Every year, the British Museum puts on an impressive series of special exhibitions. Last year we had exhibitions about Picasso, Shakespeare, Arabian horses and the Hajj. This year looks to be even better.
First comes “Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind” from February 7-May 26. This exhibition looks at European Ice Age sculptures, ceramics, drawings and personal ornaments from 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. While famous painted caves like Lascaux and Altamira get the most attention, this exhibition focuses on personal objects the prehistoric people could carry with them. Check out the gallery for some sneak peeks at what is sure to be a fascinating look into the mind of our early ancestors.
“Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum” is sure to be the hit of the year. Artifacts from both Roman cities, buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., will be on display. While Pompeii is the more famous of the two, some of the most interesting artifacts in this show come from Herculaneum. Six pieces of wooden furniture from the city help show what home life was like in Roman times. These items were carbonized by the hot ash that engulfed the city and are extremely rare finds that would not have survived at Pompeii. The show runs from March 28-September 29.
At the bottom of this article you can see one of the most arresting displays – a plaster cast of a dog from the House of Orpheus, Pompeii, A.D. 79 (© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei / The Trustees of the British Museum). The volcanic ash covered many people and animals, who then decomposed and left their shape as cysts in the hardened ash. Ghostly plaster casts have been made from many of these.
%Gallery-176327%Next up is “Colombian Gold,” although the name of this exhibition has yet to be confirmed. The ancient civilizations of Colombia were famous for their elaborate gold ornaments, and this exhibition will display 150 masterpieces of the Colombian goldsmiths’ art. In addition to examining the pieces themselves, which were the most sophisticated works of art in Precolumbian America, the exhibition will examine their place in society and also delve into the origins of the legend of El Dorado, the fabled city of gold. The show runs September 12, 2012-January 12, 2014.
Things get naughty with “Shunga: sex and humour in Japanese art” (title to be confirmed) which from October 3, 2013-January 5, 2014, will display the hugely popular sex art of Japan from 1600-1900 A.D.
While the museum itself is free, all of the above special exhibitions have an entrance charge. There are several free exhibitions too. From February 7-April 28 is “In search of Classical Greece: Travel drawings of Edward Dodwell and Simone Pomardi, 1805-1806.” This will follow the journey of the celebrated Classical scholar and artist as they explored the ruins of a Greece that was still part of the Ottoman Empire.
From February 14-April 21 is “African textiles today: social fabric of the east and south,” studying the long history and continuing importance of textile art in eastern and southern Africa. At the top of this article is a kanga from Kenya that celebrates Barack Obama’s election. President Obama’s father was from Kenya and he has extended family that lives in east Africa (© The Trustees of the British Museum).
From May 30-September 1, there will be an as-yet-unnamed retrospective of the work of American artist R.B. Kitaj (1932-2007).
Also free is the Asahi Shimbun Display in Room 3, just to the right as you come in through the main entrance. This room hosts exhibitions dedicated to a single object and its place in the culture that created it. In 2013 there will be a mask from Sierra Leone, the Mildenhall Treasure, a modern adaptation of the Shunga artwork and a clock made by celebrated English clockmaker Thomas Tompion (1639-1713).