September 15, 2011


Hamra Abbas: Cities

Kuwaiti-born artist Hamra Abbas was educated in Lahore and Berlin, and now divides her time between Boston and Islamabad. The works on display at the Green Cardamom gallery until 21 October explore issues of religion, sexuality and power, and how they relate to notions of place. Paradise Bath (2009) is a set of photographic prints that record a performance in Thessaloniki, Greece, where Abbas gave a local woman a "Turkish bath". Love Yourself (2009) incorporates sex toys into brightly coloured vibrating little bombs, missiles and bullets. And in Cityscapes 1 (2010), Abbas responds to calls for a ban on minarets in some German and Swiss cities by digitally removing the minarets from images of Istanbul.


No Naughty Bits

In December 1975, Monty Python's Flying Circus was broadcast right across the US. There was just one problem: somebody had cut out all "the naughty bits"! When Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam flew to New York to try to persuade the television network to reinstate the censored footage, they unexpectedly found themselves at the centre of a landmark case concerning freedom of expression and the protection of artistic integrity. Steve Thompson's new play, which continues at the Hampstead Theatre until 15 October, draws on these events to offer a breathtaking and often hilarious examination of comedy, the operation of censorship and the misunderstandings that so often seem to dog Anglo-American relations.


Six Colorful Tales: From the Emotional Spectrum (Women)

In 1977, artist John Baldessari enlisted six women, put them in rooms with brightly coloured backgrounds and videoed their accounts of incidents from their earlier lives, from the banal to the traumatic, which involved real or imagined violence. In this exhibition at the Ceri Hand Gallery, which runs until 22 October, Jen Liu has reimagined his work in the style of a low- budget 1970s Italian horror thriller, where beautiful brunettes rule a violent world populated by psychotic killers, detectives and bloody corpses. Drawings, posters and photographic works will all be on display, together with Baldessari's original film and Liu's bold response to it.


Money and Beauty: Bankers, Botticelli and the Bonfire of the Vanities

The stories behind many masterpieces of Renaissance painting - works by Botticelli, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Memling and Uccello - reveal how the modern banking system developed alongside what is arguably the greatest explosion of artistic talent in Western history. This exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi (17 September to 22 January 2012) explores the links between high finance, religious and political upheavals, and the era's astonishing cultural creativity. It uncovers the daily lives of the great banking dynasties, their connections with the leading princely and noble patrons of the arts, and the clash between economic and spiritual values. Also on show at the Palazzo from 23 September is Declining Democracy: Rethinking Democracy between Utopia and Participation, in which a wide range of artists address the question of why the ideal of democracy is being challenged in the West to an extent not seen since the end of the Second World War.


My City

On a dusky evening, in the shadow of St Paul's, Richard and Julie find their primary school headmistress lying on a park bench - and realise that no one else has had such an influence on their lives. What will it mean for them to get to know her and their old teachers again now that they are adults? Although Stephen Poliakoff made his name in the theatre, in recent years he has concentrated on television and cinema. He returns to the stage for the first time in more than a decade with a world premiere marked by many of his recurrent themes: London, lost childhood and the inspirational power of the past. Directed by the author, My City runs at the Almeida Theatre until 5 November.

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