Open House London marks its 25th anniversary this weekend, with free entry into more than 800 of the city’s buildings. For the first time, every London borough is participating in the event which sees the doors flung wide on buildings including the recently revamped New Scotland Yard (right), the skyscraper One Blackfriars nick-named ‘The Vase’ (above), an urban farm in Waterloo and the Francis Crick Institute at King’s Cross as well as traditional crowd-pleasers like BT Tower, William Morris’s Red House and the office towers known as the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin.  The weekend also features some 66 walks and talks. Open House have this year  launched a free app which, available for both Android and Apple, allows users to plan their weekend, view nearby buildings, and filter results by day, architectural type and period. To download the app and to see the full programme of events, head to www.openhouselondon.org.uk. PICTURES: Top – CGI/Right – Tim Soar (Open House London).

The London Design Festival, now in its 15th year, also kicks off this weekend with a programme of 450 projects and events across the coming week. The V&A will once again form the festival hub with iconic spaces within the museum transformed by a series of special commissions and displays including an immersive coloured light experienced known as Reflection Room and a 21.3-metre-long uid and free-standing three dimensional tapestry called Transmission. Somerset House will host a new group exhibition called Design Frontiers featuring 30 leading international designers while the Oxo Tower Wharf Courtyard will host a specially created micro house, called URBAN CABIN – one of many ‘landmark projects’ to be seen during the week. The festival runs until 24th September. For more – including the full programme of events, see www.londondesignfestival.com.

The rediscovery of Roman London under the modern city is the subject of a new exhibition which opened at the Guildhall Library in the City this week. The Discovery of Roman London, with a display of objects, archives and 19th century illustrations, looks at the early pioneers of Roman London archaeology over the past three centuries and the establishment of the Guildhall Museum – the precursor to the Museum of London – in 1826 to provide a suitable place for the found artefacts. Runs until 30th November. Entry is free. For more, follow this link.

The story of ancient nomadic tribes known as the Scythians is told in a new exhibition at the British Museum. Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia features more than 200 objects, many of which have been preserved under permafrost, providing fascinating insights into the lives of the Scythian tribes who lived between 900 and 200 BC. The objects include fur-lined clothes, headgear for horses, gold jewellery, weapons, wooden drinking bowls and even tattooed human remains. There are also a series of painted clay death masks decorated to resemble the faces of the dead which are being shown alongside a reconstructed log-cabin tomb in which they were found. Runs until 14th January in the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery. Supported by BP, the exhibition has been organised in partnership with the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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The later years of the life of Japan’s greatest artist, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), is the subject of a new exhibition at the British Museum. Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave features his iconic print, The Great Wave (c1831), along with works he created during the last 30 years of his life until his death at the age of 90. Around 110 works – major paintings, drawings, woodblock prints and illustrated books depicting everything from iconic land and seascapes, to deities, mythological creatures, flora and fauna, and beautiful women – will be on display with about half the artworks changed over midway through the exhibition due to conservation reasons. Alongside The Great Wave, other key works, which come from the British Museum’s own collection as well as loans from Japan, Europe and the US, include Hokusai’s print series, Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji (published around 1831-33), a depiction of Red Shoki (the demon queller) – borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and his brush drawing manual Hokusai manga. The exhibition, which opens today, runs until 13th August in Room 35. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: British Museum

The fashions of Cristóbal Balenciaga are on show at the V&A in the first ever UK exhibition to explore his work and influence. Marking the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous Paris house, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion focuses on the latter part of his career in the 1950s and 1960s, a period during which he dressed some iconic figures and introduced revolutionary shapes such as the ‘baby doll’, the tunic and the sack. More than 100 garments and 20 hats are featured with highlights including ensembles made for Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, dresses and hats belonging to Sixties fashion icon Gloria Guinness and pieces worn by one of the world’s wealthiest women, Mona von Bismarck. Opens on Saturday and runs until 18th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/balenciaga.

British female cartoonists and comic artists are celebrated in an exhibition on now at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury. The Inking Woman features the work of more than 80 artists as it traces the evolution of British women in their role as satirists, humorists and story-tellers. Among them are Mary Darly, 18th century print seller, artist and the author of the first book on the art of caricature, Principles of Caricatura (1762), Marie Duval, an early artist for the 19th century magazine Judy, Sally Arts, Grizela and Kathryn Lamb – cartoonists for mainstream publications like Punch and Private Eye, political and joke cartoonists, strip cartoonists and caricaturists and comic artists and graphic novelists. Runs until 23rd July. Admission charge applies. See www.cartoonmuseum.org.

• An eight foot high snail will be touring The Royal Parks from the end of the month as part of The Royal Park’s Mission: Invertebrate. Funded with £600,000 from the People’s Postcode Lottery, the project aims to inspire people with the “amazing story of nature’s unsung workforce” and help park managers gain better insight into the 4,100 invertebrates species which live in The Royal Parks’ 5,000 acres. The snail, which will be visiting the parks during the half-term break and summer holidays, will bring with it interactive story-telling and a range of free, creative activities. For a full itinerary of the snail’s wanderings, head to www.royalparks.org.uk/be-involved/mission-invertebrate/family-programme.

