White Cube made a positive step towards returning to post lockdown normality by responsibly re-opening both London gallery spaces in mid June with reduced opening hours and pre-booked timed visiting slots to enable social distancing and avoid queues. The Bermondsey space is host to Cerith Wyn Evans’ ‘No realm of thought… No field of vision’ featuring light and glass installations, sculpture and painting. Two neon works produced in Krypton gas greet you in the corridor – one shaped like a cube and the other a bow-tie – immediately suggestive of Evans’ interest in mechanics, shape, form and perspective that are the backbone of this exhibition. As you peel away from the corridor, a gallery to the right houses multiple hanging mobiles constructed from cracked vehicle window screens that revolve subtly, refracting light as it hits them. A gallery to the left displays two tress rotating on turntables so slowly it is barely perceptible with spotlights creating kinetic shadows on the walls, accompanied by four new paintings of simple black brushstrokes across each canvas. Striking as these installations are, your attention is stolen by the next space housing a mesmerising neon sculpture suspended from the ceiling, inspired by drawings of the first helicopter designed in 1907 as well as the artists own inaugural neon commission. The prodigious gallery at the end of the corridor continues to impress with an oversized neon screen of Japanese kanji characters; a translation of a passage from ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ written in 1921-22 by Marcel Proust, describing the movement of water through an 18th century fountain. This is flanked by numerous other neon and sound works, including ‘Composition of Flutes’ and ‘Pli S=E=L=O=N Pli’ which suspend from the ceiling or emit out of sync piano compositions or pulsating tones; the perfect soundtrack to these beautifully tangled works.
In addition to the museums and galleries mentioned in my last post, more venues are re-opening and announcing their plans for the coming weeks. All of the safety measures mentioned in my last blog are applicable to these venues, and all require pre-booking online in advance of any visit (including for members and corporate supporters), helping to ensure safe access to the arts across the city.
The Wallace Collection is now open to again, welcoming visitors seven days per week with revised opening hours from 11am to 3pm. There is a one way route through the historic rooms and collection, and their temporary exhibition ‘Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company’ will re-open on 29 July. The cloakroom and café remain closed, but there is a coffee cart outside the main entrance and the shop is open but taking payment by contactless/card only.
Dulwich Picture Gallery re-opened its gardens alongside the café for takeaway and a pop-up shop from Saturday 4 July, allowing the public to safely enjoy their three acres of outdoor space and the exterior of the building designed by Sir John Soane.
Historic Royal Palaces who look after six sites are also re-opening their indoor and outdoor spaces. From Friday 10 July The Tower of London started welcoming visitors again and will be open on Wednesday to Sunday from 11am until 6pm, with last admission at 5pm. Hampton Court Palace will re-open with the exception of the Magic Garden and Maze from Friday 17 July, on Wednesday to Sunday from 10.30am until 5pm. Kensington Palace will welcome visitors again from Thursday 30 July and will be open to the public on Wednesday to Sunday from 10.30am until 5pm. Banqueting House and Kew Palace however will remain closed until March 2021.
Charles Dickens Museum will be re-opening on Saturday 25 July, with revised opening hours of Friday to Sunday from 10am until 5pm (with last admission at 4pm). All rooms will be open as well as the shop, toilets and walled garden, however the café will remain closed in order to follow social distancing requirements.
The Design Museum will partially open to the public again from Friday 31 July, allowing visitors to see their temporary exhibition ‘Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers’. In addition to tickets being booked in advance of visiting, they will also be timed with a maximum of 1 hour 30 minutes. Face coverings are also compulsory and they advise bringing your own headphones to enjoy the multi-media elements.
The Natural History Museum will be welcoming visitors again from Wednesday 5 August. They will be closed every Monday and Tuesday, and open on Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm with last entry at 5pm.
The V&A will be re-opening the following day, on Thursday 6 August. They will operating with reduced opening hours and open on Thursday to Sunday from 11am until 3pm, and then increasing opening hours from 27 August when they will be open Thursday to Sunday from 11am until 7pm.
The Science Museum will also be open again from Wednesday 19 August, daily from 10am until 6pm, offering access to Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery exploring how science and maths shape our everyday lives and Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries showcasing 3,000 medical objects and related commissioned artworks.
