This Week in London – Christmas Tree lighting goes virtual; Ottobah Cugoano’s Blue Plaque; and, see ‘Leila Alaoui: Rite of Passage’ online…

The Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square in 2017. PICTURE: Raphaël Chekroun (licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0)

The traditional Trafalgar Square tree lighting ceremony has gone virtual for the first time this year due to coronavirus restrictions. The online event, which will be held at 6pm on 3rd December via YouTube and Facebook, will include messages from the Lord Mayor of Westminster and the Mayor of Oslo as well as information on the history behind the gift of the tree, footage of its journey from the forests of Norway to London, and performances from the Salvation Army, the Poetry Society and the St Martin-in-the-Fields Choir. While the tree felling ceremony in Norway is usually attended by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, this year COVID restrictions meant he was represented by the British Ambassador to Norway, Richard Wood, who was joined by the Mayor of Oslo, Marianne Borgen, and school children from Maridalen school in Oslo, to witness the tree begin its journey to London. A Norwegian spruce has been given by the people of Oslo to the people of the UK in thanks for their support during World War II in the lead-up to every Christmas since 1947. Once the tree arrives in London, it is decorated with Christmas lights in a traditional Norwegian manner.  For more on the tree, see westminster.gov.uk/trafalgar-square-christmas-tree.

Eighteenth century anti-slavery campaigner Ottobah Cugoano – a former slave himself – has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque is located at Schomberg House at 80–82 Pall Mall, the property where he was employed as a servant by artists Richard and Maria Cosway. It was while living here in the 1780’s that Cugoano wrote the book, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Humbly Submitted to the Inhabitants of Great-Britain, one of the first black-authored anti-slavery books to be published in Britain. The house was actually mentioned in the frontispiece of the 1787 edition of Thoughts and Sentiments as one of the places where copies of the book might be obtained. It is, says English Heritage, “evidence of the Cosways’ support for their servant’s endeavours as an author and a campaigner”. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

Somerset House is offering virtual tours of its exhibition Leila Alaoui: Rite of Passage. The exhibition is the first major retrospective of the work of Alaoui, a celebrated French-Moroccan photographer, video artist and activist who died in a terrorist attack at the age of 33 while working on a photography project promoting women’s rights in Burkina Faso in 2016. ​  ​Guided by award-winning broadcaster and cultural commentator Ekow Eshun, the tour of the exhibition takes in three of the artist’s defining series – No Pasara, which documents the lives of North African migrants trying to reach Europe; Natreen (We Wait), which follows families trying to flee the Syrian conflict, and Les Marocains, which, inspired by Robert Frank’s The Americans, meets the many individuals who make up the multifaceted fabric of contemporary Morocco.  The exhibition also includes an unfinished video project L’Ile du Diable ​(Devil’s Island) which Alaoui was working at the time of her death, featuring dispossessed migrant workers at the old Renault factory in Paris.  The free tour can be accessed at www.somersethouse.org.uk/blog/virtual-tour-leila-alaoui-rite-passage.

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This Week in London – Mary Wollstonecraft controversy; ‘Faint Signals’; National Gallery’s new digital partnership; and, have your say on City of London landmarks…

A controversial new statue commemorating feminist icon Mary Wollstonecraft was unveiled in Newington Green, near where Wollstonescraft lived and opened a girls’ school, in the city’s north this week. Designed by British artist Maggi Hambling, A Sculpture for Mary Wollstonecraft depicts a small nude female figure – described by those behind the campaign for the statue as “Everywoman, her own person, ready to confront the world” – rising out of other, intermingled, female forms below. Hambling said she wanted the sculpture to reflect Wollstonecraft’s spirit, rather than her likeness. The statue’s unveiling is the culmination of a 10 year campaign to see a statue for Wollstonecraft led by author Bee Rowlatt. The statue has already been the target of protestors who have reportedly used black tape, COVID masks, and a T-shirt to cover it up.

Images of Faint Signals on screen by Invisible Flock

A new work set in an imagined Yorkshire forest and looking at how natural sound has changed over the last 50 years has gone online this week. Commissioned by the British Library, Faint Signals is the work of Yorkshire-based interactive arts studio Invisible Flock and allows people to explore Yorkshire’s flora, fauna, and wildlife – both past and present. Launched to mark World Science Day on Tuesday, the work can be visited until 2nd January. Head here faintsignals.io.

‘Butterflies, Moths and Insects with Sprays of Common Hawthorn and Forget-Me-Not’ by Jan van Kessel the Elder (1626 – 1679), 1654, Oil on Wood  © The National Gallery, London 

The National Gallery has launched a new collaboration with camera maker Nikon to showcase the gallery’s works and “explore the synergies between photography and fine art”. In the first collaboration of its kind, the “digital content partnership” will see the gallery work with Nikon to produce a range of online content over the next year. This kicks off with an exploration of Jan van Kessel the Elder’s 1654 work, Butterflies, Moths and Insects with Sprays of Common Hawthorn and Forget-Me-Not, under the Picture of the Month series (the concept of ‘Picture of the Month’ dates back to 1942, when a single painting was returned to the gallery each month from the disused Welsh slate mine where the collection was kept for safety during World War II). The painting is explored in depth in a range of ways on the gallery’s website including through two short films. Further online films, talks and events are planned. For more on the Picture of the Month, head to the National Gallery website.

