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. And I’m pleased to say that about half of those listed below are free to enter too. *thumbs up emoji*
Enjoy and see you next month!
Abstract Expressionism, Royal Academy of Arts
The Main Galleries at the RA have had a cracking year so far with the terrific Impressionist show and an impressive Summer Exhibition, so I’m crossing fingers that this carries on for this, what could be one of the stand out shows of the year. As the first major exhibition of abstract expressionism to be held in the UK for almost sixty years, there’s a great expectation here. The RA is bringing together over 150 works for the display, loaning from both private and public collections, and this will include masterpieces from some of the biggest names involved in this genre, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Joan Mitchell. To say I’m excited about this show would be an understatement, and I am particularly looking forward to seeing the spotlight brought to shine on lesser known artists and works, enabling us to understand the broader influence of this movement. Opens September 24th. Admission £17.
Louise Bourgeois, Tate Modern
The brand new extension to the Tate Modern has been one of the big talking points for the capital as a whole in 2016, let alone just in art circles. At £260mn it’s a pricey outlay but, so far, it has proved to be immensely popular. And you should make a visit too, especially to see the dedicated ARTIST ROOM gallery, which is currently showcasing works from Louise Bourgeois. Her iconic spiders are back, and their blend of horror and tender maternalism remains as fascinating as ever. But there’s plenty more here, such as Legs, Louise’s hanging bodies that provoke all sorts of feelings about mortality, as well as her pieces from the 1990s where Louise examines her relationship with her mother through her childhood clothes. Admission free.
You Say You Want a Revolution, Victoria and Albert Museum
The late 1960s was a period of immense and profound change and this new show at the V&A explores the significance of this era, and its long-term impact on society, culture and politics today. In particular, it will examine youth culture, the way it captured both optimistic idealism and revolutionary change in social behaviours and expectations. More than 350 objects will comprise this exhibition, encompassing photography, fashion, literature, music, film and design. The V&A has built up an impressive reputation for extraordinary shows (Savage Beauty, Botticelli Reimagined) so the blend of those talents with highlights such as a rare Apple 1 computer, moon rock on loan from NASA, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper suits, and shards from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar, makes this a must-see. Opens September 10th. Admission £16.
The Infinite Mix, The Store
The Hayward Gallery on the South Bank has been closed all year for refurbishment, and it has been sorely missed. The Infinite Mix is the Gallery’s only off-site exhibition during this period and it will see the Hayward take up temporary residency at The Store on The Stand with a show focused on immersive audio-visual installations. Artworks from ten leading artists in this genre will be put on display, including Martin Creed, Khalil Joseph, Elizabeth Price and Rachel Rose, and these works will span a range of approaches and formats, from 3D video to hologram-like projections and multi-screen installations. Opens September 9th. Admission free.
Wifredo Lam, Tate Modern
Oh, this is a brave move by the Tate Modern, to hold a retrospective on this Cuban artist at the same time at the same time as a vast Picasso show runs at the National Portrait Gallery (opening in October). Wifredo was heavily influenced by Picasso, taking much of his distinctive style and fusing it with other influences – European, African and Caribbean – to explore and reinvigorate Afro-Cuban art. Picasso’s influence is obvious, but Wilfredo was, at the time, a rare example of a successful artist from outside of Europe. And when he returned to Havana during the Second World War, he continued to explore themes of social injustice, nature and spirituality. This will be the first museum exhibition of Wilfredo’s work in over sixty years. Opens September 14th. Admission £16.
Bill Viola, St Paul’s Cathedral
Yes, St. Paul’s Cathedral. No, I’m not joking. For this September sees the unveiling of Mary, the second permanent large-scale video installation in the Cathedral from Bill Viola. Mary was conceived as a companion piece to Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) Bill’s first piece in the Cathedral, which was installed in 2014. These installations are the first moving-image artworks to be installed in any British cathedral on a long-term basis. This is pretty radical stuff for what is usually seen as a pretty conservative religion. So how do these pieces flow with the religious themes? Bill says that they individually reflect the two extremes of the human experience. “One is concerned with birth and the other death one with comfort and creation, the other with suffering and sacrifice.” Opens September 9th. General admission to St Paul’s £18.
Edmund Clark: War of Terror, Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum is hosting a thought-provoking and affecting exhibition that is showcasing several series of work by artist-photographer, Edmund Clark, which explore hidden experiences of state control in the ‘war on terror’. Sadly this is a rather prescient show but urgent and necessary too, and includes content that has never been shown in the UK before. Edmund’s work focuses on the measures states have taken, and their far-reaching effects, and his output includes haunting photography from Guantanamo and examples of redacted correspondence British prisoners there received – and which were used as a means of control over the prisoners. The show is an immersive experience, with sound, moving images and multi-media installations used alongside photographs and documents. It’s a smart move as it heightens the impact of the sobering work on display. Admission free.
Sculpture in the City, Square Mile
Sculpture in the City is now in its sixth year and it is a terrific initiative that encourages interest in modern sculpture. This year, sixteen artworks have been located around the Square Mile, cleverly located near architectural landmarks such as The Gherkin, or placed in large public spaces, such as Leadenhall Market. Visitors are encouraged to download the free map from the City of London website and take a tour for themselves around the world-class art that is being exhibited for free. The rota of famous artists contributing to this initiative continues to impress. This year the works on display include pieces from Sarah Lucas, William Kentridge & Gerhard Marx, Recycle Group, and Anthony Caro. No admission charge as it’s all in public spaces! (P.S. Always advisable to go on weekends – fewer bankers.)
Georgia O’Keeffe, Tate Modern
Yes, there are the flowers. How could they not be included in this vast retrospective of pioneer, Georgia O’Keeffe? And the Tate has done well to secure the loan of Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1, the most expensive work from a female artist ever sold at auction. But this show also allows us to explore many other aspects of Georgia’s work, including her cityscapes of New York and her paintings of New Mexico. I’m not crazy about the £19 admission charge, and perhaps it would be fair to say that not all of Georgia’s work hit the high notes, but if you are a fan, you won’t see a better collection of her work.
Etel Adnan, Serpentine Sackler Gallery
Only a couple of weeks left to see one of the surprise hits of the year. When it comes to the summer, most eyes focus on the big guns such as the Tate and the National Gallery to see what show-stoppers they put on to draw the crowds. But, for me, this retrospective of the work of Etel Adnan, an artist born in Beirut n 1925, is utterly wonderful. A show that captures multiculturalism and deliberately focuses on the beauty in the world, whether that be in nature or language. Etel’s diversity is extraordinary, from radically abstract works, to film, to illustrated notebooks. Catch it before it closes on September 11th. Admission free.