And so here we are – another month, another list of cracking art exhibitions to see around London town. And the galleries are really going to town to attract the audiences in with big name blockbusters at the Tate (Picasso, All Too Human), the British Museum (Rodin) and the National Gallery (Monet).
But this month signals the start of the summer season with that institution, the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, celebrating its 250th year. But this year also marks the centenary of the end of WWI and the Tate Britain is duly marking that too.
But away from the familiar there’s a dazzling array of cracking shows out there, from the much-anticipated Frida Kahlo at the V&A, abstract artist pioneer Howard Hodgkin’s final works at the Gagosian, plus pioneer Lee Bul and her visionary work at the Hayward. There’s also two new photography shows for photo fans amongst you.
Let me know what you see and what you enjoy!
Lee Bul: Crashing, Hayward Gallery
Lee Bul’s debut show at the Hayward is an ambitious one with word of cyborgs, mirrored labyrinths and even a Zeppelin on display. But sensation aside, I am looking forward to this immensely as South Korean-born Lee Bul is one of the most acclaimed contemporary artists from Asia right now. Encompassing painting, sculpture, performance and installation, her multifaceted output explores utopian theories rooted in elements of science fiction, folklore, social and art history, urbanism, futurism, architecture and bioengineering. Runs to 19 August. Admission £14.50.
Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One, Tate Britain
Marking 100 years since the end of the First World War, this exhibition will explore the immediate impact of the conflict on British, German and French art, looking at how artists responded to the physical and psychological scars left on Europe. Aftermath will bring together over 150 works from 1916 to 1932 by artists including George Grosz, Fernand Léger and C.R.W. Nevinson. During this tumultuous period, artists began to explore new imagery and new ways of making art in their responses to the experience of war, the culture of remembrance, and the rebuilding of cities and societies. Runs 5 June to 23 September. Admission £18 (concessions available).
Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts
This annual institution is back and, well, it’s a big one as the RA’s Summer Exhibition celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2018, and, to mark this auspicious occasion, this year the show will be coordinated by Grayson Perry. As the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show, it provides a unique platform for emerging and established artists to showcase their works to an international audience, comprising a range of media from painting to printmaking, photography, sculpture, architecture and film. I’ve always had a weakness for the energy and meritocracy in this show so I’m looking forward to it once again. Runs 12 June to 19 August. Admission £16 (concessions available).
Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, Victoria & Albert Museum
I simply cannot contain my excitement for this show, which is the first ever outside of Mexico to display Frida Kahlo’s clothes and intimate possessions, reuniting them with key self-portraits and photographs to offer a fresh perspective on her compelling life story. The exhibition will consider how Frida, one of the most recognised and significant artists and women of the 20th century, fashioned her unmistakable identity, offering an unparalleled insight into the great artist’s life revealing some objects that have never been on show before, including outfits, letters, jewellery, cosmetics, medicines and medical corsets. Runs 16 June to 4 November. Admission £15 (concessions available).
Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing, Barbican Art Gallery
This will be the first UK survey of the American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange (1895–1965), one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. A formidable woman of unparalleled vigour and resilience, the exhibition charts Dorothea’s outstanding photographic vision from her early studio portraits of San Francisco’s bourgeoisie to her celebrated Farm Security Administration work that captured the devastating impact of the Great Depression on the American population. The show features the iconic Migrant Mother as well as rarely seen photographs of the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War and several post-war series documenting the changing face of the social and physical landscape of 1950s America. Runs 22 June to 2 September. Admission £13.50.
Howard Hodgkin: Last Paintings, Gagosian Grosvenor Hill
What a treat and honour this could well be as the Gagosian is hosting an exhibition of the last works of one of Britain’s most celebrated contemporary painters. Howard died in March 2017 and left behind a huge reputation for composing powerful, expressive works that, while nominally abstract, swell with representation and emotion. This show – Last Paintings – is presented in accordance with Howard’s wishes and will include the final six paintings that he completed in India prior to his death, five of which will be exhibited for the first time. The exhibition will also include more than twenty other paintings, never before exhibited in Europe. How wonderful. Runs June 1 to July 28. Admission free.
Helen Beard, Sadie Laska, Boo Saville, Newport Street Gallery
This gem platforms three emerging artists that, despite using paint in very different ways, all share an interest in exploring the possibilities of colour. Featuring over thirty works, the show is the largest exhibition to date for each artist. Working from found images, Helen’s work (shown above) explores themes relating to gender, sexual psychology and eroticism. Contrast this with New York-based artist Sadie Laska creates dreamlike compositions using paint and collage, often incorporating recycled waste materials and found objects into her paintings. Whereas Boo is known formerly for her figurative works in oil on canvas, as well as using everyday materials including biro and bleach. This should make for a fascinating collection of works. Runs 6 June to 9 September. Admission free.
Tish Murtha: Works 1976 – 1991, The Photographers Gallery
This new exhibition will chart the remarkable accomplishments of documentary photographer Tish Murtha (b. South Shields 1956 – d. 2013) and offers a tender and frank perspective on a historic moment of social deprivation and instability in Britain. Tish photographed the realities of everyday life of her subjects and she felt a genuine sense of obligation to the communities of her home in the North East. As such, the figures that populate her series were often friends, family and neighbours and these strong personal ties compelled her towards creating work that could help those being offered little assistance in times of mass factory and mine closures. Witnessing government policies beginning to take hold on her community, she used her photography to confront the reality and impact of the political decision making of the day. Runs 15 June to 14 October. Admission free before midday; £4 after.
Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917) was one of the greatest and most innovative sculptors of the modern era. However, it is little known that he took his inspiration, in large part, from the works of the fifth-century BC sculptor Pheidias who is known as the artist who conceived the Parthenon sculptures. This show sets out to examine that connection, revealing how Rodin regularly travelled to London and visited the British Museum to sketch and seek inspiration, and how these Greek works inspired such iconic works as The Thinker, The Kiss, and his massive The Gates of Hell. A wondrous show, filled with natural light which only emphasises the exquisite talent and skill Rodin had for capturing and representing the full range of human emotions, from passion to anguish. Runs to 29 July. Admission from £17.
Tacita Dean: Landscape, Royal Academy of Arts
It’s all been about Tacita this summer as her work has been the subject of three separate shows at the National Gallery, the NPG and, now, LANDSCAPE will be the first exhibition to be held in the new Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries at the RA, following its transformative redevelopment. The show will explore landscape in its broadest sense, from botany to cosmography, travel to weather, and Tacita has created works for the RA’s new spaces, including a large-scale photogravure, Forty Days, a series of cloud chalk-spray drawings on slate and a monumental blackboard drawing, The Montafon Letter. Exciting stuff. Runs to 12 August. Admission £12.
And One That’s Out of Town…
An absolute stunner of a show. I’d even go so far as to say, it’s probably the most impressive exhibition I’ve seen so far this year. A collection of wonders, this fantastic show of almost ninety artworks that not only capture the efforts and spirits of American artists as they worked to create a distinctive style of art during the challenging interwar years of the 1930s, but also includes amongst them works that have never before been seen in the UK.
There’s O’Keeffe and Hopper, as the title of the show suggests, but also the likes of Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Grant Wood and Charles Sheeler. And it’s such a densely packed show that each painting or photograph is a marvel, and together the works reflect the many challenges and questions American artists asked about themselves and the world they were observing as they witnessed the dramatic change in American economics, culture and society. Runs to July 22, 2018. Admission £12.25 (concessions available)