Plywood Triumphant!

PLYWOOD: MATERIAL OF THE MODERN WORLD, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7, until 12th November 2017

 

I am grateful to John Kirkwood to visiting and writing about this exhibition:

 

© John Kirkwood

Perhaps not surprisingly this is a world-first exhibition featuring as it does the many uses to which plywood has been put.

 

Like me, I’m sure you thought it was a twentieth century invention but apparently fragments of layered board have been found in Egyptian tombs – perhaps they thought if the mummies came back to life they might fancy a bit of DIY to amuse themselves – but it really came into its own in the late nineteenth century with the advent of mass production.

 

Plywood’s ubiquity has been embraced by furniture makers, manufacturers of surfboards and skateboards, designers, architects and engineers and this very interesting exhibition takes visitors through plywood’s many transformations from a cheap product to material prized by mid-century modernists and by today’s flourishing maker movement.

©John Kirkwood

I so enjoyed the exhibition that I left feeling that ‘plywood is my wood!’

 

http://www.vam.ac.uk

Garnitures at the V&A

Garnitures: Vase Sets from National Trust HousesV&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7, until 30th April 2017

Set of Chinese porcelain vases, 17th century, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Set of Chinese porcelain vases, 17th century,
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This exhibition is a partnership between the National Trust and the V&A and is well worth visiting.

It consists of a mixture of ceramic and silver vases that truly do reflect the wealth and taste of their original owners in the 17th to 19th centuries when the garniture had its heyday. Garnitures usually consist of an odd number of vases which are united by their decoration and they would be displayed symmetrically on mantelpieces, on door cases and on the top of furniture.

Covered pot-pourri vase from Upton House, Warwickshire, soft-paste porcelain, 1762 – 64, Chelsea factory, London, England. © National Trust. Photograph Robert Morris

Covered pot-pourri vase from Upton House, Warwickshire, soft-paste porcelain, 1762 – 64, Chelsea factory, London, England.
© National Trust. Photograph Robert Morris

The first such sets were made up from pieces of Chinese porcelain in the 17thcentury but eventually they were made as sets in both China and Japan and of course from the 18th century onwards by British and European porcelain factories.  The decline in the popularity of garnitures meant that many were split up – a Sevres set from Upton House proves this point – and so complete sets are rare nowadays.

Three-piece ‘Hamilton’ vases from Saltram, Devon, about 1770 – 80, black basalt, Wedgwood and Bentley, Etruria, Staffordshire, England. © National Trust. Photograph Robert Morris

Three-piece ‘Hamilton’ vases from Saltram, Devon, about 1770 – 80, black basalt, Wedgwood and Bentley, Etruria, Staffordshire, England.
© National Trust. Photograph Robert Morris

The National Trust’s External Adviser on Ceramics, Patricia Ferguson, who has worked alongside the V&A’s senior curator Reino Liefkes, said: : “This display promises to change the way you see historic vases; they were almost always designed to be part of a set”.  She is also the author of the accompanying V&A and National Trust exhibition book: Garnitures: Vase Sets from National Trust Houses.

Five-piece chimney garniture from Blickling Hall, about 1804 – 7, soft-paste porcelain, Barr, Flight and Barr factory, Worcester, England. © National Trust. Photograph Robert Morris

Five-piece chimney garniture from Blickling Hall, about 1804 – 7, soft-paste porcelain, Barr, Flight and Barr factory, Worcester, England.
© National Trust. Photograph Robert Morris

vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/garnitures

Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery

Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery, V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7, until 5th February 2017

Opus Anglicanum Installation View (c) Victoria and Albert Museum

Opus Anglicanum
Installation View
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

The V&A’s world-class collections combined with works returning to these shores for the first time since they were made in the Middle Ages make this a truly spectacular exhibition and one that captures the imagination.  Many of the objects have associations with notable figures such as the murdered Saint Thomas Becket, the Black Prince and Edward I and his consort Eleanor of Castile.

The Chichester Constable Chasuble ca. 1335-45 Image copyright: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Art Resource Scala Florence

The Chichester Constable Chasuble ca. 1335-45
Image copyright: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Art Resource Scala Florence

England was the leading producer of luxury embroideries from the Twelfth to the Fifteenth centuries and counted Popes, Cardinals, Kings and Queens among its patrons. The Latin phrase ‘opus anglicanum’ means ‘English work’ and was first used in the 13th century to describe the ravishing and desirable silk embroideries which were hand-made, using gold and silver threads, in London, usually by women.

