Visit London Blog » exhibitions Enjoy the very best of London Fri, 22 May 2015 17:44:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mughal India: Highlights From the British Library Exhibition Wed, 12 Dec 2012 13:00:40 +0000

Having just returned from a three-week trip to northern India, the British Library‘s latest exhibition makes me all nostalgic.

It is the first comprehensive look at the art of the Mughals, a dynasty whose empire spanned much of the Indian subcontinent during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As Muslims from Persia who ruled over a Hindu majority, the Mughals did not crush their Indian subjects, but fused their artistic skills and resources together, producing iconic creations like the Taj Mahal.

On my visit to India, it was impossible to visit any place in the romantic desert state of Rajasthan, or even in hectic and maddening Delhi, without stumbling across art and architecture that tells the story of the Mughals and their power struggles, romance and deep regard for the arts, as well as their eventual decline when the British came along in the 1800s.

Building an Empire

You’re bound to recognise the subject of this drawing in the exhibition, created in 1812-15. The Taj Mahal is one of the most well-known monuments in the world, and I’m happy to say it deserves its reputation as the most beautiful. The Mughals were prolific builders of forts, palaces and monuments and this legacy marks local people today – the Taj Mahal is maintained by descendants of the original 20,000 craftspeople who worked on its site in Agra for 22 years to create the breathtakingly symetrical building, a monument for Mumtaz Mahal, the late queen of the emperor Shah Jahan.

Fathers and Sons

Emperor Shah Jahan, famous for building the Taj Mahal, is pictured in this painting greeting his son Aurangzeb at the court or durbar in 1650-1655. Court rituals such as this demonstrate the complex hierarchy of life at court, but just a few years later Aurangzeb overthrew his father and imprisoned him for the rest of his life in Agra Fort, where he could only gaze at the Taj Mahal from a distance.





One of the first successful British missions to India was that of the ambassador Sir Thomas Roe. His journal entries from 1616 make a rare appearance in the British Library exhibition. Roe was presented to the fourth Mughal emperor Jahangir on 10 January 1616 and described him as “very merrie and joyfull” in the journal.



Final Days

Monuments like Delhi’s Red Fort, pictured in this painting, are legacies of Mughal creativity but also tell the story of Britain and India. This artwork was created in the dying days of the dynasty 1846. In 1857, the last Mughal emperor was dethroned here by the British.

Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire is at the British Library until 2 April. Tickets are £9 with reductions for concessions, seniors and students.

]]> 0
Coming Soon to the Royal Academy of Arts Thu, 01 Nov 2012 16:55:58 +0000

This morning, the Royal Academy of Arts announced its exhibition programme for 2013. With such a remarkable year behind it, including the blockbuster David Hockney exhibition, expectations for the coming year’s exhibitions are high. So what can art lovers look forward to?

The 2013 programme will be a world tour of art, with exhibitions by artists from Japan, France, USA, Mexico  and Australia, as well as the UK. Upcoming exhibitions include:

  • Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape: Explore the development of British landscape painting through work by three of the greatest British landscape painters. 8 Dec-17 Feb
  • Mariko Mori: Rebirth: A solo exhibition of work by New York-based Japanese artist Mariko Mori, showing sequential work centred on the death and birth of a star. Includes photography, sound work, sculpture and immersive installations.13 Dec-17 Feb
  • Manet: Portraying Life: A major exhibition of Edouard Manet’s portraiture, examining the relationship between his portrait painting and themes of modern life. 26 Jan-14 Apr
  • George Bellows (1882-1925): The first ever retrospective of American realist painter George Bellows. Although not well known in the UK, at the time of his death he was considered to be one of the greatest American artists. 16 Mar- 9 Jun
  • Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910-1940: An exhibition examining the intense 30 year period of artist creativity that took place in Mexico at the beginning of the 20th Century. 6 Jul-29 Sep
  • Australia: A survey covering 200 years of Australian art, including more than 180 paintings, prints, drawings, watercolours, photographs and multimedia works. 21 Sep- 8 Dec

Find out more about the exhibitions

]]> 0
Art of Change: New Directions from China at Hayward Gallery Wed, 05 Sep 2012 16:33:45 +0000 Xu Zhen, In Just a Blink of an Eye (2005/2012), ©the artist 2012,  Photo: Linda Nylind Liang Shaoji, Bed /Nature Series No.10  (1993-1999), ©the artist 2012, Image courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery Chen Zhen, Purification Room (2000/2012), ©the artist 2012, Photo Linda Nylind

This morning I attended the preview for the Hayward Gallery’s new exhibition Art of Change: New Directions from China, which opens on Friday.

