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The British Museum to Stage First Major Exhibition on Modern American Printmaking This Spring


This spring the British Museum will stage the first major exhibition on modern and contemporary American printmaking, The American Dream: pop to present will trace the creative momentum in American art over the past five decades - from the moment Pop art burst onto the New York and West Coast scenes in the early 1960s to the rise of minimalism, conceptual art and photorealism. Using innovative techniques and with mass appeal, the unprecedented scale, boldness and ambition of American printmaking was the ideal medium to express the USA's power and influence, as well as dealing with explosive issues such as race, AIDS, and feminism.

The exhibition will feature works by artist such as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Kara Walker, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.

Beyond the Great Wave (title TBC)

25 May - 13 August 2017

Room 35

Supported by Mitsubishi Corporation

This exhibition focuses on the last thirty years of Japan's most renowned artist's, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), career from around 1820 to 1849. It features a broad selection of works - from the iconic print 'Great Wave' of c. 1831, to sublime painted works done right up to his death at the age of 90. The exhibition examines Hokusai's personal beliefs through major paintings, drawings, woodblock prints and illustrated books - many never seen before in the UK. Hokusai continued to use landscape and wave imagery as a major subject during his later years, but his interest in nature, in exploring the mutability and minutiae of all phenomena in his art, was increasingly tied to a spiritual quest.

Treasures of the Scythians (title TBC)

14 September 2017 - 14 January 2018

The Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery

The Scythians were one of the great nomadic civilisations of antiquity. First mentioned by the Assyrians in the ninth century BC, admired by Herodotus and respected enemies of the Achaemenids, they developed a powerful alternative economy which for centuries dominated the huge region stretching from Siberia to the Black Sea.

This exhibition includes royal Scythian tombs in Siberia and Kazakhstan and shows objects of exceptional beauty which would not normally survive. They include multi-coloured rugs, fur-lined garments and accessories, unique horse headgear, beautiful gold objects and much more. This exhibition is based on exceptional loans, mostly from the Hermitage in St Petersburg, and includes new archaeological discoveries and scientific discoveries.

Faith and Society (title TBC)

2 November 2017 - 18 April 2018

Room 35

Faith and society is the fourth collaborative project between the British Museum BBC, and Penguin. This exhibition will look at what objects reveal about the role and expression of beliefs in the lives of individuals and communities through time and around the world. It will show that ever since the emergence of our own fully modern human species over 100,000 years ago, people have expressed beliefs in a mixture of ideas and actions usually focused on supernatural entities in the search for the meaning of life.

Objects will reflect the need to symbolise feelings beyond words and reveal familiar and recurrent human concerns about the passage of life from conception to death and sometimes beyond. Beliefs support natural human desires for good health, happiness, security, hope, comfort, identity, protection and power to such an extent that the project might ask whether our species should be known as Homo religiosus rather than Homo sapiens. A radio series and book by Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, will accompany the exhibition.

The South Asia Season 2017

The British Museum's South Asia Season 2017 brings together different strands of activity to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Indian independence and UK cultural ties. The season includes: two spotlight tours, one of an important sculpture of Ganesha, the other on the theme of The music of courtly India to selected UK venues; An Object Journeys display at Manchester Museum, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the continuing development of the joint British Museum/ Manchester Museum South Asia partnership gallery and long term loans to Devon and Durham.

Gallery opening

The Joseph E Hotung Gallery for China and South Asia

November 2017

The British Museum will reopen the Joseph E Hotung Gallery for China and South Asia in November 2017. The new display will include a new narrative for China and South Asia which will bring the story up to the present day. The redisplay will allow the Museum to add new types of objects to the gallery such as paintings and textiles which need regulated conditions for display. These will complement the existing types of objects on show, such as sculpture, ceramics, lacquer, jade and metal ware. Updated interpretation, new lighting and design will allow this extraordinarily rich collection to be better seen and understood by the Museum's seven million annual visitors.

New exhibitions and displays

Free admission

Picasso lithograph prints (title TBC)

January 2017 - March 2017

Room 90a

The British Museum will display its newly acquired lithograph prints and three aquatint prints by Pablo Picasso covering the post-war period from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. Highlighting key themes in his work from this period, including his relationship with the youthful and independent-minded Françoise Gilot, the lithographs were produced in Paris when he was working in close collaboration with the printer Fernand Mourlot. The large aquatints from the early 1950s show Picasso's experimentation with the painterly possibilities of the technique working with young printers at the Paris workshop of Roger Lacourière with whom he had first worked in the 1930s on the Vollard Suite. This acquisition closes the last major gap in the British Museum's representation of Picasso's achievements as a printmaker. This exciting acquisition is the final part of the Museum's sustained campaign to represent more fully Picasso's work as a printmaker.

Acquired with the support of the Art Fund (with a contribution from Art Partners), the Vollard Group, Hamish Parker, Clive Gillmore, Tavolozza Foundation - Katrin Bellinger and individual contributions.

Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850-1950

23 February - 27 August 2017

Room 90

Exhibition supported in memory of Melvin R Seiden

Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850-1950 will display a selection of stunning works from the British Museum's rich collection of Prints and Drawings, over half of which have never previously exhibited or published, to examine the ways artists interpreted landscape on paper during the Victorian and early Modern period. It is the first exhibition to focus on landscape drawing during this era and explores the idea that each work is a construct of the mind and imagination of the artist - an attempt to convey not merely the physical properties of a landscape but its sense of place. The 125 watercolours and drawings on display range from highly coloured, detailed Pre-Raphaelite attempts to follow John Ruskin's precepts to 'go to nature', to sweeping wash sketches painted on the spot by James McNeill Whistler and Philip Wilson Steer, to the abstractions from reality of artists like Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore who followed a different aesthetic.

