Archive for the ‘Exhibition’ Category

Brit Insurance Design Awards 2011

May 22, 2011

The Plumen lightbulbs

Whenever I visit a museum, I find myself staring at artefacts from civilisations thousands of years before my time or paintings from artists that I could not possibly afford to buy. But whenever I visit the Design Museum in London, I find myself staring at objects that may as well sit in my living room. In fact, most of the times I am pleasantly surprised that I own some of them. This is what happened when I visited the Brit Insurance Design Awards exhibition.

The Brit Insurance Design Awards exhibition, organised annually at the Design Museum, is the culmination of the awards, established in 2003 to celebrate examples of innovative design. A judging panel made up of renowned design experts decides the best entries from nominations in seven categories: Architecture, Transport, Graphics, Interactive, Product, Furniture and Fashion. The nominations also come from renowned design experts, who are asked to provide up to 5 nominations representing the most innovative designs launched in the last year.

Compared to the previous year, the exhibition was sparse, with many nominations being represented by photographs and videos rather than copies of the actual object: a sensible solution for entries in the architectural or services but not for the others categories. The display tables were also wobbly, strengthening my perception that the exhibition was carelessly thought and set up. Rather than scattering objects, a more sensible approach would have been to group them according to their nomination categories and to use innovative display forms and multimedia to encourage the visitor to interact with the exhibits.

LED-light installation by Phillips

Besides products showcased in electronic tablets (iPads and others), which the visitor was encouraged to explore, all others could not be touched, even though they were within reach, apart on the front of the exhibition, where some select real-life items were available for interaction. These included Herman Miller’s Sayl Task chair, a bench made from recycled cardboard, several books and the playful Spun chair by Thomas Heatherwick.

The diversity of the products and the variety of design methods employed made it difficult for me to pick my favourites (and I am sure it is equally difficult for the judges to pick the winners among many nominations). However, there have been several objects that caught my attention, sometimes for the novelty of the design and sometimes for the innovative choice of materials.

Wall Piercings by Flos

Flos took part in the exhibition with Wall Piercings, an interesting display of LED rings of changing colours (which for an unknown reason was very difficult to photograph), whereas Phillips included a LED-light bench that responded to human movement and made the LED panels move. The Fashion Design Award was given to Jil Sander for her 2011 +J collection for Uniqlo (for which you can read more here, here and here) whereas the Transport award was awarded to the Barclays Cycle hire project in London, the infamous Boris bikes. Finally, the overall Brit Insurance Design of the Year award went to Plumen lightbulb, an innovative, aesthetically pleasing redesign of a low-energy light bulb that looks differently depending on the angle you watch it.

Plumen lightbulb close-up

Overall, even though the previous exhibition included more design objects than the current one, it is definitely worth visiting to celebrate last year’s good designs and to witness that some of these do not only end up in museum stands but may find refuge in the comfort of your home.


P.S.: The exhibition is still open and will last until 7th August 2011.


High Society

February 6, 2011

The use of drugs that plagues our society is not just a recent phenomenon. It can be traced back to early human history. Societies have used drugs for either medicinal purposes or for experimental, recreational, religious or mind-altering activities. Whether a drug is accepted or rejected by a certain society, whether it is a blessing or an anathema, whether it cures or alleviates pain or numbs and distorts the mind simply depends on the drug’s uses but also of the society’s values. Cocaine and cannabis were originally used for medicinal purposes – and in certain circumstances they still are today – but have been classified as illegal and banned in most developed-world countries nowadays.

The exhibition “High Society” at the Wellcome Collection attempts to give us a glimpse into the history of drug use. Ranging from simple drugs such as coffee and chocolate to more illegal substances, such as cocaine, opium and morphine, the exhibition bears a collection of drug-related artefacts and drug-inspired art pieces. It is organised into 5 thematic areas: “From apothecary to laboratory”, “The drugs trade”,”Self experimentation”, “Collective intoxication” and “A sin, a crime, a vice or a disease” and brings together many items, such as historical documents on drugs trade, medicinal objects, books on the effects of drug usage, photographs and prints on tribal and societal rituals, art objects inspired on the effects of drugs on human behaviour, marketing and educational materials and videos, installation art and statistics.

While the exhibition is meticulously organised, I failed to see a coherent message running through it; a fact that seems to prove that the whole is not just a sum of its parts. And while the historical items were numerous, they were just displayed as mere objects that the visitor just glimpses for some seconds, without much fanfare and without much of a story. Admittedly, one of the most interesting exhibits manifests itself at the end of the exhibition. David McCandless’s “Pure as the driven snow” is an informative graphic that provides information on the reduction of purity, the increase in price, the number of people involved and gross profits during the journey of cocaine from the production field to the end user.

Although not as informative as the “War and Medicine” exhibition, it is certainly worth visiting.