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Recently acquired by the British Museum, this 14th century alabaster figure of the Virgin and Child is the best preserved of its kind on display in any UK national collection. The sculpture, which was probably created in the Midlands, is a rare survivor of the Reformation when almost all religious imagery was lost or destroyed. It is speculated that it escaped destruction by being exported to the Continent, whether shortly after its creation or when imagery of its kind was no longer permitted. The work of an unknown master, the figure bears the marks where people have repeatedly touched or kissed it as an act of devotion with the face of the Virgin and the foot of Christ both worn as a result. Having suffered no major breakages, it still bears large portions of the original decoration including imitation jewels on the chest of the Virgins and traces of the original red and green painting and gilding. Kept at the Redemptorist monastery in Saint-Truiden, Belgium, for many years, it was purchased by a famous collector, Dr Albert Figdor, in the late 19th century. Sold at auction after his death, it entered a European private collection where it remained until it was sold to Sam Fogg from whom the British Museum, thanks to support from the Art Fund, National Heritage Memorial Fund and private donations, acquired it. The sculpture is on display in the Sir Paul and Lady Jill Ruddock Gallery of Medieval Europe. PICTURE: Alabaster Figure of the Virgin and Child, 14th century, England, © The Trustees of the British Museum.

WHERE: British Museum (nearest Tube stations are Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square and Goodge Street); WHEN: 10am to 5.30pm, daily (open to 8.30pm Friday); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.britishmuseum.org

diana-her-fashion-storyThe fashions of Diana, Princess of Wales, go on show at Kensington Palace tomorrow in a new exhibition, 20 years after her death. Diana: Her Fashion Story traces the evolution of her sense of style from the demure outfits of her first public appearances to the “glamour, elegance and confidence” of her later life and explores how she used her image to engage and inspire people as well as champion the causes she cared out. The display features everything from glamorous 1980s evening gowns to her “working wardrobe” of the 1990s and original fashion sketches created for her by her favourite designers. Highlights include a pale pink Emanuel blouse worn for Lord Snowdon’s 1981 engagement portrait, a ink blue velvet gown designed by Victor Edelstein and famously worn during a visit to the White House when the princess danced with John Travolta, and a blue tartan Emanuel suit worn for an official visit to Venice in the 1980s. The latter goes on public display for the first time, having recently been acquired at auction by Historic Royal Palaces. Complementing the exhibition, gardeners have created a temporary ‘White Garden’ in the palace’s Sunken Garden with flowers and foliage inspired by the princess’s life, style and image. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/. PICTURE: Courtesy Historic Royal Palaces.

Works chronicling life in the United States of America during the decade after the Wall Street crash of 1929 go on show at the Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday. America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s features 45 works by some of the foremost artists of the era which have been sourced from collections across the US. They include Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930) – the first time it’s being exhibited outside of the US, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses (1931), Edward Hopper’s Gas (1940) and works by Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Alice Nee and Thomas Hart Benton. Organised by the Art Institute of Chicago, in collaboration with the Royal Academy and Etablissement public du musée d’Orsay et du musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, the exhibition in The Sackler Wing of Galleries can be seen until 4th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

Landscape drawings created over the century spanning 1850 to 1950 are the subject of a new free exhibition which opens at the British Museum today. Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850-1950 features more than 125 works from the museum’s department of prints and drawings, over half of which have never been published or exhibited before. Artists represented include George Price Boyce, Alfred William Hunt, John Ruskin, James McNeill Whistler, Philip Wilson Steer. Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore. The display can be seen in Room 90 until 27th August. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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roman-gardening-toolsRoman tools and other artefacts from the era including a stamp for metal ingots and pottery are among objects found in London’s ‘lost’ Walbrook Valley which have gone on display at the Museum of London. Working the Walbrook features objects excavated during the past 170 years of digs around the watercourse which once cut the city in half, running from Finsbury Circus to Cannon Street. Created as part of a PhD project being supervised by the Museum of London and the University of Reading, the objects on show include an iron stamp dating from the Roman period inscribed with the letters MPBR (understood to be an abbreviation for ‘Metal Provinciae Britanniae’ – “the mines of the province of Britannia”) which is believed to have been used by officials to stamp metal ingots passing through London on their way to the Continent. Other items include Roman farming and gardening tools, and a pot decorated with a smith’s hammer, anvil and tongs which was found at the bottom of a well in Southwark and which may have been linked to worship of the god Vulcan. The free display is on show until March. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk. PICTURE: Gardening tools from Roman London. A pruning hook, bailing fork and shears © Museum of London