The Dunstable Swan Jewel, ca. 1400 c The Trustees of the British Museum

The Dunstable Swan Jewel, ca. 1400
c The Trustees of the British Museum

The hundred plus objects in this show includes examples of both ecclesiastical and secular pieces. Some of the earlier ecclesiastical have survived because they were interred during the burials of the bishops or abbots who wore them. Secular examples did not fare so well as they were either discarded as fashions changed or wore out but records show that there was a demand for them.  This exhibition has some rare survivals of secular work, including some with links to the Plantagenet English Kings.

Part of a horse trapper 1330-40. Photo c_RMN-Grand_Palais Paris, musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen Âge.

Part of a horse trapper 1330-40.
Photo c_RMN-Grand_Palais Paris, musée de Cluny – musée national du Moyen Âge.

Alongside the embroideries you will find other period works in varying media such as manuscripts, sculpture, metalwork and panel paintings which emphasise the connection in the artistic output of the times. The exhibition also considers the impact of the English Reformation on these textiles and the revival of interest in the 19th century.

The Steeple Aston Cope (detail) Date: 1310-40 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum

The Steeple Aston Cope (detail)
Date: 1310-40
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

The exhibition’s co-curator Glyn Davies sums it up saying: “As a historian, the opportunity to see all these objects, normally scattered across museums and cathedral treasuries in Europe and North America, together in one place is thrilling. We are grateful to all lenders that have generously agreed to loan works for this exhibition. England enjoyed an international reputation for the quality of its embroidery. This exhibition shows English art on a European stage.”

His co-curator and textiles specialist Clare Browne adds: “The exquisite attention to detail in these embroidered works makes them not just impressive examples of craftsmanship and luxury materials, but vivid glimpses of life both in reality and in the medieval imagination. From the grim torture of martyred saints to a mother’s tender swaddling of her new-born baby, scenes are depicted with a meticulous precision that the sophisticated embroidery techniques made possible.”

As I said at the beginning this is an exhibition that stirs the imagination and the sight of these embroideries stirs the mind and soul as much today as it must have in medieval times.

 

The Syon Cope Date: 1310-1320 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum

The Syon Cope
Date: 1310-1320
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

Support generously provided by The Ruddock Foundation for the Arts

 

vam.ac.uk/opus | #OpusAnglicanum

Photography: Martin Parr, Paul Strand et al

Unseen City, Guildhall Art Gallery, London EC2, until 31st July 2016

TheDrapers' Livery 650thAnniversary, TheQueen visiting the Drapers' Livery Hall 2014. © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

TheDrapers’ Livery 650thAnniversary, TheQueen visiting the Drapers’ Livery Hall 2014.
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

The noted Magnum photographer Martin Parr has been the photographer-in-residence for the City of London since 2013 and this engaging exhibition reveals both front of house and behind the scenes glimpses into City occasions and events.

Lord Mayor’s Show, Guildhall, City of London, 2014. © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

Lord Mayor’s Show, Guildhall, City of London, 2014.
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

 

cityoflondon.gov.uk/martinparr

www.martinparr.com

 

 Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, Barbican Art Gallery, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2, until 19th June 2016

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers Curated by Martin Parr Installation View Barbican Art Gallery, London © Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers
Curated by Martin Parr
Installation View
Barbican Art Gallery, London
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Curated by Martin Parr, this exhibition features the work of some twenty-three international photographers dating from the 1930s onwards and provides fascinating glimpses into British life, be they social, cultural or political.  While some of the images were perhaps familiar to me the show is still worth seeing because it shows how much this country and life in it has changed over the decades and will be a revelation to generations younger than mine.

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers Curated by Martin Parr Installation View Barbican Art Gallery, London © Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers
Curated by Martin Parr
Installation View
Barbican Art Gallery, London
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

The photographers featured are: Tina Barney (USA), Gian Butturini (Italy), Henri Cartier-Bresson (France), Bruce Davidson (USA), Raymond Depardon (France), Rineke Dijkstra (The Netherlands), Jim Dow (USA), Hans Eijkelboom (The Netherlands), Robert Frank (Switzerland),Bruce Gilden (USA), Frank Habicht (Germany), Candida Höfer (Germany), Evelyn Hofer (Germany), Axel Hütte(Germany), Sergio Larrain (Chile), Shinro Ohtake (Japan),Akihiko Okamura (Japan), Cas Oorthuys (The Netherlands), Gilles Peress (France), Paul Strand (USA),Edith Tudor-Hart (Austria), Hans van der Meer (The Netherlands) and Garry Winogrand (USA).

