Happy New Year (almost)! I hope you had a lovely Christmas and managed to successfully eat your own weight in mince pies and bubble and squeak. There are few achievements more impressive than that. And no doubt you have filled your eyes to the brim with the festive TV schedules but I’m here to try and tempt you out to visit some cracking art shows over the next few weeks.
Now, I know we are all a bit short this month so half of my top ten for January are exhibitions with no admission fee at all – and that’s not even including the superb permanent (and free) displays at the big guns such as the National Gallery, the two Tates, and the National Portrait Gallery.
It may seem daunting, heading out into the cold, but it’ll help shake off the dust, and you won’t be outside for long – in my list, both the galleries and the art will warm your heart and your soul.
Andreas Gursky, Hayward Gallery
Well, I’m damn happy to see the return of the much-loved Hayward Gallery and this show on Andreas Gursky marks the beginning of the Gallery’s 50th anniversary year, as well as being the first exhibition to take place in the Gallery following its two-year refurbishment. Widely regarded as one of the most significant photographers of our time, Andreas is known for his large-scale, often spectacular pictures that portray emblematic sites and scenes of the global economy and contemporary life, such as the one of Amazon’s operations above. Opens January 25th. Admission £16 (concessions available).
Bridget Riley: Recent Paintings 2014-2017, David Zwirner
Bridget Riley is one of the most important artists working today, her work instantly recognisable. Since 1961, she has focused exclusively on seemingly simple geometric forms, such as lines, circles, curves, and squares, arrayed across a surface—whether a canvas, a wall, or paper—according to an internal logic. But this show focuses on her most recent works. Spanning three floors, the exhibition will include wall paintings and works on canvas as well as a group of related studies that focus on two themes: works in black-and-white and the disc. Opens January 19th. Admission free.
Rose Wylie: Quack Quack, Serpentine Sackler Gallery
This is Rose’s first institutional solo exhibition in London and she has covered the walls of the Sackler Gallery with her large vibrant canvases, brimming with images from sources as varied as art history, cinema and comic books, to daily observations, news and celebrity gossip. Just totally imbued with wit and economy of line, Rose’s paintings are confident and energetic, and challenge us with new perspectives on the world and the plethora of images in our cultural memory. Closes February 11th. Admission free.
Pamela Golden: Thunderstruck, Marlborough Fine Art
Thunderstruck is a new series of paintings by Pamela Golden inspired by both real and imagined images of Iraq from the past and present. Pamela often works in series developed from source materials, where her research is rendered through miniature paintings in oil and encaustic – and that’s all in these new works for, in this series, Pamela explores our relationships to imagery and exposes anxieties around images of conflict. On a wider basis, her paintings question how we assign value to an image and the way she reimagines her source materials – film stills, photographs – allows her to manipulate our, the viewer’s, experience. Opens January 10th. Admission free.
Degas: From the Burrell Collection, National Gallery
One of the highlights of the many art shows out there right now. You’d think you’ve seen it all when it comes to Degas but this free show at the National Gallery on the man’s pastels is a reminder of what a vibrant, modern painter he was. This exhibition is centered around a stunning group of twenty paintings, pastels and drawings from the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, which holds one of the greatest collections of Degas’s works in the world, encompassing pieces from every period of the artist’s career. Rarely seen in public, this is the first time that most of these works have been shown outside Scotland since they were acquired, and they show his passion for depicting modern Parisian life, including his favourite subjects: the ballet, horse racing, and the private world of women at their toilette. Closes April 2018. Admission free.
This has to be the most Instagrammable show in London right now. It’s bright and vivid, mixing cartoonish sculptures with graffiti art and eye-catching massive Stars and Stripes trawled through dirt and dust. It’s brash and in your face – which, I guess, makes Dan Colen’s work a perfect fit for Damien Hirst’s gallery. But that’s not to say there isn’t some impressive talent on display – there’s some great glasswork and Kiefer-esque canvases too. This show, which is Dan’s first one in London, is fun and enjoyable. Closes January 21st. Admission free.
So, here it is… Your last opportunity to catch one of the best shows of 2017, and certainly one of the most popular. But though this, the first retrospective of Basquiat in the UK, grabbed the headlines and drew in huge viewers, don’t let this cloud the fact that this is a damn impressive exhibition, as well as a damn cool one. Seeing so many of Basquiat’s vast canvases that brim with vitality, colour and purpose… It’s exciting and heady stuff. This is art on the front foot, and this was an artist who was a breath of fresh air, as well as a student who knew his art history. Terrific and, please, do visit this show. Closes January 28th. Admission £16 (concessions available).
If you missed the fascinating BBC Imagine documentary on Rachel Whiteread, you can catch it here on IPlayer. You’ll have to hurry though as it’s only up for a couple more days. Similarly, there’s only a short time left to catch the survey of her monumental work, which the show is largely focused around. Rachel very much has taken the theme of making permanent temporary space – and all its links to memory and loss – as a central theme in all her works. If this is something that attracts you, you’ll find this show both haunting and beautiful. Very moving. Closes January 21st. £17 (£15 without donation). Concessions available.
Modigliani, Tate Modern
There’s nothing that can be revealed about Modigliani’s work that you probably don’t already know. After all, the guy died when he was only thirty-five so there isn’t a vast career to trawl through. The sensuous nudes with their darkened eyes, the modern portraits with their clean lines and simple features… Yes, these are familiar, but this large retrospective is wonderful. There’s over a hundred works on display, including sculpture as well as paintings, but it’s the gallery dedicated to his famous nudes that makes the heart race. I loved this show. Closes April 2nd. Admission £19.70 (£17.70 without donation). Concessions available.
The Tate Modern has taken a very different spin on commemorating the centenary of the Russian October Revolution of 1917 with this survey of the works of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, famed for their installations that examine the betrayal of the utopian dream in the Soviet Union, and the crushing of the individual spirit. Dimly-lit corridors almost without end, kitchens filled with pots and pans suspended in mid-air, metro trains hurtling into the darkness… The installations here are wondrous and extraordinary. It’s a sobering examination of a past reality, yes, but I’m increasingly obsessed with seeing these works also as a forewarning for our future too. With all the signs that the way we live will be drastically affected by climate change, overpopulation, shrinking food supplies and limited utilities, who is to say this will not become how we all will live in the future? One of the most thought-provoking exhibitions you can see. Closes January 28th. Admission £11.30 (concessions available).