June saw a swathe of new shows open, with plenty more to come in July, as the galleries and museums gear up for the summer crowds. So, this month’s Top Ten shows is a terrific blend with exhibitions from big names, such as David Hockney, Georgia O’Keeffe and Yayoi Kusama, on display alongside newer ones, such as George Shaw and Mona Hatoum.
And, as always, there is ground-breaking, challenging and exciting art for all budgets, from the big blockbuster exhibitions at (the totally revamped) Tate Modern and National Gallery, to free shows from galleries across London – not just in the West End and Mayfair.
Enjoy. And if you do visit any of the below, let me know what you think.
Mona Hatoum, Tate Modern
The Tate Modern has rightly been applauded for its continuing commitment to platforming female artists so now, following in the footsteps of shows from Sonia Delaunay, Agnes Martin and Marlene Dumas, amongst others, the Tate is now hosting a survey on Mona Hatoum. Palestinian-born, Mona’s powerful, confrontational works are infused with themes of confrontation, war, separation and refugees, as well as an examination on the role of women and the spectre of gender expectations and oppression. Given the state of the world, it’s hard to think how this could be more timely. Admission £16.00.
Jeff Koons Now, Newport Street Gallery
Ah, Jeff Koons. A survey of some of his most provocative works from the past thirty years. And all on display in Damien Hirst’s gallery. Could you get any more layers of controversy in one show? Probably not. Certainly I can’t think of any other exhibition in London that even comes close to this level of deliberate needling. Which, of course, therefore makes this a must-see. I’m not a fan of Mr Koons (I find his work just too shallow) but plenty of others are. And that’s just the point. When an art show is this Marmite-esque, surely you’ve got to go along and decide for yourself? P.S. Some of Jeff’s stuff is pretty explicit, which I realise will only encourage more of you to go, but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you! Admission free.
Yayoi Kusama, Victoria Miro
Yayoi Kusama once said of her visitors, “I want them to feel like art is wonderful.” Immersing yourself in a room full of Kusama’s psychedelic yellow pumpkins, or standing in front of her giant vivid canvases, where undefinable shapes swim in seas of burnt orange and delicate lilac, I can’t imagine how you can think anything else. Last year, Kusama was revealed as the world’s most popular living artist (based on gallery attendance) and now Victoria Miro is giving audiences the opportunity to experience more of her works by dedicating both of their London galleries to showcasing her distinctive paintings and installations. A show that can change how you feel and view the world. Admission free.
David Hockney, Royal Academy of Arts
Next year, Tate Britain will be hosting a vast retrospective on the work of this much-loved artist. But ahead of that, the Royal Academy is hosting this smaller display of a new body of work that focuses on portraiture. Specifically, eighty-two portraits David has painted of family and friends, all of which are the same size, with the sitter posed in the same chair, and all against the same bright blue background. I wasn’t crazy about this show but I suspect ticket sales will be rather immune to any negativity from writers like me! This show is already expected to be one of the RA’s biggest shows of the year but, as the gallery is only small, advance booking is essential. Opens July 2, 2016. Admission £11.50.
Georgia O’Keeffe, Tate Modern
Are they flowers to be flowers, or are they flowers to be vaginas? What is Georgia O’Keeffe examining in her iconic paintings of, well, flowers? That will be what is up for discussion when Tate Modern opens the UK’s first major retrospective on the work of this iconic artist for over twenty years. Included in the exhibition will be Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, 1932, which became the most expensive work for a female artist ever sold at auction when it was snapped up in 2014 for an impressive $44 million. Big money. But that’s the art world for you. Instead come and see it for £19 admission when this show opens on July 6.
The New Tate Modern
Well, I doubt you’ve failed to notice that the Tate Modern’s new extension – the Switch House – is now open to the public. I don’t think I’ve seen so many articles on art for an age; the reviews have been everywhere! So I guess we’ll have to expect the coverage to draw in the crowds – the Tate is already reporting record attendances. I hope the visitors are excited by the more unfamiliar names that are on display (I’m personally hoping for many to come away enthused with the work of Louise Bourgeois and her spiders, as well as Rebecca Horn and her examination of touch, sensuality and female sexuality). But there is always the big guns in the main building – Picasso, Warhol, Hepworth, Duchamp, Rothko and Richter – to fall back on if not. Admission free.
George Shaw, National Gallery
For the past couple of years, George Shaw has been holed up in the National Gallery as its Associate Artist, allowing him terrific access to the Gallery’s extraordinary and vast collection of works. And now the Gallery is displaying George’s new works, which shows how he’s drawn inspiration from these great paintings, blending ideas with his own interest in contemporary scenes. The result is an intriguing collection of paintings, set in woodland landscapes that echo the paintings from the likes of Titian and Poussin, which examines human behaviour when no one is looking. What is it we want to keep hidden? And what tell-tale signs of our activity do we leave behind? Admission free.
Alex Katz, Serpentine Gallery
Given its location in Hyde Park, it’s a smart move by Serpentine Gallery to open a show on Alex Katz’s landscapes. Alex’s huge paintings brim with vibrant greens and fields of yellow in brightly lit scenes. And these are offset against other night-time scenes where trees are shrouded in darkness, only the faintest hints of moonlight illuminating the tops of the bare branches. Most of the pieces on display were completed in the past few years, with the show also including select works from the past two decades. This is an enjoyable collection of work that shows that, even at 88 years of age, Alex remains a prolific painter. Admission free.
Painters’ Paintings, National Gallery
The National Gallery has scored a real winner with its summer show, Painters’ Paintings, which explores great paintings from an unusual perspective – that of the artists who owned them. Over 400 years of art history is crammed into this exhibition which sees works from Van Dyck to Freud on the walls, including paintings from such Masters as Titian, Degas, Gauguin, Cezanne and Picasso. The collection on display is mightily impressive. Yet, specifically, these great works were all once owned by other artists and it allows us an opportunity to look at the significance of these works to their owners. What is it that drew them to these particular works? What inspired them? And what did they then incorporate into their own works? Admission £12.00.
Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick, Somerset House
This summer, Somerset House will stage a unique exhibition which explores the impact of one of the most innovative and influential film makers of all time – Stanley Kubrick – through some of today’s most talented artists. Contributors including Haroon Mirza and Anish Kapoor, Sarah Lucas, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Jane Pollard with Jarvis Cocker, and Beth Orton and more, will each provide a new or existing work inspired by Stanley Kubrick, responding to a film, scene, character or theme from the Kubrick archives, or even the man himself. Together they will bring new perspectives on the cinematic master’s life and work. Opens July 6. Admission £12.50.