The world’s first photographic experiments and earliest cameras, pictures by everyone from pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron to 20th century great Cecil Beaton, and a series of newly commissioned works by German photographer Thomas Ruff and American artist Penelope Umbrico are among attractions at the V&A’s new Photography Centre, the first phase of which opens tomorrow. Designed by David Kohn Architects, the new centre spans four galleries and more than doubles the space dedicated at photography at the South Kensington institution. The initial display, Collecting Photography: From Daguerreotype to Digital, includes more than 600 objects from across the world including seminal prints and negatives by pioneers like William Henry Fox Talbot and Cindy Sherman, 20th century greats like Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans and Irving Penn, and contemporary photographers like Hiroshi Sugimoto, Mary McCartney and Martin Parr. There’s a pioneering botanical cyanotype by Anna Atkins, images by the world’s first female museum photographer – Isabel Agnes Cowper, and motion studies by Eadweard Muybridge as well as camera equipment, photographic publications, original documents and a “digital wall” to showcase cutting-edge photo imagery. The opening is being accompanied by a three week ‘spotlight’ on photography across the V&A including talks, screenings, courses, workshops and other events. Entry to the new centre in the V&A’s North East Quarter is free. A second phase, including a teaching and research space, browsing library and studio and darkroom for photographer residencies, will open in 2022. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURES: Top – Rendering of Gallery 99 in the new Photography Centre (© David Kohn Architects); Right – Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lightbody Fields 225, 2009, Gelaton silver print form a photogram (© Hiroshi Sugimoto, Victoria and Albert Museum).

The role women have played in the development of jazz music is the subject of a new exhibition at the Barbican Music Library in the City of London. Women in Jazz explores how social and political changes in the 20th century played a significant role in encouraging more female involvement in jazz and highlights the new generation of performers. The display includes photographs, journals, video and memorabilia from the National Jazz Archive. Opens on Tuesday and runs until 31st December. For more, follow this link.

The first major retrospective of textile artist Anna Albers (1899-1994) opens at the Tate Modern today. Anna Albers features her most important works – many shown in the UK for the first time – in a display including more than 350 objects including small-scale studies, large wall-hangings, jewellery made from everyday items, and textiles designed for mass production. It explores the many aspects of Albers’ practice including the intersections between art and craft hand-weaving and machine production as well as the artist’s writings, including The Pliable Plane: Textiles in Architecture (1957), On Designing (1959) and On Weaving (1965). Berlin-born Albers was a student at the Bauhaus in the 1920s and there began working with textiles – later taking her talent to the US and making many visits to Central and South America. The exhibition in the The Eyal Ofer Galleries runs until 27th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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The Ranger’s House in Greenwich – home to a world class art collection known as the Wernher Collection – reopened to the public this week after a makeover by English Heritage. The property – a Georgian villa located on the edge of Greenwich Park – displays the collection – which includes more than 700 works gathered by diamond magnate Julius Wernher in the late 1800s – across 11 period rooms. Highlights include a gold earring in the shape of Victory (the Greek goddess of war) which dates from 2BC, a carved pendant in the shape of a skull from around 1500, a silver gilt, steel and nautilus shell cup dating from 1660 (pictured) and an enamelled jug depicting the Greek god Triton. The collection was originally displayed at Wernher’s London townhouse – Bath House in Piccadilly – and at his country estate, Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire, but after Luton Hoo closed in the 1990s, English Heritage agreed to display the collection at the Ranger’s House (which it had acquired in 1986) on a 125 year loan. Photographs showing how Wernher displayed his collection in his own homes have informed how the objects are presented in the house today. The house is open from Sunday to Wednesday until the end of September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/rangershouse. PICTURE: © English Heritage

 The Great Pagoda at Kew has been reopened to visitors for the first time in years following a four year restoration project. Built in 1762, the pagoda was used by the Georgian Royal Family to entertain visitors and was for the first 20 years famously adorned with 80 brightly coloured wooden dragons (until, that is, they disappeared in the 1780s when they were rumoured to have been used as payment for the Prince Regent’s gambling debts). Thanks to a major restoration project by Historic Royal Palaces in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, dragons have returned to the structure and for the first time in decades visitors are being allowed access to the upper floors from where they can gain a birds-eye view of the gardens. They will also be able to learn about the role the pagoda played in planning for the D-Day landings and try out the automata on the ground floor for a tour in miniature of Kew’s Georgian ‘royal route’. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk.

