Sebastian in a Hermes scarf, 2004 © Maggi Hambling; photo: Douglas Atfield co. The British Museum, London.

London - Maggi Hambling at the British Museum is an exciting surprise, with her drawing exhibition “Touch: works on paper”.

The exhibition celebrates a major donation by the artist of around fifteen of her works, confirming the bicentenary tradition of artists donating their works to the British Museum, which was established in 1816 with the bequest of Francis Towne. Maggi Hambling’s gift will be the latest manifestation of that tradition, maybe remembering she has spent time over the years in the British Museum Study Room examining the work of Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

One of the leading contemporary figurative artists of the UK, Maggi Hambling works across all media, in painting, printmaking, sculpture and installation with drawing at the core centre of her practice.

The British Museum exhibition takes its title ‘Touch’ from the idea of a profound relation between the artist and the subject being drawn, but also between Hambling and her own work. She said: “I believe the subject chooses the artist, not vice versa, and that subject must then be in charge during the act of drawing in order for the truth to be found. Eye and hand attempt to discover and produce those precise marks which will recreate what the heart feels. The challenge is to touch the subject, with all the desire of a lover.”

This exhibition explores Hambling’s drawings and prints, many of which have never been exhibited before, from early student drawings and etchings, to portraits of artist and critic John Berger, actor Stephen Fry, and curator Norman Rosenthal.

The exhibition is in a fairly chronological order, spanning for the life of Maggi Hambling. ‘Touch’ is made of forty works, around a quarter from British Museum’s own collection, with loans from private collections, the National Portrait Gallery and Tate. The remaining works are from the personal collection of Hambling.

A notably life size and outstanding charcoal portrait of Sebastian Horsley opens the show. He was a writer, artist and Soho dandy, who Hambling has described as ‘an exotic wild animal’. The portrait is about the human form, a major theme of the exhibition and it depicts the subject wearing a silk scarf only.

The exhibition proceeds displaying Hambling’s earliest work from the 1960s and 1970s. One of the most interesting work is the potent ink drawing of Rosie, the stuffed Indian rhinoceros in Ipswich Museum, which the artists considers ‘her first portrait’, and it was executed when the artist was seventeen.

The British Museum exhibition ends with recent work made in 2015, from a new series entitled Edge focused on global warming.

There is one only sculpture made of contorted plaster, sitting in the middle of the room 90 of the British Museum, titled ‘Henrietta eating a meringue’ (2001). The work of Hambling, in fact, was widely inspired to Henrietta Moraes, her life partner.

Hambling is openly ‘lesbionic’, in her own adjective. She met with Moraes in 1998, and she made charcoal portraits of her in the last year of her life. Henrietta Moraes (1931 - 1999) was a British artist, model and memoirist, who was the muse and inspiration for many artists of the Soho subculture during the 1950s and 1960s.

Maggi Hambling is born in Suffolk (23rd October 1945). She studied with the artists Arthur Lett-Haines and Cedric Morris from the age of fifteen and later at Ipswich Art School, Camberwell and the Slade. Although she is perhaps best known for her controversial public sculpture: Oscar Wilde (1998, facing Charing Cross Station, London) and Scallop, (2003, Aldeburgh Beach, Suffolk), Hambling’s powerful drawings and monotypes are less familiar to the public.

The British Museum was the first national institution to collect extensively Hambling’s works on paper. In 1985 the Museum acquired the drawing of her former teacher Cedric Morris on his deathbed. Hambling’s first series of monotypes, sensuous studies of the nude, were purchased soon after and the Museum has continued to collect her work.

The drawing exhibitionMaggi Hambling – Touch: works on paper” is at the British Museum, Room 90, London, from 8th September 2016 until 27th January 2017.

Statue of Arsinoe, Canopus, Aboukir Bay, Egypt © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation - Ph. Christoph Gerigk, co. British Museum.

(Following from part one)

The following room, ‘Osiris: from myth to festival’, focused on the Mysteries of Osiris, the most enigmatic of ancient religious ceremonies. The Osiris myth is the most elaborate and influential story in ancient Egyptian mythology. One of the most important and popular gods in ancient Egypt, he was the ruler of the underworld. Osiris with his sister-wife Isis, and their son Horus, formed a sacred family worshipped across Egypt and beyond.

