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Grayson Perry Wins at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards

Winners of Sky Arts South Bank Awards

Congratulations to Grayson Perry for taking home the award for Visual Art for The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at last night’s South Bank Sky Arts Awards! Leaders of the contemporary and classical arts scene gathered at The Dorchester in London to celebrate this year’s artistic triumphs and present the chosen few with a South Bank Sky Arts Award.

According to South Bank Sky Arts Awards, Perry’s British Museum exhibition explored “a range of themes from holy relics to identity and contemporary culture, [and] was a smorgasbord of creativity and a personal lifetime’s ambition that he was delighted and surprised to see come to life.

You can view the full list of winners here, and read more about the book here.

Competition: Win a signed copy of Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

You may have seen the Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum (6 October 2011 – 19 February 2012), well now here’s your chance to win a signed copy of the exhibition catalogue Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman.

 

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

 

Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry uses the seductive qualities of ceramics, tapestry, metalwork and other art forms to make stealthy comments about societal injustices and hypocrisies, and to explore a variety of historical and contemporary themes.

Offering an insight into the artist’s fantastic imaginative world, the book draws on themes such as pilgrimage, transvestitism, shamanism and tomb guardians to take the reader on a journey to an imaginary afterlife.

Including an introduction by Grayson Perry and lavishly illustrated with over 200 colour illustrations, this book takes us to the fantasy world of a contemporary artist who never fails to challenge and unsettle his audience.

It is the perfect accompaniment to the exhibition and a great showpiece for your book collection.

To win a copy of Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, signed by Grayson Perry himself, please comment below and answer the following question:

What is the name of Grayson Perry’s 50 year old teddy bear?

Competition closes Sunday 15th January 2012 at 5.00pm GMT. The winner will be drawn and notified by Tuesday 17th January 2012. The winner will be selected at random providing they answer the question correctly.

For more information and to book tickets for the special exhibition Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman (6 October 2011 – 19 February 2012) , head to britishmuseum.org/graysonperry

Shop this book and many other titles online through the British Museum Shop

Author Q and A: David Stuttard

In anticipation of the release of our new title Power Games : Ritual and Rivalry at the Ancient Greek Olympics we spoke to author,  playwright and classicist David Stuttard about Ancient Greece, London 2012 and which historical figure he most identifies with.

David Stuttard

David Stuttard

What did you find most exciting about embarking on Power Games: Ritual and Rivalry at the Ancient Greek Olympics?

There have been lots of books written about the Ancient Olympics, but what I was really excited about doing was trying to capture what the atmosphere might have been like at one particular Games.  To do this, I had to know not only exactly what was going on at the time I’d chosen (416 bc) but also precisely what the actual site at Olympia looked like in that year.  I wanted to be able to take the reader on a journey through Olympia with all its temples and statues and administrative buildings, so I needed to be able to build my own 3-D map of the site (albeit in my head).  That meant reading ancient accounts and getting to know as much as I possibly could about the physical geography – and revisiting the archaeological remains at Olympia, too, which (although I’d been several times before) came as something of a shock.  I’d created a really vivid mental picture of the site as it existed in all its glory in 416 bc and today, of course, it’s in ruins.

The first recorded Olympic Games took place in 776BC; can you tell us why you chose the events of 416BC as the focus for Power Games?

416 bc was a pivotal year for the ancient Olympics.  For one thing, it came at the end of a few years of phoney peace in the middle of a war (the Peloponnesian War) which involved pretty much the entire Greek world, stretching from modern Turkey to Sicily, as well as the Aegean islands and the Greek mainland itself.  For another, it involved big personalities, and the biggest of them all was Alkibiades.  In the 416 bc Games he entered a staggering seven teams in the chariot race, so that he came first, second and (depending on who you believe) either third or fourth. He was, in fact, using the Games as a vehicle for propaganda – not only for himself but for his city, Athens. We know that other important politicians from all over the Greek world were at the Games, too, using the occasion as an opportunity to hold talks and broker deals, so, given the fact that the book explores not just the athletic side of the Festival but the political and religious aspects too, it really did seem that 416 was the ideal year to focus on.  And it was.  I didn’t once regret the choice.