The art of Germany’s Weimar Republic goes on show at Tate Modern on South Bank from Monday. Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany 1919-1933 features about 70 paintings and works on paper drawn from The George Economou Collection – some of which have never seen in the UK before – and the Tate’s own collection. The display explores the “paradoxes” of the Weimar era, a time when liberalisation and anti-militarism flourished amid political and economic uncertainty (the title draws on the coining of the phrase ‘magic realism’ – today often associated with the literature of Latin America – by artist and critic Franz Roh in 1925 in an effort to describe the shift from the emotional art of the expressionist era, toward the unsettling imagery of this inter-war period). Works by artists like Otto Dix, George Grosz and Max Beckmann will be presented alongside those of under recognised artists such as Albert Birkle, Jeanne Mammen and Rudolf Schlichter and others whose careers were curtailed thanks to the rise of Nationalist Socialism and its agenda to promote art that celebrated its political ideologies. Admission is free. Runs until 14th July, 2019. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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Tate Modern is staging its first ever solo exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s work with a focus on the pivotal year of 1932, described as the artist’s ‘year of wonders’. The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy takes visitors on a month-by-month journey through the year with more than 100 paintings, sculptures and works on paper. Highlights include Nude Woman in a Red Armchair, a key painting in the Tate’s collection, 13 seminal ink drawings of the Crucifixion, Girl before a Mirror and The Dream (pictured) as well as Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, Nude in a Black Armchair and The Mirror. During organised in collaboration with the Musée National-Picasso, Paris, the exhibition runs until 9th September in the Eyal Ofer Galleries. For more, see www.tate.org.uk. PICTURE: Le Reve (The Dream), 1932, Private Collection, © Succession Picasso/DACS London 2018.

Family photographs of footballer Bobby Moore – who in 1966 famously captained the only English team to win the World Cup – can be seen in a new display which has opened at the National Portrait Gallery to mark this summer’s FIFA World Cup tournament. Bobby Moore: First Gentleman of English Football features a series of portraits, with the earliest dating from 1962, and including a striking image of Moore (1941-93) winning the ball from George Best during a match against Northern Ireland in 1964 as well as images of Moore relaxing off the pitch, and with his children Roberta and Dean. The free display can be seen in Room 32 until next January. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

The influence of modern Greece upon and the enduring friendships between Greek painter Niko Ghika, British painter John Craxton and British writer, Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor are the subject of a new exhibition at the British Museum. Charmed lives in Greece: Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor brings together their artworks, photographs, letters and personal possessions as it explores how their close friendship – which commenced at the end of World War II after which all three spent much of their subsequent lives in Greece – influenced their artistic output. Highlights include Ghika’s Black Sun and Craxton’s Still Life with Three Sailors as well as Craxton’s original artwork for the book covers of Leigh Fermor’s travel classics, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. Many of the artworks and objects on show are on loan from the Benaki Museum in Greece, to which Ghika bequeathed his house and works. Runs in Room 5 until 15th July. Admission is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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Currently known as the Coca-Cola London Eye (it’s had several name and sponsorship changes over its life), this unmissable structure started operations in the year 2000.

Designed by Marks Barfield Architects and located at the south-western corner of Jubilee Gardens on South Bank, it stands 135 metres tall and, with a diameter of 120 metres, is the world’s biggest cantilevered observation wheel. It was also the tallest observation deck in London but lost that title to The Shard.

It features 32 sealed, ovoid-shaped capsules for passengers, each of which can hold up to 25 people, and rotates at the rate of about 0.6 mph, meaning a rotation takes around half an hour (a rate which allows most people to get on or off without stopping the wheel).

The Eye, which offers a birds-eye view of surrounding areas including the Houses of Parliament, was formally opened by then PM Tony Blair on 31st December, 1999, but didn’t open to the public until the following March (thanks to a clutch problem on one of the capsules).

It originally intended as a temporary structure built to mark the new millennium (after which it would be dismantled an moved to another location) but its popularity (and the resolution of a dispute over its lease in the mid-Noughties) has seen become a permanent fixture.

The capsules – there’s apparently no number 13 – were upgraded in 2009 and in 2013, one of them was named the Coronation Capsule in honour of the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Eye has been lit up on numerous occasions to mark special events – among them Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding in 2011.

WHERE: Coca Cola London Eye, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road (nearest Tube stations are Waterloo, Embankment and Westminster); WHEN: 11am to 6pm daily (till 29th March); COST: See website for details; WEBSITE: www.londoneye.com.

 


Two Blackfriars Bridges – a vehicle and pedestrian bridge, and a railway bridge – still span the River Thames from the City of London on the north bank to South Bank. But just beside the railway bridge stand some large red pylons – the remains of the first Blackfriars Railway Bridge. 

This bridge was built in 1864 to accommodate the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) when it was extended north across the river to what was then named St Paul’s Station (at least until 1937 when it became Blackfriars Station).