The sky goddess Nut and the earth god Geb begot Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. Isis, goddess of love, loved Osiris since they were together in the womb. After birth, the two gods became pharaohs and civilised the world, while Seth and Nephthys got married together. One day Osiris was drunk and got Nephthys pregnant, so Seth decided to kill his brother. To cut a long story short, Isis could find the dead body of Osiris and got pregnant of him, generating Horus, who will kill his uncle Seth and then will become pharaoh.

Egyptians rarely wrote down the story of a sinister murder, because they believed that the magic contained in images and text could make it happen again. However, the story of Osiris was recorded by Greek historian Plutarch.

The Egyptian mythology starts from the god Atum, proceeded to his children Tefnut and Shu, who gave birth to Geb and Nut.

The following area, “Procession of the Nile”, focused on the annual celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris in Thonis- Heracleion and Canopus. The highlights of the event were two ritual processions. There is information about who were the most popular gods and the festivals dedicated to them.

One of the more inquisitive associations between Egyptian and Greek god is the one linking Osiris with Dionysus. Dionysus was identified in Rome with the god Bacchus (different, but similar to Dionysus), with Fufluns revered by the Etruscans and with the Italic goddess Liber Pater, and was nicknamed Lysios, "the one who loosens" the man of identity constraints staff for reunification with the universal originality.

The Greeks identified Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead and afterlife, with Dionysus, their god of wine and intoxicated trance. The two gods both share common areas such fertility, in terms of sexuality but also related to agriculture and nature. Additional similarities are on the analogous myths of a double birth; their murder and consequent angrily dismembered body and scatters; the phallic imagery; and the ways to celebrate festivals.

The last room, ‘Egypt and Rome’, investigated how following the roman invasion, aspects of a merged Greek and Egyptian religion were exported across the Roman Empire. After Octavian (later the Roman Emperor, Augustus), captured Alexandria in 30BC, Egypt became a Roman province of strategic and economic importance. Ptolemaic rule has shaped a fusion of Greek and Egyptian culture and religion. There was an export of these aspects to the Roman Empire with new temples created in honour of Serapes and Isis, in Rome, Pompei and even London.

Gradually the Romans accepted the notion of divine kingship. In 130 AD, Antinous drowned during the Mysteries of Osiris in the Nile. He was the great lover of Emperor Hadrian who deified him as Osiris- Antinous and spread his worship throughout the Roman Empire. The death of Antinous remains a mystery to this day. Various hypotheses have been put forward, including he was killed intentionally. Certainly, the cult of Osiris- Antinous was the last relevant production of paganism.

Franck Goddio, President of Institut Européen d’Archéologie Sous-Marine (IEASM) and exhibition co-curator said “My team and I, as well as the Hilti Foundation, are delighted that the exhibition with discoveries from our underwater archaeological expeditions off the coast of Egypt is on display at the British Museum. It enables us to share with the public the results of years of work at the sunken cities and our fascination for ancient worlds and civilisations. Placing our discoveries alongside selected masterpieces from the collections of Egyptian museums, complemented by important objects from the British Museum, the exhibition presents unique insights into a fascinating period in history during which Egyptians and Greeks encountered each other on the shores of the Mediterranean."

Supported by BP, the exhibitionSunken cities: Egypt’s lost worlds” was organised with Hilti Foundation and the Institut Européen d’Archéologie Sous-Marine, in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

The exhibitionSunken cities: Egypt’s lost worlds” was at The British Museum, London, from 19th May until 27th November 2016.

Colossal statue of god Hapy, Thonis-Heracleion, Aboukir Bay, Egypt, ph. Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation, co. British Museum, London.

London (part one) - The exhibitionSunken cities: Egypt’s lost worlds” at The British Museum was amazing.

For The British Museum in London, this is the first major exhibition of archaeological sunken findings. It explores the story of Thonis- Heracleion and Canopus, two Egyptian cities situated at the mouth of the River Nile which have been underwater for about 1,300 years. Their ongoing rediscovery under the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea is modifying our idea of the rich interaction between ancient Egypt and Greece. Remarkable underwater footage and photography were used throughout the exhibition.

The ruins submerged in the sea were located by the French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio in 2000. Until then, researchers were not sure if Heracleion and Thonis were two cities or one and the same. However, up to today, the 95% of the ruins are still uncovered.

Probably, Thonis- Heracleion and Canopus were founded during the 7th century BC. Their ruins are today in the Abukir Bay, currently 2.5 km off the coast, under 10m (30ft) of water. The two cities sank in the sixth, or the seventh century A.D., probably because of large earthquakes and flooding.

