There’s several candidates for this title – NatWest Tower, built in 1980, has been described as London’s first “genuine” skyscraper (we’ll deal with that in our current special) but we’re looking back to earlier times (after all, the term first started to be used in the 1880s) when candidates included 55 Broadway in Westminster.

Once the tallest office building in London, 55 Broadway was constructed in 1927-29 as the headquarters of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (which later became London Transport and then Transport for London). The building contains the St James’s Park Underground Station which is one of the most intact of the early underground stations.

Designed by Charles Holden (also noted for his design of the University of London’s Senate House and war cemeteries in Belgium and France) , the 14 storey Art Deco building is cruciform in plan to maximise street views and the amount of light entering each office as well as to ensure that the bulk of the building’s tower didn’t overwhelm the surrounding streetscapes (and to ensure the building complied with the then current building height restrictions).

The building, the design of which was influenced by US architecture, is made from a steel frame encased on concrete and faced in Portland stone. Based on a two storey pedestal which covers the entire site, the spur wings around the tower rise a further five storeys above the base while the tower itself rises 53.3 metres (175 foot).

Internally, the building features bronze and marble decoration and what was a state-of-the-art system known as a Cutler mailing chute to send letters around the building.

Of special note are the many sculptures which adorn the building, described as a “showcase of pre-Second World War British sculpture”.

Among them are two Jacob Epstein sculptures representing ‘Day’ and ‘Night’ and eight figurative reliefs representing the winds for each cardinal point, the work of sculptors led by Eric Gill and also including Eric Aumonier, Alfred Gerrard, Samuel Rabonovitch, Allan Wyon and Henry Moore (it was his first public commission).

The sculptures proved somewhat controversial at time particularly due to Epstein’s depiction of ‘Day’ featuring a nude male – Ezra Pound famously said Epstein was contributing to a “cult of ugliness”. And while this sculpture eventually had his manhood truncated slightly following the outcry, the sculptures were otherwise left untouched.

Holden won the RIBA London Architecture Medal for the building which received Grade I-listing in 2011 (it had earlier been Grade II listed), partly due to its being London’s first ‘skyscraper’ and a building which “heralded the epoch of tall steel-framed office buildings”.

The building was damaged during the Blitz but remains largely intact. There are now plans to convert the building to luxury apartments although at present Transport for London continue to use the building.

PICTURES: Top – Epstein’s ‘Night’ – One of the less controversial sculptures adorning the building (Loz Pycock (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0))/Right – The mass of 55 Broadway with the controversial (and altered) sculpture of ‘Day’ (David Adams).

Note: The original article said 55 Broadway was once the tallest building but should have, of course, said tallest office building. St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building until 1967. The building was also damaged during the Blitz but apparently not by a flying bomb.

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A new exhibition charting the history of Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman (known affectionately as Old Flo), has opened at Canary Wharf. Indomitable Spirit features traces the creation of the 2.5 metre high bronze sculpture in 1957-58, its placement in 1962 on the Stafford Estate in Stepney, and, in 1997, its removal to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where it has spent the last 20 years before returning to the East End – this time Cabot Square – last year.  It also explores the artist’s life, career and legacy and the reasons as to why Old Flo – part of an edition of six sculptures – became such an important feature in the East End. The exhibition can be seen in the lobby of One Canada Square until 6th April. Admission is free. For more, see www.canarywharf.com. PICTURE: Henry Moore’s ‘Draped Seated Woman’, Canary Wharf.

