From the Trafalgar Square end. PICTURE: Johen Redman/Unsplash
The next two in our countdown…
The 13th sculpture to occupy Trafalgar Square’s famous Fourth Plinth is a nine tonne, 9.4 metre high swirl of cream topped with a cherry. Unveiled in late July, THE END is the work of Heather Phillipson and also features a giant fly as well as a drone that transmits a live feed of Trafalgar Square to a specially created website, www.theend.today. The sculpture, which plays on the idea of the square as a site of celebration and protest, replaced Michael Rakowitz’s The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist and both Phillipson and Rakowitz were selected by the Fourth Plinth Commission Group in 2017 following an exhibition at the National Gallery where 10,000 people voted for their favourite shortlisted artwork. PICTURE: astonishme (licensed under CC BY 2.0)
Trafalgar Square bedecked for Christmas with its famous Norwegian tree. PICTURE: Ben Pipe Photography via London Partners.
A pigeon takes flight in Trafalgar Square.
PICTURE: Mike Lacey/Unsplash
A life-sized copy of Lamassu, a winged deity that stood at Nineveh’s Nergal Gate from 700 BC until the so-called Islamic State destroyed it in 2015, Michael Rakowitz’s work The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist is the 12th to adorn the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. The American artist’s work is made from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans, representative of a once-renowned industry which has been devastated by war in the Middle Eastern nation, while the use of recycled food packaging can be seen as a reference to the recycling of cannons once carried on the HMS Royal George to create the reliefs at the base of Nelson’s Column. Unveiled at the end of March by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, the work will remain on the plinth until early 2020.
PICTURE: Kevin Grieve/Unsplash
• An exhibition showcasing the works of Impressionist artist Claude Monet with a focus on his depictions of architecture opens at the National Gallery on Monday. The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Monet & Architecture is the first exhibition concentrating solely on Monet’s works in London in more than 20 years. It spans his entire career from the mid-1860s to early 20th century and features more than 75 paintings depicting everything from villages to cities like Venice and London as well as individual structures and monuments. The display includes a rare gathering of some of Monet’s great ‘series’ paintings including five pictures from trips to Holland made in the early 1870s, 10 paintings of Argenteuil and the Parisian suburbs from the mid-1870s, seven pictures depicting the cathedral at Rouen from 1892–5, eight paintings of London from 1899–1904, and nine canvases showing Venice from 1908. Highlights include the Quai du Louvre (1867) (pictured), the Boulevard des Capucines (1873), and the flag-filled Rue Montorgeuil, 30 June 1878. Can be seen in the Sainsbury Wing until 29th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk. PICTURE: The Quai du Louvre (Le Quai du Louvre), 1867, Claude Monet, Oil on canvas © Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.
• London’s Abbey Road Studios are celebrated in an exhibition of the work of rock photographer Jill Furmanovsky which opens at the Barbican Music Library on Monday. Inside Abbey Road Studios – Through the lens of Jill Furmanovsky is a showcase of her work since 1976 when she photographed Pink Floyd during the Wish You Were Here recording sessions and, as well as those images, includes more recent images of the likes of Nile Rodgers, Royal Blood, Novelist, and Mura Masa, as well as emerging musical talent. The display is a collaboration between Abbey Road Studios, Furmanovsky – who became artist-in-residence at the studios last year – and the Barbican Music Library. The exhibition, which is free to enter, can be seen until 27th June. For more, see www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2018/event/inside-abbey-road-studios.
• Some 20 objects from Ethiopia are featured in new exhibition at the V&A marking the 150th anniversary of the siege and battle at Maqdala, culmination of the British Expedition to Abyssinia. Maqdala 1868, which focuses on the battle and its aftermath, features some of the earliest examples of military photography in Britain as well as a portrait of Emperor Tewodros II’s son Prince Alemayehu taken by Julia Margaret Cameron soon after the prince was brought to England by the British military. There’s also examples of metalwork and textiles including a gold crown with filigree designs and embossed images of the Evangelists and Apostles, a solid gold chalice, jewellery and a wedding dress believed to have belonged to the Emperor’s wife, Queen Terunesh. All of the objects were taken during Sir Robert Napier’s military expedition of 1867-68 which was aimed at securing the release of British hostages held by the Emperor and which culminated in the Emperor’s suicide and the destruction of his fortress. The exhibition, which is free to see, has been organised in consultation with the Ethiopian Embassy in London and an advisory group including members of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church, members of the Anglo-Ethiopian society and representatives from the Rastafarian community. Runs until July, 2019, in Room 66 of the Silver Galleries. There is a program of related events. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.
