Top Ten London Art Shows, March 2017


OK, so a pretty damn exciting list of art shows, if I do say so myself. HOWEVER. I am very aware there are some surprising omissions.

Yup, there’s no Hockney. There’s no space for Wolfgang Tillmans’ new show at Tate Modern either. And the RA show I went for was the dazzling but far smaller America after the Fall in the Sackler Wing, rather than their main show on Russian Art in the post-Communist revolution era.

My reasons for that are varied – sure, the above have their draws and I appreciate they are three big shows, but I wouldn’t have them down as ‘must-sees’ over the next four weeks, unless they happen to be specific artists or eras that interest you.

Another factor is that I’m really keen to offer up a broad, diverse range of art, artists and galleries to you guys, and I think my list below is an exciting one with a great range of styles, media and themes.

It’s also really important to me to promote art shows that are affordable. Admission charges are getting more and more hefty – you won’t get much change out of £20 to see Hockney – and this upsets me. We are all on a budget and so I go out of my way to platform not just great shows, but also particularly those smaller shows in independent galleries where you can see terrific work from some of the biggest names and often for no charge.

I hope – and I’m pretty sure actually – that the below will therefore offer some great suggestions for shows you can see this month.

V x

America After the Fall, Royal Academy

The 1930s was a period of immense economic, political and social upheaval in America. The Wall Street Crash tied in with dust bowls that ravaged the Southern plains, devastating America’s stability at a time of immense global change. This terrific show at the Royal Academy examines how American artists responded to this – and it shows an artistic scene full of conflict and developing styles. The arrival of the iconic American Gothic to these shores for the first time has grabbed the headlines, but there’s also Pollock, O’Keeffe, and Hopper amongst many more on display. A fascinating, revelatory show that brims with energy. Admission £13.50 (£12 w/o donation) concessions available.

Maria Lassnig, Hauser & Wirth

I was quite distraught at missing the Maria Lassnig exhibition at Tate Liverpool last year so I’m thrilled that Hauser & Wirth in Mayfair is hosting this survey of work Maria made from the 1950s to her death in 2014. The show will trace Maria’s artistic evolution from early experiments with abstraction to a richly inventive figuration and the refinement of her terrific ‘body awareness’ paintings, in which she captured physical sensation as felt from within – the latter I adore, btw. Bold, powerful artworks. Opens March 1st. Admission free.

Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun, National Portrait Gallery

Next month, the National Portrait Gallery opens the first exhibition to pair the works of contemporary artist Gillian Wearing with the innovative early-twentieth century photographer Claude Cahun, who was affiliated with the French Surrealist movement. This show will draw together over 100 works by the two women who, though born seventy years apart, share similar themes in their work around gender, identity, masquerade and performance. Opens March 9th. Admission £12 (concessions avail)

Michelangelo and Sebastiano, National Gallery

The National Gallery’s major Spring exhibition examines the artistic relationship between Sebastiano del Piombo and Michelangelo, two great artists who met when Sebastiano came to Rome just as Michelangelo was putting the final touches to his decoration of the Sistine Chapel. The two became friends and collaborated on several works, with Michelangelo providing the younger artist with drawings and ideas. This show will focus on two key collaborations: the Raising of Lazarus (1517–19), painted for the Cathedral of Narbonne, and second, the Pietà for San Francesco in Viterbo (c.1512–16). Opens March 15th. Admission £18 (concessions avail)

Roger Mayne, The Photographers Gallery

Roger Mayne, who died in 2014, was a hugely influential British photographer, best known for his pioneering body of work of community life in London’s Southam Street in the 1950s and early 60s. His humanistic approach to his subjects continues to influence photographers today, and made a significant contribution to post-war British photography. Also on display will be his less well known work from outside the Capital, including early work in Leeds where Mayne first developed his photographic interests. These pictures of street life around the city chart his development from pictorialism to his characteristic realist style. Opens March 3rd. Admission £4 (free before 12 noon).

Vanessa Bell, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Vanessa Bell is widely known as a central figure in the influential Bloomsbury Group that held sway in British artistic circles at the beginning of the 20th century. Yet this show marks the first major monographic exhibition of her work and, deservedly, sees Vanessa move out from her sister’s shadow and examined as an artist in her own right. Arranged thematically, over 100 paintings have been brought together, as well as fabrics, works on paper, photographs and related archival material, to allow us to see Vanessa in full force, boldly experimenting with abstraction, colour and form while developing her own distinctive way of seeing the world. Tickets £14 (concessions available).

Robert Rauschenberg, Tate Modern

Best show in London, right now? For me, it must be the exhilarating Rauschenberg retrospective at Tate Modern. It’s getting down to its last few weeks now and I cannot imagine that you will have another opportunity to see so many works from this innovative, trail-blazing artist. So many of Rauschenberg’s radical combines – blends of painting and sculpture, such as his stuffed goat, his painted bed, and his works that mix umbrellas and electric fans – are way too fragile to move (I’m amazed the Tate could bring so many together). This is an electric show that mesmerises and excites, and makes you realise how Rauschenberg changed American art forever. Closes April 2nd. Admission £18.50 (concessions avail).

Michael Andrews, Gagosian Grosvenor Hill

Michael Andrews, part of the School of London painters along with Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, and Frank Auerbach, died in 1995, and this show at the Gagosian focuses on the wonderful series of works that Andrews worked on in the latter part of his career, from his rich, fertile green landscapes of the English countryside, to the burnt oranges and arid heat of the Australian outback, and from underwater worlds to skyscapes, these paintings are a romantic and evocative view of our world. Closes March 25th. Admission free.

Gavin Turk, Newport Street Gallery

Last chance saloon, everybody, for this, my favourite show to date at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery. Like the gallery owner himself, Gavin Turk was part of the era-defining YBAs in the 1990s and this is a really enjoyable exhibition of works from across his career. Deliberately mimicking art from the likes of Warhol and Pollock, Turk examines themes of worth and value – why do we consider some works to be worth more than others? Where does that value come from? – and also forces us to confront those themes in our broader society. A bright, provocative exhibition that is well worth a visit. Closes March 19th. Admission free.

The American Dream: Pop to the Present, British Museum

From post-war victor to sole global superpower, The American Dream examines how American artists have responded to the seismic changes in America over the past six decades through the medium of printmaking. Whether it’s Warhol or Rauschenberg, the Guerrilla Girls or Ed Ruscha, all have taken inspiration from the world around them – billboard advertising, global politics, Hollywood and household objects – and created highly original prints to rival their paintings and sculptures, yet all the time aware that rapid developments in printmaking and mass media not only challenged them for how these prints should catch people’s eyes, but also that this medium would bring their work to a much wider and more diverse audience. Opens March 9th. Admission £16.50 (concessions available).

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