Top Ten London Art Shows, January 2017

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Happy new year, everybody!

Now, I know it’s been an expensive couple of months, what with presents and parties etc., and January is a long month so I’ve really focused on including some amazing art shows in London that have free or minimal admission so that you can still enjoy art this month – but also look after the pounds. But also, never forget that there are amazing permanent collections in the big galleries that remain free to enter. And, who knows, maybe now that it has been a year, it will be a little quieter in the new(ish) Switch House extension at Tate Modern. Just in case you haven’t visited yet.

There are a couple in the list, however, with admission prices but I promise they are great and, well, I wouldn’t want you to miss out.

Enjoy!

V x

Anslem Kiefer: Walhalla, White Cube Bermondsey

I know art isn’t a competition and it’s all preference and prejudices etc. etc. but it is hard to argue with the suggestion that Anselm Kiefer may well be the best working artist out there today. And this exhibition of new works from him at White Cube, well, it takes your breath away. Death and the afterlife, suffering and glory… It’s extraordinary that his vast paintings, sculptural installations and vitrines that overwhelm these galleries can capture, even harness, these huge emotions and themes. The guy really is just working on another level right now. A great artist at the top of his game. Admission free.

Richard Serra, Gagosian London

Gagosian is currently showing three new works from Richard Serra. And if you are familiar with Serra’s monumental sculptural installations, you’ll know that is this is easily enough to consume these large galleries up near St Pancras. For these are giant pieces, great lumps of sculpted steel. So large in fact that one of the gallery’s walls had to be demolished just so they could get the piece in. And in situe, they are curious pieces. Curved to create a form of maze or left like a hefty sheet looming above you. What does it all mean? Well, who knows. Serra has always been resistant to explaining his works any particular way but it’s impossible not to feel a sense of insignificance in comparison to the vast industrial machines that created these works. Admission free.

Gavin Turk, Newport Street Gallery

The YBAs were an era-defining collection of artists and now the gallery owned by the most successful from this group, Damien Hirst, is displaying a collection of works from another – Gavin Turk. And it’s a pretty good show that is, yes, provocative and irreverent but also provokes us to consider important questions on what we value, what shapes that value system, and the role identity and branding play in that. The YBAs may seem old news to us now but I miss the vibrancy of that period. Nothing else has really come through since in British art. Admission free.

Feminist Avant Garde, The Photographers Gallery

Your last opportunity to see this thrilling and dynamic display of works from a prolific period for female artists. One of my shows of 2016, Feminist Avant Garde demonstrates not just the breadth of work that was produced by female artists during the 1970s, but also the innovation and creativity of the time. Forty-eight artists are included in this display, including big-name hitters such as Francesca Woodman, Cindy Sherman and Hannah Wilke, all exploring critical feminist themes such as gender expectations, sexuality, patriarchal violence and domesticity. Admission £4 (free before 12 noon). Closes January 29th.

Robert Rauschenberg, Tate Modern

What a show. And what an artist. Rauschenberg has to be one of, if not the, most innovative and radical artists of the post-war era. He broke boundaries, challenged convention, and all in the spirit of joy and belief that art has the capacity to bridge divides and bring people together. And this extraordinary retrospective at the Tate Modern has brought together some of his most famous works from across his career – and how they managed that I don’t know as so much of his work is fragile and precious – so what an opportunity to see his thrilling combines, his beautiful paintings, his silkscreen prints, his bubbling mud bath, the stuffed goat and his painted bed. A wonderful, wonderful exhibition. Admission £18.50.

Zaha Hadid, Serpentine Sackler Gallery

The great woman may no longer be with us but the Serpentine Gallery has pulled together a fascinating show on her early paintings and drawings, which it just so happens to be hosting in the Sackler Gallery, which was one of the first permanent buildings in London that Hadid designed. A nice touch, but the show is great too. It includes her rarely-seen private notebooks with sketches that reveal her complex thoughts about architectural forms and their relationships, and it also demonstrates how, for Zaha Hadid, drawing and painting were fundamental to her practice. Influenced by Malevich, Tatlin and Rodchenko, she used these works as the main method for visualising her architectural ideas. A great testament to a real visionary. Admission free.

Rodin and Dance, The Courtauld Gallery

This is a wonderful display on a private passion. During the last two decades of his life, Auguste Rodin became fascinated with avant-garde dance forms, including acrobats and South Asian dance, and all of this he captured in a series of models and drawings that became known as the Mouvements de Danse (Dance Movements) series. Rodin worked on this subject privately, occasionally showing his efforts to friends or visitors but they were never shown publicly. So, it is remarkable that now The Courtauld has managed to secure these figures and drawings, as well as accompanying watercolours and bronzes, in this, the first major exhibition of this series in the UK. A wonderfully intimate and intriguing collection of work. Free with General Admission to the Gallery £9.50.

Paul Nash, Tate Britain

It really is a wonderful thing when an exhibition surprises you, and that is just how I felt about this Paul Nash retrospective at Tate Britain. I’ve always known Paul Nash as a pioneer of British modern art, alongside his peers and friends Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, but I’ve never really felt the radicalism in his work. Until now. For this exhibition movingly shows how Nash took a fresh, modern approach not just to his paintings as a war artist in WW1, but also to British landscapes after the war. But it is how Nash captured the return of war in the 1930s and 1940s which really moved me to the core – a man able to reflect the torment of having to once again endure the unendurable. Admission £15.

Bacon and Freud: Graphic Works, Marlborough Graphics

Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud are widely regarded as two of the leading figurative artists of the 20th century but in an interesting take, Marlborough Fine Art is hosting a display that explores their commitment to printmaking. Bacon especially wanted his prints to look as close to his paintings as possible – his attention to detail and desire for perfection resulting in prints being produced under his supervision. And there are some great pieces included in this show, such as Bacon’s engrossing but sinister, even grotesque, Study for a Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1989), and some of Freud’s instantly recognisable black and white etchings. Opens January 18th. Admission free.

Lady Skollie, Tyburn Gallery

Really looking forward to this one. Lady Skollie (b. 1987, Cape Town) is a South African artist based in Johannesburg. A proudly feminist artist, she is passionate about defying taboos and her works brim with issues of sex, pleasure, consent, human connection and abuse. She works in ink, watercolour and crayon to create playfully sexual paintings, filled with colour, symbolic fruit, and all the joy and darkness of the erotic. Her work is simultaneously bold and vulnerable, and I’m expecting to be bowled over. Her work has been exhibited widely across South Africa and this is her first solo exhibition in the UK.  Admission free. Opens January 19th.

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