A sculpture created for the 1951 Festival of Britain has returned to Waterloo Station where it was first displayed almost 70 years ago. The work of Hungarian-born artist Peter Laszlo Peri, The Sunbathers features two figures – made from ‘Pericrete’, a special kind of concrete created by the artist as a cheaper alternative to casting in bronze – and was mounted on the wall close to the station’s entrance. It was presumed lost until it was rediscovered in 2016 at the Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath and, following restoration, was put on show in 2017 in the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. Now, thanks to the efforts of Historic England and Network Rail, the sculptures have returned to the station, close to its original site, and will stay there for five years. PICTURES: Courtesy of Network Rail
• 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.
• Can 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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• On Saturday the annual Lord Mayor’s Show will crawl its way across London’s Square Mile in a three mile long procession that will involve 123 floats and 6,200 people. The show (a scene from last year’s procession is pictured) is held each year as the first public outing of the newly elected Lord Mayor – this year it’s David Wootton, the City of London’s 684th Lord Mayor, who officially takes up his new office tomorrow (11th November). Organisers have said the procession will follow its usual route despite the protestors currently encamped outside St Paul’s. Leaving Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor, at 11am, it will make its way down Cheapside to St Paul’s Cathedral, where the new Lord Mayor will be blessed, before heading onto the Royal Courts of Justice, where the Lord Mayor swears an oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, and then returning to Mansion House. The the procession, the origins of which date back to 1215, will feature representatives of livery companies, educational and youth organisations, military units and other London-associated organisations and charities like St Bart’s Hospital. There will be a fireworks display at 5pm on the Thames between Blackfriars and Waterloo. For more information, see www.lordmayorshow.org.
• Organisers have unveiled plans for the London 2012 Festival, a 12 week nationwide cultural celebration of music, theatre, dance, art, literature, film and fashion held around next year’s Games. We’ll be providing more details in upcoming weeks and months but among the highlights in London will be a British Museum exhibition on the importance of Shakespeare as well as “pop-up” performances by actor Mark Rylance – both held as part of the World Shakespeare Festival, a musical tribute to the history of jazz at the Barbican by the London Symphony Orchestra and Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra, an exhibition of the work of artist Damien Hirst at the Tate Modern and another on Yoko Ono at the Serpentine Gallery, and ‘Poetry Parnassus’ at the Southbank Centre – the largest poetry festival ever staged in the UK. The festival is the finale of the “Cultural Olympiad” – launched in 2008, it has featured a program of events inspired by the 2012 Olympics – and will see more than 10 million free events being held across the country. For more details, see www.london2012.com.
• In a tradition which dates back to the late 1800s, three “poor, honest (and) young” women have been awarded a dowry by the City of London Corporation. Susan Renner-Eggleston, Elizabeth Skilton, and Jenny Furber have each received around £100 under the terms of a bequest Italian-born Pasquale Favale made to the City in 1882. Inspired by the happiness he found is his marriage to his London-born wife Eliza, Favale bequeathed 18,000 Lira to the City in 1882 and stipulated that each year a portion of the money was to be given to “three poor, honest, young women, natives of the City of London, aged 16 to 25 who had recently been or were about to be married”. To be eligible the women must have been born in the City of London or currently reside there.
• On Now: Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan. Billed as the year’s blockbuster art event in London, this exhibition at the National Gallery focuses on Da Vinci’s time as a court painter in Milan in the 1480s-90s and features 60 paintings and drawings. Thanks to a collaboration between the National Gallery and the Louvre, they include two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks (it is the first time the two versions are being shown together). Other paintings include Portrait of a Musician, Saint Jerome, The Lady with an Ermine (an image of Cecilia Gallerani, mistress of Milan’s ruler at the time – Ludovico Maria Sforza, ‘Il Moro’) and Belle Ferronniere as well as a copy of Da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper, by his pupil Giamopietrino. Runs until 5th February and an admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
• Tens of thousands of people are expected to join London Mayor Boris Johnson for the annual Sky Ride this Sunday. The event, organised by the Mayor of London, Sky and British Cycling in partnership with Transport for London, allows people to cycle a 11.6 kilometre route through the city centre minus the usual car traffic. The circular route, which takes in Westminster Bridge, the Mall and Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, will be vehicle-free between 9.30am and 4.30pm. Last year more than 85,000 took part. For more information, seewww.goskyride.com/london.
• The Imperial War Museum is marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US with a new photographic exhibition showing artefacts recovered after the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York. Memory Remains, which opened on 26th August and runs until 26th February, is a photographic exploration of Hangar 17 – a previously empty hanger at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York where debris and material retrieved from the 16 acre World Trade Center site were stored. It features images taken by Spanish-American artist Francesc Torres, who was commissioned by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to capture what was happening inside the hangar and granted special access to do so. The exhibition is being accompanied by another at Imperial War Museum North in Manchester. In the Spotlight: Remembering 9/11, which runs from 10th September until September next year, features artefacts from the World Trade Center including a British flag which was laid on the altar in St Paul’s Cathedral on the first anniversary of the attacks. Admission to both exhibitions is free. For more information, see www.iwm.org.uk.
• South Bank hosts the Liberty festival, an annual showcase by deaf and disabled artists, this Saturday. The festival, which will take place at two sites – the Southbank Centre and the National Theatre, will feature a mix of music, dance, street theatre, comedy, circus performances and aerial displays. Highlights include Mark Smith’s Deaf Men Dancing, performance artist Bobby Baker, Jean-Marie Akkerman’s Cirque Nova featuring four disabled aerial artists, and Kazzum, who produce theatrical work for children up to 16-years-old. The event is free. For more information, see www.london.gov.uk/liberty.
