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

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Check out London's top summer group shows

We highlight the best art samplers of the season

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Thomas Hirschhorn interview

The Swiss artist tells us about the pleasures of making and breaking, and his love of brown tape

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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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Marc Quinn interview

Breathing apparatus, steel toe-capped boots… the artist talks us through his preparations for 'The Toxic Sublime'

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The latest art reviews

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Alfred Wallis

With its relaxed interiors stuffed full of modernist gems by the likes of Ben and Winifred Nicholson and their ‘primitive’ protégé Alfred Wallis, Kettle’s Yard house and gallery in Cambridge makes for a dream art day out. Don’t go there, though, at least not for a couple of years: it’s closed for renovations. Instead, go to Modern Art in Old Street, where 39 paintings by Wallis, an untrained artist and former fisherman and scrap merchant whose work Kettle’s Yard founder Jim Ede amassed for a few bob in the 1930s, are on temporary display. Not that this smart commercial gallery has tried to echo the casual charm of Kettle’s Yard. Here, the crisp whiteness of a cool contemporary art showroom accentuates the homespun, knocked-about quality of Wallis’s work. He painted on whatever was to hand – scraps of board, torn-up boxes. In fact he only took up painting ‘for company’ in 1922, after the death of his wife. And, using dark browns, oily blacks, off-whites and greys and strident blue-greens, he painted what he knew – the capricious sea, storm-tossed boats and wrecks. The paintings show little understanding of linear perspective but there’s a sophisticated grasp of storytelling and a directness of expression that startles even today. They have a vitality that jumps off the walls. It was this, as much as the sight of a tiny bearded man in his seventies, that stopped artists Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood in their tracks as they passed by Wallis’s open front door in St Ives in

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Yto Barrada: Faux Guide

What am I looking at? You can’t help but think this is what French-Moroccan artist Yto Barrada wants you to ask as you enter the huge single room of the Pace gallery. You find yourself confronted with fossils, plumbing fixtures and wall textiles, a film, photographs of street signs, a large model of a Stegosaurus and a ransom of Berber rugs (which you can walk, sit or lie on if you take your shoes off). The feeling engendered is not so much confusion, more a curious joy, and it’s easy to revel in the sounds, colours and shapes all around. There is a lot going on, though the artist’s specific interest here is fossils. Particularly those that lie between the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert, which was once the floor of a prehistoric ocean, and where the remains of marine anthropods can be found which are upwards of 500 million years old. It is also a place with a huge cottage industry in fake fossils, and Barrada’s film shows workmen making these ersatz artefacts. Authenticity is the name of the game – hence the title of the exhibition. Even the bright rugs beg the question: handmade by North African tribes, they are nonetheless recent examples of craftwork and comprised of dyed, synthetic or mixed threads easily found at markets. Do their modern materials make them less authentic? Who decides? Barrada was born in Paris, studied at the Sorbonne and at the International Center for Photography in New York, and now lives and works in Tangier. She has won numerous internatio

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Soundscapes

Forget the art slides and flying machines at the Hayward. The most controversial show of the summer, the one that’s sending some critics into a Victor Meldrew-ish tailspin of invective, involves six paintings and a few loudspeakers. You’d think, given the outcry, that someone had drilled holes in Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’ and glued super woofers to the back, so that the dudes in fur coats might appear to rap. They haven’t. In the basement spaces of the National Gallery – now a dark and rather mysterious labyrinth, thanks to all the soundproofing – half a dozen paintings are, for a couple of months, being spotlit in rooms to themselves while the thoughtful responses of sound artists and musicians are relayed through discreetly positioned speakers. The real shock is not how distracting it all is but how much sound concentrates vision: there’s a clarity here that’s spine-tingling. Turner Prize-winner Susan Philipsz has gone for one of the collection’s biggies in selecting ‘The Ambassadors’, Holbein’s early Renaissance puzzle picture. This image is loaded with allusions to wealth, learning, the role of religion and (with its distorted skull) mortality. Philipsz runs with the idea of the lute that has a broken string as a symbol of discord to create a piece for violin that creeps round your own skull with an intensity that glues you to the spot. Jamie XX, meanwhile, translates the basic components of Théo van Rysselberghe’s pointillist ‘Coastal Scene’ – dabs of colour – as burb

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

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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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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World

The last time the Tate held a Barbara Hepworth retrospective, the artist herself had a hand in organising the show. That was in 1968, seven years before Britain’s first lady of modernist sculpture died in a fire in her St Ives studio – a fatal combination of sleeping pills and a fondness for smoking in bed. In the intervening years, so this show’s argument goes, we’ve tended to view Babs through rose-, or perhaps clotted cream-tinted spectacles; as a kind comfy heritage-industry modernist, when in fact she was a towering figure of the international avant-garde. If that sounds like a lot of curatorial justification to swallow with your scones, it really isn’t. The exhibition is quick to place Hepworth in the company of her peers – literally, in the case of work by Henry Moore and her second husband Ben Nicholson, as well as through contextualising timelines. But the work itself is so tactile – a gorgeous parade of variously chiselled and polished materials such as green onyx, hoptonwood, fossil stone and lignum vitae (the densest wood, as any timber bore will tell you) – that you’ll want to go out and hug a tree at the very least. (The sculptures, alas, are mostly displayed behind Perspex). From early carved figures to interlocking semi-abstract forms (the highlight of her loved-up interlude with Nicholson) to ancient-looking totems, Hepworth’s sculptural progression can be seen as a gradual rising up. She goes it alone, guided by her responses to nature. But the results are

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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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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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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  • 5 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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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Upcoming art exhibitions in London

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Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier’s secret life as a photographer wasn’t discovered until boxes of over 100,000 negatives and undeveloped film rolls were bought at auction two years before her death. Thanks in part to the documentary film ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ about the discovery and the subsequent exhibitions of this street photographer; Maier is no longer an unknown photographic talent and joins the ranks of Brassai, Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans. 

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The World Goes Pop

The pop art phenomenon entranced artists all over the world from Latin America to Asia, throughout Europe and the Middle East. Although popular culture including advertising, movies, music and packaging gave artists the impetus to create visually stimulating and engaging works that celebrated consumer culture, it also gave them the means to critique the political and social climate. This exhibition of over 200 works created between the 1960s and 1970s reveals how artists from different countries put their individual spin on pop art.

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Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei always promised to come to London to open the show himself if he ever got his passport back, and the briliant news is that he has just received his passport from the Chinese authorities. Which means, he's free to travel outside of China and will be in London for the launch of the exhibition in September.

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The World of Charles and Ray Eames

You may well have sat in one of Charles and Ray Eames iconic stack chairs and if not then you’ve certainly sampled one of the thousand copies produced in their troves. The Eameses pioneering designs are known the world over and have been a guiding light for new generations of designers and certainly a go to for any interior decorator. This major retrospective focuses on their extraordinary laboratory, the Eames Office that produced more than just furniture but sought to address the demands of modern living through new approaches to architecture or arts education. Bringing together their innovative projects, we’ll be able to revisit their legacy whilst also getting tips on how best to redecorate the living room.

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Art exhibitions calendar

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

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Photography in London

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

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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

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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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  • 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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