• A series of prints by Pablo Picasso spanning the period from the late 1940s to the late 1950s form the heart of a new exhibition at the British Museum in Bloomsbury. The prints, which include 16 lithograph prints and three aquatint prints, were recently acquired by the museum in what represents the final part of the museum’s effort to more fully represent the artist’s work as a printmaker. Six of the lithographs were inspired by the beauty of Picasso’s lover Francoise Gilot while others feature Bacchanalian scenes and portraits of German-born dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. On display from Friday in Gallery 90A, they can be seen in the free exhibition until 3rd March. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The details of some 160,000 people buried at Highgate Cemetery in north London have been made available online. Deceased Online has announced that all records for the period from May, 1839, to August, 2010 – a total of 159,863 people, are now available, including digital scans of original registers, details of who is buried in each grave and location maps for most graves. Notable people buried at Highgate include author Douglas Adams, philosopher Karl Marx and chemist and physicist Michael Faraday. For more, see www.deceasedonline.com

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museums-at-night From tonight (and across this weekend), museums all over Greater London will be opening their doors after usual closing time as part of the annual Museums at Night event. Among those institutions taking part in the event, produced by Culture24, are such well-known icons as the British Museum, Tower Bridge and The National Gallery as well as lesser known establishments like Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Chingford, Southside House on Wimbledon Common and the Grant Museum of Zoology in central London. The October event follows an earlier Museums at Night in May. For the full programme of events, see www.museumsatnight.org.uk.

Roman London is the subject of a new exhibition at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Library. Londinium AD43 features the work of photographer Eugenio Grosso who takes the visitors on a photographic journey through time from London’s foundations to its present. The display shows how much of London’s Roman settlement has been preserved and features photographs of locations once home to significant London sites. Runs until 31st March. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/Pages/default.aspx

More than 75 portraits in all media by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso can be seen at the recently opened Picasso Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Including well-known masterpieces and some works never seen in Britain before, the works include a group of self-portraits as well as caricatures of Picasso’s friends, lovers, wives and children and images he created inspired by artists of the past. Runs until 5th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

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The first exhibition dedicated to the works of 17th century Dutch master Adriaen van de Velde has opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London. Adriaen can de Velde: Dutch Master of Landscape features more than 60 of his most accomplished works including landscapes and beachscapes as well as red chalk preparatory studies, pen and ink drawings and watercolours. There’s also a selection of his larger works including Portrait of a Family in a Landscape and Landscape with cattle and figures. Part of the Rediscovering Old Masters: The Melosi Series being shown at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the exhibition is being held in partnership with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Runs until 15th January. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

• The Science Museum in South Kensington has opened its “most ambitious” interactive science gallery featuring interactive exhibits, artworks, live demonstrations and immersive experiences. Wonderlab: The Statoil Gallery, which cost £6 million to create, features more than 50 exhibits in seven zones and spans topics as diverse as sound, forces, light and mathematics. Highlights include a giant interactive orrery (mechanical model of the solar system), the chance to explore the effects of different materials on a friction slide and live science shows featuring explosions, rockets, and space. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/wonderlab.

 A free exhibition focusing on defaced coins and other objects has opened at the British Museum. Defacing the past: damnation and desecration in imperial Rome takes on Roman history from the view of the defacer and features coins of Caligula and Nero – the first emperors to suffer ‘damnation’ after their deaths, as well as defaced images of Domitian and Commodus, both of whom were killed by conspirators as a result of their extravagant and autocratic behaviour. Runs in Room 69a until 7th May. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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totally-thamesIt’s September and that means Totally Thames, an annual month of events celebrating London’s great watery artery. Highlights among this year’s 150 events include this Saturday’s Great River Race in which more than 300 boats from across the UK and around the world compete on a course running from Millwall Slipway to Ham House in Richmond, Life Afloat, an exhibition looking at the evolution of the houseboat living on the Thames across the last 100 years, and the 8th annual Classic Boat Festival at St Katharine Docks this weekend as well as walks, talks, performances, art installations and boat trips including a tour of Brunel’s London. Runs until the end of the month. For more information and the full programme of events, see www.totallythames.org. PICTURE: Totally Thames/Barry Lewis.

The changes that swept across society in the late 1960s are the subject of a new exhibition which opens at the V&A this weekend. You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-70 is divided into six distinct sections, and starts with a recreation of Carnaby Street as it was before moving on to subjects like clubs and counterculture, revolution on the street, revolution in consumerism, festivals and alternative communities. Among the objects on display are costumes designed for Mick Jagger, a Cecil Beaton portrait of Twiggy, Roger Corman’s 1967 film about LSD, The Trip, a wall of protest posters, film, sound and still footage from the 1967 Montreal and 1970 Osaka World Expos, a kaftan worn by Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock, and a rare Apple 1 computer. Runs from 10th September to 26th February at the South Kensington institution. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/revolution.

