Art

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

Who's going to win the Turner Prize?
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Who's going to win the Turner Prize?

Place your bets on this year's winner with a little help from Ladbrokes

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The latest art reviews

Abstract Expressionism
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Abstract Expressionism

If you don’t leave this show feeling completely overwhelmed and totally breathless, you’re either blind, dead or a bit of a dick. The RA has pulled together room after room of paintings and sculptures from probably the most important art movement of the twentieth century and it’s staggering. The abstract expressionists tore painting apart and restructured it into something bigger than it ever had been: more abstract, more passionate, bigger, bolder.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Lygia Pape
Art

Lygia Pape

Light’s important in art. Obviously. From the stark contrasting light and dark of Caravaggio to Monet and his shimmering naturalism, all the way through to Antony Gormley and his big cloud box, artists have always been obsessed with light and how to capture it. Then there’s Brazilian modernist Lygia Pape. In her own, perfectly abstract way, she might be one of the great unrecognised masters of light.  Walk into the back room of this show and you’ll find a criss-crossing set of spotlit glittering wires in an otherwise pitch-black space. They intersect and clash, like columns of light frozen in a moment. They make you feel like you’re looking at a real-life, giant, physical version of a great abstract painting – it’s modernism made real. It’s light, captured perfectly.  In another installation, piles of blue powder are formed into little pyramids on white sheets, with dark blue lights shining down on them. Seeing them is like looking down at the pyramids of Giza from the sky, but when you’re really, really high on psychedelics. There are early geometric drawings here too, which are so lovely you’ll want to nick the lot, but the installations are the real gold. They’re properly illuminating.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Tacita Dean: LA Exuberance
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Tacita Dean: LA Exuberance

London’s sorry excuse for a summer has finally sputtered pathetically out. But you can still find a little slice of sunshine in Tacita Dean’s show in Frith Street Gallery, Golden Square. You can tell she’s English, because this series of gentle cloud drawings was made when she went to LA and was left speechless by the big, expansive and – somehow – blue skies of Southern California.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Protest
Art

Protest

Felt angry about anything recently? Of course you have, you’re human, and so are the 17 artists included in this group show about the nature of protesting. All the works here aim to question the status quo, challenge power structures and inspire debate. By engaging with sociopolitical issues such as the Black Lives Matter campaign, LGBT rights, the migrant crisis or censorship, the works serve as calls to action. Angry stuff.  A key theme is the power words have to effect change. The show opens with Alice Neel’s 1936 painting ‘Nazis Murder Jews’. In this depiction of a Communist parade in New York City, the message is hammered home by the unambiguous slogan written on a poster. There’s also one of contemporary artist Doug Aitken’s massive sculptural text works, with the word ‘Free’ covered in broken shards of mirror. Get it? Freedom? Shattered? Nice. Rirkrit Tiravanija punches the words ‘No No America’ – an anti-US chant used in protests in Iraq – through a sheet of reflective metal, forcing you to see the conflict from another point of view.  The blockbuster work here is Elmgreen & Dragset’s ‘Prison Breaking/Powerless Structures’, a life-size recreation of a prison cell that’s been burst open and split in two. You move through the centre of it, upturned metal toilets on one side, cold steel benches on the other, rubble littering the floor. It’s intended to challenge society’s increased use of prison sentences but maybe also deals with the duo’s own break-up.  But the real

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

The Infinite Mix
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The Infinite Mix

Video art is so fucking boring. Okay, not always. Some of it’s great. Loads of it, even. But invariably, gallery shows of video art, especially group shows, involve countless hours of over-long, over-complicated, poorly shot nonsense in black and white, with loads of naked people reciting Baudelaire and rubbing ketchup into each other’s boobs.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Georgia O'Keeffe
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Georgia O'Keeffe