P.S.: The exhibition is on until the 27th February.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008 in Greece

June 28, 2009


I hope you already know about the competition “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” which is being organised by the London Natural History Museum and the BBC Wildlife magazine. If not, please refer to my other post for the 2008 winners.

After it finishes at the Natural History Museum in London every April, the exhibition travels around the world. In fact, the Natural History Museum maintains a site with a list of all the cities the exhibition is scheduled to be hosted at, both in the United Kingdom and around the world.


During my recent visit to Greece, I was positively surprised to see the exhibition there. The Exhibition was hosted by Polaris Publications, with Piraeus Bank as the sponsor. Instead of a museum or a gallery, the exhibition was featured in the atrium of the new Citylink commercial centre, within walking distance from the Syntagma square at the centre of the city. Although the pictures they are illuminated from the back as in the exhibition at Natural History Museum in London,they were printed in high quality photographic paper and were still lokking superb. And the best thing of all is that  you need not pay a ticket to see them.


The pictures are from the area of the atrium. I managed to get some, until security told me it was not allowed to take pictures.


[photos © Lambdaphage, except for the photos of the exhibition, which are copyrighted by their respective owners].

Challenging the Past

April 13, 2009

The cover page of the exhibition's booklet

The cover page of the exhibition's booklet

The latest art exhibition of Pablo Picasso entitled “Challenging the past” at the National Gallery in London does not contain any of his most famous works. So, why should someone visit it? Simply because the exhibition presents various paintings throughout Picasso’s career that were inspired, influenced or copied from paintings of other famous artists.

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) is hailed as one the most revolutionary painters of the 20th century, one that defied form and function. Together with Georges Braque, he pioneered a new avant-garde art form called cubism. In cubism, objects are decomposed, analyzed and assembled in an abstract from, sometimes depicted in more that one angles to enhance perspective. However, before resorting to Cubism, Picasso appears to have studied different art movements and researched on the painting styles mastered by other titans of European painting. This exhibition attempts to present Picasso in relation to the works other famous European painters.

The exhibition spans 6 different rooms. In the first room, the “Portraits, the visitor encounters a series of self-portraits, with which Picasso experimented on presenting himself in different guises. Rooms 2 and 4 are dedicated to paintings of Picasso’s muses, including paintings of his wives, mistresses and lovers, heavily influenced by paintings of Goya, Corot, Ingres, Cezanne and Velasquez. In room 3, “Characters and types”, the visitor gets a glimpse of Picasso’s portraits of different Spaniards influenced by El Greco’s and Velasquez paintings and in room 5, we see Picasso’s to one of the most common painting styles of European painting, “Still life”.

But it is at room 6 where the exhibition culminates in the best possible way. In “Variations”, the visitors experience Picasso’s several invocations on paintings of other famous artists like “The Rape of Sabine Women” by Poussin and “La Meninas” from Velasquez. We are being presented with a series of paintings, in which we witness tantalizing succession of decomposing the original painting, analysing it elements and recomposing it in Picasso’s unique style. At the end, Picasso has made the theme of the painting his own. The exhibition also includes a short film (approximately 20 min) giving more explanations of the exhibits and Picasso’s life.

This exhibition helps us reassert Picasso’s position in relation to other European painters. Instead of a revolutionary, an outcast and a person that defied the norm, we witness Picasso’s desire to study all the traditional techniques of European painting and place him alongside other famous painters like El Greco and Degas, Raphael and Goya, Velasquez and Cezanne.


P.S: The exhibition “Picasso – Challenging the Past” at the National Gallery in London lasts until 7 June 2009 and you can find some paintings online. There is also a smaller, free exhibition entitled “Picasso’s Prints: Challenging the Past” at Level 2 of the National Gallery.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008

March 10, 2009

Natural History Museum Cromwell Road entrance (source Wikipedia)

Natural History Museum Cromwell Road entrance (source Wikipedia)

The idea of organising the same exhibition every year would probably be rejected as outright crazy by many museum directors in London. Yet, for the “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” exhibition, it is the annual photography competition that supplies it with fresh and original images of wildlife. The competition, running for the 45th year and jointly organised by the Natural History Museum in London and the BBC Wildlife Magazine draws thousands of entries by professional artists and amateur enthusiasts.

Sun Jelly, Nature in Black and White - Winner (© Carlos Virgili)

Sun Jelly, Nature in Black and White - Winner (© Carlos Virgili)

It consists of different thematic areas that include animal behaviour, life in the underworld, animal portraits and animals in their environment, plants, nature in black and white, and creative visions of nature. The exhibition, however, is mostly famed for its special awards: the Gerard Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife, the One Earth Award, that showcases the interaction of human and the natural world and the Young and Adult categories of the wildlife photographer of the year.

