Top 10 museum exhibitions in London
Here's our pick of must-see museum shows in the capital
Get your diary out for London's best new museum exhibitions. Uncover artefacts from buried cities, follow the ch-ch-ch-changes of David Bowie or find out about the fragrant history of floristry.
Fame, fascination, the evolution of the rebel rebel, along with the ch-ch-ch-changes Bowie made to his lyrics, scratching out words and scribbling in others, come under the spotlight, together with the Brixton lad's stage costumes and instruments, in the V&A's major show for spring 2013. Exploring Bowie's career as musical innovator and mercurial cultural icon, the exhibition looks at his influence on music, fashion and art through the decades through some 300 objects. Bowie as photographed by the likes of Brian Duffy and Terry O'Neill will provide a focus, along with more than 60 stage cosutmes including 'Ziggy Stardust'-era bodysuits, set designs for the 'Diamond Dogs' tour, sketches, scores and diary entries.
Imagine someone discovering a settlement in the UK 1,000 years from now. Not a huge, bustling city like London; more Milton Keynes, or Derby. Somewhere that offers a very everyday view of urban life in that place and time. That’s what this exhibition does, and it does it very well, through an overarching domestic theme highlighted by its design as a typical home of the time, complete with kitchen, toilet, and even a garden. In these spaces, 250 exhibits quietly and memorably evoke the ordinary experience of life in these times.
The tube is 150 years old and if you don’t believe me, stand in the London Transport Museum next to one of the original steam trains that used to chuff down the narrow tunnels of what is now the Northern Line, presumably chucking out smoke like giant mechanised cigars.‘Poster Art 150’ charts our changing affair with the nether regions of London quite brilliantly, first in posters encouraging passengers to use it to escape the bad weather and, more recently, in messages designed to convince us that the whole network is not falling apart at the seams.
The ever-fascinating subject of cultural diplomacy and trade between Britain and Russia, starting with their origins in 1555 when the Muscovy Company was founded, provides the impetus for this exhibition. The show reveals the pageantry of royal courts between the times of Henry VIII and Charles II, and Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) and the early Romanovs, exploring how monarchs sought to strengthen their power against a backdrop of religious and social upheaval. Some 150 objects are on display including the Barbor jewel – a pendant of enamelled gold set with an onyx cameo of Elizabeth I – a hand-coloured map of Muscovy from 1570 and contemporary literature including Shakespeare's First Folio. Key displays include items of British and French silver given to successive Russian Tsars as well as examples from Charles I's collection sold by British merchants of the Muscovy Company to Tsar Alexis. Held in the Kremlin Armouries since this time, they would have been melted down to finance either the English Civil War or the reign of Louis XIV had they remained in Britain or France.
Annual exhibition and awards celebrating the most innovative and inventive design from the past year. The best designs from seven categories – architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport – will be on show. Reflecting the big sporting and cultural events of the past twelve months, nominations include celebrated designs like Heatherwick Studio's Olympic Cauldron; A Room for London, designed by David Kohn Architects; and Renzo Piano's The Shard.
Sadly the BM hasn't been able to ship the famous caves at Chauvet, Lascaux and Altamira to London for this absorbing exhibition, but it has been able to bring together art made from stone, bone, antler and ivory dating back 40,000 years, as well as younger figurative pieces such as ceramic figures and a 23,000-year-old abstract figure in mammoth ivory that so fascinated Picasso he had two copies of it. Curated by Jill Cook as an exhibition of art rather than archeological finds, the show aims to explore how the creation of these pieces demonstrate the arrival and development of the modern brain, one capable of a creativity and expression that have remained surprisingly similar across thousands of years.
Visionary art, naive art, primitive art, folk art – outsider art can be all of these. And the 'outsider' tag reflects its audience as well as its practitioners: you don't need any theoretical knowledge of art to find it engaging.
This exhibition showcases the results of an eight-year long project that saw photo-journalist Sebastião Salgado discover landscapes, wildlife and communities around the world that have been untouched by modern life. There are 200 black-and-white photographs on display, showing tribes still living by ancient values and landscapes that demonstrate the awesomeness of nature. The exhibition premieres in London before going on to locations around the world, and follows on from Salgado's previous explorations of global issues, which concentrated on workers and migration.
Despite being one of the biggest names in contemporary craftmaking, knitwear and textile designer Kaffe Fassett hasn't had a major show in London since his record-breaking one in 1988 at the V&A. This extensive exhibition aims to put that right, with more than 100 works displayed in a dramatic multi-sensory installation designed by Sue Timney. Highlights include 9ft--wide knitted shawls, coats and throws, patchwork fabrics made up into colourful quilts, and new items made for the show and not seen in public before. Fassett's long association with internationally renowned handknitting company Rowan will be celebrated with a shop selling a selected range of kits, fabric, yarn, books and magazines.
Among the questions asked by the British Library's summer 2013 exhibition are 'What have the Olympics, Chairman Mao and matchboxes got in common?', 'Who portrayed Margaret Thatcher as Napoleon, and why?', and 'Is propaganda public information or misinformation, and do we need it?'. From safe sex to dictatorships, the show explores how different states have used propaganda during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, in peace time and in war. Posters, films, cartoons and textbooks reveal the many ways by which the state tries to influence its citizens, and how propaganda has been used through time and across cultures.