I am excited about this season’s art shows in London. The year has been largely dominated by blockbuster exhibitions and big names so it’s nice for me to shine some light on names that are less well-known but worth discovering. Not that Yayoi Kusama and Sean Scully fall into that criteria – expect those two shows to be very busy, especially as they are free.
But I am also keen for as many of us as possible to see the shows on sculpture, oceanic art, and three women artists who deserve their opportunity in the sun.
Yayoi Kusama, Victoria Miro
Come to Mama! Victoria Miro is hosting this major exhibition of new work by the master that is Yayoi Kusama. Taking place across the Wharf Road galleries and waterside garden, the exhibition will feature new paintings from the Japanese artist, including works from the iconic My Eternal Soul series, painted bronze pumpkin and flower sculptures, and a large-scale Infinity Mirror Room, created for this presentation. Instantly Instagrammable and hugely popular, this may end up being one we have to queue for but I’ve no doubt it’ll be worth it. Opens October 3. Admission free.
Oceania, Royal Academy of Arts
This show is the first ever major survey of Oceanic art to be held in the UK. It’s an ambitious exhibition that aims to celebrate the art of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, encompassing the vast Pacific region from New Guinea to Easter Island, Hawaii to New Zealand. Oceania brings together around 200 exceptional works from public and private collections worldwide and spans over 500 years. It’s 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.
Sean Scully: Uninside Out, Blain Southern
Sean Scully is one of the most admired abstract painters working today. In a career spanning six decades (and counting) Sean has worked in printmaking, sculpture, watercolours and pastels, but he is best known for his monumental abstract paintings in which stripes or blocks of layered colour dominate the canvas. Yet interestingly, this show will offer an overview of Sean’s multi-faceted skills, including the large-scale, multi-panel paintings, as well as works on paper, sculpture and a group of his celebrated Landline paintings – examinations of the meeting points of land, sea and air. (Watch him painting here!) Opens October 3. Admission free.
Black Mirror: Art as Social Satire, Saatchi Gallery
I always find Saatchi an easy gallery to visit but have not always enjoyed what it has up. But its Autumn/Winter show sounds interesting as Black Mirror will explore art’s role in social satire, and how political uncertainty has influenced art of recent years. Featuring the work of 26 contemporary artists working in media such as collage, caricatures, photography and installation, the exhibition aims to show how satire can provide both light relief as well as unsettling commentary on the tumultuous, divisive climate of modern-day politics. Runs to January 13. Admission free.
Suspension: A History of Abstract Hanging Sculpture 1918–2018, Olivier Malingue
This Mayfair gallery is one of my faves and this is another show that demonstrates how and why. Suspension presents a century of abstract sculpture through the unprecedented perspective of aerial suspension. It gathers more than 50 key works, produced since 1918, by more than 30 artists, each from diverse generations and nationalities. With works from the likes of Alexander Calder, Yves Klein, Artur Lescher, Man Ray, Alexander Rodchenko, and Jesús Rafael Soto on display, this promises to be a fascinating insight into this artistic category. Opens October 1. Admission free.
Anni Albers, Tate Modern
This Autumn, the Tate is opening the UK’s first major retrospective of the work of Anni Albers (1899–1994). Anni combined the ancient craft of hand-weaving with the language of modern art, finding within the medium many possibilities for the expression of modern life. This exhibition will bring together her most important works from major collections in the US and Europe, and it starts a long overdue recognition of Anni’s pivotal contribution to modern art and design, and part of Tate Modern’s wider commitment to showing artists working in textiles. Opens 11 October. Admission £16.
Hannah Perry: GUSH, Somerset House
This exhibition of new works from Somerset House artist-in-residence, Hannah Perry, is one I am really looking forward to as it promises to be a candid and personal exploration of mental and emotional health in our contemporary, hyper-networked society. Featuring large-scale dynamic sculpture, sound and film, Hannah uses art to both the everyday and life changing events, including the impact trauma and grief can have on our physical and mental state – especially as Hannah has chosen to address the tragedy of the recent suicide of her best friend and artistic collaborator, Pete Morrow, through the works on display. Opens October 3. Admission free.
Turner Prize, Tate Britain
One of the best-known prizes for visual arts in the world – and surely, the most controversial and discussed – is back! The Turner Prize returns to Tate Britain for its 34th edition. The prize is awarded to a British artist for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the preceding year as determined by a jury. Tackling pressing issues in society today, the four shortlisted artists for this year are: Forensic Architecture, Naeem Mohaiemen, Charlotte Prodger, and Luke Willis Thompson. Visit and make your contribution to the debate! Runs to 6 January 2019. Admission £13.
Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-Garde, Barbican Art Gallery
One of my most-anticipated shows of the year is here and I am THRILLED! Claude Cahun, Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Barbara Hepworh, Lee Miller, Man Ray, Virginia Woolf, Salvador Dali, Dora Maar, Pablo Picasso… these are only some of the artists included in this stunning exhibition that showcases the creative output of over 40 artist couples active in the first half of the 20th century. By focusing on intimate relationships in all their forms – obsessional, conventional, mythic, platonic, fleeting, lifelong – it also reveals the way in which creative individuals came together, transgressing the constraints of their time, reshaping art, redefining gender stereotypes and forging news ways of living and loving. Importantly, the exhibition also challenges the idea that the history of art was a singular line of solitary, predominantly male geniuses. Bring it. Opens 10 October. Admission £16.
Sue Williams: New Paintings, Skarstedt
“Cy Twombly with a feminist twist”; that’s how one prominent art critic once described Sue Williams, and, this month, Skarstedt will host the first solo exhibition of this major artist in the UK in twenty years. Sue’s oil-painted canvases marry abstraction with gendered figuration, charm with violence, the body with the political. For over four decades, she has explored postmodern feminism and personal experience, challenging sexuality, gender, violence and aggression yet always in fresh stylistic ways. In the 1990s, she set out in a new stylistic direction and began making large-scale abstract expressionist works, albeit with a feminist twist: what from afar look like colourful, elegant and exuberant calligraphic lines, up close reveal figures of genitalia, severed body parts and internal organs, the bleakness of her message about the mistreatment of women concealed in her abstract compositions. You will find me camped out here. Runs to 24 November. Admission free.
And One That’s Out of Town…
Orlando At The Present Time, Charleston
The Sussex home of artists Vanessa Bell (1879–1961) and Duncan Grant (1885–1978), Charleston farmhouse is the only completely preserved Bloomsbury interior in the world and is considered one of the Bloomsbury group’s finest works of art. This autumn Charleston will launch its first exhibition space, as well as an events space and new restaurant.
The opening exhibition will bring together contemporary artistic responses to Virginia Woolf’s landmark novel Orlando: A Biography and will mark 90 years since its original publication. Works by artists including Kaye Donachie, Paul Kindersley, Delaine Le Bas and Matt Smith will be shown alongside rarely seen letters, photographs and objects pertaining to the original publication of the novel. Orlando’s innovative use of a protagonist who appears to change gender has made it an important reference point for those interested in gender and feminist theory and its re-examination at Charleston this autumn will connect both with the Bloomsbury group’s queer history and the ever increasing interest in discussions about gender. Runs to 6 January 2019.