Deadlock, Animal Behaviour: All Other Animals - Winner (© David Maitland)

Deadlock, Animal Behaviour: All Other Animals - Winner (© David Maitland)

This year, the exhibition entries were again a mixture of images that were carefully planned and executed, represented technically challenging shots and conditions but also images of the unexpected, the funny and the remarkable variety of wildlife. Among the photos we noted was a picture of a jellyfish in exquisite detail in the “Nature in Black and White” category and a striking image of a snake and a frog entangled in a “Deadlock” that according to the photographer lasted for several hours. Other interesting shots included an underwater image of two arrow crabs and sea urchins in “Daddy long legs” and an amusing photo of a black macaque in “Bleak outlook” that has made it to the banners of this year’s competition advertisements. However, the most artistic and skillfully taken photographs were –without doubt – the ones featured in the awards. For example, a few silver lines in a black background were enough to betray a silhouette of a polar bear in sunlight in the “Creative Visions of Nature” category. Equally, a theatrical display of a lion chasing a giraffe in afternoon sunlight in Africa and the image of an endangered snow leopard were awarded the Young and Adult Wildlife Photographer awards respectively.

Daddy Long Legs, The Underwater World - Specially Commended (© Jordi Chias)

Daddy Long Legs, The Underwater World - Specially Commended (© Jordi Chias)

After visiting the exhibition, you feel the sudden urge to get your camera and start experimenting, hoping that you can make it into the next years’ exhibition. But even if you can’t wait that long, you can buy many of the featured images in posters. And if you do not have time to see the exhibition, go to the museum’s internet gallery instead, where you can browse all of the winning categories in the comfort of your home.


P.S.: Read about the exhibition in Greece at my other post.

War and Medicine

February 28, 2009

Image scanned from Gallery Guide, © Wellcome Collection

Image scanned from Gallery Guide, © Wellcome Collection

My colleagues suggested that we spent our Thursday afternoon visiting an exhibition entitled “War and Medicine” at the Wellcome Collection in Euston, London. I had not heard anything about it apart from the occasional spotting of posters in tube stations, but I immediately accepted the invitation. I never got the opportunity to visit the Wellcome collection and another friend had already told me that it houses interesting items in their permanent collection. I consented to the visit even though I knew that we would not have time to visit the permanent collection. Besides, what else can you do during a cold Thursday evening?

The exhibition, organised by the Welcome Collection in collaboration with the Deutches Hygiene Museum in Dresden, turned out to be very interesting, although some of my colleagues found some exhibits disturbing and, in some ways, stomach churning. It inteded to illustrate the outcome of medical practices and research during armed conflicts and in the aftermath of war. It focuses in the Crimean War and the two World Wars, but there are also items from more recent conflicts. The gallery guide says:

“Those charged with the treatment and care of the casualties of war can expect to be confronted with a bewildering range of stark choices and ethical dilemmas. As we have developed increasingly sophisticated weaponry with which to harm our enemies, medicine has had to adapt quickly to cope with the volume and the changing nature of the resulting casualties. Medical scientists have learned valuable lessons and made vital discoveries in times of war, but they have also been party to some of war’s worst acts of inhumanity”.

World War I radiographer, photograph by HJ Hickman, France, scanned from the gallery guide © Wellcome Collection

World War I radiographer, photograph by HJ Hickman, France, scanned from the gallery guide © Wellcome Collection

The exhibition was divided into three thematic areas: the organisation, the body and the mind. We were first introduced to organisational changes during war, with a special focus on sanitation, food, clothing, accommodation and medical care. The dominating section, the body, concentrated on the effects of war on the human body. From the information leaflets issued during the wars to educate soldiers on proper body hygiene and avoidance of deadly diseases, we embarked on a journey to the consequences of war to the individual, ranging from diseases, injury and death to plastic surgery, rehabilitation and prosthesis. However, it is not only the physical burden that a war imparts to the individual but the ensuing emotional toll. The final section, the mind, although limited in magnitude, highlighted the invisible scars that war creates, with a special focus on post-traumatic stress disorder.

The "Diagram of the causes of mortality in the army in the East" was published in Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency, and Hospital Administration of the British Army and sent to Queen Victoria in 1858. The copyright of this image has expired (source Wikipedia).

The "Diagram of the causes of mortality in the army in the East" was published in Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency, and Hospital Administration of the British Army and sent to Queen Victoria in 1858. The copyright of this image has expired (source Wikipedia).

