Victoria’s Top Ten London Art Exhibitions, January 2019


Welcome to my first list for art exhibitions in London in 2019. For those who’ve been with me for a while, welcome back! For 2019 newbies, these are my monthly roundups of those shows in town that mixes my faves that are open with some new ones opening in the month that I think will be well worth sticking on your to-do list. And I always look to make sure we have some free admissions in there too because, you know, we ain’t made of money.


Robert Rauschenberg, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

This little gem was in my list last month, but I can’t take the risk that you might not have noticed it, so I am including it this month too. Also, it closes at the end of January so don’t hang around. If you do know Rauschenberg, I know you will be excited by this. If you don’t, Robert was a pioneer of contemporary art, a man who interrogated materials, status and value with verve and power. If buying a de Kooning to erase it wasn’t enough, he was putting his bed up for show long before Tracey Emin. This small exhibition focuses on his Series, working with tyres, doors, bedding, ironing boards, mirrors, electric lights, ventilators, metal traps, images of exotic animals, bird wings, umbrellas and parachutes. Because, why not? Runs to 26 January. Admission free.

Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory, Tate Modern

This is the UK’s first major Pierre Bonnard exhibition in 20 years, showing the work of this innovative and much-loved French painter in a new light. The exhibition will bring together around 100 of his greatest works from museums and private collections around the world. It will reveal how Bonnard’s intense colours and modern compositions transformed painting in the first half of the 20th century, and will celebrate his unparalleled ability to capture fleeting moments, memories and emotions on canvas. The exhibition will emphasise Bonnard as a 20th century artist who – like his friend and contemporary Henri Matisse – had a profound impact on modern painting and would become an influential figure for later artists like Mark Rothko and Patrick Heron. Opens 23 January. Admission £18 (concessions available).

Bill Viola / Michelangelo: Life Death Rebirth, Royal Academy of Arts

What an interesting show, one that brings together the work of video artist pioneer, Bill Viola, with drawings by Michelangelo. Though working five centuries apart and in radically different media, these artists share a deep preoccupation with the nature of human experience and existence. Bill Viola / Michelangelo will create an artistic exchange between these two artists and will be a unique opportunity to see major works from Bill’s long career and some of the greatest drawings by Michelangelo, together for the first time. The exhibition comprises 12 major video installations from Bill, from 1977 to 2013, shown alongside 15 works by Michelangelo. Opens 26 January. Admission £18.

Klimt/Schiele: Drawings: Royal Academy of Arts

What an opportunity to see rare and fragile drawings by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, offering intimate insights into their artistic relationship and differing creative processes. This extraordinary collaboration with the Albertina Museum in Vienna marks the centenary of both artists’ deaths. 1918 was a seismic year in Vienna. As the Austro-Hungarian Empire crumbled, an intense period of creative vitality drew to an end with the deaths of two of its foremost artists. One was the preeminent and strikingly modern painter of fin-de-siècle Vienna, Gustav Klimt; the other the young, scandalous and prodigiously talented Egon Schiele. Both revelled in the immediacy of drawing, an ideal medium for exploring new ideas of modernity, subjectivity and the erotic. Closes 3 February. Admission £16 (concessions available).

Sophia Al-Maria: BCE, Whitechapel Gallery

Marking the culmination of a year-long collaboration as Whitechapel Gallery’s Writer in Residence, Sophia Al-Maria draws on feminism and radical queer politics to consider themes of history and narrative. BCE presents two distinct creation myths side by side – one ancient, one new. In an ongoing collaboration, Sophia invited performer Victoria Sin to conceive of a new creation myth in a film work specially-commissioned for Whitechapel Gallery, interrogating the patriarchal dimensions of sex, race, gender and fertility. Displayed alongside, Wayuu Creation Myth explores the power of feminine rage to question colonial narratives. Opens 12 January. Admission free.

