Welcome to the beginning of the artistic deluge!!
It’s a whopping couple of months ahead for us in the London art calendar this Autumn with household names, exciting emerging artistic talent and some fantastic themes coming our way. Getting my list summarised to just ten shows each month is going to be tricky but let’s get started.
September gets us off to a great start with big names heading for the free spaces at White Cube and Victoria Miro, the opening of a new gallery (always welcome) and the beginning of the wave of household names setting out their wares in the big galleries around town.
I suggest you get your skates on and tick off as many of these as you can this month as October’s list is even more ‘must-sees.’
Being Human, Wellcome Collection
I’m always here for new art galleries so let’s hear it for Being Human at the Wellcome Collection, a new permanent gallery that will explore trust, identity and health in a changing world. Being Human will explore what it means to be human in the 21st century. Divided into four sections, Genetics, Minds & Bodies, Infection, and Climate Breakdown, the new display will present around 50 artworks and objects that reflect our hopes and fears about new forms of medical knowledge, and our changing relationships with ourselves, each other and the world. Opens 5 September. Admission free.
Mona Hatoum, Dóra Maurer and Harmony Hammond, White Cube Bermondsey
I adore Mona Hatoum so I’m thrilled to see this, the first presentation of her work in London since her Tate M show back in 2016. We will have new and recent installation, sculpture and works on paper to see that will no doubt reflect on subjects that fascinate her including our current global condition, systems of confinement, the architecture of surveillance and themes of mobility and conflict. But she won’t be taking over all the galleries at White Cube – we’ll also have Hungarian neo-avant garde artist, Dora Maurer, who also happens to have a larger show running at Tate M at the moment, and the first European solo exhibition by Harmony Hammond – the American artist, curator, author and activist who was a pivotal figure of the feminist art movement in New York in the 1970s. Opens 12 September. Admission free.
Grayson Perry: Super Rich Interior Decoration, Victoria Miro Mayfair
National Treasure Grayson Perry™ is back with new work including pots, sculpture, large-scale prints, a tapestry and a carpet. In these pieces, Grayson once again has his eye on the curious anthropology of British society, this time over the heady collision of art, money, power and desire and how we try to assert of identity through cultural or consumer choices and what this reveals about us, perhaps unintentionally. Grayson is up for examining the slippery concepts of meaning and significance, provoking us to question what can be authentically experienced or simply acquired. Opens 25 September. Admission free.
Anna Maria Maiolino: Making Love Revolutionary, Whitechapel Gallery
Nothing like a platform for a brilliant artist that is largely unknown… Enter this first UK retrospective of one of the most pioneering artists working in Brazil today. Using simple materials such as clay, paper and ink, Anna constructs a fascinating world rooted in human conditions such as longing and motherhood, fragility, language and resistance. She frequently takes inspiration from her experience as an immigrant (she was born in Italy), coming of age under Brazil’s military dictatorship. The title of the show, Making Love Revolutionary, reflects Anna’s exposure to the Argentinian Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo movement of women campaigned for their children disappeared under dictatorship. Becoming a visible, unexpected and dynamic political force over decades, the mother’s love becomes revolutionary. This sounds RIGHT up my street. Opens 25 September. Admission £12.95 (concessions available).
William Blake, Tate Britain
Now, this’ll be interesting for me as I am completely ambivalent about William Blake’s artwork. That may seem a strange contradiction but I kind of look to these big retrospectives on artists that don’t usually hit my radar to persuade me otherwise. What is it I don’t appreciate about William Blake? Do I just not know enough about his painting? Well, if a show is going to persuade me to get keen then this’ll be the one to do it as it will be the largest survey of his art in the UK for a generation. Routinely described as a visionary painter, William Blake (1757-1827) is actually renowned more for his poetry these days. This ambitious exhibition will bring together over 300 remarkable and rarely seen works and proposes to rediscover Blake as a visual artist for the 21st century so let’s see, shall we? Opens 11 September. Admission £18 (concessions available).