Where the Thunderbird lives: cultural traditions of the Northwest Coast peoples (title TBC)

23 February - 27 August 2017

Room 91

The Peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America have one of the longest cultural continuities in the Americas. With over 8,000 years of cultural, linguistic and genetic resilience these thriving societies provide lessons for us all in a changing world. Utilising one of the most famous and recognisable art traditions in the world, this exhibition will consider how peoples relationships with each other and the world around them are contained within the objects they make. The evocative and powerful masks capturing the origins of belief systems, the form-line designs that encode the family lineages and clan histories of great leaders, these are objects which demonstrate how Northwest Coast material heritage continues to shape the way people relate to their world and conceive of their past, present, and future.

Bringing together for the first time objects from the Tlingit, Haida, Kwakwaka'wakw, Nisga'a, Tsimshian, Salish, Nuu Chah Nulth and Makah communities covering thousands of years of Northwest Coast Art, this exhibition highlights the cultural resilience of these peoples. Where the Thunderbird Lives will show how the Peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America can provide an inspiration for all cultures seeking to hold on to their identity and preserve their way of life in a globally connected world.

A Little Gay History (title TBC)

May 2017 - October 2017

Room 69a

Supported by Stephen and Julie Fitzgerald

This display provides glimpses into LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) experience across time and around the world through the British Museum's collection. The objects offer insights into to what the novelist E. M. Forster described as 'a great unrecorded history'.

Ranging chronologically from ancient history to the present day the objects often prompt questions, challenging the contemporary viewer to question the assumptions that they bring to objects from other cultures and the more distant past. The display draws on material from across the breadth of the Museum's collection including coins, medals, and prints. As well as highlighting famous figures such as the poetess Sappho, and the emperor Hadrian and his lover Antinous, the display looks beyond Europe's classical past to explore less familiar themes and stories.

This exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in July 1967. This legislation partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales and marks an important milestone in the campaign for equality.

The Print before Photography (title TBC)

21 September 2017 - 28 January 2018

Room 90

People are now so used to the deluge of photographically-derived imagery of the modern world that it is difficult to imagine when every pictorial image had to be designed by someone and cut by a craftsman onto a copper plate or wooden block using no mechanical aids. These were then printed by a different expert and distributed by printsellers to buyers around the whole of Europe, a period which lasted from around 1400 to 1850. It was a huge business, which gave work to thousands of people, and the exhibition will reveal some of the complexities of the process, the varied nature of the prints themselves, and the ways in which buyers used or collected them. The exhibition follows the publication by the British Museum of a book with the same title.

The currency of Communism (title TBC)

26 October 2017 - May 2018

Room 69a

Supported by the Art Fund

This exhibition, coinciding with the centenary of the Russian Revolution, explores how communist states radically re-structured their economies to reflect Marxist ideology. Communist regimes have been established all over the world, leaving a rich visual record of life under the planned economy. The display looks at all aspects of the monetary system, from the coins and banknotes issued by the state, to barter, voucher systems and the black market.

The Asahi Shimbun Displays

Room 3

Room 3 sits just inside the Museum's main entrance and hosts a series of free, regularly changing displays focused on a single object or theme. The series is supported by the Asahi Shimbun.

The Asahi Shimbun Displays

Japanese Woodblock Printing (title TBC)

16 March - 28 May 2017

Room 3

This display will explore the little known but finely tuned processes-the precision craftsmanship - that lay behind the making of a traditional colour woodblock print. The focus will be a full-colour triptych print by the leading artist Utagawa Kunisada, which shows a rare depiction of women enacting the stages by which a print was made. This triptych, published in 1857, helps us to visualise the accumulated wisdom of more than two centuries of print-making during the Edo period (1600-1868).

The Asahi Shimbun Displays

Amaravati Sculpture (title TBC)

22 June - 20 Aug 2017

Room 3

This display will focus on the Great Shrine at Amaravati. Founded before 200 BC, probably to house a relic of the Buddha, the Great Shrine at Amaravati in Southeast India flourished for over a thousand years. Slowly abandoned sometime during the 14th century, by the late 18th century materials from the site were being recycled for new buildings and temples. In the 19th century a series of archaeological campaigns recovered the surviving sculptures. Today, the pieces are shared across a number of museum collections in India and around the world. The British Museum houses more than 120 sculptures from Amaravati, which are housed in the Asahi Shimbun Gallery of Amaravati Sculptures reopening in November 2017. The collection forms the single most important group of Indian sculptures outside the subcontinent.

The Asahi Shimbun Displays

Stepping into Britain (title TBC)

14 September - 12 November 2017

Room 3

Stepping into Britain will explain the evidence of northern Europe's earliest settlers from the remarkable discovery of human footprints on the Norfolk coast at Happisburgh. Dating to nearly a million years ago, they show a small family group pausing at the edge of an estuary on an ancient course of the River Thames. The footprints were only visible for two weeks before destruction by the tides, but stone tools with animal and plant remains have survived. The display will show how humans were competing with hyaena for the grazing herds of deer, elk, horse and mammoth. As the first pioneers in northern Europe, they were pushing the boundaries of human endeavour, trying to find new ways to survive the long, cold winters.

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