Welcome to my list of my top picks for art shows to see in the capital this month. It can get pretty hot out there so you may welcome the opportunity to dive into the cool of an art gallery (or use one as a refuge to get out of the occasional showers).
But, I also know how nice it is to mix a bit of art with the wonderful outdoors, so, amongst my list, are shows in galleries situated in the middle of Hyde Park (close to the Serpentine so you could pop on a pedalo after getting your art fix), and the return of an annual event that brings art out of galleries and on to our pavements.
There’s also a great range of styles and diversity of artists on this list too, and there are familiar names as well as overlooked artists who are finally getting the platform they deserve. This makes me happy but this does not happen all the time. Galleries, having been called out for the narrow representation and focus on white male artists, are making an effort to broaden their shows. It’s still early days – and there are those who make more effort than others – but we are getting there!
I hope you find something here that excites you.
Come to Mama! White Cube Bermondsey’s latest show is one that appeals to me in every way. Dreamers Awake brings together over 100 works by women artists to explore sexual politics, eroticism, mysticism and identity, as well as the enduring influence of Surrealism from the 1930s to the present day. Rarely seen paintings by key figures associated with the original Surrealist movement, such as Eileen Agar and Leonora Carrington, are shown alongside works from modern and contemporary artists including Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin, Claude Cahun, Mona Hatoum, Linder, Laurie Simmons, Gillian Wearing, Hannah Wilke and many more. Closes September 17th. Admission free.
The Serpentine invited Grayson Perry, artist and national treasure™, to present a major exhibition of new work. Only if you’ve been following Grayson’s popular television programmes, a lot of the works in this show will be instantly familiar, whether it’s his pair of Brexit vases, his banner celebrating a mining community in Durham, or his phallic Gherkin-esque ceramic “tribute” to bankers. Grayson is undoubtedly one of the most astute commentators on contemporary society and culture, and he’s also one of the few artists to directly examine and reflect contemporary themes in his pieces so the works in the show touch on many subjects, including Brexit and national identity, popularity and art, and masculinity and the current cultural landscape. Closes September 10th. Admission free.
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Tate Modern
Soul of a Nation promises to shine a bright light on the vital contribution of Black artists to a dramatic period in American art and history. The show opens in 1963 at the height of the Civil Rights movement and its dreams of integration. In its wake emerged more militant calls for Black Power: a rallying cry for African American pride, autonomy and solidarity, drawing inspiration from newly independent African nations. Spanning the emergence of Black feminism, debates over the possibility of a unique Black aesthetic in photography, and including activist posters as well as purely abstract works, the exhibition asks how the concept of Black Art was promoted, contested and sometimes flatly rejected by artists across the United States. Opens July 12th. Admission £15 (without Gift Aid). Concessions available.
Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors focuses on Picasso’s preoccupation with bulls and bullfighting, and how these subjects became infused as symbols of male potency and Spanish heritage. The Gagosian has been radically reconfigured for this show that draws some fantastic paintings, drawings and ceramics largely from private collections. It’s hard to go wrong with a Picasso show as, well, the guy was in another league. But this is genuinely wonderful and impressive show. I never tire of Picasso’s works, I could admire them for a lifetime. But this is a voraciously sexual and passionate show from the master. Closes August 25th. Admission free.
Philip Guston: Laughter in the Dark, Hauser & Wirth
History has a way of repeating itself and so the decision by Hauser & Wirth to host Philip Guston. Laughter in the Dark, Drawings from 1971 & 1975, a show devoted to the late artist’s satirical drawings of Richard Nixon, seems bang on the money, wouldn’t you say? The show features over 180 works depicting Nixon and his cronies, including Philip’s infamous Poor Richard series and over 100 additional drawings. This marks the first time the entire body of work has been presented together in the UK and is also the artist’s first solo show in London since 2010. Closes July 29th. Admission free.
I loved this show, the UK’s first retrospective of Fahrelnissa Zeid (b. 1901, Istanbul, d. 1991, Amman), re-appraising her work in an international context. Fahrelnissa was a pioneering artist best known for her large-scale colourful canvases – some over five metres wide – fusing European approaches to abstract art with Byzantine, Islamic and Persian influences. This exhibition brings together paintings, drawings and sculptures spanning over forty years and reveals Zeid as an important figure in the international story of abstract art. Dazzling and uplifting. Closes October 8th. Admission £11.30 (without donation). Concessions available.
The Encounter: Drawings from Leonardo to Rembrandt, National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery’s summer show a major exhibition of portrait drawings from some of the outstanding masters of the Renaissance and Baroque. Many of the exhibits are rarely seen or have not been displayed for decades. Drawn from British collections, works by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Holbein, Rubens and Rembrandt will be displayed in the Gallery’s first European drawings exhibition; a celebration of the creative encounter between artists and sitters. Opens July 13th. Admission £10 (concessions available).
Sculpture in the City, The Square Mile
Sculpture in the City is a free outdoor exhibition of artwork by some of the world’s leading international artists. Contemporary artworks are situated around the Square Mile and visitors are encouraged to use the online map to find and view the sixteen world-class artworks. Unfortunately, this year, there is poor representation from female artists – only two women are included – but this year’s show includes works from Gavin Turk (pictured), Damien Hirst, Gary Webb and Martin Creed. So, put on your trainers, get the online map, and go for a wander. Admission free.
The chances of us seeing such a comprehensive exhibition on the works of Giacometti again in our lifetime is, frankly, zero so, grab your opportunity whilst you have it. This show is a terrific demonstration of the development of Giacometti’s instantly recognisable style, starting off with early Surrealist and Cubist-inspired works, and on to the painfully thin and elongated figures we recognise today. There’s also a welcome focus on the great man’s paintings and drawings, which capture angst and trauma as much as his famous sculptures. Closes September 10th. Admission £16.80 (without donation). Concessions available.
Sargent: The Watercolours, Dulwich Picture Gallery
No doubt, this will be popular. Yet, interestingly, this is the first UK show in nearly 100 years devoted to Sargent’s watercolours. Renowned very much as a portraitist, Sargent also devoted time to developing his talent in watercolour, undertaking several painting expeditions to Europe in the early twentieth century. Free from the constraints of his studio he was inspired by the places he visited – from the streams and glacial moraines in The Alps to the renaissance and baroque architecture he explored in Venice. The show will include The lady with the umbrella, 1911, on display in the UK for the first time, and this as well as the wider show offers an alternative perspective on Sargent, demonstrating a technical brilliance and striking individuality. Closes October 8, 2017. Admission £15.50 (concessions available)