• The British Library and BiblioLabs have launched a new 19th century historical collection app for iPad users. The app (which costs £1.99 a month or $US2.99 for those outside the UK and is available through Apple’s App Store) allows users to explore historical and antiquarian books including classic novels, original accounts by Victorian travellers, books on science and poetry, memoirs and military histories. Around 45,000 titles are initially available with a further 15,000 to be added by the end of the year.
• On Now: Freedom from: modern slavery in the capital. A new exhibition looking at the reality of trafficking and forced labour has opened at the Museum of London and the Museum of London Docklands – the museum first cross-site exhibition. Created in partnership with Anti-Slavery International and coinciding with the launch of its Slavery-Free London campaign, the exhibition looks at the personal impact of human trafficking and slavery in 21st century London and includes personal testimonies such as that of ‘Gheeta’ who was trafficked from India and forced into work. It also features a series of large scale photographs by Chris Steele-Perkins of Magnum Photos. Runs until 20th November. Admission is free. For more information, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• The third Story of London Festival kicked off at the start of the month with a programme of events aimed at celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Festival of Britain. This year’s festival is being coordinated by the Museum of London in partnership with the Southbank Centre. It also involves five London borough museums – that of Brent, Dagenham, Haringey, Redbridge and Wandsworth – which are hosting free displays and events around the theme of how they celebrated in 1951. The festival runs until the end of the month, so there’s still plenty of time to get involved. Among the highlights still to come is the Floral Bicycle Parade around the Southbank Centre on 28th August (‘decorating stations’ will be set up at the centre prior to the parade). For a full listing of what’s happening, see www.london.gov.uk/priorities/art-culture/storyoflondon.
• The City of London has released a new filmlovers’ walking tour of London which takes in locations featured in films and TV shows. Lights, camera, action starts on Millennium Bridge (destroyed in the opening sequence of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) and takes in 23 other locations including St Paul’s Cathedral (The Madness of King George and Great Expectations), Bank Junction (28 Days Later, National Treasure II), St Bart’s Hospital (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), Moorgate (Ocean’s 13 and The Bourne Ultimatum) and Tower Bridge (Brannigan, The Mummy Returns, Thunderbirds, Tomb Raider, Sherlock Holmes) before finishing at Postman’s Park (Closer). The walk has been mapped out by the City’s film team which works with location managers and film directors when they’re working in the Square Mile. The leaflet can be picked up free-of-charge from the City of London Information Centre (opposite St Paul’s) or downloaded here.
• Interested in a snapshot of what London was like during a particular historical era? The Museum of London has launched a series of 16 “pocket histories”, each of which, in up to 1,000 words, tackles a particular aspect of the city’s history based around five objects or images. The subjects covered range from a look at the River Thames in prehistory to life in medieval London, from an examination of the history of Jack the Ripper and the East End, to a detailed look at the London’s plagues. While designed for a general audience, the histories are expected to be particularly useful to school students. They can be looked at online or downloaded as a PDF. Further subjects are expected to be added in the future. See www.museumoflondon.org.uk/pockethistories. The museum has also launched Picturebank, a collection of images which can be accessed online and viewed, printed or copied for educational use.
• On Now: Your 2012. The Museum of London Docklands is hosting a free exhibition featuring images capturing the construction work at the Olympic site in East London and the impact on the surrounding boroughs and the environment as well as archival images which show the history of the site. The free exhibition runs until 5th February. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/.
A sleek, futuristic, cigar-like sculpture that resembled what early science-fiction writers thought space-craft would look like, the Skylon was the centrepiece of the 1951 Festival of Britain site in South Bank and remains the enduring icon of the post-war celebration.
Designed by young architects Hidalgo Moya and Philip Powell (with the assistance of engineer Felix Samuely), the 300 foot tall Skylon, which, supported by cables, seem to hang in the air over the Thames, some 40 foot above the ground.
The structure (seen on the left of the picture of the Festival of Britain site) was dismantled in 1952 on the orders of the then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill who apparently saw it as an unwanted symbol of Clement Attlee’s Labour Government which had lost power earlier that year.
Strangely, the fate of the structure remains something of a mystery – Jude Kelly, artistic director at the Southbank Centre describes it as being “like the Loch Ness monster” in an interview with the Guardian newspaper earlier this year. “People have sightings of Skylon – they think – and bits of it, but nobody really knows what happened to it,” she said, adding that it was very hard to understand why it was thrown away.
While some fragments remain – including the base (and a model of it) which can be found at the Museum of London – a common theory is that the rest of it was cut up and dropped into the Thames while other theories have it being buried under Jubilee Gardens or simply sold for scrap metal and “turned into ashtrays”.
There is an ongoing campaign to have the Skylon, which these days lends its name to a riverside restaurant at the Southbank Centre, rebuilt, although not necessarily in its original location.
The story of the Skylon, which sat on a site now occupied by the Southbank Centre, is told in the Museum of 1951 (see Southbank Centre website for details), open as part of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Festival of Britain. On Tuesday, architect Nicholas Grimshaw and former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects Jack Pringle will lead a discussion at the Southbank Centre on the Skylon. For more information, follow this link.
PICTURE: John Ritchie Addison (via Wikipedia)