totally-thamesIt’s September and that means Totally Thames, an annual month of events celebrating London’s great watery artery. Highlights among this year’s 150 events include this Saturday’s Great River Race in which more than 300 boats from across the UK and around the world compete on a course running from Millwall Slipway to Ham House in Richmond, Life Afloat, an exhibition looking at the evolution of the houseboat living on the Thames across the last 100 years, and the 8th annual Classic Boat Festival at St Katharine Docks this weekend as well as walks, talks, performances, art installations and boat trips including a tour of Brunel’s London. Runs until the end of the month. For more information and the full programme of events, see www.totallythames.org. PICTURE: Totally Thames/Barry Lewis.

The changes that swept across society in the late 1960s are the subject of a new exhibition which opens at the V&A this weekend. You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-70 is divided into six distinct sections, and starts with a recreation of Carnaby Street as it was before moving on to subjects like clubs and counterculture, revolution on the street, revolution in consumerism, festivals and alternative communities. Among the objects on display are costumes designed for Mick Jagger, a Cecil Beaton portrait of Twiggy, Roger Corman’s 1967 film about LSD, The Trip, a wall of protest posters, film, sound and still footage from the 1967 Montreal and 1970 Osaka World Expos, a kaftan worn by Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock, and a rare Apple 1 computer. Runs from 10th September to 26th February at the South Kensington institution. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/revolution.

A new exhibition showcasing the British Museum’s holdings of French portrait drawings opens at the Bloomsbury establishment today. French portrait drawings from Clouet to Courbet offers the chance to see some well-known French portrait drawings alongside others that have never been exhibited before. Pictures on show include Francois Clouet’s portrait of Catherine de’Medici, Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune’s chalk drawing of his infant daughter, and a ‘playful’ portrait of artist Artemisia Gentileschi by Pierre Dumonstier. The free display can be seen in Room 90 until 29th January.

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Samuel-PepysThe largest exhibition ever mounted about the life of 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich tomorrow. Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution features more than 200 paintings and objects brought together from museums, galleries and private collections which explore the life of the famous diarist (depicted here in a bust outside the Guildhall Art Gallery) against the backdrop of the tumultuous events of Stuart London, from the execution London of King Charles I in 1649 through the Great Fire of London and the Glorious Revolution on 1688. Objects on show include the famous painting, Portrait of Charles II in Coronation Robes, objects connected to Pepys’ mistresses including one of his love letters to Louise de Kéroualle (aka ‘Fubbs’ or ‘chubby’) and other personal items such as a lute owned by Pepys. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of events including Pepys Show Late: Party like it’s 1669 (26th November) and a series of walks and talks. Admission charge applies. The exhibition runs until 28th March. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum.

Cycles are in the spotlight at the Design Museum in Shad Thames with a new exhibition, Cycle Revolution, opening yesterday. The display, which focuses on the world of contemporary cycling, features dozens of bicycles from key manufacturers as well as high end accessories, items belonging to celebrated cyclists Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Paul Smith and specially commissioned films and photography. It looks at cycling subcultures – everyone from the “high performers” to the “cargo bikers”, examines manufacturing techniques and innovations in the use of materials and design with exhibits including a large scale recreation of a bespoke bicycle making workshop, and tackles questions about the future of cycling particularly in relation to the urban environment. The exhibition is being accompanied by a ‘cycle cafe’, large scale installations and a series of public events. Runs until 30th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.com.

The jewellery traditions of the Indian sub-continent are set to sparkle at a new exhibition opening at the V&A in South Kensington this Saturday. Part of the V&A India Festival, Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection features 100 items, drawn from a single private collection, including a Golconda diamond given to Queen Charlotte by the Nawab of Arcot in South India in 1767, a jade-hilted dagger that belonged to the 17th century emperor Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal), and a jewelled gold tiger’s head from the throne of the Tipu Sultan of Mysore. As well as showcasing the types of jewels collected by the Mughal emperors, the exhibition reveals the influence of India on European jewellery houses in the early 20th century and the ongoing impact of Indian influences on more modern pieces. The exhibition runs until 28th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/BejewelledTreasures.

