Top Ten London Art Shows, June 2017

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So, as the exhibitions and galleries gear up for the busy Summer season, so we get a flood of new shows to appreciate and enjoy! Big name blockbusters, such as Giacometti at the Tate and Michelangelo at the National Gallery, are joined by the institution that is the Summer Exhibition at the RA, whereas elsewhere, we finally get to see those Brexit vases from national treasure™ Grayson Perry, and there’s also a rare sighting of privately-owned Picasso paintings and ceramics.

However, as well as these big guns, I’m hoping my list can tempt you into seeing shows from less familiar names, such as the wonderful Alice Neel, whose work in portraiture is only now beginning to get the full credit is is due, and Fahrelnissa Zeid, a woman who was one of Turkey’s most influential artists.

As always, the independent galleries only give a few weeks’ notice of new shows and their subjects, so stay posted to my twitter, FB and Insta accounts and I’ll keep you briefed!


Grayson Perry, Serpentine Gallery

As the exhibition from one national treasure closes (David Hockney at Tate Britain) so this show from Grayson Perry opens. And there’s certainly much to anticipate about this one. First, the glorious colours of Hyde Park seem a perfect backdrop to Grayson’s vibrant works, and second, this show will see the debut of the Brexit pots that he has been working on, using contributions from Leave and Remain voters up and down the country. But one thing I always admire about Grayson is his willingness to engage with people, to examine contemporary culture, and his astute observations of it. Opens June 8th. Admission free.


Alice Neel: Uptown, Victoria Miro

When this show opened at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York earlier this year, it was not without controversy. The term ‘cultural appropriation’ was heard a few times, with concern on the celebration of portraits of people of colour painted by a white woman. Not that Alice Neel set out to court such controversy. Quite the opposite. She moved to Harlem in 1938 following a series of personal traumas, including the death of her first child and the abduction of her second by her estranged husband – events that would see her briefly in an asylum. And she sought refuge in painting, devoting herself to portraits of her neighbours, with Harlem being largely comprised of Black and Hispanic communities. It took years for her work to be acknowledged, but she is seen now as one of America’s great twentieth century painters. Closes July 29th. Admission free.


Alberto Giacometti, Tate Modern

His painfully thin and elongated figures are instantly recognisable. Yet this fantastic (and Avast) retrospective of Alberto Giacometti not only showcases some of the finest works in his signature style, it also explores how that style developed. A real highlight to this show is seeing sculptures from earlier in his career, where Giacometti played with cubism, surrealism, and other radical artistic styles prevalent at the beginning of the twentieth century. It’s also wonderful to see emphasis on the great man’s drawings and paintings, where the trauma and beauty is equally as powerful as in his famous figures. Closes September 10th. Admission £16.80 (concessions available).


Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts

The RA’s annual Summer Exhibition is an institution. Much like Wimbledon, cucumber sandwiches and rain showers, it is an intrinsic part of our Summer. 2017 marks the 249th show (!) and while some hate it – quality has, historically, been sometimes elusive – I, for one, love the Summer Exhibition. I love the democracy and I love the chaos of seeing work from emerging artists hang alongside new pieces from the great and the good. This year the show is coordinated by Eileen Cooper and this year will also see the first inclusion of performance art. Opens June 13th. Admission £14 (without donation). Concessions available.


Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors, Gagosian Mayfair

It’s all rampaging testosterone and snorting bulls at this exciting show that examines Picasso’s enduring fascination with Spanish bullfighting and matadors, and how these subjects became imbued as symbols of male potency and Spanish heritage. The works on display are largely drawn from private collections so include rarely seen painting, drawings and ceramics. There’s also a home movie of Picasso painting perfect bulls with just the flick of his wrist. (Such talent.) A terrific show. Closes August 25th. Admission free.


The American Dream, British Museum

Last few weeks for this huge and dynamic exhibition that charts modern and contemporary American printmaking. The American Dream explores the creativity of a medium that flourished through some of the most dynamic and turbulent years in US history, and that accompanied a period when its wealth, power and cultural influence had never been greater. The show comprises of loans from across the US, and includes works from some of the biggest names of the twentieth century, including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Bourgeois, Guerrilla Girls, and Andy Warhol. Closes June 18th. Admission £16.50 (concessions available).


Fahrelnissa Zeid, Tate Modern

This captivating exhibition will, no doubt, see renewed interest in Fahrelnissa’s personal life – marriage into the Iraqi and Jordanian Royal Family saw her dining with Hitler, amongst others. However, this subsequent life of privilege and questionable company should not detract from the fact that she was one of the first female students to ever study fine arts in Turkey. Plus, her artistic output is fascinating. Her paintings are often described as ‘kaleidoscopic’, and ‘mesmerising.’ And it’s easy to see why. These works, often on vast canvases, are a synthesis of Islamic, Byzantine, Arab and Persian influences fused with European approaches to abstraction. Opens June 13th. Admission £11.30 (without donation). Concessions available.


Wayne Thiebaud, White Cube Mason’s Yard

Remarkably, this show at White Cube is the first comprehensive UK exhibition of painter Wayne Thiebaud, with major works from the man’s back catalogue from 1962 to the present day. (He’s in his nineties and still going strong!) Wayne is one of America’s most celebrated modern masters. He emerged with Abstract Expressionism, though his works are seen as more Pop Art, given they’re uniquely American in their subject matter, from still lifes of candy, pastries and pies, to landscapes and portraits of family and friends. Given the trauma of our times, the vibrancy and colour in this show may well make for welcome relief. Closes July 2nd. Admission free.


Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave, British Museum

You may not immediately recognise the name of one of Japan’s most famous artists, but you will, for sure, recognise Hokusai’s most famous painting. The Great Wave is iconic and is included in this fantastic new show that showpieces works from the last thirty years of Hokusai’s life, a period when he produced some of his most memorable masterpieces. As well as a series of pictures focusing on Mt. Fuji, there are delicate paintings of intimate domestic scenes, flora and fauna, and an array of fantastical supernatural creatures such as ghosts and deities. Extraordinary skill and an extraordinary imagination from an artist with a truly modernist outlook. Closes August 13th. Admission £12 (concessions available)


Howard Hodgkin, National Portrait Gallery

It’s the last few weeks for this emotional, revealing and challenging show from the late Howard Hodgkin. As an abstract artist, portraiture is not the first subject that comes to mind when you think of Howard’s work, yet the man was greatly committed to exploring abstract representations of lovers, friends and acquaintances. And this show has paintings from the breadth of Howard’s career, including the last painting he completed months before he died earlier this year. The paintings are, at times, vibrant; at other times, reflective and poignant. But, overall, a powerful testament to the possibility of capturing the richness and memory of human connection, as much as the exact representation of the human form. Closes June 18th. Admission £12 (concessions available).

 

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