Victoria’s Top Ten London Art Exhibitions, November 2019


My, my, my, there are some big guns coming out this month. Not only do we have exhibitions on the likes of Gauguin, Gormley and Olafur Eliasson already open (and busy) at the National Gallery, RA and Tate Modern respectively, but they are going to be joined by even more – including some welcome women artists too.

Big shows on Dora Maar and Nan Goldin are coming our way – two extraordinary artists whose works could be seen to be at different ends of the spectrum, one more surreal, the other more documentary – but it’s also great to see contemporary artists like Lisa Brice taking up space too.

But I don’t think there is any doubt that expectations are high for Anselm Kiefer and Lucian Freud. Expect both of them to be popular and must-sees (get them in your diary, folks).

And the British Museum and Saatchi Gallery will be opening two of the biggest exhibitions in the city this month with Troy and Tutankhamen respectively.

All exciting stuff. But I also know art shows can get pricey so I’m really pleased that four of the shows listed this month have free admission – including Anselm Kiefer, Steve McQueen and Nan Goldin!


Anselm Kiefer, White Cube Bermondsey

The man returns. Anselm Kiefer has been blowing people out the water for a few years now (metaphorically speaking, of course) but the last of his shows at White Cube, Walhalla back in 2016, was astounding. Anselm took over the gallery, transformed it, into tunnels of lead-lined walls filled with hospital beds, staircases to the afterlife and a fine collection of his stunning – and massive – paintings that explored powerful mythical and contemporary themes such as death and the afterlife. Quite what one of the greatest artists working today has in store for us on this occasion, I don’t know. All wrapped in secrecy. But the chances of this show of new works being anything other than fantastic are slim. Runs 15 November to 26 January. Admission free.

Dora Maar, Tate Modern

Come to Mama. This month the Tate will open the show I’ve most wanted to see this year. Too many of us know Dora more for her reputation as Picasso’s long-standing (and long-suffering) muse. So, let’s hear it for this exhibition that will bring Dora’s surrealist photographic art to a wider audience. Erotic, provocative, emotional and pioneering, Dora’s photography was ahead of her time – women photographers like her were beginning to infiltrate relatively taboo genres such as erotica and nude photography – so enjoy seeing the artist behind the name in this show that will feature over 200 works from a career spanning more than six decades. Runs 20 November to 15 March. Admission: £13 (concessions available).

Nan Goldin: Sirens, Marian Goodman Gallery

Finally, it is here. I’ve been waiting all year for this – the first London exhibition for the iconic photographer for almost 20 years. And this major show will present an important range of historical works together with three new video works exhibited for the first time. Nan has made a career on shining a light on those living in the margins of society, often focusing on ostracised communities and difficult subject matter such as domestic abuse and drugs. And that continues with her new work, Memory Lost, which is a new digital sideshow recounting a life lived through a lens of addiction. Expect a collection of arresting, intimate and personal imagery. I *literally* cannot wait. Runs 14 November to 11 January. Admission free.

Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits, Royal Academy of Arts

The man and his work hardly need an introduction yet, remarkably, this is the first exhibition to focus on the celebrated artist’s visceral and unflinching self-portraits. There are around 50 of these works on display – the majority from private collections and a number having not been seen publicly for several decades – and the period they cover is almost seven decades, giving us an insight into Freud’s artistic development, from his early, more linear and graphic works to the fleshier painterly style that became the hallmark of his later paintings. Runs 27 October to 26 January. Admission £16 (concessions available).

Nam June Paik, Tate Modern

Nam June Paik (1932-2006) was a visionary, interrogating emerging technologies in a pre-internet world. In fact, the man coined the phrase ‘electronic superhighway’ to predict the future of communication in an internet age. Paik is now synonymous with the electronic image, through a prodigious output of manipulated TV sets, live performances, global television broadcasts, single-channel videos, and video installations so expect an assault on the senses in this show that will no doubt have a hell of a lot of electronic equipment running at once. This will be the most comprehensive survey of the artist’s work ever staged in the UK, bringing together over 200 works in a mesmerising riot of light and sound. Runs to 9 February. Admission £13 (concessions available).

