Art

Art reviews and listings for London's best museum exhibitions and art galleries

Art

Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust

The artist who travelled the world without ever leaving New York State comes to the Royal Academy this week

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Art

Why I love Audrey Hepburn

Katie Rosseinsky applauds her favourite fashion icon

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This week's unmissable new art

Here are the new art shows, fairs and events you'd be mad to miss

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Must-see photography exhibitions

See the best shots on show in London this week

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Doug Aitken interview

We talk to the man behind the Barbican's spectacular 'Station to Station'

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The latest art reviews

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Carsten Nicolai: Unicolor

Maybe a good way to judge the quality of a new work of art is by how many people are willing to ruin your experience by taking a selfie in front of it. By that yardstick, Carsten Nicolai’s ‘Unicolor’ is a fucking masterpiece, because you can’t look at it without some moron standing right in front of you and snapping themselves into a narcissistic aneurysm. Don’t get me wrong, everyone should enjoy art however they bloody want, just don’t make me watch you take 8,000 identically shit pictures of your ugly boyfriend when I’m trying to think big thoughts about pretty colours. ‘Unicolor’ isn’t the only work on show here. The first piece from this awesome German artist and experimental musician is just less selfie-worthy. For ‘Baisatz-Noto’, Nicolai has set up four turntables with locked groove vinyl. These neon-coloured records force the needles to loop back on themselves, making the sounds repeat endlessly. You get to speed them up, slow them down, swap them over – hey presto, you’re a DJ. The sounds are all classic Nicolai – digital hiss, bleeps and bloops – and you’re in charge. Very cool. But no one gives a shit because they just want a picture of themselves in front of ‘Unicolor’’s amazing flashing lights. The installation is basically a long set of screens, bookended by mirrors so that everything repeats visually off into infinity. Strips of colour float down the screens, morphing as they go. Hues flip from turquoise to aquamarine, yellow to red. Suddenly it all flashes t

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Duane Hanson

There are a lot of people in Duane Hanson’s show and that’s not including the gallerygoers. A cowboy is propped against the wall by the entrance. A lady sits at an ad hoc yard sale surrounded by paintings and books. Duster in hand, a cleaner grips on to her cart of sanitation supplies. Workmen are taking a well-earned break from grafting. And a house painter has half finished covering the gallery’s back wall in a shade of baby pink. These, of course, aren’t real people. They are the meticulously crafted fibreglass and bronze fabrications of the late American sculptor, who sought to capture the familiar and daily activities of Middle America. They represent a considerable populous that are typically ignored. Some sit on the fringes of society, like ‘Homeless Person’, (1991) who holds a cardboard sign proclaiming ‘Will work for food.’ It would seem society hasn’t really moved on since Hanson began making his hyperreal sculptures in the late 1960s. His intention to ‘achieve a certain tough realism, which speaks of the fascinating idiosyncrasies of our time’ makes his work as relevant now as it was 40 years ago. By placing figures like ‘Queenie II’, (1988) within a gallery context, Hanson forces us to take notice of the menial worker, the bum, the ordinary men and women who are so often overlooked. He shifts our focus so that the typical becomes extraordinary. Although there is obvious ageing to the sculpture’s material, it doesn’t diminish their awe factor. But once the doubl

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Art

Ben Rivers: The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers

Artangel is known for putting on shows in unusual and one-off spaces – and this one’s a doozy. The location is the soon-to-be-demolished drama block at the BBC’s defunct Television Centre in White City, and as you wander around its labyrinthine levels, through gargantuan industrial spaces and cramped prop cages, past abandoned offices and along corridors marked by the paint splatters from generations of set-designers, you sense the former life of the building everywhere – a palpable, ghostly sense of desertion. As for the art, well, appropriately Ben Rivers is a filmmaker. The show’s title comes from a phrase once heard by the writer Paul Bowles while living in Morocco, and that country provides the unifying motif for the five films here, most of which are projected within large, makeshift wooden spaces built from salvaged BBC sets. There’s a loose adaptation of a famously brutal Bowles short story about desert bandits, using local Moroccan non-actors – except that the film also reveals its own making, with scenes being redone and clapboards being clacked. This theme of fabrication extends to the other works too: from recordings of Mohammed Mrabet, Bowles’s muse, telling enthralling and long-winded stories to two films using behind-the-scenes footage of other movies simultaneously being filmed in Morocco, to material shot by Rivers when he was working for one of those other filmmakers… Confused? That’s sort of the point. The idea is for different levels of reality and ficti

