Works including a recently acquired portrait of Prince Edward (later King Edward VIII) which was painted on the Western Front during World War I, a self-portrait in stained glass of artist and actor Pauline Boty (pictured), and three life-sized World War I portraits of military officers which have been reunited for the first time in decades, are among highlights of the National Portrait Gallery’s new early 20th century galleries. Four new rooms – split into the ‘Early 20th Century’, ‘The Great War’, ‘The Interwar Years’, and the ‘Second World War and Post-War Recovery’ – hold 121 portraits which have been hung chronologically and feature everyone from Virginia Woolf to Sir Winston Churchill, Dame Christabel Pankhurst to Sir Ernest Shackleton. Along with Frank O Salisbury’s oil sketch of Prince Edward, Boty’s stained glass portrait (the gallery’s first), and the three group portraits from World War I,  highlights of the gallery include a 1913 portrait of the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace by Sir John Lavery, a 1931 portrait of Aldous Huxley by Vanessa Bell and a portrait of Roald Dahl in RAF uniform by Matthew Smith. Admission to the galleries is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery.

The “most comprehensive” exhibition of the work of French artist Amedeo Modigliani opens at the Tate Modern today. Modigliani features 100 works including portraits, some of his lesser known sculptures and 10 of his controversial nude paintings, the largest group of such ever shown in the UK. The exhibition re-evaluates Modigliani’s work and experimentation and includes well known and lesser known works with more than 40 of them never seen in the UK before. The works on show include Bust of a Young Woman (1908), Jean Cocteau (1916), and Boy with a Blue Jacket (1919). Runs until 2nd April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

Former iconic Carnaby Street shop Lord John has been honoured with a City of Wesminster Green Plaque. Lord John, which dressed everyone from The Rolling Stones to the Beatles and The Kinks, was opened by brothers Warren, David and Harold Gold in 1964. The plaque can be seen at 43 Carnaby Street.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

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London is illuminated for Christmas. Here’s some of what photographers on Flickr have captured this year…
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Christmas in Regent Street. PICTURE: Michael Reilly/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

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Christmas tree in Waterloo Place. PICTURE: William Warby/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

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Carnaby Street. decorations PICTURE: Roger/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

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Oxford Street under lights. PICTURE: Paolo Braiuca/Flickr/CC BY 2.0  (image cropped).

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A floating Christmas tree at St Katharine Docks. PICTURE: Matt Brown/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Renowned as the heart of the UK’s fashion industry in the 1960s, Carnaby Street’s origins go back to a mansion built here known as Karnaby House (with a ‘k’, although the street always apparently started with a ‘c’).

Carnaby-Street2The house was built in 1683 although who it was built for remains something of a mystery. It was apparently was demolished within 50 years or so when the east side of the street, which had been laid out in the late 1600s, was recorded as the site of a series of “pest” (plague) houses.

The street was later home an abbatoir and while tailors had moved in during the late 19th century, it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that it began to attract a reputation for fashion, becoming the epicentre of Swinging London during the 1960s.

Boutiques included John Stephen’s pioneering men’s boutique His Clothes – which attracted high profile customers including members of The Small Faces, The Rolling Stones and The Who – as well as Lady Jane, Lord John, and the wonderfully named I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet.

The street – which was pedestrianised in 1973 – is still home to a large number of fashion boutiques. It’s numerous pop-culture references include its appearance in U2’s video for the 1992 song Even Better Than The Real Thing and it being named as the location of the flat of ‘spy’ Austin Powers. In recent years it’s also has its own stage show: Carnaby Street: The Musical.

For more on Carnaby Street today, check out www.carnaby.co.uk.

The Paddington Trail, London, 2014Paddington comes to the Museum of London in a new exhibition opening tomorrow to coincide with the bear’s big-screen debut. A Bear called Paddington charts the story of the character from his genesis on Christmas Eve, 1956, when creator Michael Bond bought his wife a small toy bear and named him after the railway station near where they loved across the next almost 60 years to today. Objects on display include: a first edition A Bear Called Paddington – dating from 1958, it belonged to Bond’s daughter Karen Jankel; an original illustration of Paddington by Paddy Fortnum; the typewriter Bond used to write Paddington at Work and Paddington Goes To Town; the original Paddington puppet from the 1970s TV animations; and, props from the upcoming film Paddington (released on 28th November). The free exhibition runs until 4th January. See www.museumoflondon.org.uk for more. The museum, meanwhile, is also playing host to a new life-sized statue of the famous bear designed by Benedict Cumberbatch (and known as Sherlock Bear for obvious reasons given Cumberbatch’s penchant for playing a certain detective – pictured). It forms just one stop on the Paddington Trail which, as the work of VisitLondon.com, NSPCC and film-makers StudioCanal, links 50 sites – each with their own statue of the bear – across the capital. Designed by everyone from Mayor Boris Johnson to football star David Beckham and actors Sandra Bullock and Hugh Bonneville, the bears can be found around town until 30th December. For more on the trail, including a map of locations, check out www.visitlondon.com/paddington/.

While the Oxford Street lights are already switched on (as are those in Covent Garden), Carnaby Street’s Christmas decorations are to be officially launched at 6.30pm tonight. The launch coincides with a shopping party (including 20 per cent discount), live music, free drinks, good bags and “trend masterclasses” with Grazia Magazine’s editor-at-large Angela Buttolph. Oh, and the decorations consist of eight red and white oversized sets of headphones and sunglasses. Meanwhile the Regent Street lights get turned on this Sunday with an event featuring a star-studded cast including Take That’s Mark Owen, Gary Barlow and Howard Donald (who are switching on the lights but not playing). While there’s entertainment along the street from noon, the music kicks off at 4pm and the lights, designed around the theme of the film Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, get switched-on at 5pm and will be followed by a fireworks display. For more, see www.regentstreetonline.com.

