As ever, I’ve a cracking top ten for you this month, even if I do say so myself. A couple of these have been on previous lists but I’m so keen you see them that I’ve added them again here. JUST TO MAKE SURE! Plus, there’s a few that I caught up with recently that will be closing soon, ones that I’ve enjoyed so I’m hoping you will do to.
But there are new ones opening this month too, ones that I haven’t seen and am as excited about as the next person. I know there are a couple of big blockbusters missing, such as Rodin at the British Museum and Monet at the National Gallery, but I’m banking on you haven’t notes these already and you’re all up for new suggestions too!
I’ve even managed to squeeze in a fashion exhibition this month. Does the work of Azzedine Alaïa count as art? I’m going to say ‘yes’. Am I risking opening up a whole debate about what constitutes art? Sure. But what the hell. This looks a cracking show.
In fact, all of these do, and I am so looking forward to enjoying them all!
Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art, Tate Modern
This major new exhibition will reveal the intertwined stories of photography and abstract art. Shape of Light will be the first show of this scale to explore photography in relation to the development of abstraction, from the early experiments of the 1910s to the digital innovations of the 21st century. Featuring over 300 works by more than 100 artists, the exhibition will explore the history of abstract photography side-by-side with iconic paintings and sculptures, including works from Man Ray, Edward Weston, Bridget Riley, Jackson Pollock and Imogen Cunningham. Rus 2 May to 14 August. Admission £16 (concessions available).
Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier, Design Museum
This exhibition was actually conceived and co-curated by the great man prior to his death last November and it charts his incredible journey from sculptor to couturier, his nonconformist nature and his infectious energy for fashion, friendship and the female body. Yet rather than a retrospective, this show interlaces stories of his life and career alongside personally selected garments, ranging from the rare to the iconic and spanning the early 1980s to his most recent collection in 2017, emphasising Alaia’s commitment to personally constructing each garment by hand. Runs 10 May to 17 October. Admission £16 (concessions available).
Joseph Beuys: Utopia at the Stag Monuments, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac
Now, look, sometimes I share shows with you that I’m not 100% sure of myself but which I appreciate are either milestones, or platform critical works in art history. Such as this one which, remarkably, is the most comprehensive exhibition of Joseph Beuys’ work in London in over a decade. The man was hugely influential, famously proclaiming ‘every man is an artist.’ (I’m going to take ‘man’ In its non-gender specific sense there…but you never know) and this specific display brings together, for the first time since its creation, most of the elements of his seminal work known as Hirschdenkmäler (Stag Monuments). Personally, I’ve never felt emotionally affected by Joseph’s works, but I cannot deny their importance. Runs to 16 June. Admission free.
ISelf Collection: Bumped Bodies, Whitechapel Gallery
A small show, this one, of only one gallery, but one that sounds fascinating and thought-provoking. Bumped Bodies is comprised of artworks from 23 artists, all of which explore the relationship between the body, objects and the environment. With pieces from the likes of Sarah Lucas, Huma Bhabha, Tony Cragg, Rebecca Warren and Paloma Varga Weisz (pictured), this show continues the Gallery’s commitment to showing art from rarely-seen public and private collections and considers contemporary themes of the subject of self by questioning physical and material cohesion. As our sense of physical reality shifts, these artists question what lies beyond selfhood. Runs to 12 August. Admission free.
Rachel Howard and John Copeland, Newport Street Gallery
You know, it’s taken a while for me to include this show, which opened back in March but, I have to say, it has grown on me. In truth, this is two shows in one building rather than a single exhibition as there is nothing that connects the collection of new works from Rachel Howard based on the famous photograph from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq with the bright, busy brushstrokes from John Copeland’s canvases of the perfectly-proportioned White middle-class at leisure. Nevertheless, though the pairing is jarring, there’s much to enjoy here – especially as Rachel Howard’s collection marks the first occasion that a woman artist gets a show at Damien Hirst’s gallery. Runs to 28 May. Admission free.
Are you aware that there’s a big Picasso show on at the Tate Modern right now? OK, just checking. But, look, though we all know it’s there, I can’t in all honesty, pull together a ‘top ten list’ of the best art shows in town and exclude this. It’s a phenomenon, both in terms of its blockbuster appeal but also in its curation. Focusing in on a single year, 1932 (Picasso’s famous ‘year of wonders’) this show considers not just the man’s phenomenal output in those twelve months, but also the extent of his radicalism, rejuvenation and experimentation, which would lead him on to even greater artistic heights as the shadow of war fell across the continent. This one will top many ‘best of’ lists at the end of the year. Runs to 9 September. Admission £22 (concessions available).
Eric Fischl, Skarstedt
Eric Fischl may not be a familiar name to many but he is one of America’s leading contemporary artists and is known for his groundbreaking figurative paintings depicting freeze-frame moments that expose the depth and complexity of human relationships and capture the universal conditions of our lives. His works have occasionally been compared to those of Ed Hopper – a comparison Eric embraces – and you can see why in this collection of new figurative paintings that capture scenes of obvious external wealth but contrasts these with a sense of disconnection and emotional isolation. Runs to 26 May. Admission free.
Lisa Brice, Tate Britain
Now, THIS is exciting. This show from South-African born, London-based artist Lisa Brice includes her large-scale new and recent paintings which address the longstanding art-historical tradition of the female nude. However, her paintings recast female subjects from art historical paintings, photographs and the media into new environments, imbuing them with a newfound sense of self possession. In so doing, Lisa reverses the traditional portrayal of passive female figures by male artists for male viewers and returns power to the women involved. Her women appear to display themselves on their own terms and for their own pleasure, forcing the viewer to confront their status as an intruder rather than a benign voyeur. Runs to 27 August. Admission free.
This list is overwhelming, isn’t it? And, in truth, I feel it’s a little incomplete, as it’s missing the big Rodin and Monet shows. But we can’t go to everything and I appreciate it’s all a bit expensive at times. So, if you’re going to twist my arm and say, ‘Victoria, just give me one show!’ I give you this. Many who’ve visited have favoured this over the others and I can understand why – so many artists, such diverse subject matter, and a wondrous blend of familiar and less familiar names. And with works from Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Giacometti, Jenny Saville, Paula Rego, Frank Auerbach and many more, well, there is definitely something for everyone here. This show is an absolute pleasure. Runs to 27 August. Admission from £19.50 (concessions available).
Time really does fly, especially when there are so many fascinating art exhibitions to see and so it seems that no sooner has this beautiful collection of Victorian photography opened to visitors then it is closing. Which it is, for this is our last opportunity to see so many creative and influential works from four photographers who were pioneers in the development of photography as an art form – Julia Margaret Cameron, Lady Clementina Hawarden, Oscar Rejlander and Lewis Carroll. This wonderfully intimate show is a remarkable success, celebrating not just the beautiful photography of these artists, but framing them as rightfully ground breaking too. Runs to 20 May. Admission £10 (concessions available).
And One That’s Out of Town…
The House of Fame: Convened by Linder, Nottingham Contemporary
I love Linder, and I love her work. Such a hugely influential British artist – yet one that doesn’t crave publicity, which can seem a little strange given how on-the-front-foot her artworks are, but an opinion that’s fully in keeping with her emergence from the 1970s punk scene. Take this show, for example. It could/should have been a retrospective – and many of her artworks are on display – but Linder curated this show specifically to include her influences and works from those she admires. So, as well as Linder’s output over forty years of photomontage, graphics, costume and performance that focus on questions of gender, commodity and display, we’ve also almost 200 works by some 30 artists stretching from the 1600s to today. An extraordinary show. Runs to 24 June.