Victoria’s Top Ten Art Shows, August 2019


August is the one month where there isn’t a single new art exhibition opening in town (though I found one opening in the last week!). That means this newsletter gets to be a hybrid mix between my favourite shows and those new ones that I haven’t had the opportunity to squeeze onto one of my lists yet (hello, Helene Schjerfbeck!).

But, as ever, I’m pleased we have a great mix of artists, genres and mediums; some free exhibitions and a few blockbusters. Some exhibitions that will get you out and about, whilst others will get you out of the sun and into the cool. But whichever of the following you choose, you will most definitely see great art.

Have a great month!

Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery

Observers are already talking about this show being a seminal one, that its electric exploration of gender and identity is one that will likely leave a mark. Indeed, it might and I hope that proves to be true. But what I would like to see as much as improved representation of artists in galleries is as many visitors as possible visiting this show before it closes. This is such an enjoyable, provocative and dazzling show. It is one that captures humanity beautifully and on such a critical subject. Humorous, innovative but undeniably political. Runs to 8 September. Admission £14 (concessions available)

Lee Krasner: Living Colour, Barbican Art Gallery

I finally got to see this exhibition only last week and, honestly, I was completely knocked for six. You walk through galleries filled with these complex but colourful and confident abstract expressionist masterpieces and you wonder how on earth Lee Krasner was ever overlooked. But such is the lot of being a woman artist, especially when your husband is Jackson Pollock – a man whose works and reputation took up a lot of headlines anyway. But this seminal exhibition – a vast survey of Lee’s artistic development over 50 years – should finally seal the moment when Lee steps out of her husband’s long shadow and gets the recognition that she is long overdue. A magnificent exhibition. Worthy of every five-star review it has obtained. Runs to 1 September. Admission from £15.

Faith Ringgold and Luchita Hurtado, Serpentine Galleries

Spend one of the warm days this Summer sauntering around Hyde Park and adding a dash of contemporary art for good measure as the two shows the Serpentine Galleries have on are most definitely worthy of a visit. Not big names but the wonder of these shows is that they platform two radical and exciting artists who are most definitely worthy of more acclaim than the art world has given them.

As women, the odds have always been against Faith and Luchita but in these capsule surveys of their work, we see the trajectory of one artist’s expansive, 80-year career and reveals the scale, experimentation and playfulness of her impressive oeuvre (Luchita Hurtado), and another who has consistently challenged perceptions of African American identity and gender inequality through the lenses of the feminist and the civil rights movements. As cultural assumptions and prejudices persist, her work retains its contemporary resonance (hello, Faith Ringgold). Runs to 8 September. Admission free.

Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life, Tate Modern

The most Instagram-able exhibition on in London right now and, quite probably, the most popular. But Olafur isn’t an artist solely interested in pretty images – if at all. Rather, he specialises in immersive works that force the viewer to confront obstacles such as sensory deprivation or warping, and climate change, as well as creating works that bring audiences together in a collective shared experience with natural phenomenon at the core. So, yes, you’ll love the fun of the orange fog and the shiny metal tubes but you’ll also appreciate Olafur for taking on the most urgent of issues. Runs to 5 January 2020. Admission £18 (concessions available).

Urban Impulses: Latin American Photography From 1959 To 2016, The Photographers Gallery

The Photographers Gallery is one of my favourite spots in London – great café, free admission (after 5pm), and it is one of the most underrated places to find amazing art in the capital. Its exhibitions are routinely fantastic with the curators often able to bring together real treasure troves, and that is exactly what they’ve done with their summer show that puts Latin American photographers in the spotlight. The show includes icons such as Alberto Korda (Cuba), Graciela Iturbide (Mexico) and Sergio Larrain (Chile), but there are over 70 artists showcased here in a display of over 200 images. Extraordinary. And with political protests, marginalised communities, street photography, and dictators amongst many other subjects, this exhibition challenges the dominance of Western photography in this period and demonstrates how photography can fill silences and act as a form of protest in itself. Runs to 6 October. Admission £5 or free after 5pm.

