ice-skating-in-the-tower-moatLondon’s obsession with ice-skating is the subject of an exhibition which opened at the Museum of London earlier this month. Skating on Ice looks at the history of the popular pastime, from the 12th century – when locals are described strapping animals bones to their feet to skate on ice at Moorfields – across the centuries (and the developments that went with them) to today. Among the artefacts on show is an 1839 oil painting by J Baber depicting skaters on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, sketches from the London Illustrated News showing a rescue operation to recover the 40 of some 40 skaters who plunged beneath the ice in Regent’s Park on 15th January, 1867, a navy blue gabardine skirt suit from Fortnum & Mason dating from the 1930s and a series of skates, ranging from some made of animal bones through to a pair of Victorian racing skates known as Fen Runners and a pair of ice skates used from the late 1930s by Londoner Christina Greenberry at Streatham Ice Arena. Runs until 8th February. Entry is free. See www.museumoflondon.org.uk for more. (Pictured – ice-skating in the Tower of London moat).

• Christmas is looming and so, if you haven’t been out and about already, here’s five Christmas trees worth seeing over the coming few days (excluding the obvious one in Trafalgar Square):

  • Covent Garden. Always a glittering treat (this year complete with virtual prizes!).
  • St Pancras International. A rather odd design this year, this 100 foot tall tree is inspired by the Cirque du Soleil show Amaluna and lights up every time a donation is made to Oxfam.
  • Granary Square, Kings Cross. Looking like a Christmas tree frozen inside an ice-cube, this seven metre high installation – Fighting fire with ice cream – by British artist Alex Chinneck features some 1,200 lights.
  • Tate Britain, Millbank. An upside down tree, designed by Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary.
  • Connaught Hotel, Mount Street, Mayfair. Designed by British sculptor Antony Gormley, this 57 foot tall tree features a trunk transformed into a pillar of light.

Prince Charles last week unveiled the foundation stone for a tower that will take visitors to Westminster Abbey into the institution’s new museum and galleries. The tower is being built outside Poet’s Corner – between the 13th century Chapter House and 16th-century Henry VII’s Lady Chapel – and will be the principal entrance to the medieval triforium, which has never before been opened to the public and which house the proposed The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries. The tower and galleries, costing almost £23 million, will be the most significant addition to the abbey since Nicholas Hawksmoor’s west towers were completed in 1745. The galleries, which will be located 70 feet above the abbey’s floor, are due to open in summer 2018, and will display treasures from the abbey’s history as well as offering magnificent views of Parliament Square and the Palace of Westminster. To help meet the cost of the new galleries, the abbey has launched a #makehistory campaign asking for public donations to the project. For more, see www.westminster-abbey-galleries.org/Content/Filler.

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Some of painter JMW Turner’s greatest works have returned to the Tate Britain – home of the largest collection of the artist’s works – where they have been put into a new free display. The works, which include Norham castle – Sunrise (c1845), Peace – Burial at Sea (exhibit 1842) and The Dogani, San Giorgio (exhibit 1842), have travelled more than 12,000 miles and been seen by more than 750,000 people in the UK, US and Canada as part of The EY Exhibition: Late Turner – Painting Set Free. They now form part of a new display of more than 100 works spread over eight rooms of the Tate Britain’s Clore Gallery. The three central spaces of the gallery present an overview of the major paintings Turner exhibited during his lifetime – his Self-Portrait (c1799), which will feature on the Bank of England’s new £20 note, is among works shown here – while four smaller galleries located to the sides will show themed groups of work. One brings together scenes from the artist’s British travels and another those from his European jaunts while the final two show the artist’s works on paper and a group of “radical late works” found in his studio after his death. For more, see www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain

A new exhibition exploring the Great Fire of London to mark its 350th anniversary opens at the Guildhall Library in the City of London on Monday. That Dreadful Fire: The Hand of God, a Great Wind and a Very Dry Season explores the story through the collections of the Guildhall Library, including English and foreign accounts, sermons and public records. Runs until 30th November. For more and walks and talks, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/events-exhibitions/Pages/the-dreadful-fire.aspx.

On Now: Heroes and Villains. This exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury features art “depicting real life, the cartoon and comic world that highlights those we love and those we love to hate”. Featuring political cartoons, cartoon and comic strips, and caricatures, including some selected by celebrities and members of the public, it runs until 30th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

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proserpineThe “dynamic dialogue” between British painters and photographers is the subject of a new exhibition which opened at Tate Britain in Millbank this week. Painting with Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Modern Age features almost 200 works, revealing their common influences and showing how photography adapted many of the “Old Master traditions” to create new works. Among those whose works are featured in the exhibition are everyone from David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson to JMW Turner, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rosetti and photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Highlights include examples of three-dimensional photography which used models and props to recreate popular works of the time, including a previously unseen private album in which the Royal Family re-enact famous paintings. Runs until 25th September in the Linbury Galleries. For more, see www.tate.org.uk. PICTURE: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882),  Proserpine 1874. Tate.

