The best museum exhibitions in London
For a few glorious months in ’20s America, spiritualists, magicians and scientists were locked in a fevered struggle for the truth about life after death. Escapologist Harry Houdini was hellbent on debunking medium Mina Crandon, so he embarked on a series of experiments trying to replicate the ectoplasm-spouting effects of her seances. But, as the Wellcome Collection’s ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ ingeniously shows, Houdini and Crandon were spooks of a feathe.
Mary Quant wanted women to have fun. From underwear they could breathe in to fabrics that didn’t disintegrate in one wash and mascara that wouldn’t give them panda-eye, Quant’s namesake brand allowed its customers to look hot without really trying. Ergo: I woke up like this. The V&A’s major exhibition of the London-born designer skips its way through the trajectory of her career before alighting on the things Quant made iconic.
Countless accusations have been lobbed at Jews over the millennia. They’re money-grabbing, hooked-nosed Christ-killers who control global finances, Hollywood and the music industry. Stereotypes prevail, and the Jewish Museum is trying to tackle the big one: money.
Corita Kent: there were none like her. That’s one pun I’m not going to apologise for, because Sister Corita Kent liked to have fun with words. And she liked to tell the truth with them and that sentence is also true: there were none quite like her, as this exhibition of flamboyantly coloured prints at the House of Illustration shows.
If you’re looking for a one-word review of the V&A’s Christian Dior exhibition then here it is: fantasy. As spelled out by its own subtitle – ‘Designer of Dreams’ – this blockbuster showcase of a globally famous fashion label is about clothes and the imagination.
Centred on fashion designer Mary Quant and Habitat founder Terence Conran, this show shines a light on domestic life from 1952-1977, showing how knives and forks changed as much as knickers and frocks.
There’s an episode in Matthew Weiner’s series, ‘The Romanoffs’, where descendants of Russia’s last royal family get together on a cruise ship and re-enact the glory days of grand balls and staged entertainment. Those with Romanov DNA lap it up, while two married-in relations find the entire event slightly perplexing. Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs, a new exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, has the potential to inspire a similar division of response.
In 1855, Roger Fenton arrived in the Crimea on a commission from publisher Thomas Agnew & Sons to photograph scenes and figures from the ongoing Crimean War. After he returned to London, the images were exhibited at four venues in the capital and… that was it. There hasn’t been a London show of Fenton’s creations since 1856.
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