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Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam

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This week millions of Muslims will begin their journeys home from Saudi Arabia after Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, and the following celebrations of Eid-al-Adha draw to a close.  One of the five pillars of Islam central to Muslim belief, every year the Hajj pilgrimage draws millions of Muslims from around the world to the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad -the holiest site in Islam. It is a ritual journey that every Muslim who is physically and financially able must make at least once in their lifetime.

We’ve had a special interest in Hajj this year as we are busy working on our next exhibition catalogue, Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam. Publishing to accompany a major British Museum exhibition of the same name (26 January -  15 April 2012)  the catalogue will trace the footsteps and personal experiences of pilgrims who have embarked on Hajj across the centuries, taking the reader on a physical and spiritual journey. The book won’t be released until January next year, but read the rest of this entry for some exclusive preview images of some of our favourite spreads, or visit the British Museum shop online now to preorder your copy.

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Exclusive artwork by Hoshino Yukinobu

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To celebrate the upcoming release of Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure we’ve been working with the book’s creator-  leading manga artist, Hoshino Yukinobu- to produce some exclusive Professor Munakata themed bookplates.

Hoping to offer a small run of bookplate prints for Professor Munakata readers, imagine our delight when 200 individually signed and drawn bookplates arrived from Japan! As well as his signature, every bookplate which Hoshino Yukinobu created also features an individual, hand-drawn image of Professor Munakata – making each plate a unique work of art direct from one of Japan’s most celebrated artists.

These exclusive bookplates will be available to pick up along with your copy of Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure at the British Museum manga event on 25 November.

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Read more about Hoshino Yukinobu’s work in our last blog post or read the rest of this entry for some fascinating facts about the history of bookplates, as explored in our illustrated introduction to the subject: Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates.

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Hoshino Yukinobu and Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure

Lots of excitement this week as our first ever manga,  Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure, by Hoshino Yukinobu, is now printing and will be arriving at British Museum Press HQ in less than two months!  In anticipation of its publication Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, who has been working with Hoshino sensei on the project since its inception, took a trip to Japan to show the artist the final proofs of  his book. We asked Nicole to tell us a little more about her trip, Hoshino Yukinobu, and his thoughts on the English  publication of Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure. Read the rest of this entry to see what she had to report.

Through her work with Hoshino Yukinobu, Nicole inspired the character of Chris in Professor Munakata's British Museum Adventure

Nicole's work with Hoshino Yukinobu inspired the character of Chris in Professor Munakata's British Museum Adventure

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Women in the Ancient World

Yesterday saw Forbes announce their annual list of the  World’s 100 Most Powerful Women with Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton and Dilma Rouseff topping a list that includes politicians, CEOs, bankers, cultural icons, billionaires and entrepreneurs.

This inspiring reminder of the achievements of women in modern day society was closely followed by the arrival of our forthcoming title Women in the Ancient World (available from 26 September), offering us an alternative roll-call of women whose lives and roles went far beyond the traditional view of a ‘woman’s work’;  here are Drusilla, the first Roman woman to be recognized as a goddess;  Hatsheput, who bolstered her authority as Queen of Egypt by boldly adopting a male persona; Hypatia of Alexandria, an admired philosopher; and Sappho, one of the most famous musicians in antiquity.

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Juxtaposing these  public figures with themes such as domestic life, motherhood, stereotypes and depictions of the female body, Women in the Ancient World explores the different traditions, trends and attitudes towards women in ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Near East, as well as revealing some surprising resonances with our own time.

Read the rest of this entry for some of our favourite images from the book:

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Author Q and A: Jenny Balfour-Paul

In the first of our new series of author interviews we spoke to Jenny Balfour-Paul, author, artist and intrepid traveller, about her new book Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans, the organic dye revolution and the differences between writing and film-making.