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• Londoners are celebrating St Patrick’s Day with events taking place across the city over this weekend. They include a series of specially commissioned walking tours focusing on London’s Irish history, Irish poets and musicians busking at Underground stations, and a series of open air gigs featuring Irish women artists at Camden Market on Saturday. Cinemas in the West End, meanwhile, are showing Irish films in connection with the weekend while exhibitions to mark the event include #IamIrish, a celebration of mixed race Irish people by artist Lorraine Maher featuring the work of photographer Tracey Anderson, which runs at London City Hall until 13th April. On Sunday, the culmination of the festive weekend, a procession featuring Irish marching bands and dance troupes kicks off at noon from Green Park while in Trafalgar Square there will be a series of stage performances – including a tribute to Dolores O’Riordan, the Cranberries frontwoman who died in London earlier this year – as well as a special zone for families and an Irish street for market. For the full programme of events, head to www.london.gov.uk/stpatricks. PICTURE: A St Patrick’s Day celebration in years past. (Garry Knight (licensed under CC BY 2.o))
• The work of the UK’s Special Forces are the subject of the first major exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea since it reopened in March last year. Special Forces: In the Shadows examines of the history of the Special Forces from its creation during World War II up until today and looks at the unique role each of the six units – the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment – play in security and military operations. Among objects on show in the exhibition’s seven distinct areas are a compass that Paddy Mayne wrenched from an enemy plane cockpit and a complete SAS Counter Terrorist Kit from 2007 as well as personal testimonies, video and photography. There’s also interactive exhibits to help visitors understand the challenges soldiers in the field face. Admission charge applies. Runs until 18th November. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.
• Two exhibitions celebrating the work of British-European artist Tacita Dean have opened this week. Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT at the National Portrait Gallery focuses on portraiture primarily through the medium of 16mm film and, the first in the gallery’s history to be devoted to the medium of film, features works including the six screen installation from 2008, Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS…, as well as Dean’s film of Claes Oldenburg, Manhattan Mouse Museum and a film diptych of Julie Mehretu, GDGDA – all seen in the UK for the first time. Meanwhile Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE has opened at the neighbouring National Gallery and features a selection of the gallery’s works curated by Dean as well as some by the artist herself and her contemporaries. There’s also a new film, Ideas for Sculpture in a Setting, made especially for the exhibition. A third exhibition on Dean will be held at the Royal Academy of Arts. For more, see www.npg.org.uk, www.nationalgallery.org.uk and www.royalacademy.org.uk.
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• London’s Chinatown will come alive this Sunday to mark the Year of the Dog. The biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside of Asia feature a parade – which kicks off at 10am with a dragon and lion dance in Charing Cross Road before making its way through Chinatown where between noon and 6pm people get up close to lion dances, take selfies with Chinese zodiac animals and enjoy traditional Chinese food. Festivities in Trafalgar Square, meanwhile, kick off at 11am with the Lions’ Eye-Dotting Ceremony at noon while there’s entertainment including live performances, family-friendly entertainments and martial arts displays at a series of West End locations including Charing Cross Road, Leicester Square, Shaftesbury Avenue between noon and 5pm. For more, check out the Visit London guide. Meanwhile the Museum of London Docklands is also celebrating the Year of the Dog with a range of free cultural events on Friday (the actual date of the New Year) including everything from ribbon dancing classes to taekwondo taster lessons, calligraphy and a spectacular dragon dance. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands. PICTURE: Paul (licensed under CC BY 2.0)
• The works of one of Canada’s greatest modernist painters, David Milne (1882-1953), have gone on show at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. David Milne: Modern Painting follows Milne’s career chronologically, charting his development as an artist as he moves from New York to the war ravaged landscapes of Europe and back to the fields and open skies of North America. Highlights include Fifth Avenue, Easter Sunday (1912), the watercolour Bishop’s Pond (1916), Montreal Crater, Vimy Ridge (1919) – one of his most famous war paintings, White, the Waterfall (1921) and Summer Colours (1936). Runs until 7th May. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.