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Must-see art exhibitions in London

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Bruce Conner: Crossroads

Bruce Conner’s ‘Crossroads’ is one of the most beautiful, most mesmerising films you’re ever likely to see – not to mention one of the most terrifying, as well as one of the most banal. Made in 1976, it consists of archival footage of a nuclear explosion conducted by the US military 30 years earlier – part of their famous tests, codenamed Operation Crossroads, at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean – in which an atomic weapon, equivalent to 23,000 tons of TNT (identical to the bomb dropped the previous year on Nagasaki), was detonated 90 feet below the ocean’s surface. Edited together by the late American artist, the black-and-white footage depicts the gargantuan eruption from different angles – at eye level from the lagoon’s surrounding islands, or looking down from planes circling high above – with the repetitions both emphasising the sense of violent spectacle, yet also creating an atmosphere of disturbing, almost listless, monotony. In this sense, the film reveals how the atomic tests of the 1940s marked a true ‘crossroads’ in human consciousness – not just in terms of the new, destructive age they heralded, but also how quickly this threat of nuclear annihilation became commonplace, how chillingly mundane it had come to seem by the end of the Cold War-shadowed 1970s. At the same time, the film reignites feelings of awe and power that the original tests must have inspired. With cameras recording the event in super-slow-motion, the etiology of an atomic blast is documente

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Art

The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay

Something the Tate does very well is give unsung artistic genius the recognition it warrants. And Sonia Delaunay, the Russian artist who found her avant-garde voice in Paris at the beginning of the last century, should be lavished with as much appreciation as her extraordinary output deserves. Not wanting to fly the feminist banner too high, but this woman had one hell of an abstract flair, which she successfully applied to art, interiors and fashion. The first few rooms introduce the spirited vision of a young Delaunay who saw the world in an entirely different colour spectrum. These portraits don’t mimic reality. Multiple paintings of her dressmaker Philomène are unreservedly gaudy with their garish colour combinations, making them truly fantastic. Faces have harsh green shadows and indelible black outlines. Paint is layered to give the canvases a textural quality, a liveliness that ensures representation goes beyond mere portraiture. There are hints at Delaunay’s later foray into textile design with bright, punchy patterned backgrounds.  The transition from representational expression to abstraction happens quite suddenly. Paintings of overlaid discs of various hues capture the vibrancy of Paris, lit by electric light. The colours clash and pop against each other with dizzying effect. Yet it’s Delaunay’s interpretation of Simultanism – a synchronised use of contrasting colours and shapes created with her painter husband Robert – into patchwork pieces ranging from a cradl

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Art

Theaster Gates: Freedom of Assembly

It’s easy to accuse art of being irrelevant. Do paintings and sculptures in some white-walled gallery really matter? They have a cultural impact, yadda, yadda, but so what? Does art do anything to change the lives of average, everyday people? Probably not. But that’s not an accusation you can level at American artist Theaster Gates. He’s used his work to help redevelop impoverished parts of his native Chicago, building art spaces and cultural centres. He’s not just an artist or an activist, he’s an architect of social change through art. His works here paint a pained picture of an America that’s locked in a state of racial turmoil. 

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Carsten Höller: Decision

Carsten Höller’s art requires you to use your hands quite a lot. Whether it’s finding your way through pitch-black metal corridors from the entrance to the lower gallery; gripping on to the handrail of a flying machine that soars over Waterloo Bridge; attempting to get inside a giant die; taking a red and white pill that may or may not be a placebo or getting yourself in position before you whoosh down a slide upon exiting the show. Hands aside, the key element in the German-Belgian artist’s survey is decision-making, hence the exhibition’s title. From the moment you step into the gallery’s foyer, Höller puts us through our paces by offering numerous choices. So does it matter if you pick entrance A or entrance B into the show? Or take the left flying machine as oppose to the right flying machine? Yes and no, as ultimately everyone is going to have a different experience regardless of what they pick. It’s the fact that we have to choose. Höller disturbs our expectations by using perception-altering effects. For those less willing to get strapped into a flying machine – which I highly recommend – fortunately Höller isn’t all about the spectacle and merely observing is as active as partaking. Other works play with duplicate scenarios, like a series of TV monitors on which seven sets of twins address one another, or the competition between two rival music groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo played out over two film projections. This alternating between direct engagemen

