Victoria’s Top Ten London Art Exhibitions, April 2019


I think I’m beginning to lose my thread on this monthly list, in particular. It started off, and I think was always meant to be, my top ten art shows in London that month. Only it now seems to have morphed into the ‘ten best shows opening this month’ kind of list.

You might not think that makes much of a difference, but I look at this list and I think, ‘Where’s the Dorothea Tanning show?’ ‘What about Kader Attia and Diane Arbus at the Hayward?’ and, ‘How can I have a top ten list without Martin Parr at the NPG??’

It’s all getting a bit confusing… Which list would you all prefer??? A bit of both? There’s just so much happening and so many new shows opening and, I fear, if I did a list of just the ten best shows, it’d be all the big hitters and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to share with you new names and smaller shows that are also well worth a visit.

Such an existential crisis!

Van Gogh and Britain, Tate Britain

Right, I’ve a feeling we will need to roll our sleeves up for this as it’s going to be popular! This major exhibition brings together 45 works by the man himself to reveal how he was inspired by Britain and how he inspired British artists. It’ll be the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings in the UK for nearly a decade and it’ll consider how these works inspired the likes of Francis Bacon, David Bomberg, and the young Camden Town painters. It will show how his vision set British artists on the road to modern art. Runs to August 11. Admission £22 (ouch!).

Kaleidoscope, Saatchi Gallery

Kaleidoscope examines the distortion of human perception, moving from normal domestic spaces, to turbulent nautical vistas and eventually complete abstraction. It features the work of nine international contemporary artists working across a variety of mediums, from the disruptive work of Mia Feuer, who addresses the post-natural landscape and our effect on it, to Pierre Carreau’s emotionally charged depictions of waves. The star attraction, though, will be Laura Buckley’s interactive large-scale kaleidoscope. Dazzling and disorienting, Laura’s hexagonal walk-in installation invites the audience to be absorbed into the work through its mirrored walls, changing imagery and audio. Runs to 5 May. Admission free.

Queer Spaces: London 1980s – Today, Whitechapel Gallery

I’m totally here for this celebratory and defiant take on the history of London’s queer spaces. I say this because, as a burlesquer, many of my evenings were spent in LGBTQ+ venues – but they have now almost entirely disappeared. In fact, over half of London’s LGBTQ+ venues closed between 2006 and 2016. This exhibition explores queer spaces through contemporary artworks and rare archival material and asks what defines a ‘queer space’, questions what the cultural legacy is of these under-threat venues and considers the effect of these changes on the lives of queer people. Opens April 2. Admission free.

Edvard Munch: Love and Angst, British Museum

This major new exhibition on the work of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch will focus on the man’s remarkable and experimental prints – an art form which made his name and at which he excelled throughout his life – and will examine his unparalleled ability to depict raw human emotion. It will be the largest exhibition of Munch’s prints in the UK for 45 years. The highlight will obviously be The Scream, which hasn’t been seen in the UK for a decade, but it is hoped that the 83 artworks on show will together demonstrate the artist’s skill and creativity in expressing the feelings and experiences of the human condition – from love and desire, to jealousy, loneliness, anxiety and grief.  Opens 11 April. Admission £14.

Chantal Joffe, Victoria Miro

I love Chantal Joffe, I love her, and this exhibition features large-scale canvases depicting the artist’s family and friends, and selections from a year of self-portraits completed during 2018. On New Year’s Day, 2018, Chantal set herself the challenge of working on a self-portrait every day for the coming year. This daily practice – through personal lows and highs – has resulted in a series of characteristically unflinching works. On view at Victoria Miro Mayfair are selected portraits from this series, whereas at the Wharf Road gallery, it is transition that is the focus, whether it be across generations, such as in images of mothers and daughters, or the ways in which we inhabit or enact gender, accentuated during times of accelerated transition such as adolescence, such as in portraits of Herb, the son of a friend, whom Chantal has painted for a number of years. Opens 11 April. Admission free.

Sea Star: Sean Scully, National Gallery

New works from Sean Scully alert! Just in case you weren’t aware, the NG has created a Modern and Contemporary Programme as part of its push to cover more ground in this area – and to get fresh blood on the walls and through the doors. Hence, Sean Scully. Sea Star, as this exhibition is officially titled, sees Sean create new work using Turner’s ‘The Evening Star’ as inspiration. Should be interesting. And no doubt this will be another display of Sean’s deep admiration for colour, composition, and the power of painting. Opens 13 April. Admission free.

Bill Viola / Joan Snyder, Blain Southern

The Viola/Michelangelo show at the RA may now be closed but if you want more of Bill’s videos, head to Blain Southern where there will be small-screen works of his shown in an intimate context to reflect on the complex relationship between humans and the material world. But also running concurrently in the gallery is Joan Snyder’s first solo exhibition in the UK. The show is comprised of new and recent paintings and will include a group of monumental triptychs and diptychs alongside smaller-scale works, but all of which will be further demonstration of Joan’s ‘stroke’ paintings and her experimentation with abstraction. Opens 4 April. Admission free.

Emma Kunz, Serpentine Gallery

Not often that an artist is also a healer but then Emma Kunz is not a run-of-the-mill artist producing run-of-the-mill works. She produced hundreds of her distinctive geometric drawings – artworks inspired by spiritualism and constructed using radiesthesia – a technique using a pendulum to plan the structure of her drawings. Emma considered these drawings as images of energy fields from which she would formulate diagnoses for her patients. Engaging with these varied phenomena, her work explores philosophical and scientific themes which were not only rooted to her own times but also for the future; she predicted that her drawings were destined for the 21st Century. Let’s see if she was right. Runs to 19 May. Admission free.

Joanna Piotrowska: All Our False Devices, Tate Britain

Second entry for Tate B in this list – you’d think they’d space them out a bit, wouldn’t you? But this is another worth seeing as Joanna’s work examines the complex power dynamics and psychological effects of human relationships, which makes timely subject matter for this, her first ever solo exhibition in the UK. Captured on film and photographs, each of the gestures in her works are deliberately staged and directed, acting as documents of an intimate performance for the camera rather than documentary images. A highlight will be images from her Self Defense series in which Joanna captured young women performing gestures from self-defence manuals, creating images which both imply violence against women as well as their empowerment. Runs to 9 June. Admission free.

Allan Sekular & Photography, Marian Goodman Gallery

This presentation of works from the late American artist Allan Sekula will highlight the links between different periods of his career, and the different mediums he used and explored – principally photography, film and criticism. Allan was very influenced by Marxism, yet he lived in California (which makes for an interesting his conflict) but he remained political engaged and was particularly interested in recording the evolution of labour in the face of global capitalism. Often relating images with writings – and passionately of the opinion that photographs alone were insufficient to capture the complexity of issues – this promises to be a fascinating display. Runs to 18 May. Admission free.

And One That’s Out of Town…

The Lie of the Land, MK Gallery

This exciting new MK Gallery in Milton Keynes opened last month, and its inaugural exhibition looks a cracker! The Lie of the Land is an ambitious exhibition featuring works by over 85 artists including Canaletto, Rachel Whiteread, J.M.W. Turner, Richard Hamilton, Bridget Riley, L.S. Lowry, Jeremy Deller, Henry Moore, Thomas Gainsborough and Yinka Shonibare MBE. That’s a pretty damn impressive lineup, and the show charts how British landscape has been radically transformed through changing attitudes to free time and leisure. Runs to 26 May. Admission free.

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