Tag Archives: exhibitions

2016 ➤ Britain’s first robot Eric comes back to life

science, robotics, Eric-the-robot, Science Museum, exhibitions,demonstrations, London,

Eric the robot, then and now: Emerging from the workshop in 1928, left, and today on gleaming display in London’s Science Museum. His former tight-lipped expression has been enlivened with spiky teeth by his builder Giles Walker

MEET ERIC, BRITAIN’S FIRST ROBOT, built in 1928 and reincarnated as this full-size working replica by London’s Science Museum in a preview of next year’s blockbuster exhibition on 500 years of robotics. Within a decade of the word robot being coined in Karel Čapek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), the 6ft-tall Eric toured the world as superstar but four years later he suddenly vanished. More than 800 backers of the museum’s Kickstarter campaign funded an Eric lookalike to be recreated by artist and robot builder Giles Walker. The new Eric has now joined the permanent collection and you can see him on static display until 30 November, though he’s giving three animated demos daily as a sparky mechanical person. Free.

The world’s first robots: inrobots, Karel Čapek, RUR , theatre

The world’s first robots: in Čapek’s play R.U.R. of 1921

Originally built by Captain W.H. Richards & A.H. Reffell to stand in for the Duke of York and open a model engineers exhibition, Eric was everything we now imagine a robot to be: humanoid, metallic and able to talk, though he moved only in limited ways, standing and sitting and moving his limbs. Giles Walker’s reincarnation maintains Eric’s primitive charm but has added some sleek touches, such as flexible elbows. The original had 35,000 volts sparking through his lips as he spoke. Today Giles has given Eric LEDs flashing across some spiky teeth instead, which is “a lot safer”.

Of the insides, he adds: “I’ve converted what was originally a load of pulleys and electromagnets into a digital system.” This makes Eric a very modern old robot, despite the verdict of TV star John Barrowman when Eric appeared on BBC TV’s One Show last week. He thought Eric looked like “an older-type cyberman”. Actually, John, the truth is probably the exact opposite: that Doctor Who’s cybermen were inspired by the Eric of the 1920s.

➢ Visit Eric on display in London

➢ At the Science Museum curator Ben Russell reveals more about the building of Eric


➤ No flash, no mob, as Occupy Bowie proves a damp squib

Occupy Bowie , V&A, exhibitions, fans,flash mob,David Bowie

More like Freddie Starrdust: The Bowie Experience tribute act outside the V&A yesterday in shabby Earthling coat and filthy lace. Photograph by Andy Polaris

Occupy Bowie , V&A, exhibitions, fans,flash mob,David Bowie❚ “CALLING ALL MISFITS, ANDROGYNES, glam rockers, goblin kings, scary monsters and super creeps: you are invited to a gathering on the steps of the V&A on the last day of the Bowie exhibition, 11 August. Together we will create a tableau vivant.” This call to arms by an ad hoc faction calling itself Occupy Bowie posted a tortuous Tumblr page that dared to translate this difficult French phrase as a “living picture” and illustrated several examples from a long tradition blah blah of motionless, silent models in poses plastiques blah blah often theatrically lit blah blah.

Another page at Facebook declared: “In honour of music, art and David Bowie, it will be a spectacle. It is a participatory event for visual extremists of all stripes. Don’t call us a flash mob.”

As it happens, this tribal turnout by a few dozen fans yesterday afternoon proved to be less a flash mob, more a naff huddle. There was a singalong to Rebel Rebel, but no truly glam Bowie persona in sight, what with the low-rent mimes and the generally jumble-sale approach to costume topped with nylon wigs that could have come from Ridley Road Market. By midnight we could count only three photographs of this act of mass homage posted online, then a couple more today.

Click any pic to launch carousel

As it happens, Andy Polaris, who lives in East London, claims he was “passing by” the V&A in West London at 3pm and snapped the faithful engaged in their mystical rites. His verdict: “It looked more Freddie Starrdust than Ziggy Stardust.” This referred to the shabby Earthling playing guitar who is known as The Bowie Experience, a professional tribute impersonator wearing the least glam costume of any Bowie incarnation. Polaris said: “The women looked a lot better than the men and the girl with the dark hair and Aladdin streak was the best.” Funny, that. Even the apparent ringleaders themselves, University of the Arts types subtly disguised on Facebook as Occu PyBowie, let the side down in scruffy old jeans. They’d never have let each other get away with that in 1973, let alone the Blitz in 1980.