 

www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery

 

Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century, V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 until 3rd July 2016

 

Installation view of Paul Strand at the V&A, 19 March - 3 July 2016 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Installation view of Paul Strand at the V&A, 19 March – 3 July 2016
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This rather special exhibition traces the life of this highly talented American photographer through photographic prints, films, notebooks, sketches and even his cameras.  Although primarily thought of as an American photographer this exhibition in the words of its curator Martin Barnes “challenges the popular perception of Strand as primarily a photographer of American places and people of the early 20th century” as he was in fact an international photographer as can be seen through images taken in Italy, France Romania and South Uist.

Installation view of Paul Strand at the V&A, 19 March - 3 July 2016 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Installation view of Paul Strand at the V&A, 19 March – 3 July 2016
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

vam.ac.uk

Botticelli – two London exhibitions

Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection, The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2, until 15thMay 2016

Sandro Botticelli Centre of Hell. The full figure of Lucifer (Divine Comedy, Inferno XXXIV,2), around 1481-1495, Pen and brown ink over metal pen on parchment, 63,2 x 46,3 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Philipp Allard

Sandro Botticelli
Centre of Hell. The full figure of Lucifer (Divine Comedy, Inferno XXXIV,2), around 1481-1495,
Pen and brown ink over metal pen on parchment, 63,2 x 46,3 cm
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Philipp Allard

In 1882 the 12th Duke of Hamilton sold the collection of drawings by Sandro Botticelli which depicted scenes from Dante’s Divine Comedy as well as almost all his fabled collection of illuminated manuscripts to the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett (Prints and Drawings Museum).

Sandro Botticelli Dante and Beatrice in the second planetary sphere of Paradise (Divine Comedy, Paradiso VI), around 1481-1495, Pen and brown ink over metal pen on parchment, 32,5 x 47,6 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Philipp Allard

Sandro Botticelli
Dante and Beatrice in the second planetary sphere of Paradise (Divine Comedy, Paradiso VI), around 1481-1495,
Pen and brown ink over metal pen on parchment, 32,5 x 47,6 cm
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Philipp Allard

Now we are fortunate – and I do emphasise that – to have some thirty of them in this exhibition alongside some of the illuminated manuscripts including the stunning Hamilton Bible, which appears in Raphael’s portrait of Pope Leo X in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Cristoforo Orimina Genesis (in the so called “Hamilton-Bible”), around 1350-60 book illumination and gold on parchment, 37,5 x 26,5 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Jörg P. Anders

Cristoforo Orimina
Genesis (in the so called “Hamilton-Bible”), around 1350-60
book illumination and gold on parchment, 37,5 x 26,5 cm
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Jörg P. Anders

Dating from 1480-1495 Botticelli’s drawings on vellum depict scenes from the three parts of Dante’s work. In Hell and Purgatory Dante is guided by Virgil but in Paradise he is led by his beloved Beatrice. These are powerful, exquisite works and the suffering and torment depicted in the first two parts might serve as a reminder to mend our own ways where necessary.

courtauld.ac.uk

 

 

Botticelli Reimagined, V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 until 3rd July 2016

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This is certainly a major show covering a period of some five hundred years and includes some fifty works by Sandro Botticelli himself. Rather strangely in my opinion the exhibition starts in a rather glitzy Global, Modern, Contemporary Section which features a whole variety of works, including scenes from Dr No and the The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which are inspired by Botticelli’s painting the Birth of Venus.

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Botticelli was rather neglected in the three hundred years after his death but was re-discovered in the 19th century by artists of the Pre-Raphaelite group, some of whom acquired his works, and thus the second section features works by Burne-Jones, Rossetti and William Morris which reflect this interest as well as paintings by Degas and Gustave Moreau.

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Installation view of Botticelli Reimagined
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The third and final section Botticelli in his Own Time takes us to the master himself. There are some fine works, including five Divine Comedy drawings, to be enjoyed. Among the paintings is The Mystic Nativity, his only signed and dated painting and Portrait of a Lady known as Smeralda Bandinelli (c. 1470-5) which was once owned by Rossetti. I do wonder whether the stark white walls of this section were the right foil for these works and whether the layout is a bit cramped but having said that this is a memorable exhibition for the right reasons. Botticelli certainly still reigns!

vam.ac.uk

Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh: Public Faces, Private Lives, Treasurer’s House, York, until 20 December 2015

The original costumes standing proud in the historic hall © National Trust / North News Agency

The original costumes standing proud in the historic hall
© National Trust / North News Agency

Vivien Leigh was theatrical royalty in Britain before going to Hollywood to undertake the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind – the role with which she is most closely associated along with her later incarnation of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Keith Lodwick, Curator, Department of Theatre and Performance, Victoria and Albert Museum, London finishing the hang in the Streetcar Named Desire room © National Trust / North News Agency