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• The Victoria and Albert Museum is celebrating the opening of its ‘Exhibition Road Quarter’ with a week long public festival featuring art, performances, fashion and family activities. Kicking off tomorrow (Friday), the REVEAL festival also coincides with the museum’s 165th anniversary. It opens with a music and digital-themed Friday Late, hosted in the Boiler Room, and culminates on 7th July with Fashion in Motion, four special catwalk shows in the new Sainsbury Gallery featuring Molly Goddard, British emerging talent winner at the 2016 Fashion Awards. Other events during the week include an immersive light experience by Simon Heijdens, a special performance by Julie Cunningham & Company responding to Yoko Ono’s ‘Dance Pieces’, a new hybrid opera by Anat Ben-David, and musical performances with the Royal College of Music and Albert’s Band from the Royal Albert Hall. The week also includes collaborations with partners from across Exhibition Road, including Discover South Kensington, Imperial College London, the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Music and the Science Museum. The V&A’s Exhibition Road Quarter has been designed by Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete and her practice AL_A and, the museum’s largest architectural intervention in the past 100 years, it comes with new public areas and gallery spaces as well as revealing the historic facades of the existing Grade I buildings. The new spaces include the 1,100 square metre Sainsbury Gallery, the all-porcelain Sackler Courtyard and a new entrance from Exhibition Road, The Blavatnik Hall. A 1909 feature – the Astor Webb screen – has also been restored and incorporated into the design. Entry to the festival is free. For more, see vam.ac.uk/reveal. PICTURE: The Sackler Courtyard and Cafe, V&A Exhibition Road Quarter, designed by AL_A.
• The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called on Londoners from all communities to join in this year’s Eid Festival celebrations in Trafalgar Square as a gesture of solidarity with those affected by the Finsbury Park attack and the Grenfell Tower fire, which, like Finsbury Park, affected many Muslim families. The event, held to mark the end of Ramadan, will feature live music and performances, arts and crafts, exhibitions, calligraphy, henna, face painting and food from across the world. Highlights include Rai musician Cheb Nacim, British Sudanese artist Rasha from the Shubbak festival, children’s writer Hajera Memon – who will be promoting her childrens’ book Hats of Faith, beat-boxer Omar Sammur, breakdancer Hakim, and a bazaar-style market area. The free event runs between noon and 6pm. For more, see www.london.gov.uk/eid.
• A series of newly commissioned installations exploring perceptions and connections to colour have gone on show at the Design Museum. Breathing Colour, by designer Hella Jongerius is an installation-based exhibition that blurs the boundaries between art and design. The display is divided into separate spaces that simulate light conditions at morning, noon and evening and explore the impact of changing light on our perception of colour. Each of the three spaces includes a series of three dimensional objects as well as textiles, some of which have been hand-woven. Runs until 24th September at the Kensington High Street premises. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.org.
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Flowers on Westminster Bridge, placed there in the wake of last week’s terror attack in which an assailant, named as 52-year-old Khalid Masood, killed three people and injured at least 50 as he drove a vehicle at high speed across the bridge along a pedestrian walkway. Crashing outside the Houses of Parliament he then stabbed to death PC Keith Palmer before he was shot dead by another officer. Addressing a vigil in Trafalgar Square in the aftermath of the attack, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city “will never be cowed” by terrorism. “Those evil and twisted individuals who try to destroy our shared way of life will never succeed and we condemn them,” he said. PICTURE: David Holt/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
A fixture of London’s Christmas festivities since 1947, the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree is given annually to the people of Britain by the city of Oslo as gift thanking them for their support of Norway during World War II.
The tree is harvested from forests near the Norwegian capital and the selection process for the giant, known by forestry workers as the “Queen of the Forest”, starts in May.