In the beginning of the body section, I spotted an interesting informational leaflet given to the American soldiers serving in the tropics with the purpose to inform about the dangers of malaria and its transmission via mosquito bites. “This is Ann. She’s dying to meet you”  was the title of this aptly illustrated book by Dr Seuss that encouraged safe practice to avoid bites from Anopheles mosquitoes. Equally interesting was a diagram by Florence Nightingale on the “causes of mortality in the army in the East” during the Crimean war, illustrating that the majority of fatalities were the cause of disease. I was left in jaw-dropping awe, not for realising that disease killed more people than war, but for the ability of Florence to make such a visually appealing graph that Edward Tufte would be very fond of. In the body section, there was also a copy of the Esmarch bandage, a triangular shaped fabric with illustrations of 32 different ways it can be folded to treat wounds and stop bleeding.

Esmarch Bandage. Image © Alan Hawk, National Museum of Health and Medicine, AFIP, Washington, DC USA, source: Wikipedia

Esmarch Bandage. Image © Alan Hawk, National Museum of Health and Medicine, AFIP, Washington, DC USA, source: Wikipedia

Perhaps the single most interest item was the explanation of the triage system; a system for the rapid medical assessment of wounded individuals who require urgent attention. We were informed that this was pioneered by Nikolai Pirogov and Dominique Jean Larry. Today, the modern medical triage system classifies patients into four different categories: i) immediate (priority 1 – red color), those that have a life threatening injury, ii) urgent (priority 2 – yellow color), those that have serious but non life-threatening injury iii) delayed (priority 3 – green color), who are walking wounded and iv) dead or morgue (black color –self explanatory). Interestingly, the criteria for the triage system assess whether the patient is able to walk, to breathe and whether he/she has specific rates of respiration. But in certain circumstances, a reverse triage system is in place:

“It should also be remembered that when the warfare is at its most intense, the most significant motivation behind the medical attention given to an individual soldier may be the need to return him to the front line as quickly as possible”.

The exhibition concludes with a note of optimism among the brutalities and the raw images that the visitor has experienced. Anthropologist Catherine-Panther Brick conducted the first systematic, large-scale, qualitative study of children aged 11-16 old to assess their mental health during war. In her study, she asked children to make drawings of how they find themselves now and in the future. Most drawings show children that appear unhappy and crying but looking into the future, the drawings reveal a remarkable degree of optimism and striking level of ambition.


P.S.: Regretfully, the exhibition has now ended, but you can still visit the online resources and especially the image galleries.

(text is italic was copied from the Gallery guide © Wellcome Collection).

A Photographer’s Life, 1990 – 2005

January 10, 2009


She is probably the most prominent portrait photographer of our time. Her works are featured in the glossy pages of the biggest magazines on the planet – Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair– and examples of her work are the topic of heated discussions worldwide. One of her most-talked photographs, the portrait of the naked John Lennon kissing Yoko Ono, was taken only a few hours before Lennon’s death. Yet, visitors of her latest photographic exhibition “Annie Leibovitz, A Photographer’s life, 1990 – 2005” at the National Portrait Gallery will get another glimpse of her personality. Next to her colourful, defined and artistically mastered commercial work, there exists a collection of mostly black-and-white, unprocessed and intimate images of her personal life.

“I don’t have two lives,” Leibovitz says. “This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.” The exhibition contains portraits of celebrities, including Brad Pitt, Leonardo diCaprio, Nicole Kidman and the naked, pregnant Demi Moore – the famous cover of Vanity Fair in 1991. It also includes photographic assignments of Leibovitz from the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s and the election of Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate. It could certainly do without the uninspiring pictures of George Bush and his cabinet, Colin Powell and General Norman Schwarzkopf. Among the celebrity pictures, two of them stand out not for the popularity of the subjects, but for not belonging to the human kind: a picture of R2D2 in a box and a slimline droid model from the film Star Wars™, The Attack of the Clones.


For the first time, we also see a collection of private moments of the photographer. Moments with her family, the birth of her children and the death of her father. But the most powerful work is a series of photographs of her long-time partner, writer Susan Sontag. The images display Sontag during her battle with cancer, her various treatments, her return to New York after a failed treatment and her eventual death.

At the last room, visitors can look at the creative process of organizing the images for this exhibition. A sample of her images, both of her personal life and professional work, are pinned on big cardboards, mostly in chronological order. This process helped her to decide the images she wanted to and to envisage the entire exhibition. In fact, the initial idea for this exhibition came about searching in her archive to find various pictures of Susan to include in a booklet for her memorial service.

In this exhibition, we do not get just a glimpse of Leibovitz as an established professional but as a human being. It is not the mastery of Leibovitz’s technique that elevates her to an iconic photographer. It is rather the narrative nature of the images, the underlying story that they tell, that makes her photography the work of a genius.


P.S.: The exhibition “Annie Leibovitz, A Photographer’s life, 1990 – 2005” at the National Portrait Gallery in London lasts till February 1st, 2009. The book, Annie Leibovitz, A photographer’s life, 1990 – 2005, containing more than 300 of her images, was published by Random House, Inc.

(photo © Robert Scoble and second image, scanned from the gallery guide © National Portrait Gallery)