The ornate bridge was designed by Joseph Cubitt but within 20 years of its being built, the second, still existing, railway bridge was constructed alongside it to provide more space for trains (the original bridge apparently only had four tracks).

The ornately decorated first bridge was supported on three rows of pylons – the third was incorporated into the second bridge (which is why we now only see two rows).

After 1923, when train services began to terminate at Waterloo Station on the south side of the river, the bridge was rarely used but it wasn’t until many years later, in 1985, that it was declared too weak to support the current crop of trains and removed.

As well as the pylons, on the south side of the river can be seen a massive abutment of Portland stone featuring the ornate cast iron insignia of the former LCDR (above right). Grade II-listed, it was restored in about 1990.

PICTURES: Top – The wub/licensed under The wub; Right – SyndVer/licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The annual festival of illumination known as Lumiere London returns to the capital for a second time from tonight with more than 50 installations lighting up streets, buildings and public spaces. London’s largest night-time festival, installations in this year’s free event – commissioned by the Mayor of London and produced by arts charity Artichoke – are clustered around six areas: King’s Cross, Fitzrovia, the West End, Mayfair, Westminster and Victoria, and South Bank and Waterloo. The installations include Lampounette – located in King’s Cross, it features giant office desk lamps, Entre les rangs – a field of thousands of flower-like reflectors in Lewis Cubitt Park, Nightlife – a luminous secret garden in Leicester Square which plays with the relationship between wild spaces and urban city life and spills out to include illuminated flamingoes flying over Chinatown, and Northern Lights – a recreation of the aurora borealis in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair. The facade of Westminster Abbey is also among the buildings to be lit up with artist Patrice Warrener commissioned to illuminate the Abbey’s West Towers and Great North Door with his work, The Light of the Spirit. There’s a free app to download and a map can be purchased online for download. For more, include a complete programme, head to www.visitlondon.com/lumiere. PICTURE: Westminster Abbey during Lumiere London last year (Paula Funnell/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

London’s future built form is up for discussion at a new exhibition opening at the Museum of London tomorrow. London Visions: Hypothetical scenarios of a future presents hypothetical concepts created by leading artists, architects and designers using video installations, architectural narratives and video games. Among the key works on display are: Flooded London – a series of images created by Squint/Opera depicting imaginary scenes of London in 2090 when rising seas have flooded the city; In the Robot Skies: A Drone Love Story – the world’s first narrative shot entirely by autonomous drones operating on autopilot, the film – directed by speculative architect Liam Young and written by Tim Maughan – looks at the possible future use of drones within London council estates; and, Endless Vertical City – a competition-winning design by SURE Architecture which envisions a skyscraper that could house the whole of London. The free display is on show until 15th April as part of City Now City Future, the year-long season of events exploring urban evolution in London and around the world. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/citynowcityfuture.

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The renovated Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia has reopened at the British Museum, bringing the displays for China and South Asia up-to-date. The gallery presents the histories of China from 5000BC to the present with objects on show including Ming dynasty dragon tiles and the earliest scroll to reach Britain (it arrived at the end of the 18th century). The South Asia exhibition, meanwhile, includes a new display covering the Mughal period, the Rajput rulers, India under British rule and the region since independence in 1947. Featured objects include the stone sculptures from the Buddhist shrine at Amaravati and newly acquired works of art including a 6th century sculpture of Lakshmi from Kashmir. Entry to the gallery in Room 33 is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: Courtesy of British Museum.

Historic letters sent between the City of London and the United States of America during the American War of Independence have gone on show at the City of London’s Heritage Gallery within the Guildhall Art Gallery. The letters include some authored by notable Americans John Hancock and Isaac Roosevelt, written at a time when, in defiance of the British Government, the City championed the cause of the colonists. Also on show are documents relating to the life and work of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson – the first women to qualify as a surgeon and physician in Britain and to serve as a magistrate and mayor – and, in a nod to the approaching centenary of the Royal Air Force, a display on the career of World War II pilot Cy Grant. The documents, which are all drawn from the collection of the London Metropolitan Archives, can be seen until 18th April. For more, follow this link.

