Art / Exhibitions

Schwitters in Britain

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At Tate Britain, until 12 May 2013

In 1930 Kurt Schwitters, one of the greatest revolutionary and innovative artists of the 20th century, observed that "everything was broken down into shards and needed to be put back together again". This was to prove something of an understatement.

Born in 1887, and having lived through the carnage of the First World War, the "lost" German Revolution and the traumas of the Weimar state, Schwitters lived to witness the barbarity of fascism. He endured exile, internment, poverty and the horrors of "total war" before dying in virtual obscurity in 1948.

Murder in the Library

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W.H. Auden once called crime fiction "an addiction like alcohol and tobacco" - a vice to be furtively consumed in secret. This is a commonly held view of the genre.

Isn't there something insufferably old hat about crime fiction, with its village greens and grizzled old detectives wearing fedoras? Apparently in answer to this, Murder in the Library, a small exhibition at the British Library, takes a look at this much maligned genre.

The problem is: how do you faithfully represent a genre that accounts for a third of books published today, with protagonists that range from 7th century Irish nuns to a 21st century boy with Asperger's Syndrome, and whose authors range from Jorge Luis Borges to Terry Venebles?

Banksy "Out of Context"

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Kezler Gallery, the Hamptons, US

Above is a picture of street artist Banksy's "Stop and Search", a mural in Bethlehem, Palestine. Except that it is no longer in Palestine - it's been removed to be exhibited and sold on at a gallery in the Hamptons, an upmarket area near New York in the US. The current asking price is $450,000.

It is not the only work by Banksy that has been stolen from Palestine.

Soane by candlelight

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John Soane was an architect who came to prominence in the late Georgian era. During a career that straddled one of the greatest periods of social unrest in British history, Soane was responsible for a number of iconic neoclassical designs - most notably the Bank of England.

Among them was his house at Lincoln's Inn Fields, where he not only lived and worked, but assembled an incredible collection of antiquities.
The house and its collection were bequeathed to the public in 1833 as Sir John Soane's Museum. On the first Tuesday evening of every month the curators illuminate the collection by candlelight.

Comic4Syria

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Syrian revolutionaries are using every weapon at their disposal to resist the regime of Bashar al-Assad - including cartoons. In the comic strip reproduced above, Bashar al-Assad tickles the sleeping dragon of sectarianism, only for it to swallow him whole. In this case, a picture paints a complex political situation.

As the regime has heavily censored the press for years, Syrian artists have a long tradition of using metaphorical imagery to convey dissent. Now, as the armed struggle intensifies, that creative artistry has been unleashed.

Cecil Beaton: Theatre of War

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Imperial War Museum, London, until 1 January

If you know something of Cecil Beaton's politics you could be forgiven for thinking that this exhibition may be one to miss. Beaton, like so many of the English aristocracy that he longed to be part of, was an anti-Semite a fawning monarchist and a snob of the worst sort.

However, if you can afford the eight quid to get in, missing this exhibition would be an error for a number of reasons.

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde

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At Tate Britain, until 13 January

Victorian Britain, we know now, was one of capitalism's great success stories. Britain industrialised and came to dominate the world economically and politically. At the time success seemed far less certain to Britain's rulers. Revolution broke out in France in 1789, 1830, 1848 and 1871: it might do so in Britain. The educated classes had believed that the Bible, central to their ideas, was literally true: in 1859 Darwin's Origin of Species implied that it was not. Britain was the world's first industrial superpower, but could such a society last?

John Heartfield Photo montages

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Tate Modern currently has a display of 54 works by the German artist John Heartfield (1891-1968).

Heartfield pioneered photomontage and used the technique of cutting up and combining photographic images to strong political effect. His most famous works were powerful satirical attacks on Hitler and the Nazis.

Heartfield was born Helmut Herzfelde. He anglicised his name during the First World War in protest against German nationalism.

Shakespeare: Staging the world

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For those interested in such things, a minor spat has broken out among some of Britain's best known thespians about whether Will Shakespeare of Stratford was, in fact, the author of the plays attributed to him.

So this exhibition at the British Musuem seems timely. Visitors are invited to walk through a series of themed rooms which explore the relationship between the plays and the world that Shakespeare would have known. Specially commissioned videos of well-known actors performing Shakespearean soliloquies are interspersed among the swords, maps, paintings, bear skulls, witches' charms and other renaissance relics.

Although at £14 it's a bit expensive for those without British Museum membership, there is plenty to enjoy here.

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