Keith Lodwick, Curator, Department of Theatre and Performance, Victoria and Albert Museum, London finishing the hang in the Streetcar Named Desire room
© National Trust / North News Agency

She is the subject of this exhibition, organised by the V&A, in the historic setting of Treasurer’s House in York, the former home of early 20th century businessman Frank Green, who had a passion for the arts, especially theatre.  Although there has been a small touring exhibition this is the first major display of objects from Vivien Leigh’s personal collection since her private archive of more than 10,000 items was acquired from her family in 2013 by the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Keith Lodwick, Curator, Department of Theatre and Performance, Victoria and Albert Museum, London checking out the names in the guest book of from the Olivier home © National Trust / North News Agency

Keith Lodwick, Curator, Department of Theatre and Performance, Victoria and Albert Museum, London checking out the names in the guest book of from the Olivier home
© National Trust / North News Agency

Her romance with Laurence Olivier scandalised society even though they later married and she became Lady Olivier when Sir Laurence was knighted. Lettters written to Leigh by luminaries such as Sir Winston Churchill, Bette Davis, Tennessee Williams, The Queen Mother and a young Judi Dench at the beginning of her own career can be seen alongside love letters written by Leigh to Olivier

Keith Lodwick, Curator, Department of Theatre and Performance, Victoria and Albert Museum, London getting into the frame with one of the stereoscopic images in the slide show room © National Trust / North News Agency

Keith Lodwick, Curator, Department of Theatre and Performance, Victoria and Albert Museum, London getting into the frame with one of the stereoscopic images in the slide show room
© National Trust / North News Agency

As well as the Becoming Scarlett section there are other dresses she wore, annotated scripts and a number of stereoscopic colour photographs which give us a unique glimpse into her world – some are part of a 3D slide show. The exhibition is a thrilling reminder of a wonderful, if complex, actress whose contribution to twentieth century theatre and film remains undimmed.

 

Visit the website for opening days and times. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/treasurershouse or telephone 01904 624247.

Celebrating Design in London

LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL 2015, 19th-27th September 2015

‘A Bullet From A Shooting Star’ by Alex Chinneck supported by Knight Dragon, image courtesy of the London Design Festival

‘A Bullet From A Shooting Star’ by Alex Chinneck supported by Knight Dragon,
image courtesy of the London Design Festival

This promises to be a great week celebrating design from the UK and around the world in various areas of London.  The seven official areas are: Chelsea Design Quarter, Clerkenwell Design Quarter, Islington Design District, Shoreditch Design Triangle, Brompton Design District, Queens Park Design District and the new Bankside Design District, Bankside, which includes Southwark, Waterloo and Borough.

Alex Rasmussen 10 Designers in the West Wing Somerset House

Alex Rasmussen
10 Designers in the West Wing
Somerset House

Somerset House is an important destination too during this week as the Director of the Somerset House, Jonathan Reekie CBE explains: “Somerset House embraces a broad range of cultural activity including music, fashion, film and photography and design is a very important part of this mix. As well as being both a stimulating environment in which many designers and makers work we also are an important public platform for the best in contemporary design through our exhibitions and events. With strong links to the design community, we are pleased to present a number of projects as part of the Design Festival and look forward to working with them over the upcoming year to create new opportunities to bring design in all its manifestations to the heart of London and to a new audience.”

Robin Day working on the Q-stak Chair (1953) Robin Day designed this one-piece moulded plywood chair with economy in mind. Credit: The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation

Robin Day working on the Q-stak Chair (1953)
Robin Day designed this one-piece moulded plywood chair with economy in mind.
Credit: The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation

The V&A Museum is another centre during the Festival and here you will discover a ‘forest’ of timber columns, designed by Turner Prize nominees Assemble, which celebrates the centenary of the birth of the designer Robin Day. This installation Robin Day Works in Wood looks at Day’s early years in High Wycombe, a centre of furniture making set among beech woodlands and highlights his relationship with wood and his use of it through various processes.

 Zotem by Kim Thome with Swarovski. Image by Mark Cocksedge

Zotem by Kim Thome with Swarovski.
Image by Mark Cocksedge

You will also discover Zotem a double-sided monolith that rises 18 metres studded with 600 specially made Swarovski crystals designed by the London-based designer Kim Thomé.

Artona dining set by Afra and Tobia Scarpa The Moderns at Alfies

Artona dining set by Afra and Tobia Scarpa
The Moderns at Alfies

On September 24th Alfies Antique Market (NW8) are having a special day  consisting of talks, exhibitions, demonstrations and workshops celebrating iconic design through the ages (see their website for more details).

 

londondesignfestival.com

http://www.alfiesantiques.com