Two major new works have been opened in the Tanks at the Tate Modern. Emeka Ogboh’s, The Way Earthly Things Are Going 2017 – on display for the first time in the UK after debuting in Athens – fills the subterranean East Tank in the Blavatnik Building while Indian artist Amar Kanwar’s The Lightning Testimonies 2007 can be seen in the South Tank. Both works are on display until 4th February. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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The Lord Mayor’s Show takes place this Saturday as the new Lord Mayor of London, Charles Bowman, takes office with the event once again culminating in a spectacular fireworks display over the Thames. The Lord Mayor will arrive in the City at 9am via a flotilla which includes the QRB Gloriana and other traditional Thames barges. Riding in the splendid State Coach, the Lord Mayor then joins in the world famous procession which sets off from Mansion House at 11am, pausing at the Royal Courts where he swears allegiance to the monarch before returning via Victoria Embankment at 1pm. The fireworks display will start at 5.15pm from a barge moored between Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges. For more details, head to https://lordmayorsshow.london. Meanwhile, on Sunday, annual Remembrance Sunday services will be held around the country centred on the Cenotaph in Whitehall where, in a break with tradition, Prince Charles is expected to lay a wreath on behalf of the Queen who, along with Prince Philip, will be watching from the balcony of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office building.

More than 50 portraits by Paul Cézanne have gone on show in a landmark exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Cézanne Portraits features works previously unseen in the UK including three self-portraits – one of which is Self Portrait in a Bowler Hat (1885-86) –  and two portraits of his wife –  Madame Cézanne Sewing (1877) and Madame Cézanne (1886–7) – as well as Boy in a Red Waistcoat (1888-90) and Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair, both of which haven’t been seen in London since the 1930s. The exhibition, which includes paintings spanning the period from the 1860s until shortly before Cézanne’s death in 1906, explores the special pictorial and thematic characteristics of the artist’s portraiture work such as his use of complementary pairs and his creation of multiple versions of works featuring the same subject. The exhibition, which has already been on show at the Musée d’Orsay and will be at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC from late March next year, runs until 11th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: Self-Portrait with Bowler Hat by Paul Cézanne, 1885-6, © Private Collection 

The use of venom as the ultimate natural weapon is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Natural History Museum on Friday. Venom: Killer and Cure explores how the use and effects of venom, the different biological roles it plays and how humans have attempted to harness and neutralise its power, with the former including some remarkable medical innovations. Specimens on show include everything from snakes to spiders, wasps, scorpions and the duck-billed platypus as well as live example of a venomous creature. Highlights include a gaboon viper head – a snake species with the largest known venom fangs, an emperor scorpion which engages in unusual mating behaviour known as “sexual stingings”, a flower urchin which can inject venom that causes muscular paralysis in humans for up to six hours, a tarantula hawk wasp which has one of the most painful venomous stings, and a box jellyfish, larger specimens of which can cause death in humans in two to five minutes. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk.

Coinciding with the centenary of the Russian Revolution comes a new exhibition at the Tate Modern which offers a visual history of Russia and the Soviet Union. Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905-55 is based around the collection of late graphic designer David King (1943-2016) and charts how seismic events such as the overthrow of the last Tsar, the revolutionary risings of 1917 and Stalin’s campaign of terror inspired a wave of art and graphic design across the country. The display includes more than 250 posters, paintings, photographs, books and other ephemera by artists such as El Lissitzky, Aleksandr Rodchenko and Nina Vatolina. Runs until 18th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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An exhibition exploring how recorded sound has shaped and influenced our lives since the invention of the phonograph in 1877 has opened at the British Library. Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound provides the opportunity to hear rare and unpublished recordings from the British Library’s sound archive as well as view some the library’s rarely seen collection of records, players and recorders. Highlights include a record of James Joyce reading Ulysses in 1924 (one of only two recordings of his voice), the smallest 78 rpm disc ever issued (made for Queen Mary’s doll’s house), playable stamps from the Kingdom of Bhutan and historic voices including those of nursing icon Florence Nightingale (recorded at her London home in 1890), aviator Amelia Earhart (recorded in 1932), and writer Jorge Luis Borges (recorded in 1971). The exhibition also features a specially commissioned sound installation by musician and former British Library composer-in-residence, Aleks Kolkowski. Free to enter, the display in the Entrance Hall Gallery can be seen until 11th March and is accompanied by a programme of events. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/listen-140-years-of-recorded-sound. PICTURE: Wax cylinders from the British Library sound collections © British Library Board.

Go for a swing! Tate Modern this month has unveiled a large scale interactive installation by Danish collective SUPERFLEX which features dozens of three seater swings weaving through the gallery’s Turbine Hall and out into the landscape beyond. One Two Three Swing! is aimed at encouraging audiences to combat social apathy and work together in a collaborative action to swing. The installation is the third annual Hyundai Commission, a partership between the Tate and Hyundai Motor. Until 2nd April. Admission is free. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

• On Now: Daily Funnies: An Exhibition of Strip Cartoons. This display at the Cartoon Museum features many examples of well-known cartoon strips from newspapers and magazines of the past century including everyone from Andy Capp to Rupert, Bristol to Peanuts. Be quick – closes on 18th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.

