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

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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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Sanya Kantarovsky interview

The New York-based artist talks about collaboration, inspiration and bringing a giant cat to Studio Voltaire.

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Where to see the best outdoor art this summer

What’s that giant yellow thing? Oh, it’s the sun. Time to check out this year’s crop of outdoor sculpture and art events

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Must-see photography exhibitions

See the best shots on show in London this week

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Agnes Martin

For sheer sustained vision, Tate Modern's forthcoming show will blow your (stripy) socks off

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The latest art reviews

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Wendelien van Oldenborgh: From Left to Night

All areas of London have their artistic communities and pockets of cool – east London, most obviously. All except, so the stereotype goes, the west, with its more moneyed, genteel environs. So it’s gratifying (particularly for this W2-raised reviewer) to see a portrait of the neighborhood that offers a more nuanced, informed perspective. Punk, the Notting Hill riots, the squatters’ rights movements of the ’70s – all these form part of the background to Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s film, shot close to the Showroom itself, just off the Edgware Road, and featuring local residents and musicians. But the main thrust of Dutch artist’s piece reveals how these historical events have parallels with the 2011 riots, as various characters discuss its causes and effects, and the legacy of policing in the area. There’s little in the way of plot, just loose, discursive, seemingly unstructured scenes that take place across three different locations: the Joe Strummer Subway (linking Edgware Road and Harrow Road, where The Clash’s lead singer used to busk); nearby Paddington Green police station (where UK terror suspects are detained); and an expensive-looking music studio where the likes of Duran Duran recorded in the ’80s. These spaces form a kind of symbolic backdrop against which different experiences and anecdotes are shared – local stories, of course, but inevitably perspectives from further afield too, given the diversity and hybridity of nationalities in this corner of London. Along th

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Karen Kilimnik

Fanciful forays into make-believe are what Karen Kilimnik is known for and what she does best. You can understand why she loves Christmas and Halloween – cultural celebrations that rely heavily on ritual, frivolous spectacle, and absurd exaggerations of reality – from this show of her latest paintings, which feature plenty of fairies and unicorns. Since the 1990s, the American artist has been appropriating material, whether culturally significant or trashily tabloid, to create fantastical works – ranging from paintings to entire installations – in which she tampers with history and reality to imaginative ends. The scope of her whimsically droll mind is paramount here. Taken by the fantastical connotation of a cleaning product’s name, in ‘The Fairy Cleaning the Copper Pot with Fairy Dish Soap’ (pictured) she pushes a ridiculous association by reimagining it as a Chardin-esque still-life. Fairytale antics, however, aren’t in evidence in the eight paintings in the back gallery, which mimic the blue hues and rural scenes of Delftware. Featuring churches, lanes, waterways and grazing cattle, the paintings are relatively sombre, likes stills from a flashback montage in a film. Also on show are two photographs of brilliantly purple flowers. While they lack the inventiveness of her canvases, their tight composition – emphasising pollen-sprinkled petals against a background that blurs away – has a hint of Kilimnik’s painterly style. The overall feeling is that you’ve been invited i

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Victorian London in Photographs

Rapacious, unchecked development, a growing gulf between the richest and poorest and a realisation that modern life is damaging to mental health. Anyway, enough about London in 2015: here are some photos of dead people. There are plenty of contemporary resonances in these images of London from 1839 to 1901. One thing above all else drove Victorian photographers, and saw their technology evolve incredibly quickly: change. Almost all these pictures – many of them stunningly technically accomplished as well as being fascinating documents – reflect a city and a society whose pace of change is both thrilling and terrifying. So we have the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London, who couldn’t get the plates in their cameras fast enough to record the historic buildings getting pulled down around them. There was no legislation to protect architecture, so they were about all there was in terms of awareness-raising. At the same time, photographers strove to reveal the social iniquities beneath the Victorian dream of progress: the appalling slums just streets away from fashionable thoroughfares; the children cast aside by their parents; the homeless, the destitute, the maimed and the mad. Most moving is a series of portraits of inmates of the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. Literally shorn of luxuriant Victorian hairdos and dressed with institutional severity, these men and women look startlingly contemporary. The unusually close-up portraiture (presumably they had little choice)

