Top Ten London Art Shows, February 2017


February next week (I know, frightening, huh?) so it’s that time again. Here are my top ten art shows to catch in London this month.

There’s some big shows opening in the major galleries, which will no doubt be very popular, but – as always – I like to draw attention to some cracking smaller shows on in London’s independent galleries. And so often free, they’re well worth a visit to not just enjoy art on a budget, but also to see work from less familiar artists, or recent and/or rarely seen pieces from big names.

My only concern is that, well, this month is a bit of a white man sausage fest, if I’m honest – as most of this art calendar will be in London this year (as I mentioned in my annual preview). I’m doing my best to bring diversity to the list, especially from female artists, but it’s slim pickings out there.


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David Hockney, Tate Britain

A show that probably needs no introduction, and unlikely needs little publicity to be a mega-hit, as David Hockney is a national institution whose work is adored by many. And this is billed as ‘the most extensive survey ever staged of one of the most successful and recognisable artists of our time.’ Certainly, the Tate is working hard to ensure this once-in-a-generation show will offer an unprecedented overview of Hockney’s work in paint, drawing, photography and video. The exhibition will cover the six decades of Hockney’s career (extraordinary in itself) and major loans from private collections – including works never displayed in public before – will be united with iconic paintings from museums around the world. Opens February 9th. Admission £19.50.

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932, Royal Academy of Arts

This year marks the centenary of the Russian revolutions so there will be more than a few Russian-themed art shows this year, but this one at the RA should be the most interesting as it explores that brief period when these revolutions promised to usher in a new era for Russia, free from the tyranny of the Tsar and based on the will of the people, before the grip of Stalinist oppression took hold.

With over 200 works, the exhibition will include loans from the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow as well as some of the most significant international private collections. Many of the works have never been seen in the UK before and will feature Avant-Garde artists such as Chagall, Kandinsky, Malevich and Tatlin alongside the Socialist Realism of Brodsky, Deineka, Mukhina and Samokhvalov, amongst others. Photography, sculpture, film, posters and porcelain will be featured alongside paintings to explore this unique period in the history of Russian art, when for fifteen years, barriers were opened and the possibilities for building a new proletarian art for the new Soviet State were extensive. Opens February 11th. Admission £16.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Tate Modern

I love Wolfgang Tillmans’ work and he has rightly earned recognition as one of the most exciting and innovative artists working today. So, I’m particularly pleased that the Tate is opening this new show that will focus on his wide output across different media over the past fifteen years. First rising to prominence in the 1990s with his photographs of everyday life and contemporary culture, Tillmans has gone on to work in an ever-greater variety of media and has taken an increasingly innovative approach to staging exhibitions. Tate Modern is promising to showcase this innovation and offer a new focus on his photographs, video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music. Should be good. Opens February 15th. Admission £12.50.

Anselm Kiefer: Walhalla, White Cube Bermondsey

Last chance saloon, everybody, for one of the best art shows of last year or, indeed, of any recent year. Anselm Kiefer’s monumental works dominate the White Cube galleries, which have been largely redesigned and reconfigured to not just showcase these works, but also to immerse the visitor in their powerful themes of life, death and the legends of the afterlife. Paintings, vitrines, installations and enough lead to warrant a warning to visitors… Kiefer’s talent is awesome, as is his ability to capture and explore such huge themes. I rarely revisit art shows – limited time as much as too many other options – but I have visited this show three times now, and each time I still take away more with me. Closes February 12th. Admission free.

Terrains of the Body, Whitechapel Gallery

The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. is the only international museum dedicated to the exhibition, preservation, and acquisition of works by women artists. And now, Whitechapel Gallery is hosting a display of photography and video works drawn from this collection. The works on display are from seventeen contemporary artists across five continents and capture women on camera in domestic spaces and expansive landscapes. By turning their camera to women, including themselves, these artists embrace the female body as a vital medium for expressing identity, reflecting individual and collective experience, and forming narratives. The display features works by Marina Abramović, Rineke Dijkstra, Anna Gaskell, and Nan Goldin. Admission free.

Robert Rauschenberg, Tate Modern

The opening of the new show on Wolfgang Tillmans may grab the headlines at the Tate Modern this month but the Rauschenberg retrospective open nearby was rightly considered by most to be one of the best shows of 2016, and continues to be one of the stand-out exhibition currently open. Rauschenberg was an artistic pioneer in every sense and this show brings together works from across his dynamic career, including pieces I though too fragile and too precious to travel. Whether it’s his combines, his silkscreen paintings, his collages, his bubbling mud, his stuffed goat, his unmade bed or his erased de Kooning, there is so much energy, so much originality and vitality everywhere you work that you can’t failed to be bowled over. Wonderful. Admission £18.50.

Lady Skollie, Tyburn Gallery

Ah, I love this show! This show at Tyburn Gallery in Mayfair marks the first solo exhibition in the UK for Lady Skollie, a South African artist whose bright, vivid 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. This is a terrific show that demonstrates Lady Skollie is an artist with a lot to say – and a lot of talent in the way she expresses it. A great show. So much colour, so much passion. Admission free.

Michael Andrews, Gagosian Gallery

Gagosian London has a gem of show on its hands with this exhibition of works by the late Michael Andrews. For the last 25 years of his life, Michael was preoccupied with landscapes – whether that be the romantic green fields of Great Britain, or the fierce burnt oranges of the Australian Outback – and underwater worlds. And a collection of these works has been brought together here and there’s such a strong elemental theme to them: earth, air and water. Human presence and influence, though often absent on the canvas, is hinted at with objects and architecture, but this is a romantic and passionate look at the world around us. Beautiful, beautiful works. Admission free.

Vanessa Bell, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Well, this is pretty exciting. Dulwich Picture Gallery is hosting the first major monographic exhibition of work by Vanessa Bell. So deeply intrinsically linked to the Bloomsbury Group, Vanessa’s reputation as an artist has been routinely overshadowed by a preoccupation with her family life and her dramatic romantic entanglements. And it would be fair to say she has often been placed in the shadow of her sister, Virginia Woolf. The exhibition will look at Vanessa as an artist on her own terms, charting her move from the refined Impressionism of her early training to a more radical, experimental style stimulated by her many visits to Paris and by the post-Impressionist exhibitions held in London in 1910 and 1912. Opens February 8th. Admission £14.

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. Admission free.

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