Spring really is going to be big on the London art scene with blockbusters at all the major galleries and some fantastic shows both in the smaller independent galleries, as well as outside of London too. I really am very excited as there’s great diversity too in terms of genres and eras (from contemporary performance art at Tate M to historic masterpieces at the RA), as well as gender, sex and ethnicity.
There are big guns listed below and there are big guns coming in April and May too so there’s plenty to look forward to. And, as ever, I do keep cost at the forefront of my mind too. Four of the ten listed below are free, and I’ve more shows without admission charges coming for you next month. And these are cracking shows too. And I say that especially as I’m aware the Tate’s Picasso show is the first to explicitly cross the £20 barrier for admission charges, even without donation. I’m not happy about that at all.
But I am pleased to keep up my plans to celebrate art shows out of town. I visited Journeys with The Waste Land this month, which I recommended last time out, and I’m glad I did as it was a terrific show. This month, I’m sending you to St. Ives!
Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins, Barbican Centre
I’ve been looking forward to this show ever since it was announced, and, finally, here it is. Some of the most powerful images of the 20th and 21st century are the result of a determined and often prolonged engagement with communities seemingly at odds with, or on the fringes of, the mainstream. Another Kind of Life explores photography’s relationship with this compelling subject through the work of 20 exceptional image-makers. Reflecting a diverse, complex and authentic view of the world, the exhibition touches on themes of gender and sexuality, countercultures, subcultures and minorities of all kinds. Runs 28 February – 27 May. Admission £13.50 (concessions available).
All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life, Tate Britain
This much-anticipated show will celebrate how artists have captured the intense experience of life in paint. All Too Human will showcase around 100 works by some of the most celebrated modern British artists, with Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon at its heart. It will reveal how their art captures personal and immediate experiences and events, distilling raw sensations through their use of paint. Bringing together major works by Walter Sickert, Frank Auerbach, R.B. Kitaj, Paula Rego, Jenny Saville, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and many others, this exhibition will tell an expanded story of figurative painting in the 20th century. Runs 28 February – 27 August. Admission £19.50 (concessions available).
Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography, National Portrait Gallery
This exhibition will combine, for the first time ever, portraits by Lewis Carroll, Julia Margaret Cameron, Oscar Rejlander, and Lady Clementina Hawarden, It will be the first to examine the relationship between these four ground-breaking artists, exploring their experimental approach to picture-making, how they approached identical and similar subjects, and celebrate their radical attitudes towards photography which have informed artistic practice ever since. Drawn from public and private collections internationally, it will feature some of the most breath-taking images in photographic history, including many which have not been seen in Britain since they were made. Runs 1 March – 20 May 2018. Admission £12 (concessions available).
Surrealism: A Conversation, Olivier Malingue
Surrealism: A Conversation will provide unprecedented access to a collection of rare and iconic pieces of modern art, showing works by some of the most significant figures within the Surrealist movement, including Hans Arp, Salvador Dalí, Óscar Domínguez, Max Ernst, René Magritte and Yves Tanguy. The exhibition will cover the period between 1923 and the early 1960s and will seek to reaffirm the overarching influence that the Surrealist movement had on the development not only of modern art but the broader cultural climate, in the latter decades of the 20th century. Runs 2 March – 12 May. Admission free.
Source and Stimulus: Polke, Lichtenstein, Laing, Lévy Gorvy
This small show could turn out to be a little gem, for it is the first exhibition to feature Sigmar Polke, Roy Lichtenstein, and Gerald Laing and their use of the Ben Day dot. This dot was a cost-effective printing technique that used dots in different densities to reproduce images on a mass scale, especially in papers and advertisements. Featuring exceptional works by this legendary trio of artists, the show connects them on the basis of their manipulation of the dot, transforming imagery from the commercial sphere into fine art. Runs 6 March – 21 April 2018. Admission free.
Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy, Tate Modern
No doubt, the blockbuster of the year. 1932 was an extraordinary year for Picasso, even by his own standards. His paintings reached a new level of sensuality and he cemented his celebrity status as the most influential artist of the early 20th century. Over the course of this year he created some of his best loved works, from confident colour-saturated portraits to surrealist drawings. This exhibition takes us on a month-by-month month journey through 1932, a time so pivotal in Picasso’s life and work that it has been called his ‘year of wonders’. More than 100 outstanding paintings, sculptures and works on paper will demonstrate his prolific and restlessly inventive character. They will strip away common myths to reveal the man and the artist in his full complexity and richness. Runs 8 March – 9 September. Admission £22 (without donation). Concessions available.
Chris King: No Opportunity for Regret, Curious Duke Gallery
I know pretty much nothing about photographer Chris King but when the preview images came in for this show, I was excited. This collection of striking images, captured by Chris on his travels, brings the viewer on a journey across the United States and beyond. Highway liquor stores become lonely beacons of neon light in the surrounding emptiness, telling of an American no-man’s land halfway between civilised society and the lawless wild (an effect magnified by the choice to photograph them at night). Elsewhere, wide, atmospheric panoramic show the unexpected beauty of places deserted at dawn and dusk. Runs 1 – 29 March. Admission free.
Joan Jonas, Tate Modern
Now, performance art isn’t for everyone – and I think it must be the riskiest form of art we have – so this could prove fascinating. It will be the largest survey ever held of Joan’s work in the UK. Joan is regarded as a pre-eminent figure in contemporary performance who continues to influence a younger generation of artists. Reflecting the way she works across many different disciplines, this show will combine a gallery exhibition with a ten-day live programme (featuring performances by Joan herself,) and a film retrospective in the Starr Cinema. It will show her powerful impact on contemporary art and her dedication to pushing boundaries to this day. Runs 14 March – 5 August. Admission £13 (concessiona available).
I saw a headline that described this show as ‘the art exhibition of the decade.’ Now, that’s a hell of a claim, but there’s no doubt this is a stunning, landmark exhibition that reunites one of the most extraordinary and influential art collections ever assembled. During his reign, Charles acquired and commissioned exceptional masterpieces, including works by Van Dyck, Rubens, Holbein, Titian and Mantegna, amongst others. Charles I was executed in 1649 and just months later the collection was broken up and sold. Most of it is reunited here for the first time, and the result is a show stacked with masterpieces. Glorious. Runs to 15 April. Admission £18 (no donation). Concessions available.
Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross Dressers, The Photographers Gallery
Drawn from the extensive personal archives of filmmaker, Sébastien Lifshitz, this exhibition of amateur photographs from Europe and the US explores the surprisingly widespread practice of cross-dressing, through a century of private images. Dating from 1880 onwards, the photos are mostly of unnamed and unknown figures – the majority having been collected from flea markets, garage sales, junk shops and eBay, amongst other non-specialist spaces – and offer a candid view into the hidden worlds of individuals and groups that chose to defy gender conventions. Runs to 3 June. Admission free before midday; £4 after.
And One That’s Out of Town…
Virginia Woolf: Inspired by Her Writings, Tate St. Ives
This exhibition is a dream come true. Virginia spent much of her childhood in St Ives, and this exhibition of work by over 80 artists from the past 160 years takes inspiration from her work. Including works by British and international artists ranging from 1854 to contemporary commissions, the selection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, text works and films will act as a prism through which to explore feminist perspectives on landscape, domesticity and identity in modern and contemporary art. It’s a whopping roll-call of artists in the show, including Laura Knight, Gluck, Frances Hodgkins, Dora Carrington, Louise Bourgeois, Patricia Johnson, Claude Cahun, Linder, Agnes Martin, and (of course) Vanessa Bell.
And if St. Ives isn’t any good for you, perhaps it may help to know that this exhibition tours to Pallant House, Chichester, in May, then on to Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, in October. Tate St. Ives: 10 February – 29 April 2018. Admission £10.50 (concessions available).