The cities were originally located on one of the islands in the Nile Delta, and were connected through a network of canals. They were big harbours and a large temple dedicated to Khonsu was present - the Greeks then identified it with Heracles. In later times, the cult of Amun became more prominent.

It was also the place of celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris, which was taking place every year during the month of Khoiak (27 November – 27 December) - god in his ceremonial boat was carried in procession from the temple of Amun in that city until his shrine at Canopus.

The Sunken Cities also explored the coming of Greeks in Egypt. At the beginning, they were hosts and not rulers. A complete stela from Thonis-Heracleion advertises a 380BC royal decree of the Egyptian pharaoh Nectanebo I. It states that 10% of the taxes collected on all goods imported from the ‘Sea of the Greeks’ into Thonis-Heracleion and on all trade operations at Naukratis were to be donated to an Egyptian temple.

The Ptolemaic period started when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt (332 BC), and lasted for centuries. The exhibition “Sunken Cities” exposes how cross-cultural exchange and religion flourished, and it shed lights on the cult of Osiris - the Egyptian god of the afterlife.

The British Museum displayed 300 objects, of which 200 were coming from the coast of Egypt near Alexandria between 1996 and 2012. Sunken Cities presented significant loans from Egyptian museums seldom seen before outside Egypt - and the first such loans since the Egyptian revolution. Directly from the collection of The British Museum, on display also objects from various sites across the river Nile Delta, mostly from Naukratis, the first Greek community in Egypt, which was a sister harbour town to Thonis-Heracleion.

The British Museum exhibition topic is the results of the work of a European team led by Franck Goddio, in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. By employing the most advanced technologies, the Goddio’s team has found the Sunken Cities, which have been underwater since the 8th century AD. Although well-known from Egyptian decrees and Greek mythology and historians, past attempts to locate them were either fruitless or very partial.

Thanks to the underwater location, a large number of notable archaeological objects have been surprisingly well preserved. Perfect monumental statues, fine metalware and gold jewellery revealed how Greece and Egypt interacted in the late first millennium BC. These artefacts offered a new insight into the quality and unique character of the art of this period and show how the Greek kings and queens who ruled Egypt for 300 years adopted and adapted Egyptian beliefs and rituals to legitimise their reign.

The exhibition was in five sections, beginning with ‘Rediscovering Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus’. Here a huge screen presented footage the rediscovery story, the underwater excavations and explained the work of the team of Goddio.

The second room, “Egypt and Greece: early encounters”, explored the beginning of the movement of people, goods and ideas between the two countries from around 650 BC.

Thonis- Heracleion was founded around 650 BC. It was the main entry point in Egypt, a big international port –city. During the excavation 69 ships were founded. An important aspect was the trade of both commercial goods, but also mercenaries. This exhibition confirmed Egypt was an area of multicultural religions and interesting characteristic was the worship of animals. Important parallels are made between Thonis- Heracleion and Canopus and the city of Naukratis, from which objects are also on display at the British Museum, London.

The third room is ‘Greek kings and Egyptian gods’, in which the Ptolemaic dynasty and legacy of Alexander the Great are explored. Greek settlers translated Egyptian into their own familiar deities. For example: the Egyptian Amun became the Greek god Zeus, after translated by Romans into the powerful Jupiter. After 30 BC, in fact, aspects of Egyptian – Greek religions spread across the Roman Empire. Alexander the Great was hailed as a rescuer when he occupied Egypt in 332 BC.

Of great importance was the cult of Serapis, a result of Graeco – Egyptian syncretism. The cult of Serapis was introduced during the 3rd century BC by Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. The cult of Serapis was spread by Ptolemaic kings as a matter of deliberate policy by the Ptolemaic kings. The iconography of the god was to represent it as Greek in appearance but with Egyptian accessories, with references to many other cults, signifying both abundance and resurrection. Serapis increased its popularity during the Roman period, often replacing Osiris as the consort of Isis in temples outside Egypt. The cult survived until all forms of pagan religion were suppressed under Theodosius I in 391 AD.

 (Continue - part two)

Exhibitionism Saatchi Gallery London Rolling Stones Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger e Keith Richards (

London – The Saatchi Gallery presented Exhibitionism an amazing show about The Rolling Stones. With over 500 objects coming from the band’s personal archives, “Exhibitionism” at the Saatchi Gallery provided a broad overview on The Rolling Stones, spanning from their beginning in the 1960’s in London to the present days.