A new exhibition showcasing the British Museum’s holdings of French portrait drawings opens at the Bloomsbury establishment today. French portrait drawings from Clouet to Courbet offers the chance to see some well-known French portrait drawings alongside others that have never been exhibited before. Pictures on show include Francois Clouet’s portrait of Catherine de’Medici, Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune’s chalk drawing of his infant daughter, and a ‘playful’ portrait of artist Artemisia Gentileschi by Pierre Dumonstier. The free display can be seen in Room 90 until 29th January.

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The largest naval conflict of World War I – the Battle of Jutland – is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich tomorrow. BugleMarking the centenary of the battle, Jutland 1916: WWI’s Greatest Sea Battle explores the battle itself (which claimed the lives of more than 8,500 as the British Grand Fleet met the German High Seas Fleet in what neither side could claim as a decisive victory) as well as its lead-up, aftermath and the experience of those serving on British and German warships through paintings and newspaper clippings, photographs, ship models and plans, sailor-made craft work and medals. Among the objects on display is a 14 foot long shipbuilder’s model of the HMS Queen Mary, which, one of the largest battle cruisers involved,was destroyed with only 18 survivors of the 1,266 crew. Among the personal stories told in the exhibition, meanwhile, is that of boy bugler William Robert Walker, of Kennington, who served on the HMS Calliope and, severely wounded during the battle, was later visited by King George V
and presented with a silver bugle by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe (the bugle, pictured, is on display). A series of events will accompany the exhibition which runs until November. Admission is free. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum. PICTURE: © National Maritime Museum, London 

• Two ‘lost’ Egyptian cities and their watery fate are the subject of a new exhibition which opens at the British Museum today. Sunken cities: Egypt’s lost worlds is the museum’s first exhibition of underwater discoveries and focuses on the recent discoveries of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus – submerged at the mouth of the Nile for more than 1,000 years. Among the 300 objects on display are more than than 200 artefacts excavated between 1996 and 2012. Highlights include a 5.4 metre statue of Hapy, a sculpture excavated from Canopus representing Arsine II (the eldest daughter of the Ptolemaic dynasty founder Ptolemy I) who became a goddess after her death, and a stela from Thonis-Heracleion which advertises a royal decree of Pharaoh Nectanebo I concerning taxes.  The exhibition runs until 27th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

New English Heritage Blue Plaques marking the homes of comedian Tommy Cooper and food writer Elizabeth David have been unveiled this month as part of the 150th anniversary of the scheme. Tommy Cooper lived at his former home at 51 Barrowgate Road in Chiswick between 1955 to 1984 and while there entertained fellow comedians such as Roy Hudd, Eric Sykes and Jimmy Tarbuck. Elizabeth David, meanwhile, is the first food writer to ever be commemorated with a Blue Plaque. She lived at the property at 24 Halsey Street in Chelsea for some 45 years until her death in 1992. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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FirefightersIt was 75 years ago this year – on the night of 10th/11th May, 1941 – that the German Luftwaffe launched an unprecedented attacked on London, an event that has since become known as the ‘Longest Night’ (it’s also been referred to as ‘The Hardest Night’).

Air raid sirens echoed across the city as the first bombs fells at about 11pm and by the following morning, some 1,436 Londoners had been killed and more than that number injured while more than 11,000 houses had been destroyed along and landmark buildings including the Palace of Westminster (the Commons Chamber was entirely destroyed and the roof of Westminster Hall was set alight), Waterloo Station, the British Museum and the Old Bailey were, in some cases substantially, damaged.

The Royal Air Force Museum records that some 571 sorties were flown by German air crews over the course of the night and morning, dropping 711 tons of high explosive bombs and more than 86,000 incendiaries. The planes were helped in their mission – ordered in retaliation for RAF bombings of German cities – by the full moon reflecting off the river below.

The London Fire Brigade recorded more than 2,100 fires in the city and together these caused more than 700 acres of the urban environment, more than double that of the Great Fire of London in 1666 (the costs of the destruction were also estimated at more than double that of the Great Fire – some £20 million).

Fighter Command sent some 326 aircraft into the fight that night, not all of them over London, and, according to the RAF Museum, the Luftwaffe officially lost 12 aircraft (although others put the figure at more than 30).

By the time the all-clear siren sounded just before 6am on 11th May, it was clear the raid – which turned out to be the last major raid of The Blitz – had been the most damaging ever undertaken upon the city.

Along with the landmarks mentioned above, other prominent buildings which suffered in the attack include Westminster Abbey, St Clement Danes (the official chapel of the Royal Air Force, it was rebuilt but still bears the scars of the attack), and the Queen’s Hall.

Pictured above is a statue of firefighters in action in London during the Blitz, taken from the National Firefighters Memorial near St Paul’s Cathedral – for more on that, see our earlier post here.

For more on The Longest Night, see Gavin Mortimer’s The Longest Night: Voices from the London Blitz: The Worst Night of the London Blitz.