Image: The Great Gallery © The Trustees of the Wallace Collection
Following the government’s announcement that museums and galleries can re-open from 4 July, several have been busy preparing themselves for responsibly welcoming the public back to their spaces with additional measures in place to ensure the safety of both visitors and staff. Every museum or gallery will now be:
- asking all visitors (including members) to pre-book online in advance of their visit
- limiting visitor numbers to avoid queues and enable social distancing
- putting one-way routes in place throughout their spaces
- ensuring access to anti-viral products, hand sanitiser (and optional face masks at some venues)
- removing or making any interactive touch screens inaccessible
- ensuring access to toilet facilities and staff on hand to manage queues
- many have also reduced their opening hours, so check ahead of making any plans
From Wednesday 8 July The National Gallery will re-open daily from 11am until 4pm, and until 9pm on Fridays. You can opt to book either ‘Gallery entry’ giving you access to their permanent collection only or ‘Gallery entry & Titian’ allowing access to their temporary exhibition on the great Italian Renaissance painter, which is on display until 17 January 2021. The National Portrait Gallery will remain closed until spring 2023 as it undergoes essential building works and a major redevelopment.
The Royal Academy will be opening its’ doors the following day on Thursday 9 July to Friends of The RA, and to the general public from 16 July. It will be closed on Monday to Wednesday each week, and open on Thursday to Sunday from 11am until 4pm. Their current blockbuster is ‘Picasso on Paper’ featuring studies for the masterpiece Guernica and over 300 works on paper spanning the artists’ eighty year career.
Monday 13 July will see Barbican partially re-open. Again visitor numbers to the Art Gallery will be limited and access will be via their Silk Street entrance only. Their current exhibition ‘Masculinities: Liberation through Photography’ will be on display until 23 August featuring works by over fifty artists including Laurie Anderson, Isaac Julien, Catherine Opie and Sunil Gupta.
Whitechapel Gallery will be welcoming visitors again from Tuesday 14 July from 11am until 6pm, each day except Monday. Visitors can choose to book to visit the Free Displays or the current temporary exhibition ‘Radical Figures: Painting in the new Millennium’ until 30 August displaying figurative works by Daniel Richter, Cecily Brown, Michael Armitage, Ryan Mosely and Nicole Eisenman amongst others.
The Photographers’ Gallery will also be re-opening on Tuesday 14 July from 11am until 7pm, but will be closed on Sundays and Mondays. Current exhibitions will be on until 20 September and comprise the ‘Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2020’ showcasing works by this years’ finalists; Mohamed Bourouissa, Anton Kusters, Mark Neville and Clare Strand, as well as a solo show by Czech photographer Jan Svoboda.
On Thursday 16 July Somerset House will re-open parts of their site. The main courtyard will be open daily from 10.00am until 7pm, with refreshments available for takeaway only between 12pm and 6pm. Their exhibition ‘Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fughi’ will also be open from Tuesday to Sunday from 12pm to 6pm, with access from The Strand entrance only.
All four Tate sites; Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives will be re-opening on Monday 27 July. Entry will remain free for all for permanent collections, with a charge for some temporary exhibitions across all sites.
Whilst visiting a museum or gallery won’t feel quite the same experience it previously did (but what currently does?!), these are very encouraging steps and no doubt more Nationals, independent museums and galleries, historic houses and arts centres will announce their plans once they are confident to do so. But hope this is enough to start whetting your cultural appetites!