The 40th anniversary of punk is being commemorated in a new exhibition which opens at the British Library tomorrow. Punk 1976-78 traces the impact of punk from its roots in the French Situationist movement and New York City art-rock scene through to the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols and looks at the impact punk had on music, fashion and design in the mid-Seventies. Located in the library’s Entrance Hall Gallery, the free display – which includes materials from the UK’s biggest punk-related archive held at Liverpool John Moores University – features a rare copy of the Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen single, fanzines such as the first punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue, flyers, posters and gig tickets from venues including the Roxy Club, Covent Garden and Eric’s Club, audio recordings, and original record sleeves such as John Peel’s personal copy of the Undertones’ single Teenage Kicks. There’s a full calendar of events to accompany the exhibition including John Lydon’s only live interview of the year. Runs until 2nd October. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/punk-1976-78.

Climb St Paul Cathedral’s dome on special Sunday openings during May. And in order not to disturb Sunday services, visitors who wish to climb to the dome’s Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery will see parts of the cathedral not normally open to the public as they enter through a not-normally used side door and climb 22 extra steps. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.stpauls.co.uk.

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ShakespearesFirstFolio1623BritishLibraryPhotobyClareKendall It’s the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (in case you missed that), and among the many events marking the occasion comes a major exhibition at the British Library focusing on 10 key performances that it says have made the Bard the “cultural icon” he is today. Shakespeare in Ten Acts, which opens on Friday, focuses on performances which may not be the most famous but which represent key moments in shaping his legacy. They span the period the first performance of Hamlet at the Globe theatre in around 1600 to a radical interpretation of the same play from US theatre company The Wooster Group in 2013. Among the exhibition highlights are a human skull which was given to the actress Sarah Bernhardt by writer Victor Hugo (and which she used as Yorik’s skull when she played Hamlet in 1899), a dress worn by Vivien Leigh playing Lady Macbeth in the 1955 production of Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the only surviving play script written in the Bard’s own hand and rare printed editions including Shakespeare’s First Folio and the earliest printed edition of Hamlet from 1603 (one of only two copies in the world). The exhibition, which runs until 6th September, is accompanied by a season of events. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: Shakespeare’s First Folio 1623 British Library Photo by Clare Kendall.

Still talking exhibitions commemorating Shakespeare’s death and a manuscript of William Boyce’s Ode to the Memory of Shakespeare will be on display at The Foundling Museum’s Handel Gallery from tomorrow. The work, which was composed in 1756, was performed annually at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. The manuscript, the first page of which was thought to be lost until it was acquired in 2006, formerly belonged to Samuel Arnold, who compiled the first complete edition of Handel’s works. Runs at the Bloomsbury-based museum until 30th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

 Exquisite watercolours depicting the natural world go on show in The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace from tomorrow. Maria Merian’s Butterflies features 50 works produced by the eighteenth century German artist and entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian. The works – many of which record the flora and fauna of the then Dutch colony of Suriname in South America, were published in the 1706 work Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname) and partially printed, partially hand-painted versions of the plates were purchased by King George III for his library at Buckingham House (later Buckingham Palace). As well as insects, the works – which were based on a visit Merian made to the colony in 1699, depict lizards, crocodiles and snakes as well as tropical plants such as the pineapple. The exhibition runs until 9th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/the-queens-gallery-buckingham-palace.

The evolution of conceptual art in Britain is the subject of a new exhibition at Tate Britain in Milbank  Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979 features 70 works by 21 artists and positions conceptual art “not as a style but rather a game-changing shift in the way we think about art, how it is made and what it is for”. Highlights include Michael Craig-Martin’s An Oak Tree (1973) and Roelof Louw’s Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges) (1987) as well as Victor Burgin’s Possession (1976), Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document (1974-78) and Conrad Atkinson’s Northern Ireland 1968 – May Day 1975 (1975-76). Admission charge applies. Runs until 29th August. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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Locking-Piece

A Henry Moore original, Locking Piece was created in 1963-64 and first located on its current site on Riverwalk Gardens at Millbank, site of the former Millbank Penitentiary, four years later. The bronze sculpture consists of, as the name suggests, two interlocking pieces. There’s a couple of conflicting stories about where the idea for the work came from – in one, Moore said he was visiting a gravel pit near his home at Perry Green in Hertfordshire where he was playing with two pebbles which suddenly locked together (and hence came the idea of a sculpture of two interlocking pieces); and in another, Moore said the idea came from a bone fragment featuring a socket and joint found in his garden. Originally loaned to Westminster City Council, in 1978 the sculpture was given to the Tate Gallery which subsequently decided to leave the piece in situ. It’s one of numerous Moore works in London. For more on Henry Moore’s London works, see www.henry-moore.org/works-in-public/world/uk/london.

