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.

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It’s all galleries this week- not a bad way to escape the heat!

NPG_959_1400_AudreyHepburnbThirty-five photographs of late actor Audrey Hepburn from the personal collection of her sons form the centrepiece of a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, which opens today and is the first UK exhibition to be organised with the Audrey Hepburn Estate, explores the life and career of the celebrated film star. Among the images lent by her sons Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti are a portrait of the actor performing a dance recital at the age of 13 in 1942, a photograph of her taken while filming The Nun’s Story in Africa in 1958, and a behind-the-scenes photograph of Hepburn during a costume fitting for the 1954 film Sabrina. Other images in the display include those taken during the shooting of numerous films ranging from 1955’s War and Peace to 1967’s Two for the Road as well as vintage magazine covers. Runs until 18th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk/hepburn. PICTURE: Audrey Hepburn by Philippe Halsman for LIFE magazine, 1954. © Philipe Halsman/Magnum Photos.

The works of Barbara Hepworth, one of the UK’s greatest artists, are on show at the Tate Britain on Millbank. Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World features more than 100 works, from major carvings and bronzes to less familiar pieces. Juxtaposed with works of other great artists – including paintings, prints and drawings of her second husband Ben Nicholson, they include her earliest surviving carvings, her more purely abstract works of the late 1930s, wooden sculptures made while Hepworth lived in Cornwall in the mid-1940s and four large carvings made in the mid-1950s in African hardwood guarea which, reunited for this exhibition, arguably represent the highpoint of her carving career. There are also bronzes from her 1965 retrospective at the Kroller-Muller Museum. Runs until 25th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

American artist Joseph Cornell’s art is the subject of an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly which opens on Saturday. Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust, organised in conjunction with Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna, features about 80 of the artist’s box constructions, assemblages, collages and films including rarely seen masterpieces lent from public and private collections in the US, Europe and Japan. Arranged in four sections, the display features works from his major series including Museums, Aviaries, Soap Bubble Sets, Palaces, Medici Slot Machines, Hotels and Dovecotes. Runs until 27th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.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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Houses-of-Parliament2 Both Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (these days better known as the Houses of Parliament – pictured) pre-date 1215 but unlike today in 1215 the upon which they stood was known as Thorney Island.

Formed by two branches of the Tyburn River as they ran down to the River Thames, Thorney Island (a small, marshy island apparently named for the thorny plants which once grew there) filled the space between them and the Thames (and remained so until the Tyburn’s branches were covered over).

One branch entered the Thames in what is now Whitehall, just to the north of where Westminster Bridge; another apparently to the south of the abbey, along the route of what is now Great College Street. (Yet another branch apparently entered the river near Vauxhall Bridge).

The abbey’s origins go back to Saxon times when what was initially a small church – apparently named after St Peter – was built on the site. By 960AD it had become a Benedictine monastery and, lying west of what was then the Saxon city in Lundenwic, it become known as the “west minster” (St Paul’s, in the city, was known as “east minster”) and a royal church.

The origins of the Palace of Westminster don’t go back quite as far but it was the Dane King Canute, who ruled from 1016 to 1035, who was the first king to build a palace here. It apparently burnt down but was subsequently rebuilt by King Edward the Confessor as part of a grand new palace-abbey complex.

For it was King Edward, of course, who also built the first grand version of Westminster Abbey, a project he started soon after his accession in 1042. It was consecrated in 1065, a year before his death and he was buried there the following year (his bones still lie inside the shrine which was created during the reign of King Henry III when he was undertaking a major rebuild of the minster).

Old Palace Yard dates from Edward’s rebuild – it connected his palace with his new abbey – while New Palace Yard, which lies at the north end of Westminster Hall, was named ‘new’ when it was constructed with the hall by King William II (William Rufus) in the late 11th century.

Westminster gained an important boost in becoming the pre-eminent seat of government in the kingdom when King Henry II established a secondary treasury here (the main treasury had traditionally been in Winchester, the old capital in Saxon times) and established the law courts in Westminster Hall.

King John, meanwhile, followed his father in helping to establish London as the centre of government and moved the Exchequer here. He also followed the tradition, by then well-established, by being crowned in Westminster Abbey in 1199 and it was also in the abbey that he married his second wife, Isabella, daughter of Count of Angouleme, the following year. 

