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.
And not always positive words either as I may not like a couple of pieces in the shows listed (*cough* Jeff Koons *cough*) but even when art is divisive, it can still be important to make up your own mind. Don’t take my word for it on anything. Except for seeing the below, obviously. 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!
For me, probably the best pay-to-enter exhibition on in London right now. Not only is this show dense with works from the big guns (Titian, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Degas, Cezanne, Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, Freud) but it also examines these from an unusual perspective – that of the artists who owned them. These paintings were all owned by other artists and it allows us the opportunity to look at their significance to their owners, and what they incorporated from them into their own works. Admission £12.
William Eggleston Portraits, National Portrait Gallery
William Eggleston was an early advocate for colour photography, using it when others remained sceptical, and his resulting works are evocative, almost poetic images of people in everyday America in the 1960s and 70s. This show is the first major exhibition of Eggleston’s photographs in London since 2002, and the most comprehensive of his portraits, and it brings together over 100 photographs. Highlights include a previously unseen image of The Clash frontman Joe Strummer and a never-before exhibited portrait of the actor and photographer Dennis Hopper, but a real gem is that this show finally reveals the identities of many of Eggleston’s sitters who had remained anonymous for all this time. Admission £7.
Raqib Shaw and Christine Ay Tjoe, White Cube Bermondsey
White Cube in Bermondsey is hosting a series of gloriously new work from Raqib Shaw, which includes paintings saturated with colour that mines the references to Old Masters, as well as three new bronze sculptures that recall the style of the Renaissance. But all of these have been transformed into self-portraits as Raqib mischievously inserts himself into these scenes, whether as a joker, a mime artist, or even as a ghoul lying in his own coffin
Alongside Raqib, the gallery is also showing ten new paintings from acclaimed Indonesian artist, Christine Ay Tjoe, including two large-scale diptychs, the culmination of several series of work. At first glance, Christine’s work seems abstract but these are works that look to connect with our most powerful emotions and deep psychological fears. Admission free to both shows.
Jeff Koons is widely considered to be one of the most significant artists to have emerged in the post-war era – and also one of the most controversial. And this new show at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery showcase an impressive collection of these works from across Jeff’s thirty-five year career, including some of his most famous works, such as his inflatables, his Hoover sculptures, and his spin on the Nike posters from the 1980s. Admission is free so plan a visit to decide for yourself where you stand on Jeff’s art.
There’s so much to love in this, the first comprehensive survey of Mona’s work ever held in the UK. There’s the energy, the provocations, the passion, the politics… This show just hums with electricity (quite literally as a number of the installations are amped up to the max). But more than this, Mona’s work examines crucial contemporary themes, including oppression, conflict, gender and refugees. Not just an art exhibition but an impassioned call to arms. Open to August 21. Tickets £16.
In 2014, George Shaw was named Associate Artist at the National Gallery, which means he has had amazing out-of-hours access to the Gallery’s vast collection and archive, giving him the opportunity to draw from it as inspiration for his own works. And this, My Back to Nature, is George’s terrific collection of new works showcasing this influence – specifically, woodland scenes that explore human behaviour when no one is watching. Admission free.
It seems to be the season for spiritualist art… No sooner has Hilma af Klint closed at Serpentine then the Courtauld has opened this fascinating show on Georgiana Houghton, a medium from Victoria England who channelled spirits to guide her hand in creating art. And who am I to argue as the result was radically abstract artworks that predated the likes of Kandinsky and Mondrian by about fifty years. Admission £7 (free with General Admission)
Just over the bridge from the main Serpentine Gallery is the Sackler and I urge you all to visit as, currently on display, is a glorious selection of works from Etel Adnan. Born in Beirut in 1925 to a Greek mother and a Syrian father, this is Etel’s first solo exhibition in a UK public institution and includes work from across her career encompassing paintings, drawings, poetry, film and tapestry. And the works are wonderful, infused with the colours, landscapes and language of her childhood. Admission free.
It would be remiss of me not to include this retrospective on the American modernist painter, Georgia O’Keeffe for this is the largest show of her work ever held in the UK. Her iconic flowers deserve all the praise they get (though their constant reference as images of female xxx infuriated Georgia who always claimed that this was not her intention) but this show also includes other aspects of Georgia’s career, such as her cityscapes of New York and her paintings of New Mexico. I’m not crazy about the £19 admission charge but if you are a fan, you won’t see a better collection of her work.
A low-key show but a genuinely intriguing one on early photography and British art. Spanning the Victorian and Edwardian ages, this exhibition looks at the cross-sharing of ideas and subjects between artists of the time, and those early experimental photographers. There’s some big name on display, such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Singer Sargent and Julia Margaret Cameron (three names obviously a trend there), but what draws you in are the less familiar female photography pioneers, such as Zaida Ben-Yusuf and Lady Hawarden. Admission (a rather pricey) £18.