Londoners still have two weeks to have their say on what should happen to statues and other landmarks in the City of London which have links to slavery and historic racism. The City of London Corporation said it has received more than 800 responses since launching the consultative exercise in September in which it’s asking people to give their views on which landmarks – including statues, street and building names – they think are a problem, and what action they think should be taken. Among those monuments which have been mentioned to date are statues at Guildhall depicting former Lord Mayor William Beckford and MP and philanthropist Sir John Cass, both of whom profited from the slave trade. In September, the Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School in the City announced it was changing its name to The Aldgate School to break the link with its controversial founder. Head to  www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/historiclandmarksconsultation by 24th November to take part.

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This Week in London – ‘Dub London’; exploring Sin; and, COVID-19 explored at Science Museum Late…

Channel One Sound System at Notting Hill Carnival 2019. PICTURE © Eddie Otchere / Museum of London

Dub music and the impact it’s had on London’s identity and people is the subject of a new, long delayed, exhibition which opened at the Museum of London late last week. Dub London: Bassline of a City, which had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, charts how, from its roots in Jamaican reggae, dub music went on to influence multiple genres and played a key role in the development of punk bands like The Clash. The display includes the iconic speaker stack belonging to Channel One Sound System that has appeared yearly at Notting Hill Carnival since 1983 (pictured above) and a specially created bespoke record shop with a selection of 150 vinyl records chosen by 15 London based independent record shops which can be listened to. Runs until 31st January. Admission is free but must be booked in advance (and bring your own headphones). For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/dub-london.

The concept of sin is at the heart of a new free exhibition at The National Gallery. Sin brings together 14 works dating from the 16th century to now by artists ranging from Jan Brueghel the Elder and William Hogarth to Andy Warhol and Ron Mueck. Among the paintings on show are Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve (1526), Hogarth’s The Tête à Tête and Marriage A-la-Mode, Diego Velázquez’s Immaculate Conception, William Holman Hunt’s The Scapegoat (1854-55), and Ron Mueck’s sculpture Youth (2009). The display can be seen in Room 1. For more, see nationalgallery.org.uk.

The science of the coronavirus is explored in a special night event at the Science Museum next Wednesday, 14th October. Staff from the Francis Crick Institute will be joining with those from the Science Museum in exploring how the immune system remembers and evolves and how the Crick was turned from a biomedical research centre into a COVID-19 testing facility. Visitors can also hear from NHS transplant surgeon Pankaj Chandak who has been using 3D printing tech to make life-saving PPE for frontline staff while the Leonard Cheshire charity shows how assistive eyegaze technology has played a vital role in helping to keep people with access needs connected. There will also be a chance to make a facemask as part of the museum’s #MaskSelfie campaign and the opportunity to explore the museum’s new Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries. Admission charge applies and pre-booking is essential. Head to sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/lates.

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This Week in London – ‘Artemisia’ at The National Gallery, ‘Black Greenwich Pensioners’, and, Bruce Nauman at the Tate…

• The original transcript of the trial in which 17th century Italian artist Agostino Tassi faced charges of ‘deflowering’ female artist Artemisia Gentileschi will be public display for the first time as part of an exhibition on Gentileschi’s work opening at The National Gallery on Saturday. The rescheduled exhibition Artemisia, the first major monographic exhibition of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1654 or later), was inspired by the gallery’s recent acquisition of Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (about 1615–17), the first painting by the artist to enter a UK public collection. Gentileschi, the first women to gain membership of the artists’ academy in Florence, had a career spanning more than 40 years and is now widely recognised as one of the most gifted painters of the Italian Baroque period. Alongside her artistic achievements, elements of her biography have also attracted considerable attention including her rape as a young woman and the torture she choose to endure as part of the trial that followed (seen at the time as an accepted means by which testimony could be validated). As well as the trial transcript, written in Latin and Italian, the exhibition will include recently discovered personal letters and works such as two versions of Susannah and the Elders – one painted in 1610 when Gentileschi was just 17 and the other, her last known painting, dating from 1652. There’s also self portraits including Self Portrait as a Female Martyr (mid 1610s), and her two versions of Judith beheading Holofernes – one dating from 1612-13 and the other from 1613-14. Runs until 24th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Installation view of Artemisia at the National Gallery. © The National Gallery, London.

The history of Black British mariners is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich on Saturday. Marking Black History Month, Black Greenwich Pensioners explores the history of the Black Royal Navy personnel and how they formed one of Britain’s earliest Black communities when they became pensioners at the Royal Hospital for Seaman on the site where the Old Royal Naval College stands today. Through paintings, prints, photographs and a small selection of objects, the display looks at the role Black mariners played in British naval conflicts as well as the personal histories of prominent Greenwich pensioners including John Thomas, who escaped slavery and was later returned to enslavement in Barbados, John Simmonds, a Jamaican veteran of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar whose descendants still reside in the UK, and Briton Hammon, author of the first slave narrative. Entry is free. Runs until 21st February in the mezzanine gallery at the Visitor Centre. For more, see https://ornc.org/uncovering-the-history-of-black-british-mariners/

The first exhibition to showcase the full spectrum of American artist Bruce Nauman’s work in more than 20 years opens at the Tate Modern on Wednesday. Bruce Nauman features more than 40 works and “unfolds” over a sequence of immersive installations. Highlights include a selection of early works such as Henry Moore Bound to Fail (1967/70) and A Cast of the Space Under My Chair (1965/68), the moving image installation MAPPING THE STUDIO II with color shift, flip, flop & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage) (2001), ground-breaking neon signs like The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truth (Window or Wall Sign) (1967), Human Nature Knows/Doesn’t Know (1983/86) and One Hundred Live and Die (1984) and large scale works such as Going Around the Corner Piece with Live and Taped Monitors (1970) and Double Steel Cage Piece (1974) as well as the whole-room installation, Shadow Puppets and Instructed Mime (1990). Runs until 21st February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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LondonLife – ‘THE END’ at Trafalgar Square…