The tree is typically a Norway spruce aged somewhere between 50 and 60 years and stands at least 20 metres high. This year’s tree – the 70th – is said to be 116-years-old, stands 22 metres tall and weighs
In keeping with tradition, it was cut down on 16th November in a special ceremony attended by the Mayor of Oslo, Marianne Borgen, and the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cr Steve Summers, along with various local school children so it can shipped to Britain ready in time for its unveiling at the start of December.
The tree is adorned with lights – in more recent years these are energy efficient light bulbs – in Norwegian style and these are turned on at a special ceremony on the first Thursday in December. The tree remains on display until just before the Twelfth Night of Christmas when it is taken down and recycled as mulch.
The tree now has its own Twitter account.
A giant hand giving a thumbs-up, the latest commission to grace Trafalgar Square’s famous Fourth Plinth, was unveiled late last month. Really Good, by UK artist David Shrigley stands seven metres high and features a disproportionately long thumb arising from a closed fist. The sculpture is the latest in a string of artworks to have graced the plinth which was built in 1841 and originally designed to hold a statue of King William IV but, thanks to a lack of money, remained empty until recent times. Speaking at the launch of the new work last month, the artist said the work was about “making the world a better place or it purports to actually make the world a better place”. “Obviously, this is a ridiculous proposition, but I think it’s a good proposition,” The Independent reports him saying. “Artworks on their own are inanimate objects so they can’t make the world a better place. It is us, so I guess we have to ask ourselves how we can do this.” For more on the Fourth Plinth program, see www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/arts-and-culture/art-and-design/fourth-plinth-2016
PICTURE: © Gautier Deblonde
It’s an atmospheric image – both literally and metaphorically – that will soon be sitting in wallets and purses across the UK. Painter JMW Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838 is among the most famous artworks hanging in The National Gallery and, as the Bank of England has announced earlier this year, will adorn newly produced £20 notes from 2020 onwards. It commemorates the end of the famous ship, the 98 gun HMS Temeraire, which had played a heroic role in Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and, say reports, had been dubbed the “Fighting” Temeraire ever since (although it’s also suggested the ship was actually known by the crew as the “Saucy” Temeraire) . The oil painting, which Turner created in 1839, depicts the ship being towed away to be broken up (although, while it was actually towed from Sheerness to Rotherhithe in London – a westerly trip, the painting depicts it going eastward). The Temeraire itself is drawn romantically, almost spectrally, while in front of it is a steam tug shown in hard modernity and, of course, in the backdrop is the majestic setting sun, evoking a sense of the end. The painting, which was bequeathed to the gallery by the artist in the 1850s, and which incidentally appeared in the James Bond film Skyfall in a scene in which 007 (Daniel Craig) meets Q (Ben Wishaw) in front of it, can be found in Room 34 of gallery.
WHERE: The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square (nearest Tube stations are Charing Cross and Leicester Square); WHEN: 10am to 6pm daily (open to 9pm Saturdays); COST: free; WEBSITE: www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
PICTURE: Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838, © National Gallery, London
Director Steven Spielberg, actor and playwright Mark Rylance, physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, TV personality Simon Cowell, and The Duchess of Cornwall are among 50 high profile personalities who have put their childhood dreams and aspirations on show around the country – including in London – to mark not only the release of the film The BFG but also the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth. Launched last weekend, the ‘BFG Dream Jar Trail’ features a series of up-to-six-foot-tall ‘Dream Jars’, each of which contains a sculpture representing the childhood dreams of a different personality. The free trail – which takes in London sites such as Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, Leicester Square, Harrods, Emirates Stadium and The Shard – has been created in support of the work of Save the Children and a specialist nursing programme supported by Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity with the jars to be auctioned in collaboration with Paddle8 later this year to raise money for both causes (the auction will be launched on the film’s premiere on 17th July). At least 34 jars have already gone on display with more to be unveiled in coming days. The joint creation of Save the Children, the Roald Dahl Literary Estate, Entertainment One and VisitLondon.com with support from Unilever, the trail can be seen until 31st August. To see the art trail map and discover the stories behind each jar and its location, head to www.visitlondon.com/bfg. For more on the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth, head to www.roalddahl.com/roalddahl100. PICTURED: Above – director Steven Spielberg’s self-designed jar, on display in Leicester Square, illustrating his childhood fantasy of having all the sweets in the world but none of the ill effects from overindulgence.