Jenny Balfour-Paul

How did you first become involved in the study of Indigo?

I always loved textiles and colours, especially after travelling around India in my late teens.  When living in the Arab world in my early twenties I became fascinated by local textile skills and learnt weaving and batik.  Back in UK, and by this time a practicing batik artist and teacher, I worked with the late Susan Bosence, renowned block-printer and dyer. She was passionate about indigo dyeing and encouraged me to return to Yemen in 1983 when I told her its age-old indigo traditions were on the verge of collapse. (I had visited the country earlier that year with my husband when he was organizing a conference on Yemen for Exeter University’s Arabic dept).  A first field trip to Yemen led to many more such studies all over the Arab world, resulting in a PhD (later published) at Exeter University called ‘Indigo in the Arab World’ and then to research worldwide for ‘Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans’.

How have developments in the last ten years changed the way we should look at natural dyes? Is the study of indigo more or less relevant to the world today?

It is far more relevant today.   The importance of sustainability is obvious because over-consumption is affecting us all – humans, animals and the whole planet.  The textile and fashion industries are enormous and cause huge amounts of pollution and waste.  Dyes form a large part of this.  Synthetic indigo is made from toxic ingredients whereas natural indigo from plants is non- toxic, enriches the soil, and in hotter climates indigo can be farmed in rotation with other crops, or on waste land. It also provides employment in rural regions.

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Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure

Professor Munakata's British Museum Adventure

Here’s a sneak preview of the cover artwork for our upcoming manga, Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure.

Due out in October, Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure is the first ever manga published by the British Museum Press and the result of a great collaboration between the Museum and leading Japanese artist, Hoshino Yukinobu.

The story revolves around Hoshino sensei’s most famous character, Japanese ethnologist Professor Munakata Tadakusu who has dedicated his life to unravelling the mysteries of Japan’s past.  When the Professor travels to Britain for the first time to deliver a special lecture at the British Museum he is quickly and unexpectedly drawn into a criminal plot that endangers the museum and its famous collections. The threats appear to stem from repatriation claims – but do they? And who is demanding the objects’ return?

Professor Munakata eventually uncovers a conspiracy embedded in the very heart of the museum-  but that is all we can say for  now, for the full story you will have to read the book!

Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure will be available from the British Museum shop from 26th October 2011. For more information visit the British Museum Press webpage.

Power Games: Ritual and Rivalry at the Ancient Greek Olympics

Look up the sky tonight and you should see the August full moon: a lunar event that has resonated throughout history. Next year this mysterious night will fall right in the middle of  the London 2012 Olympic Games and we’ve asked David Stuttard, author of our forthcoming title Power Games, to explain why this is more than just coincidence.

Power Games

For over a millennium, the August full moon marked the focal point of the four-yearly Festival which included the Olympic Games. To many Ancient Greeks the moon was a goddess, so the full moon had especial power. Like our Easter, the timing of the Olympic Festival was closely linked to the movement of the heavenly bodies – and, although we do not know exactly how the date was calculated, it seems to have coincided with the second or third full moon after the summer solstice, thus associating it with important dates in both the lunar and solar calendars.

The Greeks’ days began at sunset, and the central ‘day’ of the Olympics, when the moon was full, was spent in evening banqueting, morning sacrifices, and a few races in the afternoon. For the ancient Olympics were not just about athletics. They were part of ancient religious observations, where ritual was just as important as the sport – perhaps even more so. In 2012 the Olympic full moon is on 2nd August – but, although contestants in beach volley-ball, table-tennis or cycling events might take encouragement from the auspicious date, of all that day’s contestants, only the boxers can boast a truly ancient Olympic pedigree.

Power Games: Ritual and Rivalry at the Ancient Olympic Games will be publishing on 7 November 2011. ‘Read the rest of this entry’ for an extract from Chapter Four -  ‘the full moon chapter’

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