British Museum forthcoming exhibitions 2010

Please note that exhibition titles and dates are subject to change and should be
checked before going to press.

Please print the following information next to all listings:
Website: www.britishmuseum.org
Phone: +44 (0)20 7323 8299
Ticket office: +44 (0)20 7323 8181

Major new exhibitions in 2010

Kingdom of Ife: sculptures from West Africa

4 March – 6 June 2010
Admission charge, Room 35
From the 12th to the 15th centuries Ife flourished as a powerful, cosmopolitan and wealthy city-state in West Africa, in what is now modern Nigeria. It was an influential centre of trade connected to extensive local and long-distance trade networks which enabled Ife to prosper. Ife developed a refined and highly naturalistic sculptural tradition in stone, terracotta and copper to create a style unlike any in Africa at the time. The exhibition will feature 109 superb pieces of Ife sculpture, drawn almost entirely from the magnificent and unparalleled collections of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria. The human figures portray a wide cross-section of Ife society and include images of rulers and commoners, and depictions of youth and old age, health and disease, suffering and serenity. These artworks are widely acknowledged as outstanding in their technical sophistication and striking in their aesthetic appeal.

The exhibition is in partnership with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria; the Fundacion Marcelino Botin, Santander and the Museum of African Art, New York. The exhibition will form part of a season of African art and culture at the British Museum to coincide with the 50th anniversary of African Independence celebrations in 2010.

Sponsored by Santander
Additional support provided by The A.G. Leventis Foundation

Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance drawings

22 April – 25 July 2010
Admission charge, Round Reading Room
This major exhibition will bring together the finest group of Italian Renaissance drawings to be seen in this country for over seventy years. Drawn from the two foremost collections in the field; the Uffizi and the British Museum, the exhibition will feature 100 exquisite drawings by Italian artists during the critical period of the Renaissance from 1400 to 1510. The display will chart the increasing importance of drawing during this period, featuring works by Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Angelico, Jacopo and Gentile Bellini, Botticelli, Carpaccio, Filippo Lippi, Mantegna, Michelangelo, Verrocchio and Titian. In 15th-century Italy there was a fundamental shift in style and artistic thinking in the use of preparatory drawings. What began as a means of preserving artistic ideas became the ideal way to perfect more naturalistic forms and perspective – a new approach by painters, sculptors and architects. Infrared and other technology used in conservation research provide fresh insights into how drawing allowed painters to experiment and explore with a freedom not always reflected in their finished works. Examples in the exhibition show the trend towards depiction of movement and expression of emotion, often inspired by classical antiquity.

The BP Special Exhibition

Journey through the afterlife: the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead

4 November 2010 – 6 March 2011
Admission charge, Round Reading Room
This exhibition will for the first time explain the content and meaning of the famous and enigmatic Egyptian Book of the Dead – a collection of prayers, hymns, instructions and rituals which provided the dead with the special knowledge they would need to make a safe passage to the afterlife. The British Museum houses an unequalled collection of Books of the Dead on papyrus – many of them beautifully illustrated with coloured images showing the landscape of the netherworld and the gods and demons who dwelt there. The exhibition will focus on the most important papyri - many of which cannot be on permanent display for conservation reasons - to tell the story of the journey to the next world and to set in context crucial episodes such as the "weighing of the heart", by which the dead were judged. It will include the complete papyrus of Hunefer (one of the most beautifully painted of all) and the longest Book of the Dead known (37 metres), besides coffins, masks, statues, amulets, and items of funerary jewellery. The majority of the pieces will be drawn from the British Museum’s own rich collection, supplemented by loans of important items from other museums worldwide.

The BP Special Exhibition


Other exhibitions

Warriors of the Plains: 200 years of Native North American honour and ritual

7 January – 5 April 2010
Admission free, Room 91
Warrior societies – close knit groups of interrelated men from a single band who would hone their martial skills through competitive and often dangerous war raids - were at the core of Plains Indians’ social and ceremonial organisation. Plains warfare was governed by highly organised shared understandings of chivalry, honour and codes of behaviour. The warrior ethic that characterised these societies has survived into the 21st century through an active participation of Native Americans in the US army. This exhibition explores the understandings of honour, status and ritual amongst the indigenous peoples of the North American Plains from 1800 to the present to highlight the relevance of the warrior legacy for contemporary Native American identity. The exhibition will display unique and fragile material from the British Museum collections for the first time such as weapons, military and ceremonial costume and accessories, painted hides and drawings.