John-Tennial-illustrationA new exhibition has opened at the British Library in Kings Cross to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The free exhibition explores the story of how the tale came to be written and features Lewis Carroll’s handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (complete with 37 illustrations by Carroll) as well as an entry from Carroll’s diary in which he relates how he first came to tell the story to Alice Liddell and her sisters on the “golden afternoon” of 4th July, 1862. Other highlights include two first editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel (including the suppressed first edition; suppressed because Carroll and Tenniel were unhappy with the quality of the illustrations), the first movie adaption of the story – a 1903 silent film, early Alice memorabilia, and three new computer game concepts. The exhibition, which runs until 17th April, is accompanied by a series of events and a pop-up shop. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/alice-in-wonderland-exhibition. PICTURE: Sir John Tenniel’s illustration of Alice and the Cheshire Cat from the 1866 edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll © The British Library Board.

An exhibition featuring more than 100 photographs by celebrated 19th century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron opens at the V&A on Saturday to mark the bicentenary of her birth. The display at the South Kensington museum offers a retrospective of her work and looks at her relationship with the V&A’s founding director Sir Henry Cole who presented the only exhibition of her work during her lifetime in 1865. Her relationship with the museum goes back to the very start of her work – within two years of being given a camera by her daughter she was selling and giving photographs to what was then the South Kensington Museum while, in 1868 she was granted the use of two rooms at the institution to use as a portrait studio, becoming the museum’s first artist-in-residence. The exhibition features original prints acquired from Cameron as well as a selection of her letters to Cole, his 1865 diary, the first photograph identified as being of her studio and a variety of her portraits in which family, friends and servants posed as characters from Biblical, historical and allegorical stories. The free exhibition runs until 21st February. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/juliamargaretcameron.

The influence of the British Empire on art over the past 400 years is the subject of a new exhibition which opened in Tate Britain’s Linbury Galleries yesterday. Artist and Empire will showcase art from across the empire – including the British Isles, North America, the Caribbean, the Pacific, Asia and Africa – and features some 200 paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and artefacts. These include paintings by the likes of George Stubbs and Anthony Van Dyck through to Indian miniatures, Maori objects, and the works of contemporary artists such as Sonia Boyce and Judy Watson. Runs until 10th April at the Milbank gallery. The exhibition is free. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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It’s all about big masted ships at Greenwich this Bank Holiday weekend as up to 15 ships drop anchor at the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival. Two tall ships, the Dar Mlodziezy and Santa Maria Manuela, will be moored on Tall Ships Island in the river at Maritime Greenwich (accessed via MBNA Thames Clippers) while an additional 13 ships will be taking people on cruises from their base at Royal Arsenal Woolwich (tickets can be booked via Sail Royal Greenwich). On Saturday, a free family festival will be held in Woolwich Town Centre and at Royal Arsenal Riverside with music, roving entertainers, food and other activities including a fireworks display on the river at 10pm (fireworks can also be seen on Thursday, Friday and Sunday nights on the river at Maritime Greenwich at around 9.15pm). For more information – including how and where to book tickets, see www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/tallships2015.

An immersive art project allowing visitors to engage with paintings in a multi sensory experience opened at Tate Britain on Milbank yesterday. Tate Sensorium has won this year’s annual IK Prize, presented by the Tate and supported by the Porter Foundation, awarded for a project which uses innovative technology to enable the public to explore the gallery’s collection in new ways. The display features four works by celebrated figures in 20th century painting: Francis Bacon’s Figure in a Landscape (1945), David Bomberg’s In the Hold (c 1913-1914), Richard Hamilton’s Interior II (1964) and John Latham’s Full Stop (1961). As part of the experience, which has been produced by creative studio Flying Object in conjunction with a cross-disciplinary team, visitors are offered the chance to wear biometric measurement wristbands to record the emotional impact of the experience. Admission to exhibition in gallery 34 is free but tickets are limited. Runs until 20th September. For more, see www.tate.org.uk/sensorium.

A series of detailed paintings of fruit, vegetables and edible plants from all over the world goes on show at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew Gardens on Saturday. Nature’s Bounty features works from the Shirley Sherwood and Kew collections including works from the 19th century text, Fleurs, Fruits et Feuillages Chosis de la Flore et de la Pomona de L’ile de Java drawn by botanical artist Berthe Hoola Van Nooten as well as works from the Shirley Sherwood and Kew collections. The exhibition runs until 31st January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.

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It’s all galleries this week- not a bad way to escape the heat!

NPG_959_1400_AudreyHepburnbThirty-five photographs of late actor Audrey Hepburn from the personal collection of her sons form the centrepiece of a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, which opens today and is the first UK exhibition to be organised with the Audrey Hepburn Estate, explores the life and career of the celebrated film star. Among the images lent by her sons Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti are a portrait of the actor performing a dance recital at the age of 13 in 1942, a photograph of her taken while filming The Nun’s Story in Africa in 1958, and a behind-the-scenes photograph of Hepburn during a costume fitting for the 1954 film Sabrina. Other images in the display include those taken during the shooting of numerous films ranging from 1955’s War and Peace to 1967’s Two for the Road as well as vintage magazine covers. Runs until 18th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk/hepburn. PICTURE: Audrey Hepburn by Philippe Halsman for LIFE magazine, 1954. © Philipe Halsman/Magnum Photos.