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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David Hockney: Painting and Photography

If this is the first David Hockney exhibition you’ve ever seen, you may be surprised at the number of people milling around the gallery. What brought them all here? It’s not immediately clear. The straight answer is that Hockney is one of Britain’s most distinguished living artists. He has a talent for creating a restrained, bubbling-under-the-surface tension – as seen in iconic paintings such as ‘A Bigger Splash’ (1967) on display at Tate Britain – and for capturing telling portrait details – most famously in ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ (1970-71), also at Tate Britain. Then there are his bright, Van Gogh-esque paeans to the English countryside, and playful self-portraits. But what we have here is something wholly different. ‘Painters have always known there is something wrong with perspective,’ the artist says in the catalogue notes. ‘The problem is the foreground... and the vanishing point.’ His claim is a big one, and not borne out. But the gist is that we are no longer shackled to the rules of painting – or photography – because digital technology can ‘free us from a chemically imposed perspective that has lasted for 180 years.’ In other words, computers are liberating because they let more of us mess with how stuff looks. To this end we get Hockney’s ‘photographic drawings’: combinations of photos and digital painterly elements. There is a lot of stimulating, ‘What the heck is going on?!’ fun to be had, and the palette is bright and almost pathologically cheerful (in

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

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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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Last chance: Inventing Impressionism

Museums generally shy away from the grubby subject of buying and selling art, even though we’re all fascinated by who bagged what and how much they coughed up (especially if scandal’s involved). So what’s the National Gallery doing recreating the vulgar front room-cum-salesroom of Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel and, in so doing, reminding us that the stuff on the walls came not, unsullied, from the hands of geniuses but from a glorified shop? Re-imagining that sure-bet crowd-puller, the impressionism exhibition, that’s what. On one level, pursuing a mercantile line of enquiry about this most bankable band of artists makes perfect sense. Yet, the tale of how Durand-Ruel – right wing, royalist, Catholic, not naturally prone to bouts of crazy punt-taking – wound up as the saviour of a band of paintbrush-wielding anarchists, atheists and republicans like Manet, Monet, Renoir and Degas is, for the most part, one so spectacularly devoid of money and success that it tricks you into thinking about the impressionists as true radicals. It does so while serving up some of the sweetest impressionist works ever made. You’ll see Renoirs so cloying they’ll make your fillings ache, such as ‘Study: Torso, Sunlight Effect’ (1875-’76), yet the handout reminds us how a critic at the time described it as being like a ‘putrefying corpse’. Durand-Ruel didn’t invent impressionism, of course; the artists themselves did that. But he saw its potential when everyone else was laughing it off the

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Ryoji Ikeda: Supersymmetry

Last year, Ryoji Ikeda Darth Vader-ed the bejesus out of London’s night sky. ‘Spectra’, the Japanese artist’s beam of light which scorched the skyline as part of the WWI centenary, became one of the most talked-about artworks of 2014. It’s a tough act to follow – and you wouldn’t think that filling the top floor of a car park with an installation based on particle physics would come close, but it really does. ‘Supersymmetry’ is inspired by Ikeda’s time as artist-in-residence at CERN, the Swiss supercollider that is smashing particles into each other in the hope of answering some of the questions posed by modern physics. But you don’t need a degree in quantum mechanics to enjoy what Ikeda has created. The first room is pitch-black, and dotted with waist-height light boxes covered in tiny ball bearings. They tilt and swivel, sending the balls flying across their surfaces like a flock of mechanical starlings. The light boxes strobe and pulsate. More lights flicker from the other room. As you walk through, you find a long corridor lined with a bank of monitors. Beams of light dash across them, graphs of data appear and disappear at speed, and speakers beneath them squeal and rumble. The images in this hallucinatory room veer between random computerised chaos (jumbled data, graphs and nonsensical sentences) and calm, spiralling visions of drifting dots. It’s like being stuck in a storm in a computer. But the main sensation is that of an impenetrable mass of information. Figure

