Celts: art and identity

Celts: art and identity

24 September 2015 - 31 January 2016
Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery
£16.50, Members/under 16s free

This is the first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity, and is organised in partnership with National Museums Scotland. It is a story that unfolds over 2,500 years and across Britain and Europe – from the Atlantic coast to the Black Sea. Beginning with the first recorded mention of ‘Celts’ and ending with an exploration of Celtic expression today, uncover the wider picture of how this identity has been reinvented and revived over the centuries – as fluid as a Celtic motif. 


Drawing in silver and gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns

Drawing in silver and gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns

10 September - 6 December 2015
Room 90
£8.00, Members/under 16s free
Organised with the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Explore the development of the artistic technique of metalpoint from the Renaissance to the present, and discover how the technical challenge of the medium has inspired generations of artists.

This exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see around 100 exceptional drawings created using the exquisite metalpoint technique. It features works by some of the greatest artists working from the 15th century to the present including Rogier van der Weyden, Petrus Christus, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein the Elder, Lucas van Leyden, Rembrandt, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, Otto Dix, Jasper Johns and Bruce Nauman. Works drawn from the British Museum’s superb collection of metalpoint drawings sit alongside major loans from European and American museums as well as private collections, including four sheets by Leonardo da Vinci from the Royal Collection.

Metalpoint is a drawing technique where the artist uses a metal stylus, usually made of silver, on an abrasive preparation so that traces of the metal are left on the surface, resulting in a visible drawing. The fine point allows for precise lines so that stunningly detailed drawings can be achieved. Metalpoint lines cannot be easily erased and the artist needs to carefully plan the design or run the risk of having to start all over again. In the hands of the greatest artists metalpoint could also be used more freely for creating rapid sketches.

The exhibition is the first to explore the development of metalpoint through five centuries and showcases the great variety of artistic styles it has encompassed. During the Renaissance metalpoint became popular both north and south of the Alps before cheaper graphite replaced it from around 1550. In northern Europe metalpoint continued to be used in preparation for prints or in travel sketchbooks. From the late 17th century the technique was virtually forgotten until the 19th century when the admiration for Renaissance art sparked its renewed use. The exploration of the medium continues to this day, both in Europe and the USA.

Such a glittering array of metalpoint drawings by the greatest masters of this technique has never been assembled before, and this exhibition presents a unique opportunity to view such a large collection of masterpieces using this intriguing technique.  


Celts: art and identity: Restaurant package

Celts: art and identity: Restaurant package

Available from Thursday 24 September 2015 - Monday 30 November 2015 and from Sunday 27th December 2015 - Sunday 31st January 2016

Combine your exhibition visit with a meal in the Great Court Restaurant, at the heart of the Museum. Enjoy a special set menu inspired by the Iron Age, including wild, foraged and seasonal ingredients from across the British and Irish Isles. Subject to availability

2-course lunch and then 14.00 exhibition entry=£33
3-course lunch and then 14.00 exhibition entry =£36
14.00 exhibition entry and then afternoon tea from 15.00 =£28 


Celts: art and identity: Friday dinner package

Celts: art and identity: Friday dinner package

Available from Friday 25 September 2015 - Friday 27 November and from Friday 8 January - Friday 29 January 2016 (Friday only)

Combine your exhibition visit with a meal in the Great Court Restaurant, at the heart of the Museum. Enjoy a special set menu inspired by the Iron Age, including wild, foraged and seasonal ingredients from across the British and Irish Isles.

Afternoon tea and then 17.30 exhibition entry=£28
17.30 exhibition entry and then 2-course dinner=£33
17.30 exhibition entry and then 3-course dinner=£36  


Egypt: faith after the pharaohs

Egypt: faith after the pharaohs

29 October 2015 - 7 February 2016
Room 35
£10, Members/under 16s free

Discover Egypt’s incredible journey over 12 centuries, as Jews, Christians and Muslims transformed this ancient land. It is a story charting the change from a world of many gods to the worship of one God.

The exhibition begins in 30 BC, when Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire after the death of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and continues until AD 1171 when the rule of the Islamic Fatimid dynasty came to an end. The remarkable objects in the exhibition have been uniquely preserved in Egypt’s arid climate, and many have never been on display before. Their survival provides unparalleled access to the lives of individuals and communities, and they tell a rich and complex story of influences, long periods of peaceful coexistence, and intermittent tension and violence between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The state’s use of religion to assert power is shown by fabulous sculptures that mix ancient Egyptian and Roman imperial iconography, and letters on papyrus concerning the treatment of Jews and early Christians. Gravestones and architectural elements demonstrate the reuse and reworking of sacred spaces – temple complexes were reused as churches and, later, mosques.

The changes in people’s private lives are shown through everyday objects – delicate fragments of papyrus preserve some of the earliest surviving Jewish scriptures and lost Christian gospels. Colourful garments and accessories show what people wore, and soft-furnishings show how they dressed their homes.

Together, the objects in the exhibition show how the shift from the traditional worship of many gods to monotheism – the belief in one God – affected every part of life. Egypt’s journey from Roman to Islamic control reflects the wider transformation from the ancient to medieval world, a transition that has shaped the world we live in today.