The works of Barbara Hepworth, one of the UK’s greatest artists, are on show at the Tate Britain on Millbank. Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World features more than 100 works, from major carvings and bronzes to less familiar pieces. Juxtaposed with works of other great artists – including paintings, prints and drawings of her second husband Ben Nicholson, they include her earliest surviving carvings, her more purely abstract works of the late 1930s, wooden sculptures made while Hepworth lived in Cornwall in the mid-1940s and four large carvings made in the mid-1950s in African hardwood guarea which, reunited for this exhibition, arguably represent the highpoint of her carving career. There are also bronzes from her 1965 retrospective at the Kroller-Muller Museum. Runs until 25th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

American artist Joseph Cornell’s art is the subject of an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly which opens on Saturday. Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust, organised in conjunction with Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna, features about 80 of the artist’s box constructions, assemblages, collages and films including rarely seen masterpieces lent from public and private collections in the US, Europe and Japan. Arranged in four sections, the display features works from his major series including Museums, Aviaries, Soap Bubble Sets, Palaces, Medici Slot Machines, Hotels and Dovecotes. Runs until 27th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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Holy-Thorn-ReliquaryThe Waddesdon Bequest, a collection of medieval and Renaissance treasures left to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in 1898, has a new home. Redisplayed in a new gallery which opened at the museum last week, the collection features the Christian relic known as Holy Thorn Reliquary (pictured) – a concocotion of gold, enamel and gems set around a thorn supposedly taken from Christ’s Crown of Thorns, the Lyte Jewel – a diamond-studded locket made in London in 1610-11 to hold a miniature of King James I and presented by the king to Thomas Lyte as thanks for a genealogy he created representing the king as a descendant of the Trojan Brutus, and the Cellini Bell – cast from silver in Nuremberg around 1600 and later displayed by Horace Walpole at his west London villa in Strawberry Hill. The bequest collection, which must always be displayed in a room of its own under its original terms, was first displayed at Baron Ferdinand’s country home of Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire (now a National Trust property) and moved to the museum after his death. The redisplay reconnects the collection with its past at the manor and the history of the museum – the room where it is now displayed, Room 2a, was the museum’s original Reading Room and part of a neo-classical suite of rooms designed by Robert Smirke in 1820. It has been given the “most ambitious digital treatment” of any permanent gallery in the institution. Admission is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The “enduring significance and emotional power” of British history painting is under examination in a new exhibition which opened at Tate Britain on Millbank last week. Fighting History features everything from the large scale works of 18th century painters John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West through to 20th century and contemporary works by Richard Hamilton and Jeremy Deller and looks at how they reacted, captured and interpreted key historical events. Works on show include Singleton Copley’s 1778 work The Collapse of the Earl of Chatham in the House of Lords, 7 July, William Frederick Yeames’ 1877 work Amy Robsart, John Minton’s 1952 work The Death of Nelson and Deller’s 2001 work The Battle of Orgreave, a re-enactment of 1984 protest in South Yorkshire. The exhibition also compares traditional and contemporary renderings of events from scripture, literature and the classical world and features a room dedicated to interpretations of the great Biblical flood of Noah. Runs until 13th September. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

A limited number of early release tickets to London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations will go on sale from noon tomorrow (Friday, 19th June). The tickets, the bulk of which will be released in September, cost £10 a person with the proceeds being used to cover costs including printing and infrastructure. As was the case last year, people without tickets will not be able to access the event. To get hold of tickets, head to www.london.gov.uk/nye.

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ArthurWellesleyThe Duke of Wellington’s political and military career as well as his personal life is being explored in an exhibition running at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square until August. Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions features 59 portraits and other works including a rarely seen portrait of the Iron Duke painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence and commissioned by Sarah, Countess of Jersey, a year after Wellington had become Prime Minister. The portrait (pictured) remains unfinished – the state it was in when Lawrence died in 1830 – and, held in a private collection, hasn’t been shown in public for any significant period until now. The exhibition also includes a John Hoppner portrait of the duke as a young soldier, a daguerreotype taken by Antoine Claudet on Wellington’s 75th birthday in 1844 and drawings by Lawrence of Wellington’s wife, Kitty. The exhibition – which is part of the commemorations marking 200 years since the Battle of Waterloo, runs until 7th June. Admission is free. For more see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1829), © On loan to National Portrait Gallery by kind permission of Mr. & Mrs. Timothy Clode.

