Ah, here it is. My last monthly ‘Top Ten Art’ piece for the year. I know, it’s been a ride. But fear not everyone for I’ll be continuing these into 2017 also.
I hope you’ve been finding them useful. I know many of you have appreciated learning more about what is showing at the independent art galleries around London (of which there are many) and that’s great as, I think, in 2016 they have shown some of the best shows of the year. And this continues this month with big names such as Anselm Kiefer, Mapplethorpe and Zaha Hadid all showing away from the main public galleries.
And, as ever, I continue to try and balance the list with shows with zero or minimal admission charges. I see admission charges at the big galleries are creeping up and up. It’s a shame, but don’t forget that these galleries are often also looking after vast permanent collections at a time when their budgets are increasingly under threat.
Anyway, here’s hoping for another great year of art in 2017, which will hopefully somehow challenge much of the horrors we are seeing around us in the world today.
Have a great Christmas – and see you in 2017.
Anselm Kiefer, White Cube Bermondsey
I love Anselm Kiefer and, frankly, if you don’t agree with me after visiting this extraordinary show of his latest works, well, I can’t help you. Kiefer must be the most exciting artist working today and this display at White Cube is almost immersive in the way that the whole gallery space has been reconfigured and relit to accommodate Kiefer’s vast new paintings and his large-scale sculptures. Art is supposed to impact you but this show’s examination of death and decay, blended with touches of the immortality of myths and legends… Well, it’s astounding. Admission free.
Abstract Expressionism, Royal Academy
It’s hard to believe that this blockbuster show at the Royal Academy is the first ever exhibition on this influential genre for almost sixty years, but it is. There is such energy, such drama whichever way you look. It is heady and exhilarating. Yet for all the violent strokes and bold brushwork in Franz Kline’s monochrome canvases, and the mania in Pollock’s paintings, there are also works of immense beauty, such as those from Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. I can’t imagine we will ever see a show this good on this subject again in our lifetime. Admission £17.
Feminist Avant Garde, The Photographers Gallery
Probably the most galvanising show I’ve been to this year. And one that’s not only full of energy and passion, but one that also reflects the innovation and creativity of female artists in the 1970s, which was an era that saw a wave of new female artists use art as a means of investigating gender roles, sexual identity, commercialisation, and even political resistance. Big names such as Francesca Woodman, Cindy Sherman, and Hannah Wilke draw you in, yet there are over 200 works here from 48 artists and all of them impress. Admission £4 (free before 12 noon).
Gavin Turk, Newport Street Gallery
So, the most famous member of the YBAs presents work that he owns from another member of this era-defining group of artists. And Gavin Turk may not be as famous or as wealthy as Damien Hirst, but he clearly takes just as much pleasure in provoking. Included in this impressive new show at Newport Street are some of Gavin’s most famous works, including his self-promoting blue plaque, and deliberate attempts at Pollock pastiches and Warhol tributes – only is he mocking these icons or paying homage? They may be deliberately provocative and headline-grabbing, but they also ask important questions about our culture. And a wider consideration on where has all that dynamism in British art gone? Admission free.
Zaha Hadid and Lucy Raven, Serpentine Galleries
2016 has been a crap year for losing people and one of those whose talents we’ve lost is pioneering architect, Zaha Hadid. Here, the Serpentine Galleries present Zaha’s early drawings and rarely seen private notebooks with sketches that reveal her complex thoughts about architectural forms and their relationships. And running in the neighbouring gallery is the first UK show for Lucy Raven, an American artist who examines the marginal spaces at the edges of image production, what happens behind the camera or between the frames of a film or animation, from the production of copper wire from an open pit mine in the American West to post-production technicians in Hollywood. Both open December 8th. Admission free.
Teller on Mapplethorpe, Alison Jacques Gallery
To coincide with what would have been the 70th birthday of the iconic American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Alison Jacques invited acclaimed photographer Juergen Teller to curate an exhibition of Mapplethorpe’s work. Teller’s selection of 48 images exposes works within Mapplethorpe’s archive that have rarely been exhibited before and span Mapplethorpe’s entire career, ranging from his typically sexually charged work, to beautiful rarely seen still life images. Beautiful and provocative. Admission free.
Robert Rauschenberg, Tate Modern
Incredibly this is the first posthumous retrospective of this influential artist’s work for 20 years. Rauschenberg blazed a new trail for art, moving between painting, sculpture, photography, print-making, technology, stage design and performance. He refused to accept conventional boundaries in art and in life, his quest for innovation fired by his openness to the world, his enthusiasm for collaboration and his passion for travel. Each chapter of Rauschenberg’s exceptional six-decade career will be represented by major international loans that rarely travel. Opens December 1st. Admission £18.50.
Paul Nash, Tate Britain
It’s easy to be drawn by the big names and blockbuster exhibitions on elsewhere – Picasso at NPG, Caravaggio at the National Gallery, AbEx at the RA – but don’t overlook this powerful Paul Nash retrospective that follows Paul’s development from a traumatised war artist in World War One, through his surrealism work in the 1930s, on to his despairing response to the return of war. A fascinating and moving show on an artist who was at the forefront of British art in the interwar period. Admission £15.
Painters’ Painters, Saatchi Gallery
This show features the work of present-day painters who see painting as their primary output in a contemporary art scene where painting has become but one strand in a diverse range of output. Painters’ Painters focuses on a group of artists who have been undeterred by the gradual decline in interest in this perennial art form. There is no discernible style or movement these artists belong to, and as an exhibition, it examines the very individualistic and nonconformist approaches explored by painters who are proving to be inspirational to a younger generation of artists emerging from the world’s leading art schools. Admission free.
Modernist Photography, Tate Modern
Elton John has one of, if not the, finest collection of modernist photography in the world. Over 8,000 photographs in total. Extraordinary. And now almost 200 have been lent to the Tate Modern to showcase the innovation and creativity of this period from the 1900s to the 1950s, with works from the likes of Man Ray, Berenice Abbott, Dorothea Lange and Alfred Stieglitz. Individually, the photographs are elegant and beautiful, innovative and pioneering, or emotional and affecting. But together they tell the story of modernist photography in an era when this medium came of age, and pushed boundaries both in terms of technology and artistic expression. Admission £16.50.