Troy: Myth and Reality, British Museum

This looks fantastic. We all know the legend of Troy but this will be the first exhibition that seeks to marry the myth with the facts. After all, Troy was a real place and there is increasing historical evidence that lends credence to many of the more factual elements of the siege of Troy and its bloody war. So, this show will reveal both the lasting legacy of stories from the Trojan War, first told by early poets such as Homer and Virgil and retold and reinterpreted right up to the present day, and it will bring this together with artefacts and finds from excavations at the site of Troy (the first time they will showed in the UK since the 19th century). Nearly 300 objects will be on display and there is so much to explore in this enduring subject matter. Runs 21 November to 8 March. Admission from £15 (concessions available).

Lisa Brice, Stephen Friedman Gallery

It’s good to see Lisa Brice coming to the fore. Last year, Tate Britain held a display of her works that showcased her explicitly feminist take on the female nudes, flipping their historical role as ornamental and for the male gaze for one more woman centric. This challenge to artistic traditions is also on the table in her current show at Stephen Friedman gallery in Mayfair where Lisa takes the depiction of women again and blends it with the long history of male artists and the colour cobalt blue – a shade perennially associated with works by Titian, Picasso, and Yves Klein. I Love Lisa. Not only are the women depicted in her works so confident and self-possessed but her clever nods to the poor position of women in art history is empowering stuff. Runs to 9 November. Admission free.

Eco-Visionaries, Royal Academy of Arts

Well, this is something new: an exhibition examining humankind’s ecological impact on the planet through the work of artists, designers and architects from across the globe who are confronting these environmental issues through their practice. As early as the 1950s, scientists started raising serious concerns about the damaging effects of modern life on the environment. Since then, experts have been joined by creative practitioners in an effort to draw wider attention to the fragility of the planet and to stabilise its endangered ecosystems for future generations. The exhibition will feature works by 21 international practitioners in a wide range of media, including film, sculpture, immersive installation, architectural models and full-scale prototypes, all interrogating how art and architecture can help us respond to a rapidly changing world. Runs 23 November to 23 February. Admission: £10 (concessions available).

Steve McQueen Year 3 Project, Tate Britain

The Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain are about to be taken over by a vast installation of photographs from Turner Prize-winning artist and Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen who – over the past year – has worked to capture a portrait of an entire age group of Londoners: Year 3 schoolchildren from across the capital. It will be a celebration of the tens of thousands of young people who will make London their own in years to come, and a meditation on the social forces and personal developments that shape our lives. Artangel, who are renowned for producing extraordinary art in unexpected places, will also create an outdoor exhibition of class photographs across each of London’s 33 boroughs, giving passers-by a glimpse of the future of their city. Tate Modern will then stage a major survey exhibition of McQueen’s work to coincide with the project, open from February to May 2020. This exhibition runs from 12 November to 3 May. Admission free.

Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, Saatchi Gallery

Well, the announcement that this blockbuster exhibition was transferring to the Saatchi Gallery caught me flatfooted. It is probably the most successful exhibition in Paris’s illustrious history and I’ve been wondering whether this more modest gallery has the room to host it. Well, it clearly does and so here we are. This is the largest collection of King Tutankhamun’s treasures ever to travel out of Egypt – and it is also the final chance to see these glittering world heritage artefacts before they return to Egypt forever so tickets for this will FLY. Grab your opportunity to explore the life of this boy-king, and the storied discovery that captivated the world, through more than 150 authentic pieces from the tomb. Runs 2 November to 3 May. Admission: £24.50 + fees (concessions available).

And One That’s Out of Town…

Radical Women: Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries, Pallant House Gallery

I’m loving Pallant House’s Autumn exhibition for it explores a fascinating history of alliances and connections among the women artists of the early 20th century. The show is centred on the pioneering work of Jessica Dismorr (1885 – 1939) who was an artist at the forefront of the avant-garde in Britain but uses this as a springboard to explore how Jessica and her female contemporaries engaged with modernist literature and radical politics through their art, including their contributions to campaigns for women’s suffrage and the anti-fascist organisations of the 1930s. Eighty works including paintings, sculptures, graphic art and archival materials, some of which have never been exhibited before, will be on show. Runs 2 November to 23 February. Admission £11 (concessions available).

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