Upton House is Warwickshire has turned the clock back to 1939 with a display dedicated to the time when the Bearstead family moved their City-based bank, M Samuel & Co, to their historic family mansion to escape the Blitz in London. Twenty-two bank staff took over the house, sleeping in shared dormitories and taking meals of rook pie in the home’s Long Gallery while secretaries typed surrounded by works of art. The National Trust has returned 12 rooms to their wartime look based on research conducted by 80 of the volunteers at the house. They’re filled with thousands of objects, from ration-book toothpaste to wartime toilet rolls, to recreate a wartime experience at the home. Outside an Anderson Shelter stands in the garden where heritage vegetables are being grown in an allotment. Visitors will also find out how 40 of the most precious works in the home were sent to a special storage facility in a Welsh slate mine to protect them. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/upton-house/

On Now – Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860. This exhibition at Tate Britain in Millbank is the first major exhibition in Britain dedicated to salt prints, the earliest form of paper photography, and features 90 images including some of the best and rarest early photographs. The salt print technique was invented in Britain in the 1840s and 1850s and spread across the world, hence as well as portraits, still lifes and scenes from ‘modern life’, the images on show include from William Fox Talbot’s images of a Paris street to Nelson’s Column under construction, Linnaeus Tripe’s views of Puthu Mundapam in India and Auguste Salzmann’s studies of statues in Greece. Runs in the Linbury Galleries until 7th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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BeetleFrom Dr Livingstone, I presume? A recently unearthed collection of beetles gathered together by Dr David Livingstone during his Zambezi expedition of 1858-64 will go on display in its original box at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington on Friday night. The specimens were found among the museum’s 10 million beetles by beetle curator Max Barclay who stumbled on an unusual box received from a private collector. The collector was later found out to be amateur entomologist Edward Young Western (1837-1924) who apparently bought the specimens from a member of Livingstone’s expedition. The 20 beetles found inside the box are believed to the only surviving specimens known to have been collected by Livingstone. The specimens will be on show as part of Science Uncovered, a free annual after hours event – part of European Researcher’s Night – which will take place at the museum between 3pm and 10.30pm Friday night. Other highlights of the night include the chance to extract DNA from strawberries and bananas, create your own earthquake and chat live with NASA about chasing asteroids. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/scienceuncovered. PICTURE: Giant Predatory Ground Beetle, Termophilum alternatum © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

Totally Thames – the month long celebration of the great river – is going out with a bang this weekend with more than 300 crews expected to take part in the Great River Race. Running from Millwall to Ham in Surrey, the 21.6 mile long event attracts entries from across the globe. The first boats leave Millwall at 12.40pm. Head to the riverbank between Richmond and Ham at approximately 3.40pm to see the winners cross the line to a cannon broadside. For more on the Great River Race, see www.greatriverrace.co.uk. Other events on as part of Totally Thames this weekend include historic riverside walks – one focused on Brunel and another on London’s ports before the Great Fire of 1666 as well as exhibitions including Richmond’s River at Orleans Gallery House in Twickenham and your last chance to see Florentijn Hofman’s HippopoThames. For more on Totally Thames, see www.totallythames.org.

Some of Snowdon’s most iconic images will be on show as part of a new exhibition opening at the National Portrait Gallery near Trafalgar Square on Friday. Snowdon: A Life in View will feature studio portraits spanning a period from the 1950s to the 1990s alongside images from Private View, Snowdon’s 1965 examination of the British art world, created in collaboration with art critic John Russell and then director of Whitechapel Gallery, Bryan Robertson. More than 40 black-and-white portraits are included in the display including some works acquired by the gallery last year. To be held in Room 37 and 37a of the ground floor Lerner Contemporary Galleries until 21st June. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

On Now: Foundlings at War: World War I. This display at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury reveals for the first time the stories of foundlings who fought as well as those of the mothers forced to leave their children at the hospital as a result of bereavement or abandonment of those serving abroad. A free digital ibook, The Foundlings at War: World War I, containing expanded background information was published to coincide with the opening of the display earlier this month and can be downloaded from iTunes. The exhibition is part of a major research project, Foundlings at War, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is the first of several displays examining the institution’s historic links with the military. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.co.uk.

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London’s month long celebration of the River Thames kicks off on Monday with a 30 day programme of events ranging from regattas and river races to foreshore archaeology, arts, music and community festivals and environmental and educational activities. Highlights of Totally Thames include the Mayor’s Thames Festival, which runs all month and includes new art, films and performances on the riverside as well as beach combing, bonfires, walks, talks and cruises, the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival, which runs from 5th to 9th September and features the largest fleet of tall ships to visit London in 25 years, the Great River Race on 27th September which has attracted more than 300 crews from across the globe, Handel’s Fireworks Music and Illuminations taking place at Hampton Court Palace on 14th September and, taking place this weekend, The Big Thames Tidy, which sees water charity Thames21 hosting one of the biggest clean-ups the river has ever seen. We’ll be mentioning events in more details as the month unfolds. To see the full programme of events, head to www.totallythames.org.

