So, here are my suggestions for those ten art shows around the capital that are thought-provoking, challenging, inspiring, provocative, and all the other descriptive words you can think of. Plenty to see, especially with so many new shows opening.
Enjoy and see you next month!
Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s, Photographers’ Gallery
An exhibition made for me, right? And hopefully for everyone else too as photography was a genre where female artists really broke through, challenging not just the male dominance of the art world, but also (inevitably) challenging the way women were depicted in art. This flood of female photographers saw a real shake-up, heralding a move from passive observation of the female (often nude) form, to an actively engaged, multi-layered and multi-dimensional representation of women. The scope of this show is pretty impressive, encompassing over 150 works from over 40 photographers, including such pioneers as Cindy Sherman, Martha Rosler and the great Francesca Woodman. Opens October 7th. Admission £3.
The Vulgar, Barbican Centre
Ooh, this could be interesting! The quality of the Barbican’s art shows is always high so this one I’m looking forward to. The provocation? Quite simply, what role does ‘taste’ have in art? What is vulgar, and how has that classification of what is ‘tasteful’ and what is ‘vulgar’ changed over time? And how has art, with its challenge to taste, actually transformed what society considers tasteful or not? This will be investigated through works back from the Renaissance to the present day, including exhibits such as historical costumes, couture, high-street fashion, manuscripts, photography and film. Opens October 13th. Admission £14.50.
Guerrilla Girls, Whitechapel Gallery
Bring it. BRING IT! Anyone who’s seen me on Twitter will know Guerrilla Girls – they’re my banner and have been ever since I snapped a shot of their works at the terrific Disobedient Objects show at the V&A. But other than that, opportunities to see their works in the UK have been pretty sparse. The Tate Modern has dusted down a few of the pieces they had in their archives, and these are now on the walls, but this (sadly) small display is the first UK show for this innovative and anonymous feminist group of female artists. And their focus? How diverse are the collections of contemporary European art galleries? I hope they show no mercy, Opens October 1st. Admission free.
Picasso Portraits, National Portrait Gallery
Picasso. I think that’s pretty much all you need to know, really, isn’t it? I mean, the guy… Everyone knows Picasso, and everyone knows he was breathtakingly talented. A pioneer. Possibly a genius. And this new show will study the evolution and breadth of Picasso’s style through his portraits. The works on display will span the full length of his career and many have been pulled from collections overseas, with Guggenheim New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris and Museu Picasso, Barcelona all generously lending works. Admission is pretty hefty at £17 (I’m not really a fan of this creeping increase in exhibition prices) but the NPG will be running a special ticket offer where every Friday morning the first 100 tickets will be £5. This will be popular – and rightly so. Opens October 6th.
Beyond Caravaggio, National Gallery
Ah, Caravaggio. A master in every conceivable way – the composition, the naturalism, the drama, the lighting… It’s all there. So how exciting that the National Gallery has devised this show which will look at Caravaggio’s legacy and his influence on others. However, this could go two ways. There will be over fifty works curated together – largely from National Trust houses and private collections – and you have to fear that they may not live up to the brilliance of the great man. But there will be original works from Caravaggio on display too and you can never regret time spent admiring one of his magnificent paintings. Opens October 12th. Admission £14.
Turner Prize, Tate Britain
It’s that time of year again. The time of year when modern art looks to recognise the work of an artist under the age of 50, and the rest of the world responds with, ‘yes, but is it art?’ Or, occasionally, similar opinion is communicated in far blunter language. Each year the nominees have their work displayed at the Tate Britain and this year, running the gauntlet of media hostility, we have Michael Dean (for works that include the display of a corrugated metal shutter), Anthea Hamilton (an installation of a large bottom with a pair of hands pulling the cheeks apart), Helen Marten (collages of screen-prints and handmade objects) and Josephine Pryde (photo of two women riding a Lego train). I’m being flippant with the above, obvs, but expect this to be as divisive as ever! Now open. Admission £12.
Rodin and Dance, Courtauld Gallery
Rodin’s fascination with dance and movement is well known, and evident in much of his work, so it is with some surprise that I find that this show will be the first major exhibition to explore Rodin’s works on dance and bodies in extreme acrobatic pose. The major exhibits will be a series of experimental sculptures known as the Dance Movements made in 1911, works he completed in the last years of his life. They reflect the playful experimentation mood he was in and will be shown alongside drawings from the time. These sculptures were only seen by Rodin’s nearest and dearest at the time – they were more a private project – so this will be a special opportunity. Opens October 20th. Admission £9.50.
The Infinite Mix, 180 The Strand
Yes, I’m recommending to you a show comprised entirely of video installations. No, I’m not joking. Yes, I’m completely serious. The success of film and video in art has been patchy at best so prepare for your low expectations to be transformed by this thrilling exhibition from Hayward Gallery (in its temporary home at The Store, 180 the Strand). Social documentary music videos from long-time collaborators Khalil Joseph and Kendrick Lamar jostle for attention with more light-hearted theatrical exploration of people crossing a New York street from Martin Creed, footage of Jamaican dancehall competitions from Jeremy Deller and Cecilia Bengolea, and a ghostly apparition of Maria Callas from Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. Easily one of the shows of the year. Admission free
Abstract Expressionism, Royal Academy of Arts
I feel like I cannot possibly express, in words, the magnificence of this show. Everything about is overwhelming. The paintings themselves give you everything – bold dynamism and romantic hues, contemplation and serenity, rage and anger. It’s all here. And there’s so much of it packed into these vast galleries at the Royal Academy. Over 150 works of art, much of it huge paintings that cover the walls almost entirely. Such an exciting exhibition. You’ll be wandering around in a daze. And so much to learn too. Yes, there’s the recognised names and instantly recognisable works of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, but you’ll be just as astounded by Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still and many, many others. Utterly extraordinary. Admission £17.
Frieze London, Regent’s Park
Now, believe it or not, I did think twice (or thrice) about whether to include this annual show – the biggest art fair in the world – in this newsletter. That seems incredible, I know. After all, Frieze London is an institution, and one which brings together over a hundred of the world’s leading galleries to showcase works by newly discovered artists alongside some of the most respected names in contemporary art. Why wouldn’t you want to go? Especially as there’s also Frieze Masters, which will be showing works from the ancient era to the Old Masters. Well, I’ll tell you why – because it’ll be incredibly busy and you’ll have to pay at least £40 for a day ticket. That’s a HUGE amount of money. But, you know, it’s an experience. So I’m adding it here for those who really, really want to immerse themselves in (a hell of a lot of) art. Open 6 – 9 October.