The Guards Memorial in Horseguards Parade, Westminister, has been upgrade to a Grade 1-listed structure on the advice of English Heritage. Unveiled in 1926 by the Duke of Connaught, Senior Colonel of the Guards, and General George Higginson, a Crimean veteran, the memorial commemorates the 14,000 Guardsmen who died in the First World War. Designed by architect Harold Chalton Bradshaw and sculpted by Gilbert Ledward, it features five bronze soldiers, each representing a typical soldier from each of the divisions – Grenadiers, Coldstreams, Scots, Welsh and Irish Guards.

On Now: Grayson Perry: Who Are You? This exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery near Trafalgar Square features a series of new works created by Perry during the making of his Channel 4 TV series of the same name. Interspersed with 19th and 20th century collections of the gallery, the portraits – which include a tapestry, sculptures and pots – are of families, groups and individuals and include everyone from a young Muslim convert and Celebrity Big Brother contestant Rylan Clark. Runs until 15th March. Entry is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

HeidiA new pop-up shop has appeared in iconic Carnaby Street as part of a campaign aimed at helping to save endangered Asian lions, like Heidi, pictured above.

The initiative, supported by ZSL London Zoo and Carnaby, aims to help raise £5.7 million in funds for the Zoological Society of London’s Lions400 campaign through the sale of specially designed products.

There are only some 400 Asian lions left in the wild, living in the isolated Gir Forest in Western Gujarat, India, and vulnerable to threats including disease, disaster, poaching and a growing human population. 

The funds raised in the campaign will be used to build a state-of-the-art lion breeding centre and visitor experience at the zoo – where about a million people a year come into contact with the Asian lions including Heidi – as well as being used to extend conservation work in the field.

Among the items for sale in the shop at 15 Carnaby Street (pictured below) are T-shirts, bone china pieces, notebooks and badges created by fashion designer Elizabeth Emanuel and based on her lion sketch drawings as well as animal print notebooks and cards created by pop artist Rose Hill.

As well as selling products, the shop – which is only open for six weeks – is also hosting a series of free events. On Thursday, 19th June, Phd student Simon Dures will talk about African lions and their genetics at 1pm, 1,30pm, 6pm and 6.30pm. On 3rd July, Joanna Barker, the UK and Europe Conservation Programme coordinator will talking about marine mammal conservation in the Thames Estuary at similar times and, on 17th July, Nisha Owen, EDGE Conservation Biologist will talk about EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered) species.

For more, on the campaign, see www.zsl.org/support-us/lions400. For more on Carnaby Street, see www.carnaby.co.uk.

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First up, we’ve changed the name of the Thursday update of what’s happening in London to This Week in London which we think better describes what the column’s about. So, to some events we think you might be interested in…

• An exhibition that transports visitors to the heart of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) opened at the Science Museum yesterday. In the first exhibition of its kind, Collider offers visitors the closest thing to actually being at the CERN particle physics laboratory, blending theatre, video and sound to enable visitors to explore the control room, meet virtual scientists and engineers and see inside a huge underground ‘detector’ cavern. There’s also the chance to follow the journey of particle beams as they race around the 27 kilometre long LHC tunnel (incidentally about the same length as the Circle Line) and the exhibition’s highlight is a wrap around projection which takes watchers from an enormous experiment cavern to the heart of a particle collision. On show will be artefacts from the actual LHC including a 15 metre magnet used to steer the particle beam and objects from the museum’s collection including the accelerator used by Cockcroft and Walton to split the atom in 1932. Admission charge applies. Runs until 6th March. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

John Richard Arthur, a former Mayor of Battersea and the first black man to hold senior public office in London, was honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque this week. The plaque was unveiled by Cr Angela Graham, the Mayor of Wandsworth, at his former home at 55 Brynmaer Road in Battersea – his residence during the major milestones of his political career. Elected on 10th November 1913, Archer lived at the home from about 1898 to about 1918. He has been described as a “key figure in the story of the Black contribution in Britain in the early part of the Twentieth century”. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blue-plaques/.

Christmas comes to the West End this afternoon with the Carnaby Christmas Shopping Party taking place in 13 streets around the iconic fashion strip. More than 100 shops, restaurants and bars are delivering 20 per cent discounts and there’s also complimentary drinks, music, talks on fashion trends and the chance for the “best dressed” to win goodie bags. The party runs from 5pm to 9pm with the Christmas lights turned on at 6pm. Head to www.carnaby.co.uk for more.

El-Dorado• On Now: Beyond El Dorado: power and gold in ancient Colombia. This exhibition in Room 35 of the British Museum features items including ceramics and stone necklaces taken from Lake Guatavita near modern Bogota (The phrase El Dorado, “the golden one”, actually refers to a ritual which took place at the lake in which a newly elected leader of the Muisca people was covered in powdered gold before diving into the lake and washing it off to emerge as the new leader). They are just some of the more than 300 items in the display which come from the Museo del Oro Bogata – one of the best collections of pre-Hispanic gold in the world – as well as the British Museum’s own collection. Other objects include large scale gold masks, a painted Muisca textile, avian pectorals and necklaces with feline claws and one of the few San Agustin stone sculptures held outside Colombia. The exhibition, sponsored by Julius Baer, runs until 23rd March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.orgPICTURE: Anthropomorphic bat pectoral, Tairona, gold alloy, AD900-1600. Copyright Museo del Oro, Banco de la Republica, Colombia.