Image: Burlington House Façade © Fraser Marr
Spotlight on… Camden Art Centre, an imposing yet welcoming red brick building in north-west London originally constructed as a public library. Open as an art centre for five decades, it combines the original architecture with modern spaces and a serene garden, offering the public free access to exhibitions, courses, talks and events. Although currently closed due to Covid-19, this has not halted their programme as the new exhibition ‘The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree’ has gone ahead with a online offering to accompany the physical one postponed until later in the year. It explores the relationship between plants and humans in various religions, global cultures and civilisations throughout history via drawings, watercolours, photography, film, archaeological artefacts, textiles, ceramics, isomorphology, written texts and multimedia commissions. Collectively it spans everything from moss, to potatoes, flower formation, plant organisms, indigenous groups living alongside plant-life in rainforests, astrology, mandalas, the hallucinatory and stimulant properties of plants and much more. A virtual Family Art Club was launched at the end of May which will run until early July, led by current artist in residence Renata Minoldo and tied into themes related to the exhibition, with new activities released every two weeks on Sundays online. Their Youth Collective initiative which typically offers people aged 15 to 21 a space to engage with and discuss visual arts with their peers is continuing virtually, via weekly artist-led workshops and monthly digital events, with the hope of hosting the annual Youth Collective Curates exhibition onsite later in the year. They have also partnered with Central Saint Martins giving twelve students Instagram takeovers, offering an insight into how the next generation of artists are responding to and indeed continuing their practice during the pandemic, aptly titled ‘15713’ as this number represents the accumulative miles these students are from Camden Art Centre, either working from their homes across the UK or overseas. There is also a bookshop and café on site, and their café partner – Cantine London – fed frontline workers at the Royal London Hospital in March and have launched a delivery service where the public can order and donate a meal to NHS staff. In congruity with the “botanical” theme, their digital offerings are evolving and growing with new content added each week.
Spotlight on… Freelands Foundation, a charitable foundation that supports artists, art education and cultural institutions across the UK. The Foundation also has a gallery space in London located between Chalk Farm and Primrose Hill which is currently closed to the public due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but that has far from stopped their educational, grant, partnership, research and other broad ranging activities from continuing apace. The Foundation has committed £3 million to emergency funding for all artists and freelancers across the UK affected by the pandemic. Of this sum, £1.5 million will be for their new Freelands Foundation Emergency Fund offering grants between £1,500 – £2,500 to applicants in England and Northern Ireland, in addition to the £1 million already contributed to Creative Scotland’s Bridging Bursary, and £500,000 to Art Council of Wales Urgent Response Fund – collectively helping to support creatives across the country who are falling through the gaps of existing government support. In collaboration with Artangel, the Foundation has also launched the ‘Thinking Time’ initiative to fund twenty early to mid-career artists living and working in the UK to research, reflect and develop their ideas through £5,000 grants and mentoring over the next six months. For the last five years, the Foundation has been collaborating with the Institute of Education, University College London and Hato Design to create an exhibition with art teachers on the Arts & Design PGCE course. This year the final exhibition ‘Must, Should, Could’ is a virtual offering due to coronavirus, and can be viewed on their website. Other educational activities include their Artist Teacher forums which typically take place each half term, and have not been suspended but instead are now digital, with the first online forum taking place earlier this month where teachers and educators could engage with their peers and share ideas, projects and possible collaborations. The Foundation have also launched a new Freelands Painting Prize to celebrate talent of undergraduate level artists, which will culminate in an exhibition in the autumn (though it remains to be seen if this will be in their physical gallery space or online, depending on the pandemic). The eight winners have been announced and represent talent from all areas of the UK, coming from the University of Brighton, Plymouth College of Art, Lancaster University, Edinburgh College of Art, University of the Creative Arts, Dundee University, City & Guilds Art School and Manchester Metropolitan University. For more information about Freelands Foundation and the work they do, and how they are adapting and supporting artists during these unprecedented times visit their website.