Tim Walker: Wonderful Things, Victoria & Albert Museum
With their blockbuster Dior exhibition closing, attention at the V&A turns to fashion photographer impresario, Tim Walker. The show has been created in collaboration with the man himself and features ten new photographic projects inspired by the V&A collection as week as some of his seminal images from his 25-year career, including works featuring Kate Moss (obvs), Sir David Attenborough, Tilda Swinton, Björk, Timothée Chalamet, Solange Knowles and Beth Ditto. And there’s the promise of an immersive set design too from his long-time collaborator, Shona Heath so should be interesting. Opens 21 September. Admission £15.
Damien Hirst: Mandalas, White Cube Mason’s Yard
So, Damien is presenting some new works at White Cube Mason’s Yard. White Cube and the master of publicity aren’t giving much away, though we’ve been told to expect the return of butterflies (“everyone’s frightened of sharks, everyone loves butterflies”) and that the new works take inspiration from the ‘mandala’, a symbolic representation of the universe that can be used as a meditative instrument. If you’ve been following Damien’s more recent work and/or his Insta, you’ll notice lots of pretty daubs of colour (sometimes daubed on his latest young girlfriend) so maybe we’ll have that merged with the delicate butterfly wings laid out in a range of mesmeric patterns. Or maybe we’ll have yet more diamond-encrusted skulls, or a bunch of razor blades stuck on a giant pink background. Who knows? Whatever and whichever we get though expect this to be popular and expect lots of more back and forth about whether any of it is actually good. Which is just how Damien likes it. Opens 20 September. Admission free.
Affinities: Jasmine Thomas-Girvan & Chris Ofili, David Zwirner
There are some big names with shows opening around town this month (and this season) so I’m pleased I can find room for this great two-artist show that brings Trinidad-based artists Jasmine Thomas-Girvan and Chris Ofili together to showcase the rich artistic conversation that exists between them, arising both in response to their shared environment as well as an ongoing dialogue throughout the nearly two decades they have known each other. Both Jasmine’s sculptures and Chris’s paintings draw from Caribbean history, myth, ritual, as well as Western literature and their own experiences so visit to see works grounded in the specificity of the Caribbean landscape and the region’s colonial past as well as exploring depiction and projection in works such as Homer’s Odyssey. Runs to 21 September. Admission free.
Joseph Beuys: Important Sculptures from the 1950s, BASTIAN
Well, this is interesting; a rare opportunity to discover significant early works of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century as five unique sculptures from the 1950s by Beuys will be shown alongside documentary photographs – the first time these works will have been shown in the UK. Presenting work from the time when Beuys had just found his own artistic language based on a deep comprehension of the inner logic of mythology, the exhibition bears witness to the artist’s constant use of mythical references to understand an old spiritual world and its role in modern life. Opens 20 September. Admission free.
Antony Gormley, Royal Academy of Arts
Antony’s sculptures are instantly recognisable but this survey promises to go beneath the superficial with a show that brings together both existing and especially conceived new works for the occasion, from drawings and sculptures to experiential environments, that will take on the RA’s Main Galleries across all 13 rooms. The exhibition promises to be an experience as the objective for the curators is to create a series of distinct encounters that will come together as a collective experience. It will be a summation of Antony’s enduring concern with the inner dark space of the body itself and the body’s relation to its surroundings: the body as space and the body in space. Antony said, “there is no subject until the viewer arrives and begins to engage.” Opens 21 September. Admission from £18 (concessions available).
And One That’s Out of Town…
Turner Prize 2019, Turner Contemporary
This year, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock (pictured, left), Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani (pictured, right) will be battling it out for the ever-controversial Turner Prize with the winner being announced on 3 December. Who will win? Who knows? But why not head up to the gorgeous Turner Contemporary on the Margate coast to judge for yourself who should win. I reckon it’s going to be between Helen – whose show The Long Note looked at the history and the role of women in the civil rights movement in Derry Londonderry, highlighting how the complexities of the politics of Northern Ireland have overshadowed the social history of the region and the variety of political positions taken by women during that time – and Tai, who uses theatrical installations, performances and films to create her own allegorical city of women populated by fantastical characters, transporting the viewer to another time and place. Opens 28 September. Admission free.