The-Fighting-Temeraire,-tugged-to-her-last-Berth-to-be-broken-up,-1838-©-The-National-Gallery,-LondonA major exhibition on painter JMW Turner’s fascination with the sea opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich tomorrow. Turner and the Sea is the first “full scale” examination of the artist’s relationship with the sea and features works on loan from some of the world’s greatest art institutions. Highlights among the oils, watercolours, prints and sketches on show include The Fighting Temeraire (1839) (pictured), Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth (1842), Staffa, Fingal’s Cave (1832), Whalers (1845) and Calais Pier (1803) as well as Turner’s largest painting and only royal commission, The Battle of Trafalgar (1824). The works are being exhibited alongside works by other notable British and European artists including Thomas Gainsborough, Willem van de Velde, Claude-Joseph Vernet and John Constable. Runs until 21st April. Admission charges apply. See www.rmg.co.uk for more details. PICTURE: The Fighting Temeraire, tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, 1838 by JMW Turner, 1839, oil on canvas. © The National Gallery, London.

• The ‘new’ Tate Britain was unveiled to the public this week following a £45 million upgrade and refurbishment and the house-warming party is on this weekend. The work has seen the oldest part of the Grade II* listed building in Millbank transformed thanks to architects Caruso St John and sees the main entrance reopened as well as The Whistler Restaurant, new learning studios an a new archive gallery as well as a new cafe and bar for Tate members. It’s unveiling follows the opening in May of 10 new galleries and new BP displays including the chronological presentation of the Tate’s collection of British art. The house-warming party, a free event, takes place on Saturday from 3pm to 10pm and features music, the giving out of free limited edition prints and a series of talks, film screenings, workshops and even a treasure hunt. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland kicks off again tomorrow with highlights including the ice sculptures of ‘The Magical Kingdom’, the giant observation wheel, the ice rink and Santa Land. There will also be more than 200 chalets in the Angels Christmas & Yuletide Markets, the Bavarian village is back, and Zippo’s Circus will also be returning with a range of shows include Cirque Berserk for the evening crowd. Entry is free but tickets for various attractions can be bought at www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com. Runs until 5th January.

ON NOW: The Young Durer: Drawing the Figure. This exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery looks at the figure drawing of the young Albrect Durer (1471-1528), focusing on works created in his formative years between 1490-1496. Among the exhibition’s highlights is Mein Agnes (My Agnes), A Wise Virgin, and Three Studies of Durer’s left hand. The exhibition runs until 12th January.

• FURTHER AFIELD: Only a hop, skip and jump from London lies Down House, former home of naturalist Charles Darwin, in Kent. English Heritage are this weekend marking the anniversary of publication of his controversial book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (it was published on 24th November, 1859) with a range of specialist talks and tours at the property this weekend. For more on the weekend, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/origin-weekend-dh-23-nov/

What’s in a name?…Millbank

November 18, 2013

Millbank

The origins of this Thames-side district of London are as obvious as they sound – it was the site of a mill which stood on the west bank of the river.

The mill, which had served Westminster Abbey since at least the 16th century, stood here until about 1735 when it was demolished and replaced by a mansion built by Sir Robert Grosvenor, a member of the Grosvenor family responsible for developing parts of Mayfair.

The house was pulled down in 1809 to make way for Millbank Prison, which was the country’s first national prison and which was where prisoners were held before their transportation to Australia.

The prison closed about 1890 (a buttress which once stood at the top of the prison’s river steps commemorates the prison – pictured above).

The site is now occupied by some of the more interesting buildings in the area – including the Chelsea College of Arts (buildings formerly used by the  Royal Army Medical School, Tate Britain (which opened in 1897 as the National Gallery of British Art), and a housing development known as the Millbank Estate, constructed to providing housing for 4,500 members of the working class.

While the area was previously known for having been dominated by marshland, land was eventually reclaimed along the waterfront and an embankment established, defining the course of the river.

As well as the district, the name Millbank is also the name of the street which runs along the riverbank between the Houses of Parliament and Vauxhall Bridges.

For more on London’s prisons, check out Geoffrey Howse’s A History of London’s Prisons.

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.

 Diver Tom Daley’s swimming trunks, cyclist Bradley Wiggins’ yellow jersey and a Mary Poppins outfit worn in last year’s Olympic Games’ opening ceremony are among the items on display as part of the Museum of London’s 2012 display. The free display, which opened last week, exactly 200 days after the Paralympics closing ceremony, features a selection of 70 items connected with the Games. Runs in the Galleries of Modern London until 31st October. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

Oxford took line honours at the 159th Boat Race, held on the River Thames last weekend. The Dark Blues – whose crew included Olympic medalists Constantine Louloudis and Malcolm Howard – still trail Cambridge (the Light Blues) – whose crew included another Olympic medallist, George Nash, however, with 77 wins to 81 wins. For more, see www.theboatrace.org or our previous articles – here and here.