The first of two Peter Pan-themed weekends kicks off at the Museum of London Docklands this Saturday. Adventures in Peter Pan’s Neverland features a series of interactive events film screenings and performances across the weekend with professional character actors leading workshops and re-enacting short scenes from the story. There will also be “sightings” of Captain Hook’s pirates and other characters and two screenings of the classic animated film Peter Pan each day. Money will be raised for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity through donations on ticket sales and other fundraising activities during the event. Runs from 10.45am to 4pm this Saturday and Sunday and again on 3rd and 4th March. Tickets start at £4. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

On Now: Winner-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic. This exhibition at the V&A, which is closing on 8th April, features original drawings by EH Shepard – on show in the UK for the first time – created to illustrate AA Milne’s classic tale and, as well as examining Milne’s story-telling techniques and Shepard’s illustrative style, takes a look at the real people, relationships and inspirations behind the bear’s creation. Around 230 objects are featured in the display and as well as original manuscripts, illustrations, proofs and early editions, they include letters, photographs, cartoons, ceramics, fashion and video and audio clips, with the latter including a 1929 recording of Milne reading Winnie-the-Pooh). Other highlights include Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh manuscript and pages from the manuscript of House at Pooh Corner as well as Shepard’s first character portraits of Winnie and Christopher Robin nursery tea set which was presented to then-Princess Elizabeth in 1928. Admission charge applies. For more see, www.vam.ac.uk/winniethepooh. PICTURE: Line block print, hand coloured by E.H. Shepard, 1970, © Egmont, reproduced with permission from the Shepard Trust

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

Locking-Piece

A Henry Moore original, Locking Piece was created in 1963-64 and first located on its current site on Riverwalk Gardens at Millbank, site of the former Millbank Penitentiary, four years later. The bronze sculpture consists of, as the name suggests, two interlocking pieces. There’s a couple of conflicting stories about where the idea for the work came from – in one, Moore said he was visiting a gravel pit near his home at Perry Green in Hertfordshire where he was playing with two pebbles which suddenly locked together (and hence came the idea of a sculpture of two interlocking pieces); and in another, Moore said the idea came from a bone fragment featuring a socket and joint found in his garden. Originally loaned to Westminster City Council, in 1978 the sculpture was given to the Tate Gallery which subsequently decided to leave the piece in situ. It’s one of numerous Moore works in London. For more on Henry Moore’s London works, see www.henry-moore.org/works-in-public/world/uk/london.

Night

Controversial when first unveiled in the late 1920s, Jacob Epstein’s sculptures of Day and Night adorn the facade on the Grade I-listed building at 55 Broadway – home, for the present at least, to the London Underground HQ and St James’s Park Underground station.

It was the nudity and, no doubt, the stark modernist styling which provoked outrage (and newspaper campaigns) when the two sculptures – Day, depicting a seated smiling male figure with a naked boy standing in front of him and the other, Night, depicting a cowled female seated and cradling a prone, apparently resting, figure (pictured above) – were unveiled.

Such was the outcry that Frank Pick, the then head of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (predecessor to London Underground and the organisation for whom the building was constructed), even apparently offered his resignation over it. But a compromise was reached – Epstein agreed to alter the naked figure of the boy (a rather painful snip) and the fuss soon died down. These days many people pass the building without even noticing the sculptures upon it.

Epstein’s statues aren’t the only sculptural works to adorn 55 Broadway – a series of eight smaller relief works representing the winds of each cardinal point can also be seen on the facade. All eight representations are of nude figures of different genders and were created by six different artists –  Eric Gill, Alfred Gerrard, Allan Wyon, Eric Aumonier, Samuel Rabinovitch and Henry Moore (interestingly, it was Moore’s first public commission).

It’s been reported that London Underground will be vacating the building next year with the property to be converted into rather expensive flats.

PICTURE:  Wikipedia

The Bard is back in Leicester Square with the announcement last week that restoration work on the square’s 19th century Grade II listed statue of William Shakespeare – the only full-length statue the playwright in central London – has been completed. The 11 month restoration was carried out as part of £17 million revamp of the square which has seen the installation of a new fountain. The statue, which was the work of James Knowles, has been in the square since it was completed in its current configuration in 1874. Meanwhile, in other sculpture-related news, Sorry, Sorry Sarajevo – a life-size statue of a man holding  a dead or badly injured man in his arms has been placed in St Paul’s Cathedral where it will remain for the rest of the year. The work by Nicola Hicks dates from 1993 – when the Bosnian war was at its height – and has been placed opposite Henry Moore’s 1983 sculpture, Mother and Child: Hood as part of the cathedral’s approach to next year’s World War I centenary.