The-Lampedusa-CrossDonated to the British Museum in October (the last acquisition made under former director Neil MacGregor), the Lampedusa Cross was constructed by carpenter Francesco Tuccio out of wreckage from a refugee boat which sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa on 3rd October, 2013. At least 349 of the 500 refugees on board were drowned, some of whom were Eritrean Christians fleeing persecution, while 151 survived. Mr Tuccio, a resident of Lampedusa, decided to make a series of small crosses from the wreckage after meeting some of the refugees in the church of San Gerlando as a gift for them to both reflect their salvation and as a symbol of hope for the future. He was subsequently also asked to make a further cross which was carried by Pope Francis at the memorial service for the survivors. Asked by the British Museum if it could acquire a cross for its collection, Mr Tuccio made a cross specifically for the museum which he then donated to the institution, saying after he received a letter of thanks that “it is I who should thank you for drawing attention to the burden symbolised by this small piece of wood.” The cross went on display in Room 2 of the museum on 18th December (the last day of Mr MacGregor’s directorship). Entry is free. For more on the British Museum, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: © Trustees of the British Museum.

The British Museum has unveiled a new audio guide to provide the museum’s 6.7 million annual visitors with a new way to interact with its permanent collections. The guide comes in 10 different languages as well as in British Sign Language, an updated and improved audio descriptive guide and a “family game guide” for children to play with their parents. It boasts 70 new commentaries detailing the most recent research on key objects as well as new tours for China and A History of the World, a highlights feature and Top 1o tour, stunning new photography and a ‘My visit’ feature which sends visitors a visual record of their visit by email. The guide is available for hire at the Bloomsbury institution. See www.britishmuseum.org for more.

Marie-AntoinetteOn Now: Jean-Etienne Liotard. This exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts’ Sackler Wing of Galleries off Piccadilly, which closes at the end of the month, features more than 70 works by the 18th century Swiss artist including works in pastels (of which he was an undisputed master), oil paintings, drawings and miniatures. The exhibition is divided into six sections – they include a detailed look at the artist and his family, his four year sojourn in Constantinople and his royal portraits which include Archduchess Marie-Antoinette of Austria, painted in 1762 (pictured). Runs until 31st January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Bettina Jacot-Descombes/RA

On Now: Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings. The first exhibition devoted to the post-war artist’s gliding paintings, this display at the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House explores Lanyon’s (1918-1964) pioneering artistic breakthroughs in landscape painting as he created works inspired and influenced by his own gliding experiences in West Cornwall. The display features 15 major paintings from public and private collections around the world. Closes on 17th January. Admission charges apply. See www.courtauld.ac.uk.

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 •untitled 276.tif The first major exhibition to explore the history of Egypt after the pharaohs opens at the British Museum today. Egypt: Faith after the pharaohs spans 1,200 years of history – from 30 BC to 1171 AD – with 200 objects showing how Christian, Islamic and Jewish communities reinterpreted the pharaonic past of Egypt and interacted with each other. The exhibition opens with three significant examples of the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament and the Islamic Qur’an – the texts include the New Testament part of the 4th century AD Codex Sinaiticus, the world’s oldest surviving Bible and the earliest complete copy of the New Testament, which is now part of the British Library’s collection. All three are juxtaposed with everyday stamps associated with each of the three religions in an illustration of the relationship between the institutional side of religion and its everyday practice, both key themes of the exhibition. Other exhibits include a pair of 6th-7th century door curtains featuring classical and Christian religious motifs, a 1st-2nd century statue of the Egyptian god Horus in Roman military costume, and a letter from the Roman Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) concerning the cult of the divine emperor and the status of Jews in Alexandria. Admission charge applies. Runs until 7th February in Room 35. A programme of events accompanies the exhibition. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/egypt. PICTURE: Codex Sinaiticus, open at John 5:6-6:23. Image courtesy of the British Library.

Still at the British Museum and a free four day festival of art, performance, storytelling and talks kicks off on Friday night to mark the Mexican tradition of the Days of the Dead. The annual celebration, which draws on both native and Catholic beliefs, is held on 1st and 2nd November and sees families gather to remember relatives and friends who have died. The festival, which is being conducted in association with the Mexican Government, includes a Friday evening event, a weekend of family activities featuring storytelling, films, music and dance, and a study day  on Monday featuring lectures, gallery talks and activities. The museum will feature elaborate decorations by Mexican artists – including Betsabeé Romero – throughout the festival with a particular focus on the Great Court and Forecourt. Events – which run from 30th October to 2nd November – are free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/dotd.

Horrible histories indeed! Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace are both hosting ghost tours from this weekend. The tours focus on some of the more grisly aspects of the history of the palaces with tours at Hampton Court featuring a visit to a shallow grave which was only uncovered in 1870 and those at Kensington Palace encountering the gruesome details of King William III’s fatal horse-riding accident and Queen Caroline’s horrific final hours. Admission charges apply. For more details, head to www.hrp.org.uk.

