Victoria’s Top Ten London Art Shows, December 2018


What is life without art, eh? And there is so much out there to see, even in this season, with a smattering of cracking new smaller shows making themselves known amongst a sea of blockbusters that are closing soon. I would say, try to make room to see these in your busy season but, for me, it’s the other way around – I need these shows as a refuge from the chaos of the Christmas season!


Robert Rauschenberg: Spreads 1975-83, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac

I’ve known Rauschenberg all my life but ever since that breath-taking retrospective at the Tate, I’ve been desperate for more. Ask and you shall receive, they say, and my Christmas prayers have been answered for Galerie Thaddeus Ropac is hosting this, the first UK exhibition dedicated to the American artist’s remarkable Spreads, a series that occupies an important place in the great man’s body of works. The large-scale Spreads (1975–83) encapsulate many of Robert’s best-known motifs and materials, including tyres, doors, bedding, ironing boards, mirrors, electric lights, ventilators, metal traps, images of exotic animals, bird wings, umbrellas and parachutes. I’m expecting to be marvelled all over again. Runs to January 26, 2019. Admission free.

Oceania, Royal Academy of Arts

A string of five-star reviews greeted this exhibition on its opening and though I don’t give stars in my review, I would have done the same. This is a remarkable show, and a necessary one too in its centring of non-Western art, but December marks your last month to see it so if you haven’t yet, make time this festive season to get over to the RA as this surely must be a once-in-a-generation show. Oceania is the first ever major survey of Oceanic art to be held in the UK and it brings together around 200 exceptional works from public collections worldwide, and spans over 500 years. It is a rare opportunity to be immersed in the art and culture of an area that represents nearly a third of the world’s surface, a region rich in history, ritual and ceremony. Runs to December 10. Admission £18.

Linder: The Bower of Bliss, Art on the Underground

Nothing like bringing art outside of galleries to the public and that is very much the ethos of Art on the Underground who have opened this major public commission by Linder at Southwark station. The work – the first large-scale public commission by Linder in London – consists of an 85-metre-long street-level billboard at the station. Linder spent four months as artist-in-residence and the resulting work, The Bower of Bliss, is a manifestation of the histories, myths and fables of the many women Linder uncovered during her residency, from Londinium sex workers in AD 43 to the women who run London Underground today. On view until October 2019. Admission free – obviously.

Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-Garde, Barbican Centre

The breadth of this exhibition is mightily impressive. Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-Garde showcases the creative output of over forty artist couples active in the first half of the 20th century to demonstrate how we should view the development of modernism through the lens of couples and the sharing and development of ideas through collaboration rather than the myth of the lone (Usually male) genius. Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, Frida and Diego, Picasso and Dora, Lee Miller and Man Ray, Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst… The artists on display reads like a roll-call of the greats – and as a result, this exhibition makes its point beautifully. Runs to January 27, 2019. Admission £16 (concessions available).

Night and Day: 1930s Fashion and Photographs, Fashion and Textile Museum

The FTM building lifts me every time I see it and this show offers much to enjoy inside too. It features over 100 ensembles, from fantasy evening wear to playful beach pyjamas, and the displays are accompanied by a range of wonderful photographic images to explore the social, cultural and political landscape of the period. This was the decade that saw the excess of the 1920s come to an end, the Great Depression hit, and the utilitarianism of WW2, As the flapper grew up, do did her fashions. Runs to January 20, 2019. Admission £9.90 (concessions available).

Ilse D’Hollander, Victoria Miro Mayfair

Ilse had a tragically short life and career – this young artist committed suicide in 1997 when she was only 28 – but the reputation and popularity of works that she left behind continues to grow. There’s a real sensuality to her abstract works, and an almost tangible sense of light and space. This is her first solo exhibition in London and it focuses on the rich dialogue between abstraction and representation in her paintings. Born in Sint Niklaas, a city between Ghent and Antwerp, Ilse drew upon her impressions and experience of the Flemish countryside where she spent the last, highly productive years of her life. Occasionally her work recalls lowland vistas, but Ilse’s paintings are seldom straightforward landscapes. Instead, drawing the viewer in, her work reveals a masterful command of graphic and painterly touch that captures, holds and, often, diverts attention. Runs to December 21. Admission free.

Alexis Hunter: Sexual Warfare, Goldsmiths CCA

There is a series of Alexis’s photos on display at Tate Britain. It is a series of photos of a pair of high heeled shoes on fire. It is a typically second-wave gesture, but it was hugely influential on a younger me to see such an angry feminist work in a museum, and art world, that wallows in the ‘genius’ of male artists and their gaze. Yet, remarkably, despite the re-engagement with the feminist avant-garde of late, this is the first solo presentation of Alexis’s work in London for over 35 years. Her work was visceral and confronted gendered power structures and stereotypes. It is much-needed and has been absent from galleries for too long. Runs to February 3, 2019. Admission free.

Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany, Tate Modern

Hand on heart, this understated display of artworks by German artists from the 1920s and 1930s is one of the best art exhibitions in town right now. It is as illuminating as it is provocative, and it is a show full of surprises. There are about seventy paintings and works on paper here and they demonstrate the complex paradoxes of the Weimar era, in which liberalisation and anti-militarism flourished in tandem with political and economic uncertainty. Paintings about suicide hang alongside those of the crucifixion; misogynistic subject matter sits alongside paintings from women reclaiming their lives and portrayal from the male gaze. And austere and depressing colour palettes are alongside paintings that are a blur of vitality and vivid colours. Yet together these works shed real light on a truly unique era. Runs to July 14, 2019. Admission free.

Martin Creed: Toast, Hauser & Wirth

Right, now… Martin Creed’s work is a little leftfield but that is why I love him. This is, after all, the man who, for the Turner Prize, submitted a single installation where lights in a room kept switching on and off at regular intervals. And he won. And now, Hauser & Wirth is hosting Toast, which includes new sculpture, painting, drawing, tapestry, video, live action and music. Given the man’s reputation for the uncompromising, entertaining, shocking and beautiful, I cannot wait. Runs to February 9, 2019. Admission free.

Martin Eder: Parasites, Newport Street Gallery

Now, look, the gallery shows Damien Hirst’s personal faves and his taste is deliberately provocative and not for everyone. But I do love his gallery and its intentions – and I’m also intrigued by the beautiful promo image above so I’m definitely heading over to Vauxhall for this, the largest solo exhibition by Berlin-based artist Martin Eder to date, featuring major new paintings alongside work spanning over a decade of the artist’s career. With paintings including kittens and wide-eyed puppies alongside uncompromising nudes and more sinister and surreal encounters, Martin deliberately challenges fine art’s demands on what constitutes suitable subject matter. Should be interesting… Runs to January 13, 2019. Admission free.

And One That’s Out of Town…

Fernand Léger: New Times, Tate Liverpool

I can’t believe that this is the first major UK exhibition of Léger in thirty years. Given the man’s achievements, that seems remarkable but let’s not fret on that for Tate Liverpool has brought together more than fifty of Léger’s paintings from across Europe, including many never before seen in the UK. Featuring abstract and figurative paintings, drawings, a large-scale mural, films, graphic design, books AND textiles, the exhibition explores how Léger redefined the value of art to 20th century society. Creating works in a diverse range of media, Léger was a politically-engaged artist, with an unwavering belief in the social function of art for everyone. Runs to March 17, 2019. Admission £10.50. Concessions available.

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