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One of the National Gallery’s most celebrated paintings – Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait – is being exhibited for the first time alongside works by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and its successors in a new exhibition exploring the influence of the 15th century masterpiece on 19th century artists. As well as van Eyck’s work, Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites features Sir John Everett Millais’ Mariana (1851), Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1848-49), William Holman Hunt’s The Awakening Conscience (1853) and William Morris’s La Belle Iseult (1858 – pictured) along with a host of other works. The exhibition provides a particular focus on one of the most distinctive features of The Arnolfini Portrait – the convex mirror in which van Eyck himself is famously reflected – and, to that end, includes a convex mirror owned by Rossetti and another used by William Orpen. Other objects featured in the exhibition include early photographs, drawings and archival material surrounding the 1842 purchase of The Arnolfini Portrait by the National Gallery as well as a Victorian reproduction of van Eyck’s masterwork, The Ghent Altarpiece. The exhibition in the Sunley Room opens Monday and can be seen until 2nd April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.co.uk/reflections. PICTURE: © Tate, London (N04999)

The history of opera from its roots in Renaissance Italy to the present day is being explored in a new exhibition opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington on Saturday. Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, a collaboration between the museum and the Royal Opera House, focuses on seven operatic premieres in seven cities – Montverdi’s L’incoronazione de Poppea (the first public opera), which premiered in Venice in 1642, Handel’s Rinaldo, which premiered in London in 1711, Mozart’s Le nozze de Figaro, which premiered in Vienna in 1786, Verdi’s Nabucco, which premiered in Milan in 1842, Wagner’s Tannhauser, which premiered in Paris in 1861, Strauss’ Salome, which premiered in Dresden in 1905, and Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which premiered in St Petersburg in 1934.  It features more than 300 objects including Salvador Dali’s costume design for Peter Brook’s 1949 production of Salome, Edouard Monet’s painting Music in the Tuileries Gardens, the original score of Nabucco, and one of only two surviving copies of L’incoronazione de Poppea. There will also be original material from the St Petersburg premier of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk which, including the composer’s original score, stage directions, libretto, set models and costume designs, is being reunited and displayed outside Russia for the first time. World leading performances can be heard over headphones, creating what the museum says is a “fully immersive sound experience”. The exhibition is the first to be displayed in the V&A’s purpose built Sainsbury Gallery and will be accompanied by a programme of live events. Runs until 25th February. For more see www.vam.ac.uk/opera.

Fancy yourself a potter? A ceramics factory where the public can mould or cast jugs, teapots and flowers opens at the Tate Modern today in an art installation by artist Clare Twomey. Located on level five of the gallery’s Blavatnik Building, FACTORY: the seen and the unseen will launch the second year of Tate Exchange and will comprise a 30 metre work space, eight tonnes of clay, a wall of drying racks and more than 2,000 fired objects. In the first week, visitors are invited to ‘clock in’ and learn the skills of working with clay and then exchange what they have made with other objects made in a factory setting. The production line will stop in the second week and visitors invited to enter a factory soundscape and join a factory tour to discuss how communities are built by collective labour. From now until January next year, Tate Exchange: Production will feature a range of artist’s projects at both the Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool exploring the role of the museum in production from a range of viewpoints. For the full programme of events, see www.tate.org.uk/tateexchange.

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The world famous Notting Hill Carnival takes places in London’s west this weekend. The biggest event of its kind in Europe, the programme kicks off Saturday evening (from 6pm to 10pm) with a steel band music competition and more Caribbean-themed outdoor entertainment in Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park. Sunday features the Children’s Parade, performances at the World Music Stage in Powis Square and static sound systems and food stalls at Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park (from 9am to 8.30pm). The Grand Finale parade on Monday features dancers, performers, 60 steel bands and mobile sound systems with more music and food stalls in the parade area as well as on the World Music Stage in Powis Square. This year’s event will also feature a minute’s silence at 3pm on both Sunday and Monday to remember the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster. For more, see www.thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com or Visit London’s special guide. PICTURE: Eddie Starck/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

Tate Modern is offering a limited number of free tickets to Soul of a Nation: Art in an Age of Black Power exhibition this Friday night (August’s Uniqlo Tate Late event) to coincide with the Notting Hill Carnival weekend. The tickets will be offered a first come, first serve basis from 6pm. The exhibition, which explores what is meant to be an African American artist during the civil rights movement and at the birth of the Black Power movement, runs until 22nd October. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

On Now: The City is Ours. This major interactive exhibition at the Museum of London explores some of the key issues that affect Londoners and city dwellers elsewhere the world – from housing affordability and urban planning to transport, green spaces and air quality. Spread across three of the museum’s temporary exhibition spaces, key exhibits include a nine metre wide film, Urban Earth, which visualises and compares data from major cities around the world, an Oculus Rift headset which delivers a virtual view from the top of a Hong Kong skyscraper illustrating the impact of building upwards instead of outwards, and an exhibit which allows visitors to control and monitor CCTV cameras as they reflect on the impacts of increased surveillance. The free exhibition – at the heart of the museum’s year long focus on City Now City Future – can be seen until 2nd January. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/thecityisours.