Animal welfare campaigner Maria Dickin (1870-1951) and art historian EH Gombrich (1909-2001) have been honoured with English Heritage Blue Plaques. The plaque commemorating Dickin – founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) and of the PDSA Dickin medal, awarded to animals associated with the armed forces or civil defence who have shown conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty – has been placed on the Hackney house at 41 Cassland Road where she was born and spent the first few years of her life. Meanwhile the plaque to Gombrich was placed on the house at 19 Briardale Gardens in Hampstead where he lived for almost 50 years, from shortly after publication of his seminal work The Story of Art to his death in 2001. For more see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

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Gundestrup_Whole-ImageThe story of the Celts and their culture is being explored in a new exhibition which opens at the British Museum in Bloomsbury today. Celts: Art and Identity, being run in partnership with National Museums Scotland, is the first British exhibition on the Celts in 40 years. Highlights of the display include a hoard of four gold torcs found at Blair Drummond in Stirling in 2009, Christian artefacts including iron handbells used to call people to prayer, elaborately illustrated Gospels, carved stone crosses and, a gilded bronze processional cross which, dating from 700-800 AD and coming from Tully Lough in Ireland, will be on show for the first time in Britain. Also present will be the Gundestrup cauldron, which dates from 100 BC-1 AD and comes from Denmark (pictured), London artefacts such as the Waterloo helmet and Battersea shield, and works created more recently which reflect on an often mythical Celtic past such as George Henry and Edward Atkinson Homel’s 1890 painting The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe. Runs until 31st January in the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery (Room 30). Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: © The National Museum of Denmark.

A new exhibition exploring the myth and reality of the ‘fallen woman’ in Victorian Britain opens at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury tomorrow. The Fallen Woman features works by artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Richard Redgrave, George Frederic Watts and George Cruikshank, displayed alongside stereoscopes and depictions of the fallen woman in the era’s popular media. It also looks at the petitions of women applying to the Foundling Hospital, bringing to life the real ‘fallen women’ of the period through a specially-commissioned sound installation by artist and musician Steve Lewinson. The exhibition runs until 3rd January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

The London Transport Museum’s Depot in Acton hosts its autumn open days this weekend. The day includes the chance to see the original printing blocks used for the Johnston font – London Transport’s iconic typeface, expert talks on transport vehicles, a chance to see how the moquette – the seat covering on the tube – is made and film screenings from the LTM archive. From 11am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk.

The Worshipful Company of Woolmen will be holding their annual  sheep drive across London bridge this Sunday. The event, free to watch, kicks off at 10am and runs until 5pm. For more, see www.woolmen.com.

• On Now: Ai Weiwei. This landmark exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly celebrates the work of Honorary Royal Academician and leading Chinese artist Ai Weiwei with significant works from 1993 onwards and new, site specific installations. Among the key exhibits is Straight (2008-12), a body of work related to the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, fabricated from 90 tonnes of bent and twisted rebar which was collected by the artist and straightened by hand. Runs until 13th December.  Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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Get an up close and in-depth look at the Bronze Age as virtual reality comes to the British Museum this weekend. For the first time, families including children aged 13 or over will be able to wear Samsung Gear VR devices to virtually explore a Bronze Age site designed by Soluis Heritage which features objects from the museum’s collections. They will also be able to enter an “immersive fulldome” where they can explore a virtual reality world featuring a Bronze Age roundhouse and objects. The event will take place in the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre on Saturday and Sunday. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

british-library-aerial-shotThe British Library at St Pancras has been given Grade I heritage status, joining the top 2.5 per cent of listed buildings in England. Designed by architect Sir Colin St John Wilson and his partner MJ Long and completed in the late Nineties, the library is the largest public building to have been built in the UK in the 20th century. At the heart of the library is the King’s Library tower which houses the library of George III as well as the Treasures Gallery where national treasures such as the Magna Carta, Lindisfarne Gospels and original Beatles lyrics are displayed. The library was listed along with seven other libraries in England, all of which have been given Grade II status. Meanwhile the record-breaking exhibition Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy has entered its final month before closing on 1st September. The display features two of the four surviving Magna Cartas as well as the US Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights – in the UK for the first time – and more than 200 objects including medieval manuscripts, artworks, 800-year-old garments and esoterica such as King John’s teeth and thumb bone. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk/magna-carta. PICTURE: Tony Antoniou/British Library.

Help build The People’s Tower in Douglas Square in Deptford, south east London, this weekend. French artist Olivier Grossetete has been invited by the Albany to build the tower – with your help – out of cardboard boxes. Tower assembly takes place between 10am and 3pm on Saturday and then between 11am and 5pm on Sunday, there will be free live music and family entertainment in the Albany Garden as the tower is finished and then knocked down. No booking is required. For more, check out www.thealbany.org.uk.