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Ravilious

Fair haired, tweed clad, a nice lad, Eric Ravilious (1903-42) looked like he could have bicycled straight out of one of his own paintings, perhaps waving to the stout cook outside ‘The Vicarage’ (1935) as he hastened home for tea – to crusty bread and flowers on the table. His is a uniquely comforting vision of Britishness (Englishness, really, and southern England at that) in the 1930s. A timeless one too – with its chalk giants and white horses carved into rolling Wiltshire hills and the South Downs. Which goes to explain why you can buy picnic throws, ‘Ravilious Limited Edition’ English Breakfast tea and ‘Blackcurrant Blighty Jam’ in the gallery shop. But Ravilious (the name is probably Huguenot, though he liked to affect that it was Cornish) isn’t merely a purveyor of a cosy, heritage industry idea of Britishness. His modest watercolour paintings reveal a surprisingly complex relationship with the past, with modernism, with nation. From the off, Ravilious peddled nostalgia as a kind of Trojan horse. It’s there in early paintings of scrapyards and agricultural landscapes, in which defunct and abandoned machinery looms like surreal flotsam. Unlikely as it sounds, he’s also one of the best war artists this country has produced. When we think of war art, we tend to summon images of tragedy or heroism (like Sargent’s ‘Gassed’) or artists irrevocably altered by combat (Paul Nash, CRW Nevinson). With Ravilious, who became an Official War Artist in 1939, there are changes of co

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Upcoming art exhibitions in London

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Sculpture in the City

Now in its fifth year, this public art initiative positions contemporary artists within the heart of the Square Mile, creating unexpected and humorous interactions within the urban environment. This year's line-up features Kris Martin, Laura Ford, Adam Chodzko, Folkert de Jong and Keita Miyazaki. you won’t fail to miss ‘Charity’, Damien Hirst’s giant sculpture of a collection box, but look out for Tomoaki Suzuki’s tiny figures, modelled after real Londoners. Both artists’ work is on display outside the Gherkin. In September a piece by Ai Weiwei will be added to coincide with his retrospective at the RA.  Find outdoor art all across London here.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Soundscapes: Listening to Paintings

The National Gallery's Sainbury Wing galleries will be transformed into a sonic experience by seven artists responding to paintings from the collection. Susan Philipsz, Jamie xx, Gabriel Yared, Nico Muhly, Chris Watson, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have each created unique sound works to accompany their chosen paintings that will each be displayed in special soundproofed rooms.

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The London Open

With a back catalogue that includes Grayson Perry, Anish Kapoor and Rachel Whiteread, this open-submission exhibition is a well-tested barometer of the scene that always picks up a few of tomorrow’s stars. Launched in 1932, the showcase promises to exhibit the most dynamic artists living and working in London today.

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  • 1 out of 5 stars
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Ai Weiwei

He may still not be allowed to travel out of China, but that doesn’t stop Beijing-based Ai Weiwei from exhibiting all over the world. Known for his openly critical opinion of the Chinese government, he remains one of the countries most important artistic exports and a voice for a generation disenchanted by oppressive political regimes. In 2011 the Royal Academy made him an Honorary Academician and will celebrate his visionary approach to art making with this, the first extensive British survey. Ai’s three-decade career will be mapped through his work that’s informed by personal experiences such as his 2011 detention and emphasises the importance of creative freedom.