The exhibition shows performance art or installations by eight contemporary Chinese artists on the theme of change.

Art of Change is certainly one of the most unusual and interactive shows I’ve seen at the Hayward Gallery. All the works are in a state of change, allowing the artists to explore notions of impermanence and transformation.

The first installation is a piece of gym equipment which you can move yourself via remote control. In the next room, a performer tucks herself into a sleeping bag on a shelf, while another pokes her head through a shelf.

It soon became clear that we were not alone – striped pyjama-clad performers were silently following some of us around the gallery, stopping patiently when we paused to read, and following quickly when we changed direction.

The real “wow” moments for me are Xu Zhen’s In Just a Blink of an Eye, where a person seemingly floats in mid-air. This was the one that got people talking – “is it a real person,” “how do they do that?” It is a real person, although I didn’t see him blink or even breathe.

Liang Shaoji’s Nature Series is another highlight: a room full of items around which silkworms have spun their cocoons, from giant chains to tiny bed wire bed frame. There’s also a darkened room where you can sit on a cushion and “listen to zen,” the sound of silkworms eating and spinning. You even see live silkworms in the next room.

The upper and lower galleries have a more sombre tone. Here you can see a room of work by controversial duo Peng Yu and Sun Yuan, including a four metre tall tower made of human fat siphoned off during liposuction, and a room of objects covered in mud by the late Chen Zhen.

There’s also a digital archive where you can find out more about each of the artists in the exhibition, and about the development of installation and performance art in China from 1979 to the present.

Art of Change: New Directions from China is at the Hayward Gallery from 7 September to 9 December 2012

]]> 0
London’s Top Free Olympic Exhibitions Mon, 09 Jul 2012 09:30:42 +0000

The Olympic Games aren’t just about victory at the finish line – creativity and design have played a part in making the ultimate sporting event in the world happen. Make sure you celebrate the artists and engineers involved as well as the athletes by visiting one of these top Olympic exhibitions this summer. They’re all free.

Design Stories and After the Party at RIBA
The Royal Institute of British Architects is putting on two Olympic exhibitions to toast the architecture behind the Games. Design Stories: The Architecture Behind 2012 explores the ideas and complex engineering behind the brand new Olympic venues like the Aquatics Centre. It compiles drawings, images, videos and detailed models. The second exhibition, After the Party: The Legacy of Celebration, compares the UK’s Olympic buildings to efforts for previous Olympic Games and celebrations and asks what happens to monuments celebrating events after all the hoopla has passed. 
Design Stories: 25 Jun-21 Sep
After The Party: 25 Jun-5 Oct

Road to 2012 at the National Portrait Gallery
None of the glory on the track and court would be possible without all the work behind the scenes of the Olympic Games. This free series of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery features not only the athletes but people who have put the event together, such as apprentices from the Olympic Park and the team that led the bid for London to hold the Games. It’s the final part of  the BT Road to 2012 project which has commissioned leading photographers to document the build up to the event. Katherine Green’s images of sports communities in London’s East End sit alongside the display. 
19 Jul-23 Sep

The Olympic Journey at the Royal Opera House
For two weeks only, an impressive collection of Olympic artefacts will set up camp at the Royal Opera House for The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games. The exhibition traces the evolution of the Olympic Games from the ancient Greek games 3,000 years ago. The highlight has to be seeing every single summer Olympic medal since 1896 and every summer Olympic torch since 1936. 
28 Jul-12 Aug

London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Posters at Tate Britain
The posters for the Olympic Games have always reflected the art – and the mood – of the city that hosts them. Artists like Tracey Emin and Chris Ofili are among the 12 to put their mark on the official posters for London 2012. Screen prints and lithographs of their creations will be among those on show at Tate Britain as part of the London 2012 Festival.
21 Jun-23 Sep

Olympics Through the Ages at Westfield Stratford City
Award-winning photography will showcase iconic sporting moments at this exhibition in the Getty Images Gallery. Taking place within walking distance from the Olympic Park, it looks at the Olympic Games through a camera lens – from the first modern event in Athens in 1896 through to Beijing in 2008. 
27 Jun-30 Sep

What will be the most iconic image from the London 2012 Olympic Games? Comment below and let us know.