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East-India-HouseThe headquarters of the East India Company, the ‘New’ East India House, was built in the 1720s at the corner of Leadenhall and Lime Streets on the site of what had been a late Elizabethan mansion known as Craven House.

The company, which was founded in 1600, was housed in several different properties (including Crosby Hall – now located at Chelsea) until it moved into Craven House in 1648 – built by a former Lord Mayor, Sir Robert Lee, and named after one of its later occupants Sir William Craven. In 1661 an ornamental wooden structure featuring paintings of some of the Company’s ships and a wooden sculpture of a seaman, was added to the facade of the building.

By the 1720s, the mansion was crumbling and so construction began on a new building on the site designed by Theodore Jacobsen (the Company was relocated to a temporary premises in Fenchurch Street while it was built).

The three storey building on Leadenhall Street was designed with five bays and beyond the facade featured grand meeting rooms including the Directors’ Court Room, offices for the directors as well as a hall, courtyard, garden and warehouses. Famous art works inside included the fresco The East Offering its Riches to Britannia by then little known Greek artist Spiradone RomaThe East Offering its Riches to Britannia which once adorned the ceiling of the Revenue Committee Room (it’s now in the collection of the British Library).

The building was renovated and extended significantly in the 1790s creating what was essentially a grand new neo-classical building. Among the new additions – although it seems a matter of some debate the building was apparently designed by Henry Holland with the work was overseen by the Company’s surveyor Richard Jupp until his death in 1799 – were a museum and library. A new pediment topped by Brittania dominated the facade.

When the East India Company was wound up in 1858 after the Indian Mutiny its assets were transferred to the government and the building briefly became home to the India Office (which subsequently moved to a new purpose-built building which still stands in Whitehall).

In 1861, the building was sold for redevelopment and subsequently demolished. Many of its fittings, art collection and furnishings were transferred elsewhere including the British Library, V&A and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall where many of the fittings of the Directors’ Court Room – including a great marble chimneypiece – were reused.

The location of the property is now covered by the landmark Lloyd’s building with little to indicate such a grand premises had once stood here.

PICTURE: The extended East India House in about 1800, by Thomas Malton the Younger (1748-1804)/via Wikipedia.

For more on the history of the East India Company, see John Keay’s The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company.

It’s Shakespeare month at St Paul’s Cathedral as the august London institution hosts a series of special addresses and music recitals in honour of the Bard’s 450th birthday. Kicking off this weekend, the events will see preachers considering Shakespeare’s life and work – particularly in relation to faith – in a weekly address at Sunday Evensong service while a series of voice and piano recitals will present various interpretations of his work through the music of some of Britain’s greatest composers. Shakespeare, the cathedral staff say, would have known the cathedral well – many printers, including his old Stratford friend Richard Field, were located in the Churchyard, and Shakespeare would have had to regularly journey past St Paul’s to have his plays registered at St John’s Gate. See www.stpauls.co.uk for a detailed programme of events.

The Kensington Gardens Allotment is hosting a free Harvest Festival this Sunday with activities including digging up potatoes and making ‘potato people’ as well as face painting, story telling and a mobile pet farm. Complementary hot and cold drinks will be provided (while stocks last, so don’t be late!). The day runs from 11am to 4pm. Meanwhile, Regent’s Park Allotment Gardens will host its own Harvest Festival on Sunday, 21st September. Along with live folk music, a children’s treasure hunt and the ‘guess the weight of the pumpkin’ competition, the day will also feature a specially-built pizza oven in which visitors will be invited to cook their own pizza. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.

The works of renowned 20th century photographer Horst P Horst (1906-1999) will feature in a new exhibition opening at the V&A in South Kensington this Saturday. Horst: Photographer of Style will feature 250 photographs alongside haute couture garments, magazines, film footage and other ephemera and explores Horst’s collaborations and friendships with the likes of Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward and Salvador Dali. Highlights include previously unpublished prints and more than 90 Vogue covers taken by Horst. Runs until 4th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/horst.