Brilliant sunshine put paid to any “theatrical lighting” to compare with the photographs of Ryan Schude or the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects Ball, 1931, that Occupy Bowie had cited as inspiration on that ambitious Tumblr page. Better luck at the exhibition’s Toronto opening in September, lads.


➤ A glamorous date with Margot Fonteyn and a feast of fabulous frocks

Margot Fonteyn,Fashion Museum ,,Fabulous Frocks,Bath

Shall we dance? Dame Margot Fonteyn’s ostrich feather evening coat by YSL at the Fashion Museum in Bath

❚ WOW FACTOR TIMES 50! The ostrich feather evening coat seen in close-up (above) and matching crystal and feather cocktail dress by Yves St Laurent (below) were owned by the English prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn and worn to go nightclubbing in the 1960s with her stage partner Rudolf Nureyev, the charismatic Russian dancer who had defected to work in the West. They are showing from today until end of the year in the exhibition, 50 Fabulous Frocks which have been chosen from a world-class collection of originals to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the council-run Fashion Museum in Bath. Dame Margot was a great supporter of the earlier Museum of Costume and donated a number of her personal clothes in the 60s.

Margot Fonteyn,Fashion Museum ,,Fabulous Frocks,Bath

F-A-B: YSL crystal and feather cocktail dress and 17th-century silver tissue dress (Fashion Museum, Bath)

Rosemary Harden, principal curator of the museum, wants to show the richness of its collection through personal wardrobe moments and key landmarks in fashion history “ranging from our oldest piece, an exquisite 17th-century silver tissue dress, to one of the latest Burberry creations”.

The display also includes a gold embroidered Georgian court dress and a delicate 1870s gauze bustle day dress alongside an Ossie Clark trouser suit, the Chanel suit and stars of 20th-century couture – Schiaparelli, Poiret, Vionnet, Dior – plus today’s most desired names such as Erdem and John Rocha.

The Fashion Museum originated with Doris Langley Moore, a designer, collector, writer and scholar who gave her famous private collection of costume to the city of Bath. Recently it was listed by CNN as one of the world’s Top 10 fashion museums.

➢ 50 Fabulous Frocks runs from Feb 2 at the Fashion Museum, Bath

➢ Bath in Fashion 2013 is a week-long festival (April 13–21) showcasing celebrities such Norman Parkinson in a centenary exhibition, an illustration masterclass with David Downton, talks with Michael Jackson’s costume designer Michael Bush, and Sir Roy Strong. Plus catwalk shows and craft workshops


2012 ➤ Hockney paints Hawking — watch a glittering new portrait emerge as a movie

David Hockney,iPad portrait,Brushes,exhibitions , Stephen Hawking,London, Science Museum

David Hockney at work on his iPad portrait of Stephen Hawking, showing from today at London’s Science Museum. Photograph © Judith Croasdell

Britain’s best-known painter meets the world’s best-known scientist. The outcome is a dazzlingly intimate birthday portrait of the wheelchair- bound Prof Stephen Hawking, captured in February at his office in Cambridge looking serene and fascinating with strangely luminous violet eyes. Today’s Science Museum blog reports:

IMAGINE BEING ABLE TO SEE the British artist David Hockney create a new work, stroke by stroke, before your very eyes. Now imagine this work is a portrait, providing an insight into the way Hockney composes his famous likenesses. Even better, the subject is none other than the distinguished Cambridge University cosmologist, Stephen Hawking.

For the next three weeks the Science Museum will display an animated version of Hockney’s portrait, running on the artist’s own iPad for more than three minutes and showing exactly how it was created. Visitors can see how his skill has evolved since he was first introduced to the Apple iPhone in late 2008 and then the iPad. Hockney draws with an app called Brushes which removes the need to cart around supplies, easel and palette… It is exhibited alongside a rarely seen Hockney line-drawing, dating from 1978, owned by Hawking’s first wife, Jane… / continued online

➢ Stephen Hawking: A 70th birthday celebration display at London’s Science Museum until April 9 … The book that made a celebrity of cosmologist Hawking in 1988, A Brief History of Time, broke records by staying on the Sunday Times best-sellers list for 237 weeks.