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

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

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

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NPG_936_1374_KingCharlesIIbThe first ever display of works of overlooked 17th century artist Cornelius Johnson, court painter to Charles I, has opened at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square. Cornelius Johnson: Charles I’s Forgotten Painter features rarely viewed portraits of the king’s children including the future Charles II, James II and Mary (later Princess of Orange-Nassau) as well as a painting of Mary’s son William – all of which have been taken from the gallery’s collection. Overshadowed by Sir Anthony van Dyck, Johnson – who emigrated to The Netherlands when the English Civil War broke out – has been largely ignored by art historians despite the breadth of his work – from group portraits, such as his largest surviving English painting, The Capel Family, to tiny miniatures – and the fact that he is thought to be the first English-born artist who took to signing date his paintings as a matter of course, something he is believed to have picked up during his training in The Netherlands. The display features eight painted portraits and six prints from the gallery’s collection as well as three paintings from the Tate. Runs until 13th September in Room 6. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: King Charles II by Cornelius Johnson , 1639. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Trafalgar Square will be at the centre of London’s St George’s Day celebrations on Saturday with live music, celebrity chefs, a masterclass by leading tea experts and children’s games and activities. The musical lineup will feature the band from the West End musical Let It Be and the Crystal Palace Brass Band – one of the few traditional brass bands remaining in London. The free event runs between noon and 6pm on Saturday. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/stgeorges.

Indigenous Australia, the first major exhibition in the UK to present a history of Indigenous Australia through objects, opens at the British Museum today. Drawing on the museum’s collection, Indigenous Australia features objects including a shield believed to have been collected in Botany Bay on Captain Cook’s voyage of 1770, a protest placard from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy established in 1972 and contemporary paintings and specially commissioned artworks from leading indigenous artists. Many of the objects have never been on display before. Runs until 2nd August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Thirty prints from the Royal Collection will be on show at The London Original Print Fair to mark its 30th anniversary. The fair runs at the Royal Academy from today until Sunday and among the selected works from the more than 100,000 prints in the Royal Collection are the 2.3 metre long woodcut by Albrecht Durer entitled Triumphal Cart of the Emperor Maximillian (1523), Wenceslaus Hollar’s four etchings of tropical Seashells (c1650), a sequence of proofs of Samuel Reynolds’ portrait of King George III at the end of the monarch’s life, and lithographs produced by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert dating from 1842. For more on the fair, see www.londonprintfair.com. For more on the Royal Collection, see www.royalcollection.org.uk.

The question of what is meant by the concept of luxury is under examination in the V&A’s new exhibition What is Luxury? Opening at the South Kensington museum Saturday, the exhibition will feature a range of luxury objects – from the George Daniels’ Space Travellers’ Watch to a Hermés Talaris saddle, and Nora Fok’s Bubble Bath necklace. Also on show in a section of the exhibit looking at what could determine future ideas of luxury is American artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo’s DNA Vending Machine (complete with prepackaged DNA samples) and Henrik Nieratschker’s installation The Botham Legacy which tells the fictional story of a British billionaire who sends altered bacteria into space in an attempt to find valuable metals on distant plants. Runs until 27th September. Admission charge applies. See www.vam.ac.uk/whatisluxury.

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DiscobolusThe ancient Greek “preoccupation with the human form” is the subject of a new exhibition which opens at the British Museum in Bloomsbury today. Defining beauty: The body in ancient Greek art features about 150 objects dating from the prehistoric to the age of Alexander the Great. Highlights include a newly discovered bronze sculpture of a new athlete scraping his body with a metal tool after exercise before bathing, six Parthenon sculptures from the museum’s collection including a sculpture by Phidias of the river god Ilissos, and  copies of Greek originals including the Towny Discobolus (discus-thrower – pictured) – a Roman copy of Myron’s lost original – and Georg Romér’s reconstruction of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros (spear-bearer) . Runs until 5th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/definingbeauty. PICTURE: © The Trustees of the British Museum.

 

London-based contemporary artist Hew Locke has transformed an entire deck of the HMS Belfast in a major new work, ironically titled work, The Tourists. The installation – which is on show until 7th September – depicts imaginative events in which the crew of the ship are preparing to arrive at Trinidad in time for Carnival in 1962 (the ship’s last international journey – to Trinidad – actually arrived three months after the celebration). Free with general admission charge. For more see www.iwm.org.uk/visits/hms-belfast. Meanwhile, the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth is hosting a free exhibition of Locke’s work in which he explores the idea of naval power through a series of ship sculptures. This free exhibition can be seen until 4th May. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london.

Families are invited to take part in a new interactive experience on the “high seas of maritime history” which launches at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich on Saturday. The museum has joined with Punchdrunk Enrichment to take six to 12 year-olds and their families on an adventure, Against Captain’s Orders: A Journey into the Uncharted. Visitors don life jackets as they become part of the crew of the HMS Adventure and take on various seafaring roles as they navigate their way through the exhibition. Admission charge applies. Runs until 31st August. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/againstcaptainsorders.