The most significant private collection of the paintings and drawings of Frank Auerbach – described as one of Britain’s “greatest living artists” – has gone on show at Tate Britain on Millbank. The works, which span the period from Auerbach’s student days in the late 1940s until 2007, were collected by the late artist Lucian Freud and hung in his London house until his death in 2011. They include portraits of Auerbach’s friends and relatives and landscapes of London. BP Spotlight – Frank Auerbach: Painting and Drawings from the Lucian Freud Estate is on display until 9th November. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

• Now On: An Impossible Bouquet, Four Masterpieces by Jan van Huysum. This exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery features works by the 18th century Dutch artist taken from private collections as well as the Dulwich’s own painting and is aimed at showcasing the “artist’s ingenuity and astonishing ability to paint flowers, fruit and insects with minute attention to detail”. The exhibition only has a month to go – it closes on 28th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

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RoskildeThe Vikings come to the British Museum from today with the first major exhibition in more than 30 years. Vikings: life and legend, the first exhibition to be held in the new Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery, was developed with the National Museum of Denmark and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) and looks at the Viking period from the late 8th century to the early 11th century. Featuring many new archaeological discoveries and objects never seen before in the UK alongside items from the British Museum’s own collection, the exhibition is centred on the surviving timbers of a 37 metre long Viking warship excavated from the banks of the Roskilde fjord in Denmark (pictured). Other items include skeletons recently excavated from a mass grave of executed Vikings in Dorset, the Vale of York Hoard (discovered in 2007) and a stunning hoard of silver from Gnezdovo in Russia. A unique live broadcast event presented by historian Michael Wood taking cinema audiences around the exhibition will be shown in cinemas across the nation on 24th April. Admission charge applies. Runs until 22nd June. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/vikings.aspx. PICTURE: Copyright of the National Museum of Denmark. 

The commemorations of the World War I centenary have commenced at the National Portrait Gallery with The Great War in Portraits. The first of a four year programme of events and displays at the gallery, the exhibition features iconic portraits of figures such as Winston Churchill, Kaiser Wilhelm, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen as well as major art works by the likes of Lovis Corinth, Max Beckmann, and Kirchner, whose painting Selbstbildnis als Soldat (Self-portrait as a Soldier) is featured, and Harold Gillies’ photographs of facially injured soldiers from the Royal College of Surgeons. Among the highlights are Jacob Epstein’s The Rock Drill, a contrasting pair of British and German films about the Battle of the Somme, and a press photograph of Gavrilo Princip, the student who sparked the flames of war when he assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Elsewhere among the 80 works on display are portraits of war heroes such as VC winners are contrasted with those of soldiers disfigured by war, POWs and those shot for cowardice. Admission is free. Runs until 15th June. For more, see www.npg.org.uk/whatson/firstworldwarcentenary/exhibition.php.

Our fascination with ruins is the subject of a new exhibition which opened this week at Tate Britain. Including more than 100 works from the likes of JMW Turner, John Constable, John Martin, Eduardo Paolozzi, Rachel Whiteread and Tacita Dean, Ruin Lust examines the craze for ruins that overtook creative types in the eighteenth century and the subsequent revisiting – and at times mocking – of this fascination by later figures. Works on show include Turner’s Tintern Abbey: The Crossing and Chancel, Looking towards the East Window 1794, Constable’s Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’ c 1828-9, Graham Sutherland’s Devastation series 1940-1 – showing the aftermath of the Blitz, Jon Savage’s images of London in the late 1970s, and Whitehead’s Demolished – B: Clapton Park Estate 1996, showing the demolition of Hackney tower blocks. Runs until 18th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/ruin-lust.

What’s in a name?…Millbank

November 18, 2013

Millbank

The origins of this Thames-side district of London are as obvious as they sound – it was the site of a mill which stood on the west bank of the river.

The mill, which had served Westminster Abbey since at least the 16th century, stood here until about 1735 when it was demolished and replaced by a mansion built by Sir Robert Grosvenor, a member of the Grosvenor family responsible for developing parts of Mayfair.

The house was pulled down in 1809 to make way for Millbank Prison, which was the country’s first national prison and which was where prisoners were held before their transportation to Australia.

The prison closed about 1890 (a buttress which once stood at the top of the prison’s river steps commemorates the prison – pictured above).

The site is now occupied by some of the more interesting buildings in the area – including the Chelsea College of Arts (buildings formerly used by the  Royal Army Medical School, Tate Britain (which opened in 1897 as the National Gallery of British Art), and a housing development known as the Millbank Estate, constructed to providing housing for 4,500 members of the working class.

While the area was previously known for having been dominated by marshland, land was eventually reclaimed along the waterfront and an embankment established, defining the course of the river.

As well as the district, the name Millbank is also the name of the street which runs along the riverbank between the Houses of Parliament and Vauxhall Bridges.

For more on London’s prisons, check out Geoffrey Howse’s A History of London’s Prisons.

The Bard is back in Leicester Square with the announcement last week that restoration work on the square’s 19th century Grade II listed statue of William Shakespeare – the only full-length statue the playwright in central London – has been completed. The 11 month restoration was carried out as part of £17 million revamp of the square which has seen the installation of a new fountain. The statue, which was the work of James Knowles, has been in the square since it was completed in its current configuration in 1874. Meanwhile, in other sculpture-related news, Sorry, Sorry Sarajevo – a life-size statue of a man holding  a dead or badly injured man in his arms has been placed in St Paul’s Cathedral where it will remain for the rest of the year. The work by Nicola Hicks dates from 1993 – when the Bosnian war was at its height – and has been placed opposite Henry Moore’s 1983 sculpture, Mother and Child: Hood as part of the cathedral’s approach to next year’s World War I centenary.

