This Week in London – NHM’s Our Broken Planet’s finale; West End LIVE at Trafalgar Square; and, Helen Frankenthaler at Dulwich…

Juvenile European bison © The Trustees of The Natural History Museum, London

The third and final part of the free exhibition, Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It, has opened at the Natural History Museum. Following on from sections exploring the food we eat and the products we use, the third phase of the display explores the energy humans consume and how we can we create a greener, cleaner future. Specimens in the display include a juvenile European bison, illustrating an experimental rewilding project in Kent which is investigating if bison feeding habits will improve the forest’s biodiversity and store more carbon in the soil, blue-green algae collected during Captain Scott’s famed RRS Discovery expedition which is being used in the study of climate change, and the recently extinct Chinese paddlefish, a casualty of the global boom in hydroelectric dams. Entry to the South Kensington museum is free but visitors are encouraged to book a time ticket in advance to ensure entry. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/our-broken-planet.html.

The West End comes to Trafalgar Square this weekend with a line-up of free performances from top shows taking to the stage. Forming part of Westminster City Council’s Inside Out Festival and the Society of London Theatre’s #BackOnStage campaign, the West End LIVE event will feature the first ever West End LIVE appearances from award-winning musicals Hamilton and The Book Of Mormon, as well as an exciting roster of new shows including The Prince Of Egypt, Dear Evan Hansen, Cinderella, Back To The Future: The Musical and Pretty Woman. More than 30 acts will be involved in the free and unticketed event. For the full programme, see www.westendlive.co.uk.

The first major UK exhibition of woodcuts by the leading abstract expressionist, Helen Frankenthaler, opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery this week. Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty brings together more than 30 works on loan from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation which span the artist’s career from her first ever woodcut in 1973 to her last work published in 2009. Works include including Madame Butterfly (2000), East and Beyond (1973), Cameo (1980) and Freefall (1993). The display can be seen until 18th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Art hits Westminster streets; Open House London now a nine day celebration; and, historic sites recognised for Festival of Britain anniversary…

Inside Out Festival launch at The National Gallery. PICTURE: Nyla Sammons

Reproductions of some of The National Gallery’s most famous works have appeared on Trafalgar Square’s North Terrace as part of the City of Westminster’s ‘Inside Out’ festival. The life-sized replicas include Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888), Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire (1839), Botticelli’s Venus and Mars (1485), Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne (1520-3) and John Constable’s The Hay Wain (1821). The display is being accompanied by ‘Sketch in the Square’, a programme of free, daily alfresco art activities with a strong emphasis on mindfulness and wellbeing. Other events in the Inside Out festival include the ‘Tusk Lion Trail’ in which 22 life-sized lion sculptures take visitors on a journey to trail some of the West End’s most iconic landmarks, a immersive light installation by artist Chila Burman at Covent Garden’s historic Market Building, and ‘Art of London’, in which five Royal Academy artists have brought their art to Piccadilly Circus and its surrounding streets. The ‘Inside Out’ festival is part of the ‘Westminster Reveals’ campaign which aims to encourage visitors to return to the city’s streets and enjoy the city’s cultural scene. For more on ‘Inside Out’ – which runs until 31st October, see www.westminster.gov.uk/insideout.

Trellick Tower (courtesy of Open House London).

Usually held over a weekend, Open House London is this year a nine day celebration of London’s architecture and urban landscapes. Highlights this year include the chance to see inside 10 Downing Street, Ernő Goldfinger’s brutalist landmark Trellick Tower (pictured), a street of self-build timber houses in Lewisham and a former Victorian workhouse which has been transformed into a homeless shelter in Camden. There’s also the first chance to see a new design district in Greenwich, a yet to be opened community centre in Holborn and a special focus on the capital’s pubs and breweries. The full programme for the festival – which runs from 4th to 12th September and features hundreds of events – is now available online. For full listings, see www.openhouselondon.org.uk/2021.

Historic sites and objects related to the landmark 1951 Festival of Britain have been officially recognised to mark the event’s 70th anniversary. The London sites include Calvary Charismatic Baptist Church in Tower Hamlets, built as part of the ‘live’ architectural exhibition of the Festival of Britain, which has seen its heritage listing upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*. Among the sites which have had their listings updated are: Royal Festival Hall which was designed by the London County Council Architect’s Department as part of their contribution to the Festival of Britain; the Church of St John located just off the Waterloo roundabout which, struck by a bomb during World War II, remained damaged until 1950 when the interior was remodelled in a neo-Georgian style for the festival; and, the Newbury Park Bus Station Canopy, which was designed with a high arched, open structure in what has been described as the modernist ‘Festival style’. The Festival of Britain, which ran from May to September, 1951, was a national exhibition and fair aimed at promoting British design, science, technology, architecture, industry, and the arts. Held in the aftermath of World War II, one of its key aims was to help foster a national sense of recovery.