]]> 2
Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style at The Barbican Fri, 06 Jul 2012 14:46:09 +0000

Bond is back and this time he’s at The Barbican. Designing 007: Fifty Years of  Bond Style is an exhibition celebrating the world’s most illustrious spy, who first appeared on our screens in 1962.

On display are Bond gadgets, costumes, set designs, props, weapons, artwork and stunts; all of which help to create the world of James Bond on screen. 

There are impressive full-size models such as Jill Masterson’s golden-sprayed body from 1964’s Goldfinger and scenery from recent Bond movie, Casino Royale. I especially loved the bikinis worn by Ursula Andress and Halle Berry in Dr No and Die Another Day respectively, and the Golden Gun from The Man with the Golden Gun.

Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style at The Barbican until 5 September 2012

]]> 0
Scott’s Last Expedition at the Natural History Museum Mon, 05 Mar 2012 15:06:19 +0000

Scott’s Last Expedition at the Natural History Museum offers a fascinating insight into the explorer’s doomed journey to the South Pole.

The exhibition, which runs until September, promises to go beyond the familiar tales of Robert Falcon Scott’s three-year journey to the South Pole (1910 to 1913) and it doesn’t disappoint.

The focus is on the everyday stories and activities of the people who took part, their scientific work and unforgettable human endurance. Visitors can easily spend a couple of hours in the exhibition, reading about everything from the mammoth task of planning the trip to the heart wrenching words of Scott’s final diary entries.

In planning the Terra Nova expedition, Scott had to approach dozens of sponsors who he hoped would help fund the trip. Some lent financial support, while others provided some of the many tonnes of provisions that were loaded onboard for the epic trip. There are detailed log books of the supplies that were packed onto the crowded vessel, as well as footage of how they unloaded it all on arrival in Antarctica.

The exhibition then moves into a reconstruction of the hut where Scott and his men lived for much of their time in this inhospitable part of the world. Once inside, you get to see exactly where the men slept, ate and passed the many days that they spent there.

In most people’s minds, Scott is known as the ultimate explorer, but perhaps what is less well known is just how much scientific research was done while the men were away. The ambitious programme covered a broad range of specialisms including meteorology, zoology and geography. The exhibition features a lot of this work and emphasizes the significance of the discoveries made, even to this day.

Had Scott lived to tell his tale, his experience would have still been overshadowed by the success of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who beat the British team to the Pole by a month. Curators have compared the two missions, highlighting what might have made the Norwegian efforts more successful.

This extremely moving exhibition, which marks the centenary of Scott reaching the pole and his tragic death, features over 200 rare specimens and original artefacts. Many items, such as clothing, skis, food, tools and diaries are being shown together for the first time.

Scott’s Last Expedition at the Natural History Museum until 1 September 2012. Book tickets

]]> 2
David Hockney: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts Mon, 23 Jan 2012 15:49:04 +0000

If you manage to get your hands on tickets for David Hockney: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts, you are in for a treat.

David Hockney is one of Britain’s finest and most-loved artists. He was asked to take part in this exhibition almost five years ago, after the Royal Academy of Arts realised they could base a whole exhibition on his most recent works. 

The paintings are mainly local landscapes created in Hockney’s native Yorkshire. Many of the 150 paintings on display were made within the last eight years and various mediums and media have been used. Some of the most interesting on display are his iPad paintings, depicting glorious landscapes and effectively replacing the traditional sketchbook.

Some huge paintings have been done using several canvases. “Winter Timber, 2009″ is one example: an oil painting on 15 canvases.  Others are individual paintings filling an entire wall and again, the vivid colours pop out and bring the room to life. 

