In Celebration of BritWeek

BritWeek. Actually, it’s a fortnight (that’s two weeks). Running this year from April 26 through May 11, and now in its fifth year, it highlights and celebrates the many British links with California, including art and design, music, literature, fashion, film and television, business, technology, food, cars, and sport, through a series of events focusing on British excellence in these areas.

Being a Brit, I’ve been discovering how Los Angeles continues to provide opportunity and inspiration to many of us, following a long tradition of British creativity and prominence in the region. Charlie Chaplin came from London, William Mulholland hailed from Belfast, Griffith Griffith of Observatory and Park fame was a Welshman, writers Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, and Evelyn Waugh all wrote about the city or made their home here. One writer closely associated with Los Angeles is Raymond Chandler, who was raised and educated in Britain (born in Illinois, he moved to London as a child with his British mother). Moving to America in 1912, he started a new life in L.A. picking fruit and stringing tennis rackets until he began writing the noir detective fiction he is known for.

Hollywood has of course seen its fair share of Brits too—from Stan Laurel, Cary Grant, and David Niven to Helen Mirren, Christian Bale, and Colin Firth. Over the years, Britain has amassed over 330 Academy Awards, excelling not only in acting, but also in directing, screenwriting, music, costume design, animation, and special effects.

David Hockney, Mullholland Drive: The Road to the Studio, 1980, purchased with funds provided by the F. Patrick Burns Bequest, © David Hockney. All rights reserved.

LACMA’s permanent collections include British works too—my personal favourite is David Hockney’s Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio. I used to yearn for the pools and landscapes of Hockney’s California back in my hometown of grey, drizzly London; little did I know I’d be able to see this great painting every day and walk to work down boulevards lined with palm trees (I’m still aspiring to the swimming pool). Works from the British Arts and Crafts movement also feature in LACMA’s collections, as do fine silver and English porcelain.

Here at LACMA we’re celebrating BritWeek by hosting an original Magna Carta from the Bodleian Library, Oxford—the thirteenth-century document that has had such profound influence on political evolution in both Britain and the United States (more on that tomorrow). It goes on view tomorrow for just ten days. On its last day here, May 5, we’ll be screening the premiere of Ironclad, which opens with the signing of the great charter.

This weekend LACMA is also presenting the premiere of a documentary on William Turnbull, recently described as “the most important living British artist.” A celebrated sculptor and painter, over the past sixty years his artwork has helped define modern and contemporary art.

So make yourself a nice cup of tea, or settle down with a pint, and enjoy perusing this year’s offerings from BritWeek.

Miranda Carroll, Director of Communications

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