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This Week in London – Well-being at Kew; Poussin wins credit for ‘The Triumph of Silenus’; and, Euston explored…

Kew Gardens have unveiled a new programme of well-being events with the aim of encouraging people to enjoy the outdoors after the COVID-19 lockdown. The events, all of which will be COVID-19 safe and follow government guidelines, including everything from forest bathing sessions in the Arboretum inspired by the Japanese art of Shinrin-yokuto, a rare chance to cycle through the gardens on an evening bike ride, pilates in the Nash Conservatory and yoga sessions in the Temperate House. Check the Kew website for dates and times and admission charges.

The Triumph of Silenus hanging in Room 29 at The National Gallery. PICTURE: © The National Gallery

• The creator of The Triumph of Silenus (c1637), which was one of the first paintings to enter the collection of The National Gallery when it did so in 1824, has been confirmed as 17th century French painter Nicolas Poussin. The painting had long been plagued by questions of authenticity but following recent conservation work and in-depth technical analysis, it has been confirmed as a work of Poussin. The confirmation means the gallery holds 14 works by Poussin, making it one of the world’s leading collections of paintings by him. Later this year, the picture will feature in a new exhibition, Poussin and the Dance.

• People will have the chance to see parts of Euston Station usually not accessible to the public on a new virtual tour announced by the London Transport Museum. The tour is part of the next season of ‘Hidden London’ virtual events with new dates also to be announced for tours of King William Street, Brompton Road, Holborn (Kingsway) and Aldwych. Meanwhile, the museum will recommence its ‘Secrets of Central London’ walking tour in the West End on 17th May. Charges apply. For more on the virtual tours and dates, head to www.ltmuseum.co.uk/hidden-london/virtual-tours.

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This Week in London – Hampton Court Palace’s Tulip Festival, National Gallery acquires ‘Portrait of a Girl’, and, art at Canary Wharf…

Hampton Court Palace is hosting its first ever Tulip Festival. Featuring more than 100,000 bulbs placed throughout the formal gardens, the festival pays homage to the estate’s long history of tulip cultivation and, thanks to partnership with the Hortus Bulborum in the Netherlands, involves some types of tulip that have not been on show at the palace since the 17th century. First introduced to the British Isles in the 1630s, tulip planting at Hampton Court dates back to the reign of Queen Mary II. Ten different heritage and modern types have been planted across the gardens for the festival including Parrot, Triumph, Rembrandt and Darwin tulips. Visitors can undertake a self-guided trail which takes in both the palace’s courtyards – filled with ornate planters and flowers specially-selected to match the historic brickwork – and the gardens. Admission charge applies (tickets must be pre-booked). Runs until 3rd May. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/whats-on/tulip-festival-2021.

Isaack Luttichuys (1616–1673), Portrait of a Girl, about 1650 © The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery has acquired Portrait of a Girl (about 1650) by Isaack Luttichuys, the first work by the artist to enter a British public collection. Luttichuys, who name is pronounced ‘Lootickhouse’, was born in London to Dutch parents and spent his early life in England (where the family was known as Littlehouse, the literal English translation of the name). The artist later moved to Amsterdam where he enjoyed a highly successful career as a portrait painter until his death in 1673. The work was acquired from the estate of banker and philanthropist George Pinto under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, administered by the Arts Council. 

Escape to faraway lands with a new art installation at Crossrail Place Roof Garden at Canary Wharf. Crossorelle is the work of artists Baker & Borowski, and features a design inspired by the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech which fuses the Moroccan garden’s rich palette and art deco shapes with exotic flora. Free to visit, the display can be seen until 19th June. For more, see https://canarywharf.com/whats-on/crossorelle-roof-garden-mar-jun-2021/.

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This Week in London – Take One Picture images hit giant screens; Old Royal Naval College to reopen; and, women at the Jewish Museum…

‘Take One Picture’ exhibition artwork displayed on Ocean Outdoor’s screen at Holland Park Roundabout, London. PICTURE: © The National Gallery, London

Artworks created by primary school children have taken centrestage on giant screens around the country including in London. The gallery’s 25th annual ‘Take One Picture’ exhibition, being run in partnership with Ocean Outdoor, sees the artworks appear on the large format screens until 15th March. Each year schools taking part in the initiative are invited to have students respond to a particular National Gallery collection work in creating their own works. This year’s focus painting is American painter George Bellows’ 1912 work Men of the Docks which depicts a group of longshoremen waiting to unload an ocean liner against the backdrop of a wintry river landscape in New York. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk/take-one-picture.