Forty-four million dollars is a lot of money. That’s how much someone spent on a painting by the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) in 2014. It set a record for a work of art by a woman. That last part there is important, because the most ever paid for a work of art by a man is around $300m. O’Keeffe doesn’t even make the top 50, not even close.  In the art world, women are simply worth less. And not just financially. Throughout art history women have consistently been ignored. But modernism would be an entirely different beast without O’Keeffe. This retrospective is herfirst show in the UK in 20 years and, with none of her paintings displayed here in public galleries, it is depressingly overdue.  The show takes you from her early abstracts through to her landscapes of New Mexico, and she deserves every inch of space she’s been given. The early works, all charcoal swoops and stark lines, ease you into her world. A neat appetiser for the explosion of colour that follows in her early paintings, filled with twisting shapes, hooded curves and plunging lines in bold, contrasting watercolour. Then there are her flower paintings, including that $44.4m masterpiece, before you’re shoved head first into the desert of New Mexico, which she painted obsessively. You’re going to look at some of these and think: Hold on, that looks an awful lot like a vagina (see our blog about that here). It’s an idea she repeatedly rejected. But if you’re looking for vaginas, you’ll also find

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Jeff Koons: Now
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Jeff Koons: Now

Jeff Koons is why people loathe modern art. According to the haters, the American superstar is a cynical artistic oligarch, using shock and pop culture to make his pile: he made porn-art, he ripped off comic books, he did balloon sculptures – and he’s become one of the most expensive living artists in the process. So it’s no surprise that Damien Hirst has a massive collection of Koons originals, which he is displaying here in his fancy gallery. Hirst and Koons, a match made in hell. But the thing is, that view of Koons as megalomaniacal art moneylord, it’s fun, but it’s wrong. Dig beneath the glitzy surface, and there’s an actual human heart in there somewhere. This show pulls together works from throughout Koons’s career. It’s not quite a proper retrospective, but it’s near enough. It starts with his early Hoover readymades and ad paintings before moving on to the big stuff: a giant balloon monkey, some soft-focus porn, a giant bowl of eggs, basketballs suspended in water, framed Nike posters, inflatable lobsters and a huge pile of Play-Doh. It’s what you expect from Koons: big, bold, glamorous and expensive-looking. But there’s a fear in Koons’s work, a deep insecurity. It’s like he’s trying to preserve everything for ever. He seals his readymades away, protecting them. He makes balloons and inflatables out of steel, he makes hardcore porn with his beautiful (ex-) wife, he preserves basketballs like scientific specimens. The inflatables are childhood made permanent in

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds
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Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds

Despite ancient texts being full of references to them, the Egyptian cities of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion remained a lost mystery for years. It wasn’t until the 1990s that an archaeological team discovered their remains – not on dry land, but a few miles off the coast, beneath the Mediterranean. This spectacular show is the first time these pieces from the drowned cities have been seen in the UK. The exhibition tells a pretty chirpy story of how, for many hundreds of years, the mouth of the Nile – where Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion once stood – was a major trading hub between Egypt and its Greek, and later Roman, neighbours across the sea. We think of these ancient empires being clear-cut and distinct, but in reality goods, art and even religions changed hands. So although the Greek settlers thought worshipping birds and cats was all a bit weird, they recognised the Egyptian deities as ‘translations’ of their own, and in Canopus they founded a temple to Serapis: a one-size-fits-all god who doubled as Osiris-Apis. Not everything on display here has been pulled from the depths: the museum has trawled its own collection and got some stunning loan pieces from Egyptian museums to flesh out the story. But it’s the submerged stuff that’s by far the most interesting, in turns exquisite (golden jewellery from the Ptolemaic era), surreal (a bronze ladle encrusted with barnacles) and monumental (20-foot statues of Greek monarchs dressed in pharaoh gear). The Indiana Jones-style e

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and One Still-Life
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David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and One Still-Life