Some of my favourite paintings on display were inspired by memories from Hockney’s childhood, as well as his recent recollections and they present an extraordinary collection.  The landscapes seem real yet we know they contain an element of the imagined.

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts until 9 April 2012

]]> 0
Dickens and London Exhibition at Museum of London Wed, 07 Dec 2011 16:00:10 +0000 Winter, Christmas and Charles Dickens just seem to go together so this morning was the perfect time to visit the Dickens and London exhibition at Museum of London, before it opens on Friday.

Dickens often walked the streets of London at night to piece together ideas for stories and characters. This exhibition takes you on a similar tour of Dickensian London, showing how the city he called his “magic lantern” inspired his famous tales.

Like any Dickens novel, there’s plenty of information about the grimy, poverty-stricken side of London in the 1800s. But there are also cheerier aspects on display, such as a beautiful painting of people enjoying Hyde Park in the summer, strolling, relaxing and playing – just like Londoners do today.

My favourite exhibits were:

  • Handwritten letters by Charles Darwin, plus one of his own inkwells
  • A display of period doorknockers (straight out of A Christmas Carol!)
  • Dickens’ writing desk and chair

Also, Museum of London have added to their excellent app collection with Dickens: Dark London, a gorgeous-looking, graphic novel app, with monthly additions, available from 9 December.

Dickens and London, Museum of London, 9 Dec-10 Jun (admission charge). Get two-for-one entry to Dickens and London with our special offer

Please Sir, Can I Have Some More….

Celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens in 2012 with more Dickens-themed activities in London:

  • The Charles Dickens Museum: See where the author lived between 1837 and 1839
  • Meet Ebenezer Scrooge: Visit one of Dickens’ most famous characters in the grottos of Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands between 27 December and 1 January, and win a prize if you can cheer him up!
  • The British Library: Charles Dickens and the Supernatural examines how Dickens used supernatural phenomena in his stories. Until 4 March
  • BFI Southbank: Dickens on Film showcases archive footage of classic Dickens adaptations and examines his contribution to film and television history. 15 December
  • Charles Dicken’s London: Our guide to the London landmarks featured in Charles Dickens’ novels
]]> 0
Degas and the Ballet at the Royal Academy of Arts Tue, 27 Sep 2011 17:00:30 +0000

For anyone who grew up wanting to be a ballet dancer, there is a stunning exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts that will bring those childhood dreams alive: Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement.

The extensive collection features more than 85 paintings and sculptures of dancers, many of whom were ballet dancers based at the Paris Opéra during the late 1800s.  Edgar Degas was known as the Painter of Dancers and he was fascinated by the study of movement, especially that of dancers bodies.

His works show ballet dancers rehearsing in the studio, performing on stage and preparing off stage. Degas interprets them in such an intimate way that you feel you are also in the room. 

Some of my favourite pieces include Dancers in Blue and Three Dancers, as well as Degas’ famous bronze sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. The latter is based on a series of 20 drawings of a live model from different angles – a technique known as photosculpture.

Degas also experimented with photography, which was a fairly new medium at the time, and three of his only known photographs are displayed at the exhibition.

Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement at the Royal Academy of Arts until the 11 Dec 2011. Book tickets

]]> 2
Lucian Freud Portraits to open at London’s National Portrait Gallery in 2012 Tue, 20 Sep 2011 10:32:25 +0000 London’s National Portrait Gallery will host a major Lucian Freud exhibition next year to coincide with the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The gallery’s director Sandy Nairne wanted to “invite one of our very, very best artists to make a very special exhibition”. He approached Freud, who “responded extremely warmly and positively to that proposition”.

Unfortunately Freud died in July, but Nairne says this is not a retrospective but an exhibition made “in close collaboration with Lucian Freud”.

There’ll be more than 100 works on show, including portraits of:

  • Freud’s mother Lucie
  • Artists Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon and David Hockney
  • Performance artist Leigh Bowery
  • Bowery’s friend Sue Tilley, the “Benefits Supervisor”

Lucian Freud Portraits is at the National Portrait Gallery from 9 February to 27 May 2012 and is part of the London 2012 Festival

]]> 0