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The life of gladiators in Roman Londinium and that of those who watched them are explored in a new exhibition opening in the remains of the city’s 7000 seat amphitheatre under the Guildhall Art Gallery. Featured as part of the display will be a Roman skull uncovered during excavations in the Walbrook Stream which, dated to around 150 AD, shows evidence of substantial head trauma at the time of death and is the closest archaeologists have come to identifying a potential gladiator in Londinium. Trauma, which is free to enter, opens tomorrow and runs until 29th October. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/guildhallartgallery.

A landmark exhibition examining what it was like to be a black artist in the US during the civil rights movement and the purpose and audience of art during the emergence of ‘black power’ has opened at the Tate Modern. Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power spans the era from 1963 to 1983, a time when race and identity become major issues across many spheres of society including music, sports and literature thanks to the likes of Aretha Franklin, Muhammad Ali and Toni Morrison. The display features more than 150 works by more than 60 artists, many of which are on display in the UK for the first time. Running until 22nd October, it is accompanied by a programme of talks and events. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.ukPICTURE: Muhammad Ali by Andy Warhol/Tate Modern

The future of the world’s major cities – including London – is the subject of a new major exhibition which has opened at the Museum of London. The City is Ours is split into three sections: ‘Urban Earth’, centred on a 12 minute infographic film with comparative data about megacities such as London, Sydney, Tokyo, New York and Sao Paolo; ‘Cities Under Pressure’, which provides an overview of the risks, challenges and demands facing global cities through digital and physical interactive displays; and, ‘Urban Futures’, which presents solutions to the challenges increasing urbanisation poses. In addition, the exhibition takes a look at 25 innovative projects which are now taking place across London to improve life for its inhabitants. The free exhibition, part of the year-long City Now City Future season, can be viewed until 2nd January. For more, check out www.museumoflondon.org.uk/thecityisours.

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PICTURE: designerpoint/Pixabay

Created by Russian-born artist Erik Bulatov to mark the centenary of the revolution, the 10 foot high steel Cyrillic letters, some of which appear to have fallen over, spell out the word ‘forward’ four times and are arranged in a circle. Forward 2016 is Bulatov’s first sculpture and was apparently conceived after a visit to a decommissioned 19th century iron foundry in France which Bulatov, who was born in 1933, felt represented – through its sheer scale and lost sense of power and energy – not only the aspirations of his generation but the disillusionment they experienced. While the bright colours of the letters create a sense of energy and movement, their distribution in a closed loop seem to imply that progress may not really be possible. The work, which is installed on the south terrace of the Tate Modern, will remain on display throughout the summer as a precursor to two major art exhibitions being held at the gallery in autumn – Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into The Future, the UK’s first major exhibition of the works of this pioneering couple (from 18th October), and Red Star Over Russia, an exploration of visual culture and design in the decades following the revolution (from 18th November). For more, see www.tate.org.uk. PICTURE: Courtesy of Tate Photography.

Looking over the River Thames from the Tate Modern at the dome of St Paul’s. PICTURE: Christian Battaglia/Unsplash

Marking 50 years since the release of their first album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, a new exhibition opens at the V&A this Saturday celebrating the work of pioneering band Pink Floyd. The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains is an “immersive, multi-sensory and theatrical journey” through the “extraordinary world” of the band, encompassing their music as well as their iconic visuals and staging, which included ground-breaking use of special effects, sonic experimentation and imagery. The exhibition features more than 350 objects with highlights including set and construction pieces from some of the band’s most famous album covers and stage performances including the more than six metre tall metallic heads from 1994’s The Division Bell and a life-sized model of a British soldier seen in the artwork of 1988’s The Final Cut as well as instruments such as David Gilmour’s famous ‘Black Strat’, Roger Waters’ handwritten lyrics songs Wish You Were Here and Have a Cigar and psychedelic prints and posters. There is also never-seen-before classic Pink Floyd concert footage and a custom-designed laser light show as well as an accompanying sound experience – featuring past and present band members – provided by Sennheiser. Runs until 1st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.pinkfloydexhibition.com. PICTURE: © Pink Floyd Music Ltd photo by Storm Thorgerson/Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell 1971 Belsize Park