Two new displays opened at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury last month. Hogarth and Copyright, which runs until 5th January, looks at the role the artist William Hogarth played in the passing of the 1735 Engravers’ Copyright Act (also known as Hogarth’s Act – it was the first law to protect artist’s rights over their work) while Handel and Lucretia, presented in conjunction with The Sir Denis Mahon Charitable Trust and running until 26th January, shows Guercino’s painting Lucretia alongside two early manuscripts of Handel’s cantata La Lucretia. Entry is part of admission price. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

A new exhibition tracing the history of attacks on artworks in Britain from the 16th century to today opened at Tate Britain in Millbank this week. Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm looks at why and how monuments have been damaged over the past 500 years. The display includes the remarkable pre-Reformation sculpture, the Statue of the Dead Christ (about 1500-1520), which was discovered in 1954 beneath the chapel floor at the Mercer’s Hall. Already damaged – most likely at the hands of Protestant iconoclasts – it may have been buried there to protect it. Also displayed are fragments of monuments destroyed in Ireland last century, paintings including Edward Burne-Jones’ 1898 painting Sibylla Delphica which was attacked by suffragettes in 1913-14, and Allen Jones’ 1969 work Chair – damaged in a feminist attack in 1986. Runs until 5th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

A controversial exhibition of sexually explicit Japanese works of art created between 1600-1900 opened at the British Museum this week. Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese Art – which carries a warning of “parental guidance for visitors under 16 years – features 170 works including paintings, prints and illustrated books. Drawn from collections in the UK, Japan, Europe and the US, the exhibition of explores the phenomena of what are known as shunga (‘spring pictures’), looking at why it was produced and to whom it was circulated. Admission charge applies. Runs until 5th January. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Henry-Moore-altar

A beautiful church in the round, St Stephen Walbrook has a rich history with one of its stand-out features is an altar designed by world renowned sculptor Henry Moore. 

The centrally located circular altar, carved between 1972 and 1983 of polished travertine marble (the marble was taken from the same quarry as that used in Michelangelo’s work), is eight foot across and weighs several tons.

It was commissioned  by property developer and churchwarden, Lord Palumbo, as part of a £1.3 million restoration of the church – built under the supervision of Sir Christopher Wren in the 1670s, replacing an earlier church which burnt down in the Great Fire – which took place between 1978 and 1987.

It was deliberately designed to be placed at the centre of the church and didn’t take up its new position without controversy with objectors to it taking the matter to the Court of Ecclesiastical Cases Reserved (they ruled the altar was acceptable for use in a Church of England church).

WHERE: St Stephen Walbrook, 39 Walbrook (nearest tube stations are Bank and Cannon Street); WHEN: 10am to 4pm weekdays (check website for changes); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.ststephenwalbrook.net.  

Cabmen's-ShelterThe London Festival of Architecture has returned with a month long celebration of the city’s built form in a program of events including talks, tours and exhibitions. Among the latter is Lesser Known Architecture – A Celebration of Underappreciated London Buildings – a free exhibition at the Design Museum which runs until 22nd July and looks at 10 structures ranging from London Underground Arcades and Cabmen’s Shelters (one of which is pictured) to Nunhead Cemetery. Other events include an exhibition at Somerset House – Nicholas Hawksmoor: Methodical Imaginings – looking at churches designed by Hawksmoor in the late 17th and early 18th centuries (this runs until 1st September), and The Secret Society – A Sculptural Banquet, a large scale installation by artist and designer Kathy Dalwood at Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, west London (ends this Sunday). For more on the festival, check out www.londonfestivalofarchitecture.org or for fringe events, http://londonarchitecturediary.com.