Two new displays opened at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury last month. Hogarth and Copyright, which runs until 5th January, looks at the role the artist William Hogarth played in the passing of the 1735 Engravers’ Copyright Act (also known as Hogarth’s Act – it was the first law to protect artist’s rights over their work) while Handel and Lucretia, presented in conjunction with The Sir Denis Mahon Charitable Trust and running until 26th January, shows Guercino’s painting Lucretia alongside two early manuscripts of Handel’s cantata La Lucretia. Entry is part of admission price. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

A new exhibition tracing the history of attacks on artworks in Britain from the 16th century to today opened at Tate Britain in Millbank this week. Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm looks at why and how monuments have been damaged over the past 500 years. The display includes the remarkable pre-Reformation sculpture, the Statue of the Dead Christ (about 1500-1520), which was discovered in 1954 beneath the chapel floor at the Mercer’s Hall. Already damaged – most likely at the hands of Protestant iconoclasts – it may have been buried there to protect it. Also displayed are fragments of monuments destroyed in Ireland last century, paintings including Edward Burne-Jones’ 1898 painting Sibylla Delphica which was attacked by suffragettes in 1913-14, and Allen Jones’ 1969 work Chair – damaged in a feminist attack in 1986. Runs until 5th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

A controversial exhibition of sexually explicit Japanese works of art created between 1600-1900 opened at the British Museum this week. Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese Art – which carries a warning of “parental guidance for visitors under 16 years – features 170 works including paintings, prints and illustrated books. Drawn from collections in the UK, Japan, Europe and the US, the exhibition of explores the phenomena of what are known as shunga (‘spring pictures’), looking at why it was produced and to whom it was circulated. Admission charge applies. Runs until 5th January. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

A new exhibition marking the 90th anniversary of the iconic publication, Radio Times, opens at the Museum of London tomorrow (Friday). Cover Story: Radio Times at 90 features some of the magazines most famous covers depicting the likes of Tony Hancock, The Goon Show, Only Fools and Horses and Coronation Street, and charts the history of radio from the BBC’s first transmission to today’s multiple channels. As well as original artwork and photographs used in Radio Times, the display includes a special focus on Doctor Who with the chance for visitors to create their own Radio Times cover as they stand alongside a life-size Dalek. Other highlights include an original 1941 illuminated map used by the Luftwaffe which shows Radio Times‘ Waterlows printing plant in Park Royal alongside other targets. Radio Times was first published by the BBC in London on 29th September, 1923, and since 2011 has been owned by Immediate Media Co. The free exhibition runs until 3rd November. For more, check out www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

The Imperial War Museum has partially reopened this week. As well as the re-opening of its permanent galleries and exhibitions, the museum has launched a major new family-oriented exhibition Horrible Histories: Spies, a new art exhibition entitled Architecture of War and ‘IWM Contemporary’, a new programme showcasing significant works by leading artists in response to war and conflict. The museum will fully reopen in summer next year with the opening of new First World War Galleries. Horrible Histories: Spies, which runs until 4th January (admission charge applies), immerses visitors in the world of World War II spycraft with families able to uncover the techniques used by the most cunning spies. More on Architecture of War and IWM contemporary in upcoming posts. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.

On Now: Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life. This exhibition at the Tate Britain represents the first to be held by a public London institution featuring  the works of LS Lowry since his death in 1976 and is the first to explore his connections with French art. Among works on display is a little known, untitled painting depicting a busy town square set against the backdrop of industrial Salford which was found on the back of the wooden panel on which Lowry painted his 1937 work The Mission Room. Others among the 90 works on display include Coming Out Of School (1927), The Pond (1950), Industrial Landscape (1955) and Hillside in Wales (1962) as well as Ancoats Hospital Outpatients Hall (1952), The Cripples (1949), Piccadilly Circus, London (1960) and Excavating Manchester (1932). Runs until 20th October. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

 Diver Tom Daley’s swimming trunks, cyclist Bradley Wiggins’ yellow jersey and a Mary Poppins outfit worn in last year’s Olympic Games’ opening ceremony are among the items on display as part of the Museum of London’s 2012 display. The free display, which opened last week, exactly 200 days after the Paralympics closing ceremony, features a selection of 70 items connected with the Games. Runs in the Galleries of Modern London until 31st October. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

Oxford took line honours at the 159th Boat Race, held on the River Thames last weekend. The Dark Blues – whose crew included Olympic medalists Constantine Louloudis and Malcolm Howard – still trail Cambridge (the Light Blues) – whose crew included another Olympic medallist, George Nash, however, with 77 wins to 81 wins. For more, see www.theboatrace.org or our previous articles – here and here.