The 13th sculpture to occupy Trafalgar Square’s famous Fourth Plinth is a nine tonne, 9.4 metre high swirl of cream topped with a cherry. Unveiled in late July, THE END is the work of Heather Phillipson and also features a giant fly as well as a drone that transmits a live feed of Trafalgar Square to a specially created website, www.theend.today. The sculpture, which plays on the idea of the square as a site of celebration and protest, replaced Michael Rakowitz’s The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist and both Phillipson and Rakowitz were selected by the Fourth Plinth Commission Group in 2017 following an exhibition at the National Gallery where 10,000 people voted for their favourite shortlisted artwork. PICTURE: astonishme (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

This Week in London – National Gallery – and other landmarks – to reopen while National Portrait Gallery remains closed to 2023…

Plans are afoot for the reopening of London’s iconic historic and cultural institutions with The National Gallery becoming the first national museum in the UK the first to do so when it reopens its doors on 8th July. Special exhibitions include Titian: Love, Desire, Death which had to close after just three days and has now been extended to 17th January, 2021, and Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age which has been extended until 20 September. Meanwhile, Room 32 – one of the gallery’s largest rooms displaying 17th-century Italian paintings by artists including Caravaggio, Artemisia and Orazio Gentileschi, Guido Reni and Guercino – will reopen as the Julia and Hans Rausing Room after a 21 month refurbishment project while the Equestrian Portrait of Charles I by Van Dyck (about 1637/8) will be back on show in Room 21 after a more than two year restoration. There are also number of newly-acquired paintings on show including Liotard’s The Lavergne Family Breakfast (1754), Gainsborough’s Portrait of Margaret Gainsborough holding a Theorbo (about 1777) and Sorolla’s The Drunkard, Zaraúz, (1910). All visits must be booked online in advance and, of course, social distancing measures will be in place. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

Tower Bridge is among landmarks reopening its doors in London. PICTURE: Javier Martinez/Unsplash 

Other landmarks opening include Tower Bridge (with a new one way route from 4th July), Eltham Palace (from 4th July) and the Tower of London (from 10th July). Openings later this month include interiors at Hampton Court Palace (from 17th July) the British Library Reading Rooms (from 22nd July), and Kensington Palace (30th July). We’ll keep you informed as more sites open.

And amid the openings, comes a closure with the National Portrait Gallery shutting its doors until spring 2023 to allow for a massive redevelopment project known as ‘Inspiring People’. The redevelopment project – the gallery’s biggest since the building in St Martin’s Place opened in 1896 – includes a comprehensive re-presentation of the gallery’s collection, spanning a period stretching from the Tudors to now, across 40 refurbished galleries along with a complete refurbishment of the building including the restoration of historic features, a new and more welcoming visitor entrance and public forecourt on the building’s north facade. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

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This Week in London – National Gallery works transformed into light and sound “experiences”

The National Gallery has unveiled a new project which sees some of its most famous works represented as 360 degree light and sound “experiences”. KIMA: Colour in 360, the work of the Analema Group, uses colour data to transforms the works which include Van Gogh’s A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, Monet’s Water-Lilies, Setting Sun. While the first two works can be viewed online, a third – based on van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait – will come later. The work was commissioned by new digital studio National Gallery X (or NGX) and is part of a digital events programme which, on 16th June, will also see the first of a series of one-night immersive events being held in collaboration with London’s media art platform Art in Flux. ‘ART IN FLUX @ NGX’ will present cutting-edge artwork exploring the boundaries between art and technology and feature the work pf pioneering media artists, researchers and academics. To see the first two works and for more about the programme head to www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/analema-at-ngx. PICTURE: KIMA: Colour Van Gogh © Analema Group. 2020. 

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This Week in London – ‘Disease X’ online; explore the world of the kimono; and, National Gallery announces extensions and deferrals…

The Museum of London is offering the chance to explore its previous exhibition, Disease X: London’s next epidemic?, online. The exhibition, which was first shown at the museum in between November, 2018, and March, 2019 to make the 100th anniversary of the second wave of the Spanish flu, draws on the museum’s collections as well as historical research and expert views to explore if the city was at risk from an unknown ‘Disease X’. Among the objects in the display are the mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria to mark the shock passing of her grandson Prince Albert Victor due to ‘Russian Flu’, a 17th century pomander used to waft away the foul vapors thought to cause diseases like the plague and a poster advertising ‘Flu-Mal’, a supposed cure for both influenza and malaria. To see the exhibition, head to https://virtualexhibitions.museumoflondon.org.uk/disease-x/. The online exhibition is part of the museum’s mission to bring online content to people at home while its doors are closed under the banner of the ‘Museum for London’. PICTURE: Influenza conquered by Flu-Mal. Advertising Poster © Museum of London.

The V&A has launched a series of five films that take viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of its exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk. Curator Anna Jackson guides viewers through the exhibition spaces and provides personal insights into the making of the show, some of the star exhibits and the history of the kimono. The exhibition tracks the “sartorial and social significance” of the kimono from the 1660s to the present day in both Japan and elsewhere around the world and features international designer fashions and iconic costumes from films and performances. Highlights include a kimono created by Living National Treasure Kunihiko Moriguchi, the Alexander McQueen dress Björk wore on the cover of her album Homogenic, and original Star Wars costumes modelled on kimono by John Mollo. To watch, head here.

