Top 15 London Art Shows to See in 2016

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2015 was a great year for art shows in the capital, with high-profile solo artist shows, such as Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy, John Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery and Goya at the National Gallery, sitting perfectly alongside genre and subject-focused exhibitions, such as post-war British cultural history at Hayward Gallery, and non-Anglo-American Pop Art at Tate Modern.

That blend continues into 2016, along with the platforming of diverse artists, showcasing works from those who are not household names, alongside those who most definitely are. There is plenty to look forward to.

1. Georgia O’Keeffe, Tate Modern
(July 6 – October 30, 2016)

A founding member of American modernism, this show on Georgia O’Keeffe will chart the full length of Georgia’s career, from her early experimental abstract work to the development of her iconic style. It has been over 20 years since the UK last saw such a large-scale survey of the work of this influential artist. In the experienced hands of Tate Modern, there is little, if any, chance this show will disappoint.

2. Botticelli Reimagined, Victoria & Albert Museum
(March 5 – July 3, 2016)

Top 15 Art - Botticelli (1280x1033)

The largest Botticelli exhibition since 1930, this show will examine the legacy of this great artist. With an extraordinary range of exhibits that will include paintings, fashion, film, photography, tapestry, sculpture and prints, the show will explore how artists have reinterpreted his work. The show will bring together an impressive collection of 50 of Botticelli’s works and, shown alongside these, will be works from Andy Warhol, René Magritte and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, among others.

3. Mona Hatoum, Tate Modern
(May 4 – August 21, 2016)

Top 15 Art - Mona Hartoum (794x992)

Tate Modern really led the way in 2015 with its platforming of female artists – and the shows on Marlene Dumas, Sonia Delaunay and Agnes Martin were amongst the year’s highlights. That spirit is being carried into 2016 and I’ve high hopes for this, the first ever survey of the work of Mona Hatoum, one of the most important artists working today.

Born in Beirut in 1952 to a Palestinian family, Mona came to London in 1975 after war broke out in Lebanon. This exhibition will present over 100 of her works, from the 1980s to the present day, and will reflect her dynamic use of a vast range of media including performance and video, sculpture, installation, photography and works on paper. You’ll have to drag me out of this one.

4. Abstract Expressionism, Royal Academy of Arts
(September 24, 2016 – January 2, 2017)

Jackson Pollock, Male and Female, 1942-43 Oil on canvas, 186.1 x 124.5 cm Philadelphia Musuem of Art. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. H. Gates Lloyd, 1974 Photo Philadelphia Museum of Art  ?? Courtesy of The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and

Names such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning are well-established but, incredibly, this will be the first major collective exhibition of Abstract Expressionism in the UK in over 50 years.

It’s an exhibition that excites in its scale and ambition – the show will feature over 100 works and will explore the myth of homogeneity in this movement, considering different strands where some artists such as Rothko expressed their art through large single expanses of colour, whereas others such as Pollock employed more spontaneous mark-making. The spacious galleries of the RA seem the ideal venue.

5. The Vulgar, Barbican Centre
(October 13, 2016 – February 5, 2017)

Top 15 Art - The Vulgar (855x1280)

Now this one I am really looking forward to. What is vulgar? What role does ‘taste’ have in art – and how has that changed and developed over time? These are the provocations thrown down here and it’s a subject that will be investigated through works from the Renaissance to the 21st century, in exhibits including historical costumes, couture, high street fashion, manuscripts, photography and film.

6. Beyond Caravaggio, National Gallery

(October 12, 2016 – January 15, 2017)

Top 15 Art - Caravaggio (969x1280)

Ah, Caravaggio. A master in every way possible – the composition, the naturalism, the drama, the lighting…. It’s all there. So how exciting that the National Gallery is devising this exhibition that will examine his legacy and influence on the work of artists that followed.

However, this could obviously go two ways – there is always the risk that the other works will pale in comparison, much as what happened with a similar attempt by the RA this year to explore the legacy of Rubens. The 50 works that will be curated together for this show will largely come from National Trust houses and private collections, so will be unfamiliar to many. We wait and see.

7. Russia and the Arts: The Age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky, National Portrait Gallery

(March 7 – June 26, 2016)

Top 15 Art - Rissia and the Arts (1213x1280)

An unprecedented cultural exchange with Moscow will result in this exhibition of portraits of key figures from a golden age of the arts in Russia. The State Tretyakov Gallery will lend the NPG some of Russia’s most highly treasured portraits including those of Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy and Turgenev, whilst, in return, London will loan portraits of Dickens, Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth I, Darwin and Shakespeare.

Russia and the Arts will cover the years between 1867 and 1914 when Russian art, literature and music were in a period of unprecedented success – an era that would be cut short by war and revolution.

8. Easter Rising 1916, The Photographers’ Gallery

(January 22 – April 3, 2016)

Top 15 Art - Easter Rising 1916 (1280x930)

Next year is the centenary of the 1916 Rebellion, a huge insurrection from Irish Republicans as they attempted to end British rule. The rebellion was crushed by the British Army but at a terrible cost, with almost 500 killed, over half of whom were civilians. And though defeated, the event led to a surge in support for direct action in the Republican movement.

What’s interesting about the photographs brought together for this show though is, in addition to the events they covered, many of the scenes were staged, enabling the viewer to explore issues of authenticity and manipulation. Or to wonder whether this even matters in a world where all reporting had a British bias.

9. Hockney Portraits, Royal Academy of Arts

(July 2 – October 2, 2016)

David Hockney "Barry Humphries, 26-28 March" 2015 Acrylic on canvas 48 x 36" © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

The smaller Sackler Wing galleries in the RA have hosted some gems in the last few years and this promises to follow in that path. This show will be solely of David Hockney’s portraits that he has completed over the last few years, each portrait painted on the same sized canvas (48 x 36 inches), each sitter posed in the same chair, and set against the same blue background. Can’t wait.

10. Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-75, Tate Britain

(April 12 – August 29, 2016)

Top 15 art - John Hilliard (1088x1280)

Sometimes exhibitions trip over themselves trying to do too much, which is why I’m excited that this show will explore a very specific 11 year period that was critical in the development of a movement that was profoundly influential on later generations of artists. Such a narrow focus may well lead to great results, especially as it will include works from artists critical to to British conceptual art, such as Michael Craig-Martin, Keith Arnatt, Victor Burgun, and Art & Language.

11. Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art, National Gallery

(February 17 – May 22, 2016)

Self Portrait, 1837

Incredibly, this will be the first exhibition of Delacroix’s work in Britain for more than 50 years. And more than this, the exhibition will also investigate Delacroix’s influence on artists who came after him. More than a third of the display will be of Delacroix’s paintings, including impressive loans such as Self-Portrait from Musee du Louvre, and Convulsionists of Tangiers from Minneapolis Institute of Art. And the exciting loans don’t stop there for included in the works will be examples of his influence on masterpieces such as Van Gogh’s Pieta (after Delacroix) from Amsterdam, and Cezanne’s Battle of Love from Washington.

12. Robert Rauschenberg, Tate Modern

(December 1, 2016 – April 2, 2017)

Rau test 13, 2/3/04, 1:50 PM, 16C, 6966x9372 (456+386), 100%, Rau 4,  1/30 s, R57.7, G36.7, B50.1

The highlight of the Autumn season at Tate Modern promises to be this first posthumous retrospective on the work of Robert Rauschenberg. This exhibition is a dual effort with MoMA and will span the length of Robert’s long career, with important works on display from each phase of his work. This will include a selection of his stunning Combines – hybrids between painting and sculpture – and some of his graphic screen prints of the assassination of President Kennedy, which signalled Robert’s early commitment to political activism.

13. Paul Nash, Tate Britain

(October 26, 2016 – March 5, 2017)

Top 15 Art - Nash (1280x892)

One of the most important British artists of the 20th century, Paul Nash’s work is distinctive and made him a key figure in the development of Modernism in British art. His focus was on landscapes, often incorporating elements of ancient history in his works, and no doubt this show will demonstrate how his style developed over the years into an increasingly abstract and surreal style.

14. Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, Barbican Centre

(March 16 – June 19, 2016)

Top 15 Art - Strange and Familiar (1261x1280)

From social documentary and street photography, to portraiture and architectural photography, this expansive exhibition will examine Britain from the 1930s onwards. But with a twist – none of the photographers included in the show are British.

The show is being curated by Martin Parr and promises to be a fascinating insight into what interested and concerned photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson (France), Robert Frank (USA) and Edith Tudor-Hart (Austria) as they viewed Britain as a foreign country.

15. Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, Royal Academy of Arts

(January 30 – April 20, 2016)

59.16

This show hasn’t even opened yet and it’s already ruffling feathers. This show will look at the role of gardens in Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Avant-Garde art and, truthfully, these aren’t genres that lack for platforming. Perhaps the RA could have showcased other artists and genres but, such is the popularity of Monet, Cezanne, Pissarro and Manet, the crowds are sure to arrive.

And the RA does have a trump card up its sleeve as this exhibition will have Monet’s great Agapanthus Triptych from the Musee de l’Orangerie on display – the first time these will have been shown in the UK.

Image Credits:

  1. Georgia O’Keeffe Abstraction White Rose, 1927, Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 (91.4 x 76.2) Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation and Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
  2. Venus, after Botticelli, artist: Guillaume Duhamel, Date: 2008 by Yin Xin © Private collection, courtesy Duhamel Fine Art, Paris
  3. Mona Hatoum, Cellules (detail), 2012-2013 © Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris © Photo Sébastien Normand
  4. Jackson Pollock, Male and Female, 1942-43, Oil on canvas, 186.1 x 124.5 cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. H. Gates Lloyd, 1974. Photo Philadelphia Museum of Art © Courtesy of The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and DACS, London 2015
  5. The Vulgar: Walter Van Beirendonck FW 2010/2011 © Ronald Stoops
  6. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Boy bitten by a lizard, 1595-1600 © The National Gallery, London
  7. Anna Akhmatova by Olga Della-Vos-Kardovskaia, 1914 © State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
  8. Barricade made from barrels, 1916 © Sean Sexton Collection. Courtesy of the Sean Sexton Collection.
  9. David Hockney, Barry Humphries, 26-28 March, 2015, Acrylic on canvas, 121.92 x 91.44 cm © David Hockney. Photo credit: Richard Schmidt
  10. John Hilliard, Camera Recording its Own Condition (7 Apertures, 10 Speeds, 2 Mirrors), 1971. Presented by Colin St John Wilson 1980, Tate © John Hilliard
  11. Eugène Delacroix Self Portrait, about 1837, Oil on canvas 65 x 54.5 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris (RF 25) © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi
  12. Robert Rauschenberg Retroactive I, 1963 Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. Gift of Susan Morse Hilles
  13. Paul Nash Equivalents for the Megaliths, 1935 ©Tate
  14. Cas Oorthuys London, 1953 © Cas Oorthuys / Nederlands Fotomuseum
  15. Claude Monet, Nympheas (Waterlilies), 1914-15, Oil on canvas, 160.7 x 180.3 cm, Portland Art Museum, Oregon. Museum Purchase: Helen Thurston Ayer Fund, 59.16 © Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon

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