The grounds of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich will be open from 12th April in line with government guidelines. Meanwhile, a route through the college grounds – along College Way via the East and West Gates – will continue to be open to pedestrians and cyclists between 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday and 8am and 4pm over the weekends.

The Jewish Museum has announced a new virtual tour focusing on the pioneering women whose stories are told in its collection. The tour, which will be delivered via Zoom on 8th March to mark International Women’s Day (as well as later dates), looks at the various ways women have contributed to Jewish history and culture in Britain over the centuries. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://jewishmuseum.org.uk/event/women-of-worth/.

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LondonLife – Looking down Whitehall…

From the Trafalgar Square end. PICTURE: Johen Redman/Unsplash

This Week in London – V&A reimagines its online experience; ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’; and, most viewed works at The National Gallery…

More than 1.2 million items from the V&A’s vast collections can now be seen online in a new digital platform, Explore the Collections. The new platform, which launched in beta form this week and brings together previous online options in a single site, reimagines the online experience of the V&A in a story-led approach with users able to search for specific objects or allow the site to recommend options based on their interests. The platform will be continually developed and updated over the coming months. You can access it here –  www.vam.ac.uk/collections.

‘Bushfire’ by Robert Irwin, Australia. Winner 2020, Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award.

Australian photographer Robert Irwin has won the 56th Natural History Museum’s ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award’ with an image of bushfire in northern Australia. More than 55,000 people voted for one of 25 short-listed images selected from the more than 49,000 submitted works. Irwin, who used a drone to take the aerial image near the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York, Queensland, said he was incredibly excited by the win. “For me, nature photography is about telling a story to make a difference for the environment and our planet,” he said. “I feel it is particularly special for this image to be awarded, not only as a profound personal honour but also as a reminder of our effect on the natural world and our responsibility to care for it.” Irwin’s and four other highly commended images will be shown at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum when the museum reopens. For more, see nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year.html.

Jan van Eyck’s masterpiece, The Arnolfini Portrait, has topped a list of the National Gallery’s most viewed paintings since March last year. Others in the top 10 included Holbein’s The Ambassadors and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers along with works by Turner, Leonardo, Velázquez, Titian, Constable, Botticelli, Monet, Caravaggio and Vermeer. The data was collected between 19th March last year – when the gallery first closed in a lockdown – and the start of February. The gallery houses more than 2,300 works. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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Exploring London’s 100 most popular posts of all time! – Numbers 34 and 33…

The next two in our countdown…

34. Treasures of London – The lions of Trafalgar Square…

33. Lost London – Mrs Salmon’s Waxworks…

This Week in London – ‘Fantastic Beasts’; artwork of The Blitz; and, ‘The Adoration of the Kings’ explored…

The links between mythical and fictional creatures with animals of the natural world are explored in a new exhibition which opened at the Natural History Museum this week. Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature, a partnership between the museum, Warner Bros Consumer Products and the BBC Studios Natural History Unit, features some 120 exhibits including Dracorex Hogwartsia dinosaur – named in recognition of Harry Potter’s school, Hogwarts, along with a hoax mermaid, a 16th century map depicting sea monsters, and what was once believed to be a unicorn horn. There’s also the chance to learn more about the Galapagos marine iguana and the boneless hagfish as well as fictional creatures like the mooncalf and erumpent. Admission charge applies and pre-booking required. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk.

Preparing for the Natural History Museum’s ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature Conservation’ PICTURE: Trustees of the Natural History Museum

Artworks depicting The Blitz are the subject of a new exhibition at the Churchill War Rooms. Art of the Blitz shines a new light on the experiences of ordinary people who lived through the Nazi air raids. The display includes works by Henry Moore, William Matvyn Wright, Eric Ravilious, Ernest Boye Uden, Mabel Hutchinson, Evelyn Gibbs, Evelyn Dunbar, and Leila Faithfull. Free with general admission ticket purchase, the display can be seen until 30th April. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/events/wartime-london-art-of-the-blitz.

Jan Gossaert’s 16th-century masterpiece The Adoration of the Kings is at the heart of a new immersive digital experience which launched at the National Gallery this week. Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration, which has been designed with social distancing in mind, starts with the voice of the African King Balthasar speaking to viewers before light and sound guide them to an individual pod where they can experience an interactive version of the painting. The experience can be seen in Room 1 until 28th February. Admission is free but pre-booking is required. Meanwhile, Father Christmas is making a special appearance at the National Gallery on the 12th and 13th December – and again on 17th to 23rd December – along with the chance to step into a ‘winter wonderland’ inspired by the iconic National Gallery painting A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle (about 1608–9) by Hendrick Avercamp (1585–1634). Admission charge applies and pre-booking required. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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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.