Kew Garden’s historic Temperate House has received a £14.7 million Lottery Fund grant for conservation of the Grade One listed building, the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world. The grant – which adds to £10.4 million from the government and £7.7 million from private donors – will also be used to create a “more inspiring” public display for visitors with the overall £34.3 million project completed by May, 2018. The building opened in 1863 and was last refurbished 35 years ago. It houses some of the world’s rarest plants, including a South African cycad (Encephalartos woodii). For more, see www.kew.org.

On Now: Phantom Ride. This “haunting” film installation by artist Simon Starling was commissioned by the Tate Britain in Millbank and is located in the neo-classical Duveen galleries. Referencing the late nineteenth century tradition of ‘phantom rides’ – films, often made by cameramen strapped to the front of a train, that gave a dramatic sense of motion as if one is aboard an invisible vehicle – the installation includes a “compelling flow of images” of artworks that once filled the Duveen galleries, creating a sense of movement as the works move up and down the walls. Admission is free. Runs until 20th October. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

Laus Veneris (1873-8) by Edward Burne-Jones was inspired by Algernon Swinburne’s poem Laus Veneris which relates the tale of a knight who falls in love with Venus (shown in red) but then decides to leave her. Usually found in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, it’s among the 180 or so works on display at Tate Britain on Millbank as part of its recently opened exhibition, Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde. The exhibition, the largest survey of the group in almost 30 years, locates the Pre-Raphaelites as the UK’s first modern art movement and traces the group’s development from its formation in 1848 through to their Symbolist creations of the 1890s. Other works on show, some of which have been rarely seen in the UK, include John Everett Millais’ Ophelia, William Holman Hunt’s The Lady of Shalott, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Found. There are also works by Madox Brown and William Morris and as well as paintings, the display includes sculpture, photography and the applied arts. Runs until 13th January next year. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

Where is it?…#40

August 10, 2012

The latest in the series in which we ask you to identify where in London this picture was taken and what it’s of. If you think you can identify this picture, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

Well done to Angelo – this is indeed located outside the Tate Gallery, just to the left of the main entrance. The statue is The Death of Dirce, a work by Sir Charles Lawes-Wittewronges, and was one of a several copies of the same work he made in the early 1900s (this bronze version was made in 1906), including a couple of bronze versions and a colossal marble version. The sculptural group, based on the Hellenistic sculpture known as the Farnese Bull (which is indeed in Naples), depicts Dirce, the wife of the King of Thebes who was tied to the horns of a bull by Amphion and Zethus as a punishment. Sir Charles was something of a noted athlete in a range of sports as well as a sculptor who exhibited 12 works at the Royal Academy. He was also involved in a famous libel case in the 1880s. The statue was presented to what was then the National Gallery of British Art by his widow after his death in 1911.

We’ll kick off this week with just a few more of the plethora of Olympic-related events which are happening around town:

Tower Bridge, site of some spectacular fireworks last Friday night, is currently hosting an exhibition celebrating the 26 cities which have hosted the modern Olympics. Cities of the Modern Games, located on the bridge’s walkways, runs alongside an interactive exhibition looking at the bridge’s construction. Follow the link for details.

The Guildhall Art Gallery is showcasing sculpture and art inspired by sport and the “Olympic values”. The art works are all winning entries from a contest organised by the International Olympic Committee. The chosen works were selected from among 68 submissions made by an international jury. Follow the link for details.

The Design Museum is hosting a new exhibition celebrating the nexus between sport and design. Designed to Win looks at everything from the design of F1 cars to running shoes, bats and bicycles and explores the way in which design has shaped the sporting world. Runs until 9th September. Admission charge applies. See www.designmuseum.org.

• The London Metropolitan Archives is holding an exhibition of playing cards featuring an Olympic theme. Sporting Aces – Playing Cards and the Olympic Games features cards drawn from the collection of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards which have an Olympic theme. Admission is free. Runs until 13th September. See www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma.

And in other news…

A night market has been launched at Camden Lock over the summer period. Street food stalls and vintage fashion, arts and crafts and book shops will be open until 10pm every Thursday with extras including live music and film screenings. For more, see www.camdenlockmarket.com.

• On Now: Another London: International Photographers and City Life 1930-1980. This exhibition at Tate Britain in Millbank features more than 150 classic photographs of the city and its communities by foreign photographers including such luminaries as Henri Cartier-Bresson. The exhibition features iconic works such as Robert Frank’s London (Stock Exchange) 1951, Cartier-Bresson’s images of King George VI’s coronation, Elliot Erwitt’s depiction of a rain-washed London bus stop, and Bruce Davidson’s image of a child with pigeons in Trafalgar Square alongside works such as Wolfgang Suschitzky’s images of working class families in the East End, from the 1940s, and Karen Knorr’s images of punks in the 1970s. The photographs all come from the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection, which includes more than 1,200 images of London and has been promised as a gift to the Tate. Runs until 16th September. Admission charge applies. See www.tate.org.uk. 

Have we missed something we should be telling others about? Send details in an email to exploringlondon@gmail.com.