The National Gallery has announced it has extended its landmark exhibition Titian: Love, Desire, Death which had been due to close on 14th June, having been open for just three days before lockdown measures were put in place. The gallery has also announced the exhibition Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age will also be extended while dates for upcoming exhibitions including Sin, Conversations with God: Copernicus by Jan Matejko, and The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael have been pushed back. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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This Week in London – RHS Chelsea Flower Show goes virtual; National Gallery art on the streets; and, no summer opening at Buckingham Palace…

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is on this week but, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year it’s a virtual affair. That’s good news for those who might not have been able to attend in person thanks to the stream of video content that’s being posted on the RHS website including garden design tips and planting ideas, virtual garden tours, ‘how to’ demonstrations and meet the growers sessions. Among highlights are a video featuring Sarah Eberle, the most decorated female designer in Chelsea history showing you around her woodland garden, a “lockdown tour” of some of London’s public parks, BBC presenter and multi-gold medal winning designer Adam Frost showing you around his Lincolnshire garden, florist Nikki Tibbles showing you how to create a seasonal bouquet and an update on what the Chelsea Pensioners have been up to on their allotment. The show runs until 23rd May. To see what’s on offer, head to www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/virtual-chelsea. PICTURE: The Florence Nightingale Garden – A Celebration of Modern Day Nursing/© Robert Myers.

The National Gallery has taken some of its most famous works out onto the streets thanks to a partnership with digital outdoor screen provider, Ocean Outdoor. Seven of the gallery’s most well-known images – Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888) and A Wheatfield, with Cypresses (1889), Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond (1899), van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait (1434), Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières (1884), Vigée Le Brun’s Self Portrait in a Straw Hat (1782) and Rousseau’s Surprised! (1891) – are being shown on Ocean Outdoor’s giant screens for two weeks in cities around the UK including London. Head to www.nationalgallery.org.uk for more free art, films, stories and activities.

The Royal Collection Trust has announced it will not open the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace to the public this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the collection and palaces can be explored online at www.rct.uk.

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This Week in London – Take a virtual tour of The Crystal Palace (as it was); the ‘Virtual VE Day 75 Festival’; and, capturing life in lockdown…

It’s 169 years since the Crystal Palace served as the centrepiece of the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’ in Hyde Park but for the first time you now have a chance to tour the building virtually. The Royal Parks, working in partnership with educational virtual reality company, Seymour & Lerhn, have recreated the grand glass and iron structure which hosted thousands of exhibits from across the globe at the 1851 exhibition which was spear-headed by Prince Albert. The building has been regenerated digitally using The Royal Commission for the Exhibition’s archive of plans and images, as well as The Royal Parks’ historical documents including old maps. The tour overlays this historic footage over the site as it is now and visitors can switch between the two as well as learn about some of the fascinating stories connected to the Great Exhibition including that of the construction of the first ever public toilets and that of the lady who walked from Cornwall to attend the display. The virtual tour is free to access at www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park/things-to-see-and-do/the-great-exhibition-virtual-tour.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy, National Army Museum and Royal Air Force Museum are hosting their first tri-service celebration with a ‘Virtual VE Day 75 Festival’ to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. The festival runs from today until 9th May and kicks off with ‘Vying for Victory: Britain’s Navy, Army and Air Force in Myth and Memory’ featuring representatives from the museums discussing the service’s respective roles during the closing stages of World War II. Other events include a live webinar featuring historian and broadcaster James Holland speaking to the National Army Museum’s Dr Peter Johnston about ‘Why the Allies Won’, re-enactors sharing stories from real service personnel during the World War II, and an immersive walk-through of HMS Alliance which will provide insights into the isolation experience of submariners on VE Day.  For the full programme of events, head to Virtual VE Day 75 Festival.

The National Portrait Gallery is launching a new community photography project to capture a snapshot of the nation during the coronavirus lockdown. People are being encouraged to submit pictures responding to three themes – ‘Helpers and Heroes’, ‘Your New Normal’ and ‘Acts of Kindness’ – to the project which is called Hold Still. Launched by the Duchess of Cambridge, patron of the gallery, this week, the project is open to Britons of all ages and will see 100 short-listed pictures featured in a digital exhibition. The closing date for submissions is 18th June. Head to www.npg.org.uk/hold-still/ for more.

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A Moment in London’s History – London celebrates VE Day…

It was 75 years ago this month – 8th May, 1945 – that Londoners poured out onto the city’s streets in celebration of the end of World War II.

Some celebrations had already started in London on 7th May as news of the unconditional surrender of all German troops to the Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower in the French city of Reims on 7th May became known.

But Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared 8th May a national holiday and, in response, vast crowds turned out on the streets to celebrate with bunting, flags and fireworks. Church bells were rung and services of thanksgiving held including at St Paul’s Cathedral where 10 consecutive services, each attended by thousands, took place.

British girls, of the Picture Division of the London Office of War Information dance in the street with American soldiers during the “VE Day” celebration in London. This scene took place outside the building of the US Army Pictorial Division has its offices. PICTURE: © IWM EA 65796

At 3pm, Churchill made a national radio broadcast from 10 Downing Street. He told listeners that while “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing”, they should “not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead” a reference to the ongoing war with Japan (the radio broadcast, incidentally, is being re-run on the BBC on 8th May this year to mark the anniversary).

Churchill then proceeded to Parliament where he formally reported the end of the war in Europe to Parliament before leading a procession of members to St Margaret’s Church for a service of thanksgiving. He later appeared on the balcony of the Ministry of Health building in Whitehall to address the teeming crowds below, telling them “This is your victory” to which they roared back that it was his.

