The Painted Hall in Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College reopens on Saturday following a two-year, £8.5 million restoration project. The hall, known as the UK’s “Sistine Chapel”, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren as a ceremonial dining room for what was then the Royal Hospital for Seamen. Completed in 1705, its 4,000 square metre interior features a decorative scheme painted by Sir James Thornhill, the first British artist to be knighted, which took 19 years to complete. The paintings celebrate English naval power as well as the then newly installed Protestant monarchy with joint monarchs King William III and Queen Mary II as well as Queen Anne and King George I all represented in the artworks along with hundreds of other mythological, allegorical, historical and contemporary figures. The restoration project has also seen the King William Undercroft, located underneath the hall, converted into a new cafe, shop and interpretation gallery. Two cellar rooms from King Henry VIII’s palace – which once stood on the site – were discovered during the restoration works and are also now on public display. Other new touches include the return of a series of carved oak benches to the hall (having been introduced when it was used as an art gallery in the 19th century they were removed 100 years ago), two ‘treasure chests’ containing objects related to the ceiling artworks which can be handled, and new tour options – not just of the hall and undercroft but of the entire Old Royal Naval College site. There’s a host of special activities over the opening weekend, including a parade and official opening ceremony from 9.30am, the chance to meet historical characters, music, food stalls, kids activities and more. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.ornc.org. PICTURED: The Old Royal Naval College, home of the Painted Hall.

The V&A has announced it is extending its sell-out Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition due to unprecedented demand. The exhibition at the South Kensington museum, which had originally been scheduled to close on 14th July, will now run until 1st September with new tickets made available on 15th of each month (there’s also a limited number of tickets available to purchase daily at 10am from the V&A’s Grand Entrance on a first-come, first-served basis; V&A members, of course, attend free-of-charge with no need to book). The exhibition, which initially sold out of its five month run with 19 days of opening, is the most comprehensive exhibition ever staged in the UK on the House of Dior and the museum’s biggest fashion exhibition since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2015. For more, see vam.ac.uk.

On Now: Merchant Navy Treasures: An Introduction to the Newall Dunn Collection. This display at the City of London’s Guildhall Library delves into the Newall Dunn Collection, one of the world’s most comprehensive photographic and reference collections on merchant shipping, and showcases the achievements of shipping historian Peter Newall and artist and writer Laurence Dunn. Alongside images, press releases and newspaper cuttings, on show are company brochures, menus and other items from the ocean liners and cargo vessels of three famous lines from the golden age of shipping: the Cunard, Orient and Union-Castle. Admission is free. Runs until 24th May. For more, follow this link.

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The UK’s largest ever exhibition focusing on fashion designer Christian Dior and his work opens at the V&A on Saturday. Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams spans his career and legacy from 1947 – the year he hosted his first UK fashion show at the Savoy Hotel in London, to the present day. Based on an exhibition shown at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, it will also include a section on the world renowned designer’s fascination with British culture. The more than 500 objects on show – revealed in 11 sections – include more than 200 rare haute couture garments as well as accessories, photography, film, perfume and make-up, illustrations, magazines and personal possessions. Alongside gowns worn by the likes of Princess Margaret, Margot Fonteyn and Jennifer Lawrence, highlights include the iconic Bar Suit, given to the V&A by the House of Dior in 1960. Runs until 14th July in The Sainsbury Gallery. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: © Adrien Dirand (V&A).

The work of Sir Don McCullin – regarded as one of Britain’s greatest living photographers and perhaps best known as a photojournalist and war correspondent – is the subject of a new show opening at Tate Britain next Tuesday. Don McCullin features more than 250 photographs dating from the 1950s – when he started documenting the community in his native Finsbury Park – to 2017, when he visited Syria to document the destruction undertaken by the so-called Islamic State. Among the iconic photographs on show are The Guvnors, a portrait of a notorious local gang in Finsbury Park which launched his career as a photojournalist in 1958, Shell-shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue (1968), Starving Twenty Four Year Old Mother with Child, Biafra (1968), Northern Ireland, The Bogside, Londonderry (1971), and The theatre on the Roman city of Palmyra, partly destroyed by Islamic State fighters (2017). Also on show are photographs depicting the changing social conditions in the UK, landscapes and still lifes as well as the photographer’s magazine spreads, contact sheets, McCullin’s helmet and the Nikon camera which took a bullet for him in Cambodia. Runs until 6th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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