Exhibitionism was displayed across two entire floors at the prominent Saatchi Gallery in London, and in nine themed rooms, each with its own distinctly designed environment, that demonstrated how the band has changed our understanding of rock and roll.

Spanning over 1,750 square metres, it included art & design, film, video, fashion, performance, and rare sound archives, and with artworks by Andy Warhol, David Bailey, Jeff Koons, Walton Ford, and Shepard Fairey. Collaborations and work by the enormous range of artists, designers, musicians and writers were also presented in the exhibition – from Alexander McQueen and Ossie Clark to Tom Stoppard and Martin Scorsese.

Mick Jagger commented: “We've been thinking about this for quite a long time but we wanted it to be just right and on a large scale. The process has been like planning our touring concert productions and I think that right now it’s an interesting time to do it.”

The Saatchi Gallery exhibition was focused on the band musical legacy. The Rolling Stones started as a dynamic London blues band in the early 1960’s. Soon they became famous and nowadays they represent a cultural model worshipped by legions of fans.

Keith Richards commented: “While this is about The Rolling Stones, it's not necessarily only just about the members of the band. It’s also about all the paraphernalia and technology associated with a group like us, and it’s this, as well as the instruments that have passed through our hands over the years, that should make the exhibition really interesting.”

With a new interactive approach, Exhibitionism has taken three years of scrupulous planning. It was an exploration of the huge Rolling Stones artistic opus. With backgrounds made of unseen videos and rare video clips, on display there were unusual guitars and instruments, key outfits, unique stage designs, dressing room and backstage paraphernalia, personal memoirs and letters, original bills and album cover artwork, and it was possible to listen to rare audio tracks together with exclusive film demonstrations.

Ronnie Wood said: “The scene was great down the King’s Road in the 1960’s. That was where you went to hang out to watch the fashions go by. So it is appropriate that our Exhibitionism will be housed at the wonderful Saatchi Gallery.”

The exhibition started with an introductory ‘Experience’, evoking the high points of the band’s career through a new film, with an energetic soundtrack. It then continued with the beginnings of the Rolling Stones and presented an amazing journey of the rock icon group.

Charlie Watts added: ‘’It’s hard to believe that it's more than fifty years since we began and it is wonderful to look back to the start of our careers and bring everything up to date at this exhibition.’’

The Rolling Stones were often named the ‘The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band’. However, nowadays the group looks more similar to a multinational business. As in the contemporary exhibition style, Exhibitionism last stop was at the gift shop, high prices for a small object. The Rolling Stones are an expensive experience, and the exhibition tickets were not cheap.

There is a new forthcoming album ‘Blue & Lonesome’ (2016) in few weeks, and there is an ongoing tour with sold outs stadiums.

This reminded that today The Rolling Stones turned into a big business more than a rock band. They broke the barriers in the past but today it is more about corporate. For example, it is difficult to explain to a youngster that the Jagger’s ass- shacking move was once a slap in the face of the conformist English society: he would probably find it meaningless and think it is an age- associated matter.

The Saatchi Gallery exhibition was probably not really keen to The Rolling Stones members’ real life, although it deeply analysed their private and human side. Much criticised was the installation of the famous one bedroom flat they shared in 102 Edith Grove, in Chelsea, London, as it probably exaggerated some aspects and hidden others. For example, weekly mummy was coming to wash piles of bohemian clothes. Or for instance, it put aside the abuse of substances and alcohol.

An ungenerous comparison was made with David Bowie Is exhibition, at the V&A Museum which is now successfully touring the world. Bowie has been such a versatile artist, a master of self-reinvention. The Rolling Stones have spent fifty four years of career in doing more or less the same music, with similar lifestyle.

The quantity and choice of objects was interesting, including pages of diaries of Richards or the Wyman bass amps, or the guitars of Wood. Remarkable it was the recreation of a backstage area. A collection of customs worn by the band in the 1970s confirmed Exhibitionism explored The Rolling Stones love for mixing different form of arts. They paved the way to new concepts of the live show - with scale models of the stages and a video.

Exhibitionism was promoted and presented by Australian company iEC (International Entertainment Consulting) with the full participation of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood. The international tour is presented by DHL.

Following the London exhibition, Exhibitionism will visit eleven other global cities around the world over a four year period. Next opening is New York City in few days.

From 6th April until 4th September 2016, the Rolling Stones exhibition "Exhibitionism" was at the Saatchi Gallery, London.