Churchill waves to crowds in Whitehall on the day he broadcast to the nation that the war with Germany had been won, 8 May 1945. PICTURE: Horton W G (Major) (Photographer),
War Office official photographer/© IWM H 41849

Meanwhile, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, initially accompanied by their two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace several times to wave to the cheering crowds. The King and Queen, who were at one point joined by Churchill, were still waving when their daughters secretly – and now rather famously – left the palace and joined the crowds outside in what Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, described as “one of the most memorable moments” of her life. The King also gave a radio address from the palace during which he paid tribute to all those who had died in the conflict.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret joined by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London on VE Day. PICTURE: © IWM MH 21835

While celebrations took place across London, hotspots included Whitehall, outside Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus, where by midnight there were an estimated 50,000 people singing and dancing. Licensing hours were extended in pubs and dance halls staying open to midnight.

A mass of civilians and servicemen crowding around Piccadilly Circus, London. PICTURE: Poznak Murray, United States Army Signal Corps official photographerIWM EA 65879

One of the most iconic images of the day was a photograph of two sailors standing in one of the fountains at Trafalgar Square with two women, revealed, thanks to research by the Imperial War Museum to be Cynthia Covello and Joyce Digney who had travelled to join the celebrations from Surrey.

Two British sailors and their girlfriends wading in the fountains in Trafalgar Square on VE Day. PICTURE: Massecar T G, United States Army Signal Corps photographer/© IWM EA 65799

With thanks to the Imperial War Museum, London.

 

This Week in London – See the’ Enchanted Interior’ online; Jewish Museum launches live streams; and, ‘The Easter Story’ at the National Gallery…

With everyone being asked to stay at home, we’re highlighting online exhibitions and talks. Wishing all our readers, despite the circumstances, a happy Easter!

The Enchanted Interior exhibition, recently seen at the City of London’s Guildhall Art Gallery, can now be seen in an exclusive virtual tour led by curator Katherine Pearce. The exhibition, which explores the recurring motif of female subjects depicted in enclosed, ornate interiors, sees artworks by Victorian-era Pre-Raphaelites such as Edward Burne-Jones, Evelyn De Morgan and James Abbot McNeill Whistler placed alongside modern and contemporary works by female artists including Martha Rosler, Maisie Broadhead and Fiona Tan. The virtual tour can be found at cityoflondon.gov.uk/enchanted. PICTURE: One of the Pre-Raphaelite works featured in the exhibition.

With its doors now closed, the Jewish Museum London is holding a series of live streams featuring talks on significant objects in the museum’s collection as well as a ‘Shabbat Shalom Quiz of the Week’ and an arts and crafts session. Under the umbrella of the ‘Jewish Museum London Live’, these upcoming events include a talk on the glass Elijah Cup and another on an object related to baking challah which includes some ways of plaiting challah that you can try at home. For more, see jewishmuseum.org.uk/events/ 

Follow the story of the Passion of Christ through the artworks at the National Gallery in a special online exhibition for Easter. Among the artworks in The Easter Story exhibition – some of which are not on display in the actual gallery – include Rembrandt’s Ecce Homo, Raphael’s The Mond Crucifixion and Michelangelo’s The Entombment (or Christ being carried to his Tomb). To see it, head to www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/the-easter-story. The gallery also has a virtual tour of the Sainsbury Wing which can be accessed at www.nationalgallery.org.uk/visiting/virtual-tours/sainsbury-wing-vr-tour.

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This Week in London – Cecil Beaton and the ‘Bright Young Things’; ‘The Enchanted Interior’; and Andy Warhol at the Tate…

World famous British photographer Cecil Beaton’s portraits from the “golden age” of the 1920s and 1930s are being celebrated in a shiny new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things features some 150 works, many rarely exhibited, which Beaton took in the 1920s and 1930s depicting the “extravagant world of the glamorous and stylish”. The subjects include the likes of artists Rex Whistler and Stephen Tennant, modernist poets Iris Tree and Nancy Cunard, the glamorous socialites Edwina Mountbatten and Diana Guinness (née Mitford), and actresses Tallulah Bankhead and Anna May Wong as well as less well-known figures like eccentric composer and aesthete Lord Berners, the artist and Irish patriot Hazel, Lady Lavery, and Lady Alexander, whose husband produced Oscar Wilde’s comedies and who became an early patron of Beaton’s. Beaton’s own life story and his relationship with the sitters is woven into the exhibition including through self-portraits and images of him  taken by contemporaries. Runs until 7th June. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE:  The Bright Young Things at Wilsford by Cecil Beaton, 1927. © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive.

The theme of female subjects depicted in ornate, enclosed interiors – one prevalent in 19th century British painting – is at the centre of a new exhibition opening at the Guildhall Art Gallery on Friday. The Enchanted Interior, being presented in partnership with Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, showcases works in styles ranging from the high Victorian through to Art Nouveau, Aestheticism, Surrealism, and pieces by contemporary female artists which ‘speak back’ to the historic tradition. Artists whose work is represented include Edward Burne-Jones, Evelyn De Morgan, James Abbot McNeill Whistler, Emily Sandys, Jessica Woodman, Fiona Tan, John William Waterhouse and Clementina Hawarden. Admission charge applies. Runs until 14th June. For more, follow this link.