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See more art in London

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Photography in London

Get in the picture with our guide to the capital's best photography

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Art exhibitions calendar

Get your diary out for a new season of must-see exhibitions

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Free art in London

See all London's free art exhibitions this week

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Latest art interviews

We speak to the biggest names and emerging talent in the art world

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Read the latest Time Out art features

What's on at

Art

Barbican Centre

The Barbican Centre, a vast concrete estate of 2,000 flats and a leading arts complex, is a prime example of brutalist architecture, softened a little by time and rectangular ponds of friendly resident ducks. The lakeside terrace and adjoining café are good spots to take a rest from visiting the art gallery, cinema, theatre, concert hall or library within the complex. The art gallery on the third floor stages exhibitions on design, architecture and pop culture, while on the ground floor, the Curve is a free exhibition space for specially commissioned works and contemporary art. At the core of the music roster, performing 90 concerts a year, is the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). The annual BITE season (Barbican International Theatre Events) continues to cherry-pick exciting and eclectic theatre companies from around the globe. The Barbican regularly attracts and nurtures experimental dance, and the Pit Theatre is a perfectly intimate space.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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National Gallery

Founded in 1824 to display a collection of just 36 paintings, today the National Gallery is home to more than 2,000 works. There are masterpieces from virtually every European school of art. The modern Sainsbury Wing extension contains the gallery’s earliest works: Italian paintings by early masters like Giotto and Piero della Francesca. The basement of the Sainsbury Wing is also the setting for temporary exhibitions. In the West Wing are Italian Renaissance masterpieces by Correggio, Titian and Raphael; in the North Wing, seventeenth-century Dutch, Flemish, Italian and Spanish Old Masters. In the East Wing (reached via the street-level entrance in Trafalgar Square) are some of the gallery’s most popular paintings: works by the French Impressionists and post-Impressionists, including on of Monet’s water lily paintings and one of Van Gogh’s sunflowers series. You can’t see everything in one visit to the National Gallery, but the free guided tours and audio guides will help you make the most of your time. There’s also a wonderfully atmospheric café stocked with Oliver Peyton goodies, and a fine-dining restaurant, the National Dining Rooms.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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National Portrait Gallery

Portraits don't have to be stuffy. The National Portrait Gallery has everything from oil paintings of stiff-backed royals to photos of soccer stars and gloriously unflattering political caricatures. The portraits of musicians, scientists, artists, philanthropists and celebrities are arranged in chronological order from the top to the bottom of the building. At the top of the escalator up from the main foyer are the earliest works, portraits of Tudor and Stuart royals and notables. On the same floor, the eighteenth-century collection features Georgian writers and artists, with one room devoted to the influential Kit-Cat Club of Whig (leftish) intellectuals, Congreve and Dryden among them. More famous names here include Wren and Swift. The Duveen Extension contains Regency greats, military men such as Wellington and Nelson, as well as Byron, Wordsworth and other Romantics. The first floor is devoted to the Victorians (Dickens, Brunel, Darwin) and, in the Duveen Extension, the twentieth century. One of the NPG's most popular highlights is the annual BP Portrait Award where the best entrants for the prestigious prize are exhibited.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Tate Britain

Tate Modern gets all the attention, but the original Tate Gallery, founded by sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate, has a broader and more inclusive brief. Housed in a stately Portland stone building on the riverside, Tate Britain is second only to the National Gallery when it comes to British art. The historical collection includes work by Hogarth, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Constable (who gets three rooms to himself) and Turner (whose works are displayed in the grand Clore Gallery). Many contemporary works were shifted to Tate Modern when it opened in 2000, but Stanley Spencer, Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Francis Bacon are well represented here, and the Art Now installations showcase up-and-coming British artists. The gallery also hosts the controversy-courting Turner Prize exhibition (Oct-Jan). The gallery has a good restaurant and a well-stocked gift shop, and the handy Tate-to-Tate boat service zips along the Thames to Tate Modern.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Tate Modern

The permanent collection draws from the Tate’s collections of modern art (international works from 1900) and features heavy hitters such as Matisse, Rothko and Beuys – a genuinely world-class collection, expertly curated. There are vertiginous views down inside the building from outside the galleries, which group artworks according to movement (Surrealism, Minimalism, Post-war abstraction) rather than by theme.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Whitechapel Gallery

This East End stalwart reopened in 2009 following a major redesign and expansion that saw the Grade II listed building transformed into a vibrant, holistic centre of art complete with a research centre, archives room and café. Since 1901, Whitechapel Art Gallery has built on its reputation as a pioneering contemporary institution and is well remembered for premiering the talents of exhibitions by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo among others. Expect the rolling shows to be challenging and risqué.

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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