➢ More on Hockney at Shapersofthe80s: 1983’s landmark interview when he revealed “Suddenly I see cubism differently, more clearly”. Plus more of his iPad art

Ubermensch ,sculpture,Stephen Hawking, Jake Chapman, Dinos Chapman

Ubermensch 1995, by Jake and Dinos Chapman: Hawking as Fiberglass “Superman”

➢ Thin line between art and hate: is this the most repellent work of modern art? “The Chapman brothers’ sneering sculpture of Stephen Hawking sickened me in 1995, and still does now. What do you think is the most hateful work of modern art?” — Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones writing in January … and Jones again today: “Hockney’s portraits of Hawking are important documents of what really mattered in the culture of our time. Like Epstein’s Einstein, they will still be looked at when much art that makes headlines is utterly forgotten.”

➢ Professor Stephen Hawking has filmed a cameo for TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory, due to be aired next month in the US (May in the UK) — BBC News reports: The famous physicist will appear in a scene with socially awkward scientist Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons. He previously recorded voice-overs for animations The Simpsons and Futurama. Last year, he fronted his own TV series Brave New World for Channel 4, which looked at new developments in science and how they might benefit mankind … / continued online


➤ Smile please, Derek — you’re one of the Sunday Times Mag’s 60 ace snappers in its birthday show

Keith Richards,Sunday Times Magazine ,Derek Ridgers, photography, exhibitions,Saatchi Gallery,Paintworks, Cube, Waterhall

Snapper and Stone: Derek Ridgers seen at last night’s Sunday Times party at the Saatchi Gallery beside his photo of Keith Richards, published by the Magazine in 1986. (Nokia mobile snap by yours truly)

◼ WHAT ARE THE ODDS on any photographer having an iconic photograph included in the exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Sunday Times Magazine, the UK’s first newspaper colour supplement? Launched in the dull days of 1962 when papers appeared only in black-and-white, as did TV, the mag proclaimed itself the paper’s Colour Section to point up its USP. Since then it must have published at least 250,000 pages, so the odds of being shown in the powerful new exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery are stacked against most of its contributing photographers. Only 60 were chosen for the show.

This elegantly mounted selection of 100 historic pix, plus various supporting mementoes, packs a surprising punch. The vitality of the huge images is an object lesson in what makes photographic magic.

Sunday Times Magazine , photography, exhibitions, Saatchi Gallery

Grit and glamour on ST Magazine covers: Don McCullin’s exhausted mother and weeping child in Bangladesh, 1972 … Marilyn Monroe on a 1973 cover, photographed in a famous series of naked pictures by Bert Stern, a month before her death in August 1962

Right from the off, the Mag established its benchmark: “photographer first”. In Feb 1962 the 24-year-old David Bailey’s launch issue cover shots at Chelsea Reach showed the model Jean Shrimpton wearing a Mary Quant outfit and announced the dawn of Swinging London. Inside pages featured pop artist Peter Blake five years before he designed the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album sleeve, and a short story titled The Living Daylights by 007 author Ian Fleming.

In the words of Michael Rand, the Mag’s art director for 30 years, its credo was “grit plus glamour — fashion juxtaposed with war photography and pop art”. This meant serious investment in photo-reportage from the world’s troublespots. He went on to champion the work of Eve Arnold, Snowdon, Terry O’Neill, Brian Duffy, Richard Avedon, Eugene Richards, Diane Arbus, Mary Ellen Mark. Rand says he felt a great responsibility to project the honesty of their pictures. Risking his life in the warzones of the late 20th century, Don McCullin survived sniper bullets to return with some of the century’s most haunting pictures, and to write movingly of the impact on his own soul from having witnessed at first hand the pain and the pity of shell-shocked soldiers and starving children in Biafra, Vietnam and Northern Ireland. In 1989, Stuart Franklin, onetime president of the Magnum agency, leant out of a hotel window to give the world the unforgettable image of a young man single-handedly halting a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square.