The works of iconic 20th century American artist Andy Warhol are being showcased in a new exhibition at Tate Modern. Andy Warhol, the first exhibition on the artist at the gallery in 20 years, features more than 100 works. Among them are key pieces from the pop period – Marilyn Diptych (1962), Elvis I and II (1963/1964) and Race Riot (1964) – as well as Screen Tests (1964–6), the floating Silver Clouds (1966) installation, and a recreation of the psychedelic multimedia environment of Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966) originally produced for the Velvet Underground rock shows. Also included are later works like his 1975 Ladies and Gentlemen series and Sixty Last Suppers (1986). Runs until 6th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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This Week in London – British surrealism; The Prince of Wales’ coronet; and, David Hockney’s drawings…

An exhibition which traces the history of surrealist art in Britain has opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Featuring more than 70 works, British Surrealism marks the official centenary of surrealism – which dates from when founder André Breton began his experiments in surrealist writing in 1920 – and features paintings, sculpture, photography, etchings and prints. Among the 40 artists represented are Leonora Carrington, Edward Burra, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Ithell Colquhoun, John Armstrong, Paul Nash and Reuben Mednikoff as well as lesser known but innovative artists like Marion Adnams, John Banting, Sam Haile, Conroy Maddox and Grace Pailthorpe. Highlights include Armstrong’s Heaviness of Sleep (1938), Burra’s Dancing Skeletons (1934), Adnams’ Aftermath (1946), Nash’s We Are Making a New World (1918), Colquhoun’s The Pine Family (1940), Pailthorpe’s Abstract with Eye and Breast (1938) and Bacon’s Figures in Garden (c1935). Also featured are works and books by some of the so-called ‘ancestors of surrealism’ including a notebook containing Coleridge’s 1806 draft of poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and a playscript for Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1859). Admission charge applies. Runs until 7th May. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Edward Burra, Dancing Skeletons,1934, (1905-1976). Photo © Tate

The Prince of Wales’ investiture coronet has gone on show in the Jewel House at the Tower of London for the first time. Made of 24 carat Welsh gold and platinum and set with diamonds and emeralds with a purple velvet and ermine cap of estate, the coronet – which was designed by architect and goldsmith Louis Osman – features four crosses patee, four fleurs-de-lys and an orb engraved with the Prince of Wales’ insignia. The coronet was presented to Queen Elizabeth II by the Goldsmiths’ Company for the Prince of Wales’ investiture at Caernarfon Castle on 1st July, 1969. It’s being displayed alongside two other coronets made for previous Princes of Wales as well as the ceremonial rod used in the 1969 investiture which, designed by Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John (1860-1952), is made of gold and is decorated with the Prince of Wales’ feathers and motto Ich Dien. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/.

The first major exhibition devoted to David Hockney’s drawings in more than 20 years opens at the National Portrait Gallery today. David Hockney: Drawing from Life features more than 150 works with a focus on self portraits and his depictions of a small group of sitters including muse Celia Birtwell, his mother, Laura Hockney, and friends, curator Gregory Evans and master printer Maurice Payne. Previously unseen works on show include working drawings for Hockney’s pivotal A Rake’s Progress etching suite (1961-63) – inspired by the identically named series of prints by William Hogarth, and sketchbooks from Hockney’s art school days in Bradford in the 1950s. Other highlights include a series of new portraits, coloured pencil drawings created in Paris in the early 1970s, composite Polaroid portraits from the 1980s, and a selection of drawings from the 1980s when the artist created a self-portrait every day over a period of two months. Runs until 28th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Gold phone returns to Eltham Palace; Nicolaes Maes at the National; and, Léon Spilliaert at the Royal Academy…

A 1930s gold coloured telephone which once belonged to eccentric millionaire Virginia Courtauld has gone on show at Eltham Palace in London’s south-west. The recently donated phone, which was saved from a skip in the 1980s, is one of only two surviving Siemens Bakelite telephones of the original 19 which were installed at the palace in 1936 for Virginia and her husband Stephen (the other remaining phone, located in Stephen’s library, is plain black). The phones – which included five placed in bedrooms – were commissioned by Virginia and remained in the property even after the Courtaulds moved out in May, 1944, and passed the lease to the Army Educational Corps. Renamed the Royal Army Educational Corps, that organisation was relocating out of Eltham Palace in the 1980s when all of the original 1930s telephones were thrown away. This gold telephone was rescued from the rubbish by a passing member of the RAEC and was recently donated to English Heritage. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/eltham-palace-and-gardens/.

The first exhibition devoted exclusively to Dutch artist Nicolaes Maes – one of Rembrandt’s most important pupils – opens at the National Gallery on Saturday. Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age features more than 35 paintings and drawings by the Dordrecht-born artist including a selection of the intimate scenes of domestic daily life for which he is best known. Included are early history scenes, mostly on biblical subjects that Maes painted in the style of Rembrandt when he joined his studio in Amsterdam in about 1650, as well as lesser-known portraits he created from 1673 onward after he settled in Amsterdam. Admission is free. The display can be seen until 31st March. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Nicolaes Maes, Girl at a Window (1653–5) © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

The works of early 20th century Belgian artist Léon Spilliaert are the subject of a new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts opening on Sunday. Léon Spilliaert features some 80 works organised into four sections with highlights including Beech Trunks (1945), Young Woman on a Stool (1909), A Gust of Wind (1904), and Dike at night. Reflected lights (1908). Runs until 25th May. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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This Week in London – ‘Woburn Treasures’ at the Queen’s House, and, Steve McQueen at the Tate Modern…