See a real coral reef and take a virtual dive in new exhibition at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea – which opens tomorrow on World Oceans Day – also features more than 200 specimens including coral, fish and fossils. These include examples collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the HMS Beagle in the 1830s, giant Turbinate coral and creatures ranging from the venomous blue-ringed octopus to tiny sponge crabs. For more see www.nhm.ac.uk.

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The last 70 years of British history is under the spotlight at the Hayward Gallery, South Bank, in a new exhibition, History is Now:7 Artists Take on Britain. As the title suggests, seven UK-based artists – John Akomfrah, Simon Fujiwara, Roger Horns, Hannah Starkey, Richard Wentworth and Jane and Louise Wilson – are each looking at a particular period of cultural history spanning the years from 1945 to today. The artists have selected more than 250 objects from public and private collections and have displayed these along with photographs, newspapers, films, domestic items and artefacts. The exhibition, which runs until 26th April, is part of the Southbank Centre’s Changing Britain 1945-2015 Festival which runs until 9th May. For more, see www.southbankcentre.co.uk.

The use of Napoleon’s image in propaganda during the Napoleonic Wars is the subject of an exhibition which opened last week at the British Museum in Bloomsbury. Bonaparte and the British: prints and propaganda in the age of Napoleon looks at how propaganda was used on both sides of the channel and includes works by both British and French satirists. Among British artists whose work is featured is that of James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, Richard Newton and George Cruikshank and the exhibition also features a range of objects – mugs, banners and even Napoleon’s death mask – drawn from the museum’s collection. The exhibition, which runs until 16th August, is free and can be found in Room 91. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

DulwichCan you pick a copy? Visitors to the Dulwich Picture Gallery in the city’s south have the opportunity to test their skills with a new initiative which has seen a Chinese replica placed somewhere among the 270 Old Master paintings on display. Made in China: A Doug Fishbone Project explores the nature and importance of the concept of the original versus that of the copy and the role of art as commodity. People have three months – until 26th April – to visit the gallery and find the replica painting before submitting their answers via an iPad in the gallery (those who correctly identify it will be entered into a competition to win a custom print from the gallery’s collection signed by the American artist Doug Fishbone). The replica will be revealed on 28th April when it will hang side-by-side with the original. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk. PICTURE: © Stuart Leech/Dulwich Picture Gallery.

• The Talk: Isambard Kingdom Brunel – The man who built the world. Robert Pulse, director of The Brunel Museum, will give a free talk about the life and achievements of the great Victorian engineer Brunel at the John Harvard Library 211 Borough High Street on 17th February at 6.30pm. For more information, follow this link.

On Now: Fulham Palace through the Great War. This exhibition at the former home of the Bishop of London on the Thames River in west London tells the story of the palace during World War I and examines the lives of those connected with the palace who died in the conflict, such as William Burley, son of Bishop Winnington-Ingram’s chauffeur. It tells how the bishop – described as an “enthusiastic” recruiter – visited the frontline in 1915 and how, in 1918, the palace was occupied by a Red Cross hospital. Runs until 16th April. Entry is free. For more, see www.fulhampalace.org/visiting-whats-on/exhibitions/.

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MoroniThe works of 16th century artist Giovanni Battista Moroni go on show at the Royal Academy of Arts this week. The exhibition will feature more than 40 works including portraiture as well as his lesser-known religious paintings. They include a number of altarpieces from the churches of Bergamo in northern Italy as well as portraits including Portrait of a Lady (c1556-60), A Knight with a Jousting Helmet (c1556), and The Tailor (1565-1570) – the first known portrait of a man depicted undertaking manual labour. The exhibition in The Sackler Wing, off Piccadilly, runs until 25th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURED: A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ, (c.1555-60) (Gerolamo and Roberta Etro).

This year marks 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the birth of modern Germany so it’s a fitting time for the British Museum in Bloomsbury to host an exhibition looking at Germany’s tumultuous history. Germany: memories of a nation features 200 objects reflecting themes ranging from ’empire and nation’ to ‘arts and achievement’ and ‘crisis and memory’ spanning a period from the 15th century to today. They include Tischbein’s iconic portrait Goethe in der Campagna, an early edition of Grimm’s fairy tales, a home-made banner from demonstrations in late 1989 and Ernst Barlach’s bronze figure Der Schwebende, designed as a World War I memorial for Gustrow Cathedral. The exhibition, sponsored by Betsy and Jack Ryan, runs until 25th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Britain’s 13 year involvement in Afghanistan is the subject of a new display at the Imperial War Museum London in Lambeth. Opening today, War Story: Afghanistan 2014 features new objects, photographs, film and video interviews and looks at the experiences of the Afghan national security forces and UK government and NGO workers as well as those of British troops. Objects, all collected between 2012 and this year, include a beadwork lamp made by Afghan prisoners in training workshops aimed at developing skills prior to their release and an Afghan dress and trousers. The display is part of the War Story project which started in 2009. Runs until 6th September next year. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.

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