First group pic of key Blitz Kids, April 1980: George O’Dowd, Vivienne Lynn, Chris Sullivan, Kim Bowen, Pinkietessa and Steve Strange immmortalised by Derek Ridgers for The Sunday Times Magazine

All the more reason to be extra-impressed at last night’s party launching the exhibition to meet my old ally on London’s clubbing scene in the 80s, Derek Ridgers. You know his pictures of everyone within a mile of Steve Strange, king of the posers, because they’re all over this website, and as half a dozen key Blitz Kids well remember, he snapped their first published group shot at the Blitz for the ST Magazine in April 1980. Last night Derek had been chatting on and off for at least half an hour while we sidestepped the namedroppy media luvvies and posey models to mingle with the veterans Mike Rand and Beatle biographer Hunter Davies, ST picture editor Ray Wells and snapper Uli Weber (standing in front of his demonic pic of Boy George sprouting a pair of satanic horns, while his pic of Kylie Minogue in the bath is on the poster for this show).

Eventually Derek, who is modest to a fault, asked if I was carrying a camera and I had to say no, thinking it a bit uncool at a swanky champagne bash for 700 media A-listers (which was obviously his view too since his own holster was empty). We did then discover that we were both toting the same unsmart workhorse Nokia 6300 mobile with 2Mp cams onboard. OK, they’ll do, so would I mind taking a pic of him beside his own exhibit at the end of the gallery? Excuse me, Derek? Nice old mild-mannered Derek with his long hair tied in a tail, and knapsack over his shoulder? Renowned for his book full of skinhead and punk portraits, not to mention the dodgy habitués of sexclubs like Skin Two, of David Claridge vintage? Derek’s IN this show? Yes he is. Even with the odds stacked at 250,000 to one against, it’s true. “I was amazed when they sent me an email asking if they could show this photograph,” he said. “So I said, yes, I didn’t mind.” How cool is that?

What we see is a charismatic mugshot of wrecked old Scary Stone, Keith Richards, snapped back in late 1985 when the face of the “10th greatest guitarist of all time” was engraved with a tiny fraction of the million lines it boasts now. He was settling into his  marriage to the model Patti Hansen, and Derek persuaded the rock star to pose for him after a chance encounter at the Savoy hotel in London. He says: “There was no KR entourage whatsoever. He couldn’t possibly have been any more helpful. I guess that’s what makes him the guy he is.”

Full marks for initiative, Derek. In 2012 The Sunday Times remains the UK’s best-selling quality newspaper. In the season of Oscars and artsy prizegivings, to be included among the 60 top photographers in the life of its mighty Magazine is pretty well the best gong a lensman can win.

Grit and glamour at the Saatchi Gallery: Tim Hetherington’s photographs observe American soldiers asleep in 2009 in Afghanistan. He said they are about “the intimacy of war. We’re not talking about friendship. We’re talking about brotherhood.” He was killed in Libya in 2011 … Minutes before a tense Amy Winehouse went onstage at a Mandela tribute concert in 2008, Terry O’Neill persuaded the singer to pose for a pic dedicated to the great man. O’Neill said: “She steeled herself for it.” All published in the ST Magazine. Gallery views by Shapersofthe80s

Beijing 1989: Stuart Franklin photographed pro-democracy student protesters in Tiananmen Square which made a cover shot for the ST Mag. Two days after the massacre of hundreds of civilians, he caught “Tank Man” defying Chinese T-59 tanks armed only with his shopping bags

Glamour and grit: Faye Dunaway in Beverly Hills at 6am the day after winning her 1977 Oscar for Network, photographed by her future husband Terry O’Neill… Right, in 1976 Don McCullin catches six Christian Phalangist militia playing music over a girl’s corpse after they went into East Beirut to “clean up the rats”. One had a Kalashnikov and another a lute stolen from the home of the people they’d just killed. McCullin says: “It haunts me to this day.”

Grit or glamour, the eyes have it: Nigel Parry nails the steely ambition of Tony Blair in 1994, weeks before becoming the Labour Party leader and going on to win three general elections … Uli Weber nails the demons of pop singer Boy George on tour in 1993, after emerging from one of his early descents into drug-fuelled despair

➢ Update: The Sunday Times Magazine 50th Anniversary Exhibition runs at the Saatchi Gallery, London, was scheduled to run until Feb 19, excluding Feb 11–14, now extended to March 18. Entry is free. The Magazine published a dedicated anniversary issue Sunday, Feb 5.

➢ Update: The free exhibition 50 Years of The Magazine goes on tour — Paintworks, Bristol Mar 24–April 3, Cube, Manchester April 11–23, Waterhall, Birmingham May 22-June 2