In my last two posts I have explored what museums and galleries are doing to engage the public with their collections or artists whilst their physical doors are closed. However, they have also come up with a creative range of digital fundraising initiatives to support the Covid-19 pandemic efforts. Gagosian has started the #GagosianChallenge by releasing a customizable poster designed by Michael Craig Martin, with the words ‘Health Workers Thank You’ on it, and is encouraging people to post their completed versions on Instagram by 11 May. Hauser & Wirth and Rashid Johnson have released the series ‘Untitled Anxious Red Drawings’ online, with a percentage of all sales donated to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund. White Cube and Harland Miller launched a coronavirus fundraiser, selling editions of the artists’ ‘Who Cares Wins’ print for £5,000 each. They all sold out within 24 hours with proceeds split between the National Emergencies Trust in the UK, the New York Community Trust and HandsOn Hong Kong, as well the York Teaching Hospital Charity to support NHS staff in hospitals across Yorkshire, where Miller was born. Damian Hirst has also designed ‘Butterfly Rainbow’ and a limited edition is being produced, which will be sold with all profits going to the NHS. Maureen Paley in conjunction with other galleries and over 200 photographers have donated prints for #photographsforthetrusseltrust, each selling for £100 with proceeds going towards 1,200 food banks which have seen a 300% increase in demand since the pandemic outbreak. Over thirty artists and creatives including Wolfgang Tillmans, Katherine Hamnet, Vivienne Westwood, Polly Nor and Jeffersen Hack have collaborated with Dazed in the #AloneTogether campaign to contribute works to raise funds for Barts Health NHS Trust, which has launched an emergency Covid-19 appeal to support their frontline staff. Tillmans has also enlisted forty artists, including Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Elizabeth Peyton and David Wojanrowicz to donate posters of their works for his #2020Solidarity campaign, which he is paying for printing and distribution of, to support informal places of culture, nightlife and music venues at risk of going out of business because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Art4Changes have collaborated with Roger Ballen, David Datuna, Ultra Violet and other artists to support the Covid-19 crisis by selling artworks, memorabilia, merchandise, music tracks, lectures and books, with all proceeds donated to either the Red Cross, World Health Organisation or Centre for Disease Control in any country the buyer chooses. Outdoor sculpture trail, The Line, has released 100 editions of an Abigail Fallis’ print of her shopping trolley installation, DNA DL90, for £100 each with 30% of profits being donated to Covid-19 frontline workers, and more prints will be released over the coming weeks. Mixed media artist Dan Pearce is reworking iconic film posters to help share NHS messaging in a fun, light-hearted way and is releasing a new reworked A2 poster every week, which will go on sale for £75 each with proceeds going to NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal. Wimbledon Art Fair will be a purely virtual event this year, and their #ArtSOS running from 14 – 17 May will showcase thought provoking artworks depicting defining moments of the current pandemic, with a percentage of total sales being donated to the NHS and St George’s Hospital in Tooting. Andrew Salgado and Rachel Howard amongst other artists are also donating signed, limited edition posters with a percentage of sales going to The Hospital Rooms via #artistssupportpledge, a charity that transforms impatient health units with contemporary art – and increasingly pertinent in the current circumstances. This is just a handful of the online offerings, so have a look to see what’s out there and maybe even nab yourself a bargain artwork whilst supporting the current pandemic efforts!
In my last post, I looked at what the Nationals and other museums in London are doing to engage audiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, but they’re not the only ones creating new solutions to closed doors – as London gallery innovations bear witness to. Serpentine Galleries are offering digital guides to their current exhibitions, allowing you to explore interactively with additional content, audio, video and curator tours. They are also delivering online Saturday Talks, podcasts and digital commissions as well as offering weekly book recommendations to help keep minds and imaginations going. Gagosian have launched #GagosianSpotlight, a new online artist series, highlighting individual artists, one week at a time, who have had exhibitions affected by the current coronavirus crisis. As well as looking at their practice, it also includes videos, interviews, playlists and other insights into their artists’ inspiration. Sadie Coles have started an #AnswersfromIsolation series posing pertinent questions to their artists including “has the current isolation given you time to do or make something that you might not have”, “tell us about your current projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19”, as well as recipe tips and other insights. Victoria Miro are publishing long reads, hosting online in conversation… with their artists, and have partnered up with nine other contemporary art galleries in Venice to open the ‘virtual’ doors of their storage and allow a rare look behind the scenes; as each week, each gallery will pick an artwork from their store to share on the #VeniceGalleriesView platform. Edel Asanti have launched #ContactlessDeliveries comprising written responses to the global pandemic shared in text or in spoken word films. Each is delivered from a personal perspective and responds to the previous contributor. They have also begun #HomeFires, a series of five minute conversations between the artistic Director and their artists, discussing a recent or ongoing body of work. The Photographers’ Gallery’s #TPGTalks offers a wealth of online podcasts, videos and interviews from photographers, writers and curators drawn from their extensive Talks & Events Programme. The already active digital programme has also collaborated with Fotomuseum Winterhur to launch #ScreenWalks, offering a series of live streamed artist/research led explorations of the cultural sectors online spaces as the physical spaces currently lie redundant due to Covid-19. White Cube have launched an #InTheStudio series where each week a represented artist shares a diary of their activities under lockdown (kicked off by Tracey Emin), and have also started an #InsideWhiteCube post where staff members are introduced and talk about what they are seeing, thinking, reading, watching and listening to during isolation. Lisson Gallery have partnered with Augment, and app whose technology allows people to visualise 3D objects and artworks in augmented reality through their smartphones and tablets. Freelands Foundation have similarly harnessed 3D scanning technology, allowing people to now view their exhibition of four female artists’ works on their website. This is just a selection of what’s out there, and I will endeavour to see what else is going on and what new ideas emerge as the lockdown and social distancing continues.