Significant works from the private art collection of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford – including art by Anthony van Dyck, Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough – goes on show at the Queen’s House in Greenwich from today. Woburn Treasures will see more than 20 works from the collection hanging alongside the collection of Royal Museums Greenwich with highlights from the Woburn collection including a full-length portrait of Anne of Denmark – the Queen Consort of King James I and the person who commissioned Inigo Jones to build the Queen’s House – by Flemish artist Gheeraerts the Younger (the painting is pictured). There’s also a full-length portrait of Lady Elizabeth Keppel by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Canaletto’s large-scale Regatta on the Grand Canal, one of 24 paintings by the Italian artist commissioned for Lord John Russell, the fourth Duke of Bedford, following his visit to Venice in 1731. The paintings are accompanied by a selection of sculptures, ceramics and a silver-gilt toilette set from the Woburn collection, spanning the period from the 17th to 19th centuries. The display has been made possible due to the 18 month closure of Woburn Abbey, seat of the Earls and Dukes of Bedford since the 1620s, as a result of the biggest refurbishment and conservation project since the property first opened to the public in 1955. The exhibition can be seen at The Queen’s House until 17th January, 2021. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/woburntreasures. PICTURE: Anne of Denmark 1611-14 by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger Oil on canvas From the Woburn Abbey Collection.

The work of Turner Prize-winning British artist Steve McQueen is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Tate Modern today. Steve McQueen features 14 major works spanning film, photography and sculpture and includes his earliest film shot on Super 8 camera – Exodus (1992/97) as well as 7th Nov. (2001), in which the artist’s cousin Marcus recounts the tragic day he accidentally shot and fatally injured his own brother, large-scale video installations such as Western Deep (2002) and Static (2009) and the two-channel video installation Ashes (2002–15). Also on display is End Credits (2012–ongoing), McQueen’s homage to the African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1898–1976) and the exhibition, which coincides with the display of McQueen’s latest artwork Year 3 at Tate Britain, also features Weight (2016), a sculpture first exhibited by Artangel at the recently closed Reading Gaol, where Oscar Wilde had been imprisoned and wrote De Profundis in 1897. Runs until 11th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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This Week in London – The world’s largest medicine galleries; David Bomberg at the National Gallery; last NYE tickets…

The world’s largest museum galleries devoted to the history of medicine have opened at the Science Museum. The £24 million ‘Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries’ cover more than 3000 square metres across five galleries with exhibits all aimed at better understanding how the human body has transformed medicine. More than 3,000 artefacts from the collections of Henry Wellcome and the Science Museum Group are on display including 200-year-old wax anatomical models, the first stethoscope, lancets used by Edward Jenner in his smallpox vaccinations and medicine chests used on expeditions to Mount Everest and Antarctica. There’s also an intricate model of a 1930s hospital, a rare iron lung used by patients with polio and the world’s first MRI scanner, protein model and paramedic bicycle. Visitors also have the chance to step inside a Victorian-era pharmacy, discover what it takes to heart transplant surgery and treat a critically ill patient. There are also four specially commissioned artworks including life-sized portraits by Siân Davey presented along with the stories of individuals impacted by how medicine defines ‘normal’, Marc Quinn’s monumental bronze Self-Conscious Gene – inspired by inspired the tattooed body of model Rick Genest, Bloom – Studio Roso’s aerial sculpture representing the spread of diseases through populations and Santa Medicina, Eleanor Crook’s bronze sculpture of a figure that is both surgeon and saint and which encourages visitors to contemplate their relationship with mortality.  Entry is free. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk. PICTURE: The Medicine and Bodies gallery in Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries © Science Museum Group.  

Nine of British modernist artist David Bomberg’s key works are being shown alongside images that influenced him in a new exhibition at the National Gallery. Young Bomberg and the Old Masters showcases Bomberg’s works including The Mud Bath (1914), Vision of Ezekiel (1912) and the first version of his war painting Sappers at Work: A Canadian Tunnelling Company, Hill 60, St Eloi (c1918-19) alongside the likes of Botticelli’s Portrait of a Young Man and the studio of El Greco’s The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. The display can be seen in Room 1 until 1st March. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

The final 20,000 tickets for London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks are being released from noon today. This year’s display features more than 12,000 fireworks and 2,000 lighting cues choreographed to music and will start with the sound of Big Ben’s chimes (despite them  being silent due to renovation works this year). Tickets, priced at £10, must be purchased in advance to attend the event and those who aren’t lucky enough to get one can watch live on BBC One. To purchase tickets, head to www.london.gov.uk/nye.

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This Week in London – Children’s literary rebels; immerse yourself in Leonardo; and, a rare Jubilee Line journey…

Pippi Longstocking, Matilda and the Zog are among a pantheon of beloved children’s literary characters at the heart of a new exhibition opening at the British Library tomorrow. Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels features about 40 books, manuscripts and original artworks spanning a period of 300 years and puts a spotlight on the “rebels, outsiders and spirited survivors” within the library’s collection of children’s literature. Highlights include a UK first edition of Anne of Green Gables, the first version of Cruikshank’s coloured illustrations of Oliver Twist as well as original artworks for books including Tracy Beaker, What Planet Are You From, Clarice Bean?, Zog (pictured above), When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Azzi in Between. The free exhibition, which can be seen until 1st March, is accompanied by a programme of events. For more, see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: © Zog by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler 2010 (Alison Green Books).