A new exhibition featuring more than 100 images from space – including images of the colourful dust clouds in which new stars are formed, the aurora on the surface of Saturn and the sight of Earth from the International Space Station – opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich tomorrow. Visions of the Universe takes visitors on a “visual trip through our solar system” with images of the moon, sun, plants and distant galaxies. It looks at the development of telescopy and photography and examines our understanding of our place in the cosmos. Space scientists including Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees and The Sky at Night‘s Chris Lintott introduce each section of the exhibition which has at its centre a 13×4 metre curved wall known as the ‘Mars Window’. It has the latest images from NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover projected onto it. There is a programme of events accompanying the exhibition which runs until 15th September. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk.

Tate Britain is undergoing an overhaul this year with the opening of new galleries and a rearrangement of the institution’s collection. Last month, a new chronological presentation of the institution’s British art opened across more than 2o of the institution’s galleries. BP Walk through British Art features around 500 artworks, dating from the 1500s to present day, by artists ranging from Sir Joshua Reynolds and William Hogarth to JMW Turner, John Constable, Lucien Freud and David Hockney. Meanwhile new galleries have opened dedicated to the works of sculptor Henry Moore and artist William Blake. Around 30 of Moore’s works are featured in the rooms as well as more than 40 of Blake’s works. For more see www.tate.org.uk.

Apsley House, regency home of the Duke of Wellington, is hosting a series of events every weekend in June in the lead-up to the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Interpreters will be at the house, known as Number 1 London, this weekend to discuss the dress and manners of the era while next weekend (15th and 16th June) visitors have the chance to meet some of Wellington’s soldiers and their wives. Gentry from the Napoleonic era will be celebrating the victory at Waterloo on 22nd and 23rd June while on the final weekend of the month, the focus will be on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Vitoria in 1813, which led to eventual victory in the Peninsular War. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/apsley-house/.

On Now: Coins and the Bible. This free exhibition at the British Museum looks at how money was referred to in the Old and New Testament, and the use of Christian symbols such as crosses or monograms derived from Greek letters on later coins. These include the first coin, dating from about 450 AD, to depict an image of Jesus (the coin, on loan from the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, is included in the exhibition). There are also early Biblical fragments on papyrus and vellum lent by the British Library and an ivory panel dating from the early 400s AD which includes an image of the purse of 30 pieces of silver Judas received after his betrayal of Jesus. Held in Room 69a, the exhibition runs until 20th October. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Victorian-Christmas The Tower of London is going Victorian this Christmas with visitors able to experience some of what the Yuletide celebrations in the foreboding, much storied buildings were like in the mid-to-late 1800s. Visitors will be shown how many of the Christmas customs we now participate in each year – like writing cards, pulling crackers and the setting up of family Christmas trees – owe their origins to the Victorian era. The Yeoman Warders will be receiving a Victorian makeover and writer of the age – Charles Dickens – will be reciting some of his works before joining in a “raucous” lunch party with some of his fellow writers, artists and benefactors. It’s even rumoured that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert themselves may make an appearance (take that as a given). Bah! Humbug! A Very Merry Victorian Christmas runs from 27th until 31st December. The festivities will all be included in the usual admission price. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk. PICTURE: Nick Wilkinson/NewsTeam.

Kew Gardens are celebrating Christmas with a host of events including a “Twelve trees of Christmas” family trail. The trail, a map of which can be picked up as you enter, includes facts about trees along the route. Volunteer guides are also leading free tours of seasonal highlights and the Kew Christmas tree can be seen at Victoria Gate. Other festive treats at Kew include the chance to see Father Christmas in his grotto (until Sunday only) and a vintage carousel on the Kew Palace Lawn. Many of the Christmas-related events end on 6th January. See www.kew.org for more.