Takis, Tate Modern

Over a 70-year career, the Greek artist, Takis, has created some of the most innovative art of the 20th century and he has spent his career mining that fascinating gap between art and science. A sculptor of magnetism, light and sound, he seeks out the essential poetry and beauty of the electromagnetic universe and seeks to capture it, play with it and interpret it in both static and kinetic works. As such, even though he is in his 90s, he remains a pioneering figure today. This Tate show is Takis’s largest ever exhibition in the UK, bringing together over 70 artworks, including a rarely seen Magnetic Fields installation, musical devices generating resonant and random sounds, and forests of his pivotal antennae-like sculptures known as Signals. Runs to 27 October. Admission £13 (concessions available).

Helene Schjerfbeck, Royal Academy of Arts

Now, this one I haven’t yet seen but I am very excited to get over to the RA to lap up all I can about an artist I had not heard of until now. Indeed, the fact that most of us haven’t heard of her is not much of a surprise given that this is actually the first solo exhibition of Helene’s works in the UK. Celebrated as one of the most famous and highly regarded artists in Finland during her lifetime (1862 – 1946), the RA has pulled together over 60 portraits, still lifes and landscapes to give us a glimpse into Helene’s style and development. And her style did change over time as she moved from a naturalistic style (inspired by French Salon painters) to a radically abstracted and modern approach. Should be fascinating. Runs to 27 October. Admission £12 (concessions available).

Nan Goldin, Tate Modern

This Autumn, the Marian Goodman gallery will be hosting a much-anticipated significant exhibition of Nan’s photography. Ahead of this, Tate Modern is showing The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a slideshow projection of photos Nan took of her friends, lovers and community in NYC between 1979 and 1986. It’s an iconic collection of work, and an intimate and celebratory one too for Nan observes and honours the surrogate family she found for herself and, in doing so, captures the essence of an era and a community. A mesmeric photographic diary of a unique and much-feted period of time. Runs to 27 October. Admission free.

Cindy Sherman, National Portrait Gallery

To me, Cindy Sherman is one of the most curious and fascinating artists working today. For years, decades even, she has created artworks with herself disguised as fictitious characters, photographing herself in imaginary situations, inhabiting a world of pure appearance. And this marvellous career-spanning retrospective at the NPG is full of such characters. Why did she do this? Why does she continue to do this? What is she communicating? I’m never entirely sure. Is she inviting us to create a narrative? Is she playing with ambiguity and familiarity? Is this all a political statement on the roles popular culture demands women fit into? I don’t know. But I never stop being fascinated. Runs to 15 September. Admission £18 (concessions available).

Vivienne Koorland and Berni Searle – Made Routes: Mapping and Making, Richard Saltoun

So, this show brings together the works of two South African artists who both explore revisions of history and the brutal havoc of colonialism and its legacies in their pieces on display. The pieces on display actually hark back to a landmark exhibition back in 1997 – ‘Trade Routes: History + Geography’ at the 1997 2nd Johannesburg Biennale – which explored the way contemporary art negotiates and trips over national boundaries and the flow of people. Some of the works on display from Vivienne and Berni were on show in this particular exhibition – reconstructions of maps and ground plans – whilst also exploring more recent work from these two women. Opens 30 August. Admission free.

And One That’s Out of Town…

Seaside: Photographed, Turner Contemporary

A perfect choice for this time of year – a major exhibition examining the relationship between photographers, photography and the British seaside from the 1850s to the present. It is Turner Contemporary’s first ever photography exhibition so bravo to them. As well as featuring the work of eminent photographers including Jane Bown, Henri Cartier Bresson, Vanley Burke, Anna Fox, Susan Hiller, Paul Nash, Martin Parr, and Ingrid Pollard, the curators have included rich and often unknown work from across photography’s history, including Raymond Lawson’s remarkable chronicle of family life in Whitstable. Images of hotel life, the beach, the holiday camp, dressing up and dressing down, wild waves and coastlines all combine to create a rich picture of the British seaside. Runs to 8 September. Admission free.

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