The ongoing conflict in Syria is the subject of a new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum which explores its origins, escalations and impacts. Syria: Story of a Conflict features a collection of objects – some of which have recently come from Syria – which point to the tragic and complex nature of the conflict as well as a film installation and a series of personal stories from Syrians affected by the fighting. It runs alongside a collection of more than 60 photographs by award-winning Russian documentary photographer Sergey Ponomarev taken around the conflict, a number of which are being displayed for the first time. Both the photography display – Sergey Ponomarev: A Lens on Syria – and the exhibition are part of the IWM’s Syria: A Conflict Explored ‘season’, with Syria the first contemporary conflict to be explored in the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Conflict Now’ ‘strand’, launched to coincide with the museum’s centenary. Both the exhibition and photographic display can be seen until 3rd September. Admission to both, which are accompanied by a programme of events including debates and tours, is free. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/exhibitions/iwm-london/syria-a-conflict-explored

The work of sculptor, painter and draughtsman, Alberto Giacometti, is the subject of a new exhibition at the Tate Modern – the UK’s first major retrospective of his work for 20 years. More than 250 works are featured in the exhibition, which draws on the collection of Paris’ Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, including rarely seen and never before exhibited plasters and drawings as well as works from across the span of Giacometti’s 50 year career – from Head of a Woman [Flora Mayo] (1926) to Walking Man 1 (1960). While Giacometti is best known for his bronze figures, Tate Modern is, in this exhibition, repositioning him as an artist with a far wider interest in materials and textures, especially plaster and clay, Runs until 10th September. Admission charge applies. See www.tate.org.uk.

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mary-seacole

Immortalised in a statue in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital on South Bank last year, Mary Seacole is the first named black woman to have a memorial statue made in her image in London.

Mary Jane Seacole (nee Grant) was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1805, the daughter of a Scottish army lieutenant, James Grant, and a mixed-race Jamaican woman who kept a boarding house for invalid soldiers. She was taught traditional medicine by her mother from a young age and travelled extensively, visiting other parts of the Caribbean including Cuba and Haiti as well as Britain – staying in London for about a year around 1821, during which she added to her knowledge of medicine.

In 1836, she married merchant Edwin Seacole (he was the godson of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson – some rumours have it that he was actually his illegitimate son) but he died only eight years later in 1844. She subsequently spent some time in Central America – opening a ‘hotel’ there and aiding in the response to an outbreak of yellow fever – before returning to Jamaica where she apparently provided nursing services at the British Army HQ in Kingston.

In 1854, Seacole returned to England and, amid reports of the hardships soldiers were facing in the Crimean War which had broken out the year before, asked the War Office to send her to the Crimea as an army nurse. She was refused on multiple occasions (some say because of her race; others because she was too late to join the teams of nurses that were sent) and so she headed to Crimea herself.

There, she founded the British Hotel near Balaclava which provided food, quarters and medical care for sick and convalescent officers. She also apparently rode out to the front line of battle where she cared for the sick and wounded and such was her fame that Mary became known as ‘Mother Seacole’, earning a reputation said to rival that of Florence Nightingale.

Seacole returned to England after the war in ill health and poverty and apparently such was her renown that a benefit festival was held in her honour in July, 1857, to raise funds for her to live on. That same year she published her memoir, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands.

Seacole returned to Jamaica in the early 1860s but was back in London by 1870. She died at her home in Paddington of ‘apoplexy’ on 14th May, 1881, and was buried in Kensal Green.

In 2004, Seacole was ranked the greatest Black Briton in an online poll. She has also been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque (located on her one-time residence at 14 Soho Square) and a City of Westminster Green Plaque in George Street on the Portman Estate.

The three metre high bronze statue of Mary, built through funds raised in a public appeal and installed using money granted by the government, is the work of sculptor Martin Jennings. It was unveiled by actress Baroness Floella Benjamin in June last year before a reported crowd of some 300.

A disk behind the statue is inscribed with the words of The Times‘ Crimean War correspondent Sir William Howard Russell, who wrote in 1857: “I trust that England will not forget one who nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead.”

Seacole remains somewhat of a controversial figure with some saying her recent fame has unfairly come at the expense of contemporary Florence Nightingale.

PICTURE: Matt Brown/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

royal-african-company• London’s role in the slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries is the subject of a new display opening at the Museum of London Docklands tomorrow. Called The Royal African, it tells the story of the Royal African Company, founded as a joint venture between the Duke of York (the future King James II) and leading London merchants in 1672 (the coat-of-arms of which is pictured), through looking in-depth at the life of William Sessarakoo. An African prince, Sessarakoo grew up in a Royal African Company fort at Annamaboe in modern Ghana but when his father sent him to London to be educated, he was tricked and instead sold into slavery in Barbados. He spent four years as a slave until he was freed by members of the Royal African Company who wanted to retain good relations with his father and subsequently brought him to London. The display is being housed in the museum’s London, Sugar & Slavery Gallery and can be seen until 4th June next year. Entry is free. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands. PICTURE: © Museum of London.