A display focusing on the history of Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman (better known as Old Flo), has opened at the Museum of London Docklands. Henry Moore and the East End provides a glimpse into 1950s East London and looks at why public art was considered important at the time. It features some of the maquettes (scale models) Moore used in creating the piece. The exhibition was opened following a decision by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, to sell Old Flo (now at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park) rather than display the artwork in a public space. The move is being contested by the Museum of London Docklands who have offered to put the work on public display. An online exhibition can be seen at www.museumoflondon.org.uk/oldflo and a ‘pop-up exhibition’ on Old Flo will be launched in January. The museum is also encouraging people to tweet their views about the selling of the sculpture under the hashtag #saveoldflo.

On Now: Take Another Look. Still at the Museum of London Docklands, this exhibition focuses on the visual representation of people from the African Diaspora who were living and working in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th century. The display of 17 exhibits in the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery features prints by artists including Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank as well as newspaper cuttings, mostly dating from 1780-1833, which show black Britons in perhaps what were unexpected roles – soldiers, musicians and sportsmen – during what was the period in which the abolition of slavery occurred. There are a series of events planned around the exhibition which runs until 4th August. Entry is free. For more see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/.

On Now: Mariko Mori: Rebirth. The first major museum exhibition of the New York-based Japanese artist Mariko Mori in London since 1998 has opened at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly. The exhibition features some of the artist’s most acclaimed works from the last 11 years, many of which have never before been seen in the UK, as well as works created just for the exhibition. Highlights include Tom Na H-iu, a five metre high glass monolith lit by hundreds of LED lights and connected back to the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research at the University of Tokyo; Transcircle, described as a “modern day Stonehenge”; and, Flatstone, an installation of “22 ceramic stones assembled to recreate an ancient shrine”. Runs until 17th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

• It’s all about the Olympics in London this week and many of the events – like the Opening Ceremony and Torch Relay (see last week’s post) – are well covered elsewhere, but we thought we’d mention a couple of things in relation to the Games: 

The first is the ‘All the Bells’ project which will see bells across London being rung at 8:12am on Friday to “ring in” the first day of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Work No. 1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes, commissioned as part of the London 2012 Festival, is the brainchild of Turner Prize-winning artist and musician Martin Creed and will involve thousands of bells across the nation. Speaking of bells, the City of London has announced that some of the City’s churches will be ringing continuously during the three Olympic marathon events – the men’s, women’s, and Paralympic events. As many as 57 of the country’s most experienced bell ringers, co-ordinated by the Ancient Society of College Youths (a ringing society created in London in 1637) will be working for three to four hours continuously at churches including St Paul’s Cathedral, St Mary le Bow, St Lawrence Jewry, St Magnus the Martyr, St Vedast and St Katharine Cree. During the women’s marathon, an all-female band will be attempting a peal at St Paul’s, the first all-woman attempt on the bells. (Apologies, this article had originally had the time for the bell ringing at 8.12pm – it is in the morning, not the evening!)

A new exhibition exploring London’s Olympic history has opened at the British Library. Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games features a range of memorabilia including a swimming costume and the finishing tape broken by – later disqualified – marathon runner Dorando Pietri  from the 1908 London Games (see our earlier post for more on him) as well as posters and artworks, stamps, letters and postcards. The exhibition also features audio interviews with Olympians including William (Bill) Roberts, a relay runner in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and Dorothy Tyler, a medal-winning high jumper who competed in the 1936 and 1948 Olympics. Presented by the British Library and International Olympic Committee, the exhibition runs until 9th September at the library in St Pancras. Entry is free. For more, see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: Rare 1948 postcard by an unknown artist (c) Private collection/IOC

• A new free wifi network has been launched in London’s West End. Westminster City Council and telco O2 launched the network this week. It will initially cover Oxford and Regent Streets, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Parliament Square with further areas in Westminster and Covent Garden the next to be included in the network. A once-only registration process is required to join.