• The “most important exhibition of Russian portraits ever to take place at a British museum” opens at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square today. The portraits of key figures from Russia spanning the period from 1867 to 1914 come from Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery which is simultaneously displaying a selection of portraits of famous Britons from the National Portrait Gallery in a joint event being held to mark the 160th anniversary of both institutions. Russia and the Arts: The Age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky features portraits of the likes of Akhmatova, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy and Turgenev by artists including Nikolai Ge, Ivan Kramskoy, Vasily Perov, Ilia Repin, Valentin Serov and Mikhail Vrubel. The majority of the works featured were commissioned directly from the artists by Pavel Tretyakov, a merchant, philanthropist and founder of the State Tretyakov Gallery, whose own portrait by Repin opens the exhibition. The exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery runs until 26th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk/russia. PICTURE: Ivan Morozov by Valentin Serov (1910) © State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
• The best Scottish art in the Royal Collection goes on show at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, from tomorrow. Scottish Artists 1750-1900: From Caledonia to the Continent brings together more than 80 works collected by monarchs since King George III. It tells the story of the emergence of a distinctly Scottish school of art through works painted by the likes of Allan Ramsay – who in 1760 was commissioned to paint King George III’s State portrait and subsequently became the first Scot appointed to the role of Principal Painter in Ordinary to His Majesty, and Sir David Wilkie – whose works depicting small-scale scenes of everyday life attracted the attention of the Prince Regent (later King George IV) in the early 17th century. Other artists represented in the collection include Sir Joseph Noel Paton, David Roberts, James Giles, John Phillip, William Leighton Leith, and William Dyce. Runs until 9th October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk.
• The work of American photographer Paul Strand is on show at the V&A from Saturday in the first retrospective showing of his art in the UK in 40 years. One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Strand (1890-1976) was instrumental in defining the way fine art and documentary photography is understood and practiced today. He is also credited with creating the first avant-garde film, Manhatta. The exhibition, Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century, features more than 200 objects including vintage photographic prints, films, books, notebooks, sketches and Strand’s cameras and includes newly acquired photographs from his only UK project – a 1954 study of the island of South Uist in the Scottish Hebrides. Can be seen until 3rd July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/paulstrand.
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The Royal Mews – a stables and carriage house – is these days located at Buckingham Palace but prior to being moved there, the Royal Mews, previously usually referred to as the King’s and Queen’s Mews depending who was on the throne, was located on the site where the National Gallery (pictured) and Trafalgar Square now stand.
The name ‘mews’ actually refers to the fact that, from at least the reign of King Richard II in the late 14th century (although official records suggest there may have been a mews on the site as far back as the reign of King Edward I), the royal hawks were initially housed on the site – then in the village of Charing Cross – (the word ‘mew’ refers to the moulting of the birds and originally referred to when they were confined here for that purpose but later come to simply mean the place were the birds were caged).
The title of Keeper of the King’s Mews became a sought-after honour during the 15th century (although largely honorary with the actual work done by deputies) but among those who held the honour were Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known, during the Wars of the Roses as the ‘Kingmaker’.
In 1534, the King’s Mews was destroyed by fire and when it was rebuilt a few years later, it took the form of a stable but kept the original name of mews (although it has been suggested the change of use took place before the fire).
During the Civil War, the Mews were apparently used as a prison by the Parliamentarians for captured Royalists and during the Commonwealth, soldiers were apparently quartered here. Diarist Samuel Pepys also apparently visited several times.
In 1732 the building was again rebuilt, but this time it was to the grand designs of William Kent – images show a grand building with turrets and a great open square before it. In the 1760s, King George III had some of his horses and carriages moved to facilities on the grounds of Buckingham Palace (he had purchased this from the Duke of Buckingham for his wife’s use) but the bulk remained on the Charing Cross site.
In the early 19th century they were opened to the public but in the 1820s, King George IV – making Buckingham Palace his main residence – had the entire stables moved (the Royal Mews which now stand at Buckingham Palace were designed by John Nash and completed in 1825).
The old mews were subsequently demolished and Trafalgar Square – another Nash design – built on the site between 1827 and 1835 while the National Gallery opened in 1838.