Impressions of Africa: money, medals and stamps

1 April – 14 November 2010
Admission free, Room 69a
In 2010 the world’s attention will be focused on Africa, as seventeen countries celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence from colonial rule. This small display looks at the images of Africa presented on the coins, banknotes, medals, stamps and seals made for the continent during the past 100 years. These miniature art works reflect changing national identities, and celebrate the cultures and heritage of Africa and its people.
This display is part of London 2010: Festival of Stamps – www.london2010.org.uk  

The printed image in China from the 8th to the 21st centuries

6 May – 5 September 2010
Admission free, Rooms 90-91
Printing and papermaking were invented in China centuries before it was known in Europe.
By taking the visitor through the history of printing from its invention to the present, the exhibition explores the role of the Chinese pictorial print in various cultural contexts. The show includes Buddhist prints from the Silk Road, colourful images used in folk rituals and festivals, impressive imperial engravings, stunning anti-war images of the Modern Woodcut Movement and contemporary prints that have gained recognition on the international art scene. Highlights in the exhibition bearing associations with major collectors will further narrate the story of Chinese print collecting at the British Museum.

The Asahi Shimbun Displays: Objects in focus

Room 3 sits just inside the main entrance to the British Museum and hosts a series of free regularly changing exhibitions focused on a single object or theme. 2010 will be devoted to objects featured in the joint British Museum/BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 objects.

The Swimming Reindeer will be the first object displayed and is one of the most beautiful pieces of Ice-Age art ever discovered, depicting two reindeer which appear to be swimming. It is around 13,000 years old and is carved from the tip of a Mammoth tusk. The next display is of a Yaxchilán Lintel which is one of a series of carved limestone panels dating from AD 600-900 commissioned by Maya ruler Bird Jaguar IV for Structure 21 at Yaxchilán, Mexico. It depicts a blood-letting ritual performed by the king of Yaxchilán, Shield Jaguar II and his wife, Lady K’ab’al Xook. The king holds a flaming torch over his wife, who is pulling a thorny rope through her tongue. The third of the displays is the Asante-style drum that originated in West Africa and was collected in Virginia probably between 1730 and 1745. It was probably brought from Africa to America aboard a slave trading ship. The drum was collected on behalf of Sir Hans Sloane , whose collection led to the creation of the British Museum, and is one of the earliest known surviving African-American objects.


Exhibitions at other venues in the UK

Throughout 2010 the British Museum will be touring exhibitions to venues across the country through the Partnership UK programme, in addition to contributing loans to numerous other exhibitions and displays nationwide. Highlights include:

The BBC and British Museum’s History of the World project will be supported in the nations and regions with details to be announced.

Made in Africa: portrait of an Ife ruler will enable Manchester Museum to explore connections to local collections and culture and the relevance of Ife art to Nigerian culture today. The display will run from 5 December 2009 – 7 February 2010 and will be a prelude to the British Museum’s major exhibition opening in March.

Takhti: a modern Iranian hero focuses on a recently acquired work by Iranian artist Khosrow Hassanzadeh, first displayed at the British Museum in early 2009. The work offers a contemporary perspective on Iranian history, religion and culture through the portrayal of the wrestler Ghulamreza Takhti. The affection that Iranians feel for Takhti rests not only on his prowess as an Olympic wrestler but on his personality, his courage, his sense of fair play and his kindness. Takhti is therefore a hero in a land of heroes and Hassanzadeh’s magnificent work offers a powerful insight into the culture of a country whose ancient traditions form such a key part of life today. The exhibition is touring to the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (20 February – 25 April 2010) followed by the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle (25 June – 15 August 2010).

High Kicks and Low Life: Toulouse-Lautrec Prints Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901) embraced the life of a bohemian artist, frequenting galleries by day, whilst turning his attention by night to the actresses, dancers and prostitutes who populated Montmartre where Toulouse-Lautrec settled in 1884. Through his prolific graphic output Toulouse-Lautrec’s memorable cast of characters has created one of the most abiding impressions of place and period. This exhibition presents a fine selection of the British Museum’s exceptional holdings of Toulouse-Lautrec’s graphic work. The exhibition will be launched at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (14 May – 8 August 2010) followed by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Middlesbrough (3 September – 21 November 2010), Bedford Museum (15 January – 10 April 2011) and National Museum Wales, Cardiff (23 April – 17 July 2011).

China: Journey to the East is the largest UK loan of Chinese material the Museum has ever undertaken with more than 150 objects. Supplemented by items from partner museum collections it offers visitors the chance to better understand 3,000 years of Chinese history and culture. The exhibition, which has already been shown in Bristol, Coventry and Basingstoke, will continue in 2010 to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens (29 January – 9 May 2010), York Art Gallery (22 May – 15 August 2010) and the Manchester Museum 25 September 2010 – 26 June 2011.
Supported by BP, a CHINA NOW legacy project.


International exhibitions

The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece

National Museum of Korea
20 April – 29 August 2010

The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece contains 125 objects from the British Museum's rich Greek and Roman collection. This exhibition offers a visually engaging and thought-provoking exploration of the human condition seen through ancient Greek eyes. Over two thousand years the Greeks experimented with representing the human body in works that range from abstract simplicity to full-blown realism. Through this essential and long lasting theme of human representation, the exhibition offers to the public a unique opportunity to engage with artworks which have shaped our Western aesthetics. The artefacts to be displayed include "Discobolus" the iconic representation of a discus thrower which had never been on loan from the Museum before this tour.

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