• Henry Moore’s famous sculpture, The Arch, has been returned to its original home in Kensington Gardens. The six metre high work was presented to the nation by Moore in 1980 and was positioned on the north bank of the Long Water until 1996 when the structure became unstable and was placed in storage. In late 2010, the Royal Parks began a project with The Henry Moore Foundation to see if the work could be returned to the gardens. Work began to restore the piece – which consists of seven stones weighing 37 tonnes – to its original location earlier this year. For more on Kensington Gardens, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens.

• On Now: From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism. This Royal Academy of Arts exhibition at Burlington House features 70 works from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and includes works by Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Sisley, Morisot and Renoir as well as those of post-Impressionist artists Corot, Théodore Rousseau and J-F. Millet, and ‘academic’ paintings by Gérôme, Alma-Tadema and Bouguereau. Runs until 23rd September. Admission charge applies. See www.royalacademy.org.uk for more.

• A new exhibition in which visitors can experience life during the Second World War through the eyes of a London family opens today at the Imperial War Museum in London. A Family in Wartime explores the lives of William and Alice Allpress and their 10 children at their South London home during the war as the face events such as the Blitz and the evacuation of the city. The display includes firsthand audio accounts from members of the family, photographs and a detailed model of the family home at 69 Priory Grove. Two of the family’s sons served in the military during the war while three of the daughters joined the Women’s Voluntary Service. Artefacts on display include many everyday household items such as cookery books which gave advice on cooking with limited rations and stirrup pumps which people were encouraged to wear in case of incendiary bombs as well as newspaper clippings, propaganda posters and film footage. There will also be artworks depicting wartime living by artists including Henry Moore, Wilfred Haines and Leila Faithful. Admission is free. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london.

Hogwarts has come to London’s north with the opening of the new Warner Bros Studio Tour in Leavesden. The tour, which was launched this week, features sets, costumes and pros from the Harry Potter series of films and reveals how special effects and animatronics were used in the movies. Highlights include the chance to visit Hogwarts Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office and Diagon Alley as well as see Harry’s Nimbus 2000, the flying Ford Anglia owned by the Weasleys and Hagrid’s motorcycle. For more information, see www.wbstudiotour.co.uk.

The Kew Bridge Steam Museum in London’s west has been awarded a £1.84 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant for a restoration project that will see new visitor facilities and more modern displays as well as new outdoor water-based actvities. Project Aquarius will also see outstanding repairs to the Grade I and Grade II listed buildings – described as the most important historic site of the water supply industry in the UK – completed. The museum, which opened 37 years ago, features four giant working Cornish steam pumping engines as part of its displays telling the story of London’s water supply and attracts some 15,000 visitors a year. For more, see www.kbsm.org.

• On Now: British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age. The V&A’s major spring exhibition, this is a showcase of British design from the 1948 ‘Austerity Olympics’ to present day and features more than 300 objects – from the 1959 Morris Mini Minor to a model of the recently completed Zaha Hadid-designed London Aquatics Centre. Highlighting significant moments in British design, the exhibition looks not only at 60 years worth of fashion, furniture, fine art, graphic design, photography, ceramics, architecture and industrial design but also investigates how the UK continues to nuture artistic talent and the role British design and manufacturing plays around the world. Admission charge applies. Runs until 12th August. For more see www.vam.ac.uk.

We’re taking a break over Easter – posts will resume next Tuesday. In the meantime have a great Easter!