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Richard Diebenkorn

If you thought Monet, Renoir and co had the whole ‘sunshine on canvas’ thing sewn up, then grab your shades and get yourself to the RA where, thanks to this sparkling survey of US painter Richard Diebenkorn, a warm Californian breeze wafts through the Sackler Galleries. Considered a modern master in the States, with auction prices to match, Diebenkorn (1922-93) is barely known outside of art circles over here. That’s partly down to geography – West Coast artists traditionally have a harder time exporting their talents than their East Coast counterparts. Partly to history – he’s of the difficult-to-place generation between abstract expressionism and pop. It’s also has a bit to do with biography – despite an ever-present ciggie on the go, Diebenkorn lived a life of almost monastic dedication to art. But it has nothing to do with his work. What’s clear throughout this three-room survey is that, first and foremost, Diebenkorn is a great visual seducer. He just has one of those touches that makes you believe in everything he paints – be it a pair of scissors, a half-open window offering an oblique view of a garden, or a series of verticals and horizontals that read like a simplified landscape. The first part of the show is taken up with Diebenkorn’s initial experiments with abstraction. From student work like the jokey abstract expressionism of ‘Disintegrating Pig’ (1950) he becomes adept at painting interlocking, jigsaw puzzle-like compositions that look partly like exhilaratin

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  • 5 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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Upcoming art exhibitions in London

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Carsten Höller

Let’s give one almighty holler for the Hayward’s final exhibition before they close for two years of renovation work. The Belgian artist, whose background in biology has informed and inspired his practice that challenges our perceptive boundaries, will have his first UK retrospective. He’s filled the Tate’s Turbine Hall with slides, placed giant replica mushrooms onto gallery ceilings and turned last year’s Gagosian Frieze stand into a children’s playground. Covering the last 20 years of the Stockholm-based artist’s work, which has truly put participation into art, we're expecting a rip-roaring presentation of fun-filled, hands-on exhibits.

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Vauxhall Art Car Boot Fair

Gavin Turk, Tracey Emin, Pam Hogg, Bob and Roberta Smith and Polly Morgan will be amongst the artists offering limited edition and one off creations from the boots of classic and vintage cars at this unique event. Vauxhall Motors have provided a number of car bonnets for artists including Ben Eine and Rachel Howard to create exclusive artworks that will be auctioned on the day to raise money for charity. There’ll also be brand new entertainment with Dog in a Boot Show and Daylight Cabaret. With works starting at £10 and reaching £1,000, the fair attracts over a thousand people so we suggest you try to get there early.

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Barbara Hepworth

The last time there was a major retrospective of Barbara Hepworth’s work in London, the First Lady of British modernism attended herself (we’re hoping she wore her fabulous fur coat). That was in 1968. Forty-odd years later, Tate Britain’s summer 2015 show looks to reassess the reputation of this sculptor of famously holey forms who, thanks in part to her beautifully preserved studio in St Ives, is forever associated with Cornwall, where she lived from 1939 until her death in 1975. Hepworth, though, was internationally famous, a bona fide art star (hence the fur coat) whose works grace museums and public spaces around the world – most notably ‘Single Form’, which stands in the plaza of the United Nations building in New York.  The show includes carvings and sculptures in wood, stone and bronze, along with drawings, collages, textiles and experimental photogram works. 

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Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening

For it’s only European stop, Doug Aitken’s culturally explosive extravaganza of spontaneous artistic creation will take over the Barbican Centre for one month. Initially conceived as a train journey across America from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Aitken envisions his 'living exhibition' through diverse presentations by over 100 international and UK-based artists working in art, music, dance, graphic design and film. Throughout the art gallery, the curve, concert hall, cinemas, lakeside terrace and sculpture court, audiences will be able to explore a plethora of activities including residencies, one-off performances, installations, workshops, rehearsals and interactive displays. So if you fancy sampling Ed Ruscha’s special cactus omelette, seeing Lawrence Weiner’s new commission and experiencing Olaf Breuning’s rainbow smoke installation, hope on board. 

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Latest art interviews

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

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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

Take in photography, wander through sculpture or be blinded by beautiful neon all at London's free art exhibitions this week

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Photography in London

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

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What's on at

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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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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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