Imagine sitting perfectly still, locked on the spot, with an old man staring intensely at you, for three days. Sounds uncomfortable doesn’t it? Like a horror movie, or Christmas at your parents’. That’s the commitment you would have had to give the great David Hockney if you’d agreed to sit for one of the 82 portraits on show here. Then imagine the surprise when, after three days of your arse getting sore and feeling uncomfortable with this bloke eyeballing you, Hockney finally lets you see the finished work – the big reveal, tada! – and… it’s a bit shit. Yeah, deflating.  Let’s not mess about, Hockney is one of the best. He’s a giant of twentieth-century art. His images are among the most iconic of his generation: you can’t talk about modern painting without mentioning ‘A Bigger Splash’, or his contribution to pop art. Hockney, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud: the holy trinity of modern British painting. And Hockney has continued to be a truly brilliant painter into the twenty-first century – his landscape show at the RA in 2012 was a total blockbuster, and his iPad drawings are great. But these, sadly, are not brilliant paintings.  Every one of them is, essentially, the same. They’re all the same size, the sitter facing the same direction, painted against the same two-tone flat background. A couple of sitters only gave him two days, and one didn’t show up (which explains the one still-life), but that’s still well over 200 days that Hockney dedicated to one thing. It’s a mo

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Upcoming art exhibitions in London

Giuseppe Penone: Fui, Saro, Non Sono (I was, I will be, I am not)
Art

Giuseppe Penone: Fui, Saro, Non Sono (I was, I will be, I am not)

The Italian sculptor makes art that fuses the man-made world with the natural – doing things like attaching a bronze cast of his hand to the trunk of a sapling tree. This show brings work from throughout his career, including terracotta portraits of his daughter.

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Maggi Hambling – Touch: Works on Paper
Art

Maggi Hambling – Touch: Works on Paper

Although she's probably best known for her controversial public sculptures (Oscar Wilde, 1998 opposite Charing Cross Station and Scallop, 2003 on Aldeburgh Beach), Maggi Hambling has also amassed a huge body of work on paper, with drawing continuing to be fundamental to her practice. The British Museum has been collecting her drawings since 1985 after acquiring a piece depicting her former teacher Cedric Morris on his deathbed which will be on show here, alongside thirty nine other works spanning early student sketches and etchings, and portraits of Stephen Fry and curator Norman Rosenthal, on show for the first time.

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The Infinite Mix
Art

The Infinite Mix

Multimedia works by 10 different artists will come together into an immersive installation at this newish creative space on the Strand. Expect holograms, cinema-style projections and music from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Sonic Youth.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Jack McConville: Capital Depths
Art

Jack McConville: Capital Depths

‘Invest in your future, don’t dilute your finances, 401k, make sure it’s low risk, then get some real estate, 4.25 percent thirty-year mortgage.’ That bit of sound financial advice doesn’t come from Forbes or The Financial Times, but from Kendrick Lamar in the song 'YOLO'. Fiscal savviness: it’s hip, it’s now, and it’s everywhere. It’s in music. It’s even in art, because life is all about that cash money. Young Jack McConville knows. The Scottish painter’s exhibition here shows a singular obsession with the benjamins: clouds of notes float in the sky in one piece (yeah, like ‘The Crystal Maze’); nude bathing women grasp for bills and dance around pools of coins in others. But McConville’s isn’t a straightforward obsession, he’s interested in the language and culture of online finance: liquid assets, pooled resources, fluid capital, financial reserves. Water acts as a metaphor for a capitalist drive that dominates our lives, online and in reality. So the idea is neat, but the show actually works because McConville’s a really good painter. There are hints of the late French masters here – Cezanne, Matisse, Léger – and nods to classic art-historical tropes and imagery, all tied into a clean, simple and relatively unique aesthetic. It’s contemporary figurative painting that doesn’t suck. Which has got to be worth a few bucks. 

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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The 40 best photos of London ever taken
Art

The 40 best photos of London ever taken

Our (almost) definitive list of the best photographs ever taken of the capital

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Free art in London
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Free art in London

See all London's free art exhibitions this week

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Latest art interviews
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Latest art interviews

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

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The 100 best paintings in London

The 100 best paintings in London

Our expert guide to the best paintings in the capital

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Read the latest Time Out art features

What's on at

Barbican Centre
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

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.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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National Portrait Gallery
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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 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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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Tate Modern

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.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Whitechapel Gallery
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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.

Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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