The second annual Camellia Festival kicks off in  gardens surrounding the neo-Palladian property, Chiswick House,  in west London this weekend. The month long festival, run by the Chiswick House & Gardens Trust, was kicked off in 2011 with the aim of showcasing Chiswick’s world renowned Camellia Collection, believed to be the largest in the Western world. Following the success of last year’s festival following a £12.1 million garden restoration project, the flowers will once again be on display in the Conservatory (designed by Samuel Ware in 1813). Complementing the display of camellias will be a showcase of early spring flowers planted in the newly restored Italian Garden (originally created for the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1814, it was, at the time, at the forefront of horticultural fashion). The Camellia Collection, meanwhile, includes rare and historically significant plants featuring pink, red, white and striped blooms, many of which are descended from the original planting in 1828. Among them is the Middlemist’s Red which was originally brought to Britain from China in 1804 by John Middlemist, a nurseryman from Shepherds Bush. It is one of only two in the world known to exist (the other is in Waitangi in New Zealand). The festival runs from the 18th February to the 18th March.  Admission charge applies. For more information, see www.chgt.org.uk. PICTURE:  The Middlemist’s Red Camellia at Chiswick House © Clare Kendall.

• On Now: Picasso and Modern British Art. This exhibition at Tate Britain explores the influence of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso on British art and the role this played in the acceptance of modern art in Britain as well as celebrating the connections Picasso made with Britain following his first London visit in 1919. It features more than 150 works including 60 by Picasso, among them Weeping Woman and The Three Dancers, as well as works by the likes of Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland and David Hockney. Runs until 15th July. Admission charge applies. For more information, see www.tate.org.uk

On Now: Mondrian || Nicholson in Parallel. This show at the Courtauld Gallery tells the story of the extraordinary relationship between celebrated 20th century painter Piet Mondrian and Ben Nicholson, one of the UK’s greatest modern artists. The exhibition will follow the parallel artistic paths taken by the two artists in the 1930s and their subsequent creative relationship. Each of the works selected for the exhibition have a particular historical significance and the presentation also includes archival material such as photographs and letters. Admission charge applies. For more information, see www.courtauld.ac.uk.

It’s Open House London weekend again and there’s scores of properties across the city which will be opening their doors to allow the curious a rare glimpse inside. The properties which will be open include architect’s homes and cutting edge housing as well as historic city landmarks, landscape projects and government buildings (including the Foreign Office & India Office – pictured). Other highlights of this year’s event – conducted under the theme of ‘The Liveable City’ –  include a night hike, a festival aimed at kids and families, talks, walks and cycle tours and competitions. Among the buildings flinging their doors wide are Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, livery company halls, the newly reopened St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and the Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City. Most properties can simply be visited on a first come, first in basis but some do require advance booking so check before you go. Open House London was first started 19 years ago and has since spread to many other cities around the world including New York, Jerusalem and Helsinki. For more information and to purchase an online guide, see www.londonopenhouse.org. PICTURE: (c) Nick Woodford.

• King Edward I’s Magna Carta will go on show at the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City this weekend, presenting a rare opportunity to see this pivotal document. The City of London Corporations 1297 Magna Carta – regarded as one of the finest 13th century copies – will be on display in the Roman Amphitheatre during Open House London. The document features King Edward I’s seal and the original writ to the Sheriffs of London ordered that the charter be promulgated within the City. Admission over the weekend is free. For more see, www.guildhallartgallery.cityoflondon.gov.uk/gag/

 

The Museum of London has launched an online collection of early Twentieth century fashion photographs to coincide with London Fashion Week. The more than 3,000 glass negative plates come from the collection of Bassano Limited, founded by Italian-born Alexander B. Bassano, and were taken between 1912 and 1945. They record a wide range of fashions as well as designers and retailers and can be accessed via the Museum’s Collections online web portal. Meanwhile, the museum is hosting it’s first ever professional catwalk show on Friday night. It features the works of Christopher Raeburn. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

A Henry Moore sculpture, Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, has been returned to Greenwich Park, more than four years after it was removed. The almost five metres tall sculpture, made by Moore in 1976, was originally placed in the park in 1979 but was removed for conservation in early 2007 before joining a Moore exhibition at Kew Gardens and then forming part of the Henry Moore display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The bronze, on loan from The Henry Moore Foundation for two years, has now been returned to its original location between The Avenue and Croom’s Hill Gate.