• A rare Victoria Cross found on the foreshore of the River Thames has gone on show at the Museum of London in the City. Mystery surrounds the medal which was given for actions at the Battle of Inkerman during the Crimean War. While a number of medals were awarded for actions in the battle, only two have a location recorded as unknown. The first is that awarded to Scottish Private John McDermond from the 47th (the Lancashire) Regiment for saving the life of Lt Col O’Grady Hall who had been injured and surrounded by the enemy which leading a charge against a Russian column while the second is that awarded to Irish Private John Byrne of the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry who rescued a wounded comrade under fire. On show alongside the medal is a record book which details the engraving on each VC issued between 18554 and 1927, the original medal design from the jewellers Hancocks and a modern copy of a VC. The medal, which was found and then reported by Tobias Neto, is on show until 15th December. For more, see http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london.

Sir Elton John’s collection of modernist photography is the subject of an exhibition which opened at the Tate Modern in South Bank earlier this month. The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection features more than 150 works from more than 60 artists including Man Ray, André Kertész, Berenice Abbot, Alexandr Rodchenko and Edward Steichen. Among the subjects show in the images are Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. The exhibition runs until 7th May. For more, see www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern.

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royal-national-theatreIt was 40 years ago this year that South Bank landmark, The National Theatre, was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

The National Theatre company had been founded 13 years before (although the concept was first proposed more than 100 years before) and was, until 1976, based at the Old Vic close to Waterloo Station.

The new (now Grade II*-listed) premises (which was originally also to house an opera house, although this plan was later dropped) was designed by architects Sir Denys Lasdun and Peter Softly and the structural engineers Flint & Neill. To this day the brutalist design provokes some strong opinions (Prince Charles once described it as “a way of building a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting”).

It contains three auditoriums: the Olivier (named for acting great Sir Laurence Olivier), the Lyttelton (named for Oliver Lyttelton, Lord Chandos, first chairman of the National Theatre) and the Dorfman (known as the Cottesloe until 2014, it was originally named for Lord Cottesloe, chairman of the South Bank board which oversaw the building of the theatre, before being renamed after businessman and philanthropist Lloyd Dorfman) and were opened progressively between 1976 and 1977.

While the first performances began to be held in the Lyttelton theatre from March, the complex was only officially opened by the Queen on 25th October with parts of the building still unfinished. Sir Laurence Olivier gives a speech of welcome in the auditorium which bears his name – it is his only appearance on the complex’s stages.

In 1988, the complex was granted the title Royal by the Queen – hence it’s officially the Royal National Theatre – in honour of the company’s 25th birthday.

More than 1,000 people now work on the five acre site which as well as the theatres, features rehearsal rooms, workshops where sets and scenes are created and painted and costumes and props are made.

Since it was founded, the National Theatre has presented more than 800 productions to an audience numbering well into the millions.

For more, see www.nationaltheatre.org.uk.

PICTURE: Aurelien Guichard/CC BY-SA 2.0)

London-Eye

The London Eye features in the background of numerous recent films – everything from 2002’s 28 Days Later to 2004’s Thunderbirds and 2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

But the structure, which was built in 1999 and is currently known formally as the Coca-Cola London Eye, has a bigger role in another 2007 film – Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in which the film’s heroes must prevent it toppling into the Thames and a gaping hole that opens up in the river.

Thankfully, in the 2007 film, The Thing (played by Michael Chiklis), Mr Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) and the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) manage to do so, using their unique powers to save all the people being thrown around inside the Eye’s many pods.

Of course, as an iconic symbol of the city today, the London Eye has also been recreated in several animated films – from Flushed Away to Cars – and is even recreated, tongue-in-cheek, in wood for A Knight’s Tale.

There’s also quite a few films and TV shows which have featured scenes filmed inside the Eye’s pods, including Wimbledon in which one of them plays host to a punch-up.

The area of South Bank around where the Eye is located is a popular spot for films. The OXO Brasserie in the OXO Tower, for example, features in Thor: The Dark World, Millennium Bridge, linking South Bank to St Paul’s Cathedral, can be seen as part of the (imaginary) city on Xander in the film Guardians of the Galaxy and Jubilee Gardens, next to the Eye, was used as a landing pad in Thunderbirds for the T2.