An Australian landscape constructed in the forecourt of the British Museum as part of the museum’s Australian Season. The landscape takes the intrepid on a journey across the vast Australian continent through the arid red desert of the red centre to the granite outcrops of the country’s west coast. The plants include iconic Australian flora such as the kangaroo paw, wattle, coast banksia, gums and ferns as well as a Wollemi pine. The landscape is the fourth created in the museum’s forecourt under a partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. But time is running out to see it – the garden will disappear on 16th October. Other events held at the museum as part of Australian Season have included an exhibition of Australian artworks and handcrafted baskets. Admission to the garden is free. For more, visit www.britishmuseum.org.
Around London – Apsley House history goes online; Australian landscapes at the British Museum; Dame Judy Dench awarded Freedom of the City of London; and, Out of this World on at British Library
• A detailed history of Apsley House, the former home of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, has gone live online as part of a pilot project aimed at “deepening the public’s understanding of English history”. The property, known as Number 1, London, is one of 12 initially being profiled in depth in a pilot project on the new English Heritage online resource, Portico. Others include Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin, located in Kent, as well as Beeston Castle, Brough Castle, Byland Abbey, Carlisle Castle, Dunstanburgh Castle, Easby Abbey, Kenilworth Castle, Lullingstone Roman Villa, Rievaulx Abbey and Wroxeter Roman City near Shrewsbury. Brief historical details are also provided for an additional 220 lesser known free sites including Dunster Yarn Market in Somerset. For more see www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/archives-and-collections/portico/.
• The West Lawn of the British Museum Forecourt has been turned into an image of the Australian continent as part of a five year partnership programme between the museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The landscape moves from the vegetation of the eastern Australia’s coast through to the red centre and onto a rocky Western Australian outcrop. It showcases some of the continent’s unique and highly threatened flora. The construction of the landscape, which follows one showcasing that of South Africa last year, is part of the museum’s ‘Australian season’. Runs until October. Admission is free. See www.britishmuseum.org.
• Dame Judy Dench was awarded the Freedom of the City of London for services to acting at a ceremony at the Guildhall last week. The winner of an Academy Award, nine BAFTAs and three Laurence Olivier Awards, Dame Judy is an icon of stage and screen. She is reportedly looking forward to driving her sheep over London Bridge and occasionally wearing a sword in public – both privileges of those awarded the Freedom of the City of London. The Freedom of the City’s origins are believed to date back to 1237 and enabled recipients to carry out their trade. Today people are nominated for or apply for the Freedom for the link with the City or are awarded it for a significant contribution to London life. Many of the traditional privileges – such as driving your sheep over London Bridge or being hanged with a silken rope – no longer exist.
• Now On: Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it. The British Library’s first exhibition which explores science fiction through literature, film, illustrations and sound. Guest curated by Andy Sawyer, director of science fiction studies MA at the University of Liverpool, the exhibition traces the evolution of the genre from Lucian of Samosata’s True History, written in the 2nd century AD, through to the recent writings of Cory Doctorow and China Mieville. Highlights include a 1516 edition of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, a 1647 edition of Lucian’s True History, and a 1906 edition of HG Wells text, The War of the Worlds. Runs until 25th September. For more see, www.bl.uk/sciencefiction.
Around London – New fourth plinth sculptures announced; Australian Season at British Museum; and Kenwood House shows off gardens…
• Sculptures of a child on a rocking horse and a giant blue cockerel will occupy Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth in 2012 and 2013 respectively, it was announced late last week. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, described the artworks as “witty and enigmatic creations”. The first proposed first sculpture, correctly titled Powerless Structures, Fig. 101, is the creation of Elmgreen & Dragset while the second, Hahn/Cock, is that of Katharina Fritsch. The plinth is currently occupied by Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle. See www.fourthplinth.co.uk.
• The British Museum has announced it will be holding a series of exhibitions and events focusing on Australia later this year. Highlights of Australian Season will include Australia Landscape: Kew at the British Museum (21st April to 16th October), an exhibition of prints and drawings dating from the ‘Angry Penguin’ school of the 1940s through to the rise of Aboriginal printmaking (Out of Australia: prints and drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas, from 26th May to 11th September), and an exhibition focusing on indigenous Australian baskets (Baskets and belong: Indigenous Australian histories, 26th May to 29th August). See www.britishmuseum.org.
• On Now: Kenwood House in Hampstead is hosting a new exhibition, The Gardens of English Heritage. The exhibition, which is based on the publication of the same name, features stunning images of some of the UK’s most impressive gardens.Runs until 3rd April. For more information, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/kenwood-house/