Fashioned from Nature, Victoria and Albert Museum

Take a close look at the complex relationship between fashion and nature in the V&A’s major exhibition on one of the hottest topics right now: sustainable fashion. This is the first UK exhibition to explore the complex relationship between fashion and nature from 1600 to the present day and this show presents fashionable dress alongside natural history specimens, innovative new fabrics and dyeing processes, inviting visitors to think about the materials of fashion and the sources of their clothes. Runs to 21 January. Admission £12.

We Live in an Ocean of Air, Saatchi Gallery

If you want to start your new year with a metaphorical breath of fresh air, head to Saatchi Gallery for this multisensory virtual reality installation that brings together art, science and technology, revealing the invisible but fundamental connections between the human and natural worlds. This work uses cutting-edge technology to explore the invisible connection between plants and humans through breath, allowing the viewer to interact with an entire ecosystem around a giant sequoia tree – the largest living individual organism on the planet. Incorporating breath sensors, heart rate monitors, binaural sound, scent dispersal systems and wind machines, We Live in an Ocean of Air extends the boundaries of experience design, offering an unparalleled level of immersion. Closes 20 January. Admission £20 (concessions available).

Athi-Patra Ruga: Of Gods, Rainbows, and Omissions, Somerset House

I’m so up for seeing new and rarely seen works from the internationally renowned South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga. In his first major solo UK exhibition, Athi-Patra brings three recent series of work together for the first time to unveil a surreal, mythical utopia, filled with a collection of extraordinary characters. Showcasing his diverse practice, from drawings and sculpture to film and photography, plus beautiful hand-crafted petit point tapestry, the exhibition immerses visitors in Athi-Patra’s vibrant world – an allegory of post-apartheid political, cultural and social systems, and a shimmering vision of a more humanist future. You haven’t got long left though so don’t hang around if you want to see this! Closes 6 January. Admission free.

Gainsborough’s Family Album, National Portrait Gallery

I didn’t know this but Thomas Gainsborough was the first British artist to make a regular practice of painting and drawing himself and his family members. The NPG has decided to grab this insight as the kick off point to explore how these portraits not only expressed Gainsborough’s affections but also helped advance his career. The show is a small one, but it is perfectly formed. Gainsborough’s Family Album charts the man’s career from youth to maturity, telling the story of an eighteenth-century provincial artist’s rise to metropolitan fame and fortune, and demonstrates the man’s sublime talents for portraiture perfectly. Closes 3 February. Admission £14 (concessions available).

Grace Wales Bonner, Serpentine Sackler Gallery

This is the first Serpentine exhibition created by a fashion designer in a new series of annual short duration projects which bring collective and interdisciplinary practice into the gallery spaces. Born in London to an English mother and Jamaican father, Grace is a cultural polymath, who sees fashion as a means of communicating broad and interwoven notions of identity and self-expression. Recognised as one of the most innovative designers of her generation, her design process involves a rich cross-pollination of sources, often collaborating with artists, writers and performers. For this show, Grace will explore mysticism, ritual and magical resonances within black cultural and aesthetic practices. Over the course of one month, a multi-sensory installation and a series of happenings will invite contemplation and activate the spaces of the Serpentine. Opens January 19. Admission free.

And One That’s Out of Town…

Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere, Firstsite, Colchester

This exhibition documents the making of Gillian Wearing’s statue of Suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square and offers a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes of the creation of a historic public artwork – the first ever monument to a woman to be erected in Parliament Square and also the first statue in the area to be made by a female artist.

The exhibition is comprised of the original small-scale maquette of the statue, Wearing’s notes, designs and development research that chart its making, as well as 3D prints from the mould-making process featured alongside  a number of works drawn from Gillian’s iconic photographic series, Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say (1992-3). Seen within the context of this exhibition, the ‘Signs’ works reflect upon Gillian’s trajectory as an artist and her fitting commemoration of Millicent Fawcett. Runs to 12 May. Admission free.

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