Whilst museums and galleries are likely to remain closed for the coming months, that doesn’t have to stop you engaging with their collections and what better time to think, innovate, discuss and debate online – when we all likely have some extra time on our hands during the corona-crisis. The National Gallery offer virtual tours via Google Street View, and you can sign up to their newsletter and YouTube channel featuring lunchtime talks, curator and art restoration specials, and snapshots on artists or specific works. The Victoria & Albert Museum is currently airing a six part behind-the-scenes series (Secretes of the Museum) available on BBC iPlayer, has a blog, and vast learning section with educational offerings from primary school age through to museum peer learning. You can still explore the British Museum via Google Street View and over four million objects within its collection online, as well as podcasts offering talks from curators and other staff (the most recent episode focussing on women and how they have shaped the museum since its opening in 1759). Tate have a podcast subscription covering varied subjects ranging from the Art of Love, to the Art of HipHop, Innovation and Remembering as well as Tateshots; approximately six minute short films about artists, their lives and practice, or from curators. Tate Kids also offers an online “make” section, video tours, games, quizzes, accessible information on artists and movements, and a virtual gallery where budding Picasso’s can display their own works. The Natural History Museum also offers virtual tours, and each room featured allows you to zoom in on objects with links to more detailed information about certain specimens. Moving away from the nationals, Somerset House is offering a digital programme of films, podcasts, artist interviews and live streams – and the adjoining Courtald has digitised its collection allowing great online access since its closure for restoration in 2018. The home to the incurably curious (otherwise known as The Wellcome Collection) offers topical articles on Covid-19 as well as a stories section which invites anyone to submit words or pictures which explore the connections between science, medicine, life and art, with its most recent post fittingly a graphic novel about isolation. Barbican have a series of 30 minute podcasts or playlists ranging from Japanese innovators, to masculinity, jazz and autism in the cinema, as well as articles, long reads and videos available. Though the physical doors to our museums might be closed, the digital channels are well and truly open!
The traditional Georgian architecture of Burlington House isn’t an immediately obvious setting for Antony Gormley’s large-scale robust metal sculptures and installations, but it certainly works. The dark wood flooring, panelling and high ceilings act as the perfect backdrop to the works on display throughout the main galleries. It is an exhibition that builds momentum, has pace and conversely moments of calm. The first space you enter contains fourteen horizontal and vertical cubic sculptures – “slabworks” – very typical of Gormley and his abstract exploration of the human form and its relationship with the space around it, but dare I say it… nothing spectacular. As you turn the next corner a lower-ceilinged room is filled with arguably the worlds biggest doodle, a sculpture which dominates the space and is almost bursting its way through the floors, ceilings and connecting doorways. It is quite an experience walking around the 8 kilometres of coiled aluminium tube, taking it all in. Another oversized gallery space houses “Matrix III” created from steel mesh ordinarily used to reinforce concrete, but this time formed into a three dimensional structure which suspends from the ceiling. Despite its weight, it somehow looks light as it floats above visitors who are able to walk below and around it. The adjoining gallery spaces contain sketches and preliminary drawings of these two monumental works alongside other works on paper, and having just viewed them I welcomed understanding the process and mechanics behind them. A room filled with metal human forms either standing, floating horizontally from various walls or hanging upside down from the ceiling, oversized metal fruits suspended from a vaulted ceiling in another space, a monolithic sculpture fills another, and finally a reflective space where the gallery floor is filled with seawater make up the rest of the show. The exhibition is as ambitious as you would hope for from Gormley, and certainly put a spring in my autumnal step!
For more information visit their website