Kew Garden’s historic Temperate House has received a £14.7 million Lottery Fund grant for conservation of the Grade One listed building, the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world. The grant – which adds to £10.4 million from the government and £7.7 million from private donors – will also be used to create a “more inspiring” public display for visitors with the overall £34.3 million project completed by May, 2018. The building opened in 1863 and was last refurbished 35 years ago. It houses some of the world’s rarest plants, including a South African cycad (Encephalartos woodii). For more, see www.kew.org.

On Now: Phantom Ride. This “haunting” film installation by artist Simon Starling was commissioned by the Tate Britain in Millbank and is located in the neo-classical Duveen galleries. Referencing the late nineteenth century tradition of ‘phantom rides’ – films, often made by cameramen strapped to the front of a train, that gave a dramatic sense of motion as if one is aboard an invisible vehicle – the installation includes a “compelling flow of images” of artworks that once filled the Duveen galleries, creating a sense of movement as the works move up and down the walls. Admission is free. Runs until 20th October. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

Laus Veneris (1873-8) by Edward Burne-Jones was inspired by Algernon Swinburne’s poem Laus Veneris which relates the tale of a knight who falls in love with Venus (shown in red) but then decides to leave her. Usually found in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, it’s among the 180 or so works on display at Tate Britain on Millbank as part of its recently opened exhibition, Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde. The exhibition, the largest survey of the group in almost 30 years, locates the Pre-Raphaelites as the UK’s first modern art movement and traces the group’s development from its formation in 1848 through to their Symbolist creations of the 1890s. Other works on show, some of which have been rarely seen in the UK, include John Everett Millais’ Ophelia, William Holman Hunt’s The Lady of Shalott, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Found. There are also works by Madox Brown and William Morris and as well as paintings, the display includes sculpture, photography and the applied arts. Runs until 13th January next year. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

We’ll kick off this week with just a few more of the plethora of Olympic-related events which are happening around town:

Tower Bridge, site of some spectacular fireworks last Friday night, is currently hosting an exhibition celebrating the 26 cities which have hosted the modern Olympics. Cities of the Modern Games, located on the bridge’s walkways, runs alongside an interactive exhibition looking at the bridge’s construction. Follow the link for details.

The Guildhall Art Gallery is showcasing sculpture and art inspired by sport and the “Olympic values”. The art works are all winning entries from a contest organised by the International Olympic Committee. The chosen works were selected from among 68 submissions made by an international jury. Follow the link for details.

The Design Museum is hosting a new exhibition celebrating the nexus between sport and design. Designed to Win looks at everything from the design of F1 cars to running shoes, bats and bicycles and explores the way in which design has shaped the sporting world. Runs until 9th September. Admission charge applies. See www.designmuseum.org.

• The London Metropolitan Archives is holding an exhibition of playing cards featuring an Olympic theme. Sporting Aces – Playing Cards and the Olympic Games features cards drawn from the collection of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards which have an Olympic theme. Admission is free. Runs until 13th September. See www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma.

And in other news…

A night market has been launched at Camden Lock over the summer period. Street food stalls and vintage fashion, arts and crafts and book shops will be open until 10pm every Thursday with extras including live music and film screenings. For more, see www.camdenlockmarket.com.

• On Now: Another London: International Photographers and City Life 1930-1980. This exhibition at Tate Britain in Millbank features more than 150 classic photographs of the city and its communities by foreign photographers including such luminaries as Henri Cartier-Bresson. The exhibition features iconic works such as Robert Frank’s London (Stock Exchange) 1951, Cartier-Bresson’s images of King George VI’s coronation, Elliot Erwitt’s depiction of a rain-washed London bus stop, and Bruce Davidson’s image of a child with pigeons in Trafalgar Square alongside works such as Wolfgang Suschitzky’s images of working class families in the East End, from the 1940s, and Karen Knorr’s images of punks in the 1970s. The photographs all come from the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection, which includes more than 1,200 images of London and has been promised as a gift to the Tate. Runs until 16th September. Admission charge applies. See www.tate.org.uk. 

Have we missed something we should be telling others about? Send details in an email to exploringlondon@gmail.com.