A new immersive exploration of the work of Leonardo da Vinci, centred on The Virgin of the Rocks, opens at the National Gallery on Saturday. Leonardo: Experience a Masterpiece encompasses a range of multi-sensory experiences presented across four rooms, allowing visitors to step into the painting’s setting, explore Leonardo’s own research and how he employed science in his effects of light and shadow in the painting and even visit a modern conservation studio and see how recent search revealed the previously hidden drawings behind the masterpiece. The experience, which is the work of 59 Productions, can be enjoyed until 12th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: Virgin of the Rocks (about 1491/2-9 and 1506-8) – tracing of the lines relating to underdrawing for the first composition, incorporating information from all technical images. © The National Gallery, London

The Jubilee Line has turned 40 and to mark the occasion, the Jubilee Line in conjunction with London Transport Museum’s Hidden London programme are offering the chance to travel on the original route of the train. The trip includes a section of the track now not open to the public. The 96 stock train leaves from Stanmore station at 9am Sunday, terminating at Charing Cross, or from Charing Cross at 1pm, terminating at Stanmore. When Exploring London looked this week, only tickets for the 9am trip were still available. To buy tickets (which must be purchased in advance), head to www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/heritage-vehicles-outings.

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This Week in London – St Paul’s Watch remembered in digital projections; Buddhism at the British Library; and, Elizabeth Peyton at the National Portrait Gallery…

The story of the St Paul’s Watch, the volunteers who worked to protect St Paul’s Cathedral during the Blitz, will be told in a digital display projected onto the cathedral’s facade this weekend. Where The Light Falls is being held in partnership with Historic England and is part of Fantastic Feats: the building of London – the City of London’s six-month cultural events season. It will see a display of poetry, visuals and photography, created by Poetry Society and Double Take Projections, projected onto the cathedral’s south side, north side and main facade in honour of those men and women who, armed with sandbags and water pumps, risked their lives to save the cathedral. The free show lasts for about 20 minutes and can be seen between 6.30pm and 10pm from tonight until Saturday night and then from 8pm to 10pm on Sunday. Meanwhile, St Paul’s is also open for a special late opening on Friday night during which poets from the Poetry Society will be bringing to life accounts of loss, bravery and sacrifice. Admission charge applies. For more on both events, head here.

The history, teachings and contemporary relevance of Buddhism are being explored in a major new exhibition opening at the British Library on Friday. Buddhism features rare and colourful scrolls, painted wall hangings and folding books and will highlight the theory, practice and art of Buddhism, examine the enduring iconography of Buddha and consider what it means to be Buddhist today. The exhibition, which is accompanied by a program of events, runs until 23rd February. For more, see www.bl.uk.

On Now: Elizabeth Peyton: Aire and Angels. This exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is the first to situate the work of contemporary artist Elizabeth Peyton within the historical tradition of portraiture. In additional to the more than 40 works on display in the exhibition, Peyton has been honoured by being first artist to be given the run of the entire gallery with a series of displays within the permanent collection which juxtapose Peyton’s art with historic portraits from the Tudor period onwards. Among her portraits on show are those of Napoleon, Queen Elizabeth II, Yuzuru Hanyu, Frida Kahlo, Tyler the Creator, Isa Genzken, David Bowie, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, David Fray, and Louis XIV. Runs until 5th January. Entry is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk/elizabethpeyton.

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LondonLife – Westminster Abbey marks 750th anniversary of Henry III’s rebuild; new mental health awareness tour at National Gallery; and, Rembrandt at Kenwood…

Two 13th century manuscripts from Westminster Abbey’s collection have this month gone on show in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries at the abbey to mark the 750th anniversary of King Henry III’s rebuilding of the church originally constructed on the orders of Edward the Confessor. Believed to have never before been displayed to the public, the manuscripts – which feature ink script on vellum and have wax seals on silk cords attached – include a royal charter dated 1246 in which King Henry III announces his intention to be buried alongside Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey and an inventory of Edward the Confessor’s Shrine dating from 1267 which shows how much gold, precious stones and jewels were taken from it and pawned to provide the king with much-needed money. The documents can only be seen until 28th October. Admission charge applies. For more, www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/plan-your-visit/the-queens-diamond-jubilee-galleries. The display is one of number of special events taking place to mark the anniversary of the third consecration of the abbey church which took place in the presence of King Henry III on 13th October, 1269. While Queen Elizabeth II and the Duchess of Cornwall attended a special service to mark the occasion on Tuesday, other events aimed at the public include a special family day next Wednesday (23rd October) featuring medieval re-enactors in the cloisters, the chance to meet some of the abbey staff and to take part in a family-friendly Eucharist as well as a late opening for amateur photographers to take photographs inside the abbey (23rd October), and special family tours of the abbey (22nd and 24th October). Meanwhile, this Saturday, the abbey will host the National Pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor. For more on other events at the abbey, head to www.westminster-abbey.org/events.

The National Gallery launched its first mental health awareness tour to mark World Mental Health Day last week. The tour, which is available as a smartphone app, aims to improve understanding of mental health among gallery visitors with an alternative perspective on the collection which draws on young people’s experiences of mental health – gleaned through workshops with 16 to 25-year-olds – and connects visitors with the gallery’s paintings to challenge common myths about mental health. The tour includes a focus on paintings by Van Gogh, Cima, Crivelli and Joseph Wright of Derby as well as the gallery’s architecture and figures from its portico entrance mosaic flooring such as Virginia Woolf and Winston Churchill. The tour – co-created by researchers from King’s College London, the McPin Foundation, a group of young people affected by mental health issues and members of the Gallery’s Young Producers programme and funded by Medical Research Council and the British Academy – is available free to visitors for six months. For more, see nationalgallery.org.uk.

Kenwood House in Hampstead is hosting a special display commemorating 350 years since Rembrandt’s death on 4th October, 1669. The exhibition – Rembrandt #nofilter – centres on the artist’s Self-portrait with Two Circles which has been taken from its usual place in the former dining room and represented in the dining room lobby alongside a digital photo mosaic of the painting made of “selfies” taken by visitors to Kenwood. Entry is free Runs until 12th January. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/kenwood/.

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