Qureshi : Where the Shadows are so Deep - Barbican

Exhibition preview

THE Barbican has commissioned the award-winning Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi to create a new work for the Curve.

For his first major London commission, Qureshi presents a series of exquisite miniature paintings, drawing upon the curve as a motif in this tradition.

Beginning with gentle scenes of nature, the sequence of works gradually introduces darker elements, subtly implying the uncertainty of what lies around the bend. Hung at varying heights along the dramatic 90-metre span of the space, these delicate, jewel-like paintings lure the visitor in, demanding an altogether different kind of looking.

Imran Qureshi: Where the Shadows are so Deep is on display in the Curve gallery from February 18 to July 10, 2016.

Imran Qureshi said: “In my site-specific installations I always try to create a dialogue between the architecture of a site and my practice. I have been painting directly on the floor and walls of all my work in situ since 2001. When I visited the Curve I was awed by the scale and flow of the space. I thought of doing something in that space which would be completely unexpected, something very simple but strong.

“Miniature painting is at the root of my practice: it completely informs my thinking and sensibility. In the tradition of Mughal miniature paintings, a curve-like shape has always been an important element in the formal depiction of a landscape.”

Imran Qureshi is one of the foremost artists from Pakistan, having reclaimed the historic craft of miniature painting and stretched its ornamental traditions to their limits. Indian and Persian miniatures in the 16th century revolved around courtly life and for Qureshi, the style continues to act as a space for social commentary, often with the addition of very subtle darker elements amidst its intricate scenes.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: “I’m proud to announce our latest Curve commission by one of Pakistan’s leading contemporary artists. Over the last 20 years Imran Qureshi has expanded the possibilities of the miniaturist painting tradition in which he was schooled, while at the same time engaging with site-specific installations of sublime proportions and beauty.

“Qureshi immediately saw the Curve as a vast canvas that would allow him to play with scale, narrative and the polarities of dark and light. I expect his installation to be delicate and yet arresting – quite unlike any other we have staged.”

Born in Hyderabad, Pakistan, in 1972, Imran Qureshi was made ‘Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year’ in 2013 with an exhibition at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, in 2014. Recent international exhibitions include a site-specific installation for the opening of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto (2014), Imran Qureshi: The God of Small Things at the Eli and Edyth Broad Art Museum in Michigan (2014) and The Roof Garden Commission at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2013).

He participated in the Venice Biennales in 2015 and 2013, was commissioned by Art on the Underground in 2014 and produced a major installation for Sharjah Biennial in 2011. He lives and works in Lahore.-

Admission: Free.

Opening times: Saturday – Wednesday, 11am – 8pm: Thursday and Friday, 11am – 9pm: Bank Holidays 12pm – 8pm.


Tel: 0845 120 7550