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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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Deutsche Börse Photography Prize

We cast an eye over the nominees for Europe's biggest photo award

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Carol Bove interview

The sculptor tells us about experiencing art, bringing colour into her palette, and her love of crushing things

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Must-see photography exhibitions

See the best shots on show in London this week

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The 100 best paintings in London

How many have you seen?

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The latest art reviews

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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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Magic Mirror

In Claude Cahun’s most famous photograph, she’s shown wearing a striking, chessboard-checked coat. Her hair cropped androgynously short, Cahun is pressed up close against a mirror but turns her head to gaze levelly out at you with a look that’s both archly defiant and just a little wistful. It’s the sort of severe, sexually ambiguous pose that nowadays gets adopted by fashion models in style magazines – which makes it all the more astonishing that this arresting image actually dates from 1928. The other 16 photographs by Cahun displayed here are equally groundbreaking, sometimes even shocking. Spanning a 30-year period, these small black-and-white images capture an ominous, dreamlike world of make-believe in which the artist portrays herself in a variety of different roles: a limp body stuffed into a sideboard shelf; a creepy, face-painted doll figure; a statuesque, wind-wracked ancient. As a prominent lesbian associated with Surrealism, and a French-born Jew based in Nazi-occupied Jersey, it’s no wonder that Cahun was drawn to themes of identity and gender, constantly using her work to explore notions of masquerade and the malleability of self. And there’s also a kind of role-play in this exhibition, when you suddenly realise that several images that echo the look and ethos of Cahun’s work are actually pieces by Sarah Pucill, a contemporary British artist. The main film, ‘Magic Mirror’, is also by Pucill. Part homage to Cahun’s life and work, part meditation on homosexual

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Modigliani: A Unique Artistic Voice

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) was a ‘bohemian’ cliché. An Italian who arrived in Paris just as modernism got cracking, he did the whole drink-and-drugs and no-bourgeois-trappings bit, before dying of TB aged 35. He lived in squalid poverty and got no recognition as an artist. But unlike other demi-monde poseurs, he was a bona fide genius. In these two rooms of modest drawings and small paintings, Modigliani’s increasingly intense and extreme reimaginings of the human figure are luminously powerful. Unlike Picasso’s works from the same era, the experimentation in these pieces doesn’t feel like an artistic one. Instead, Modigliani seems to be trying every possible way to understand what it means to be a human being. The awkwardness of this questioning is balanced with the assured fluidity of his drawing. His sitters are as vulnerable as plants, as epic as gods, tender, totemic, barbaric and solemn, often all at the same time. Harnessing disruption and disorder with such delicacy, his drawings on flimsy, tissue-like paper have astonishing emotional immediacy. ‘Caryatid’ (1916) has a tremendous ancient physical heft, though its pollen-like chalk seems barely to cling to the paper. From the same period, a portrait of the actress Cristiane Mancini has a wrong-footing domestic intimacy, as she lounges in an armchair. There is the immortal in all of us, Modigliani seems to say, but there must also be the mortal in the immortal for it to have any resonance. This is an old-fashioned

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Roger Ackling: Simple Gifts

No one made art quite like Roger Ackling. Part of the Saint Martin’s School of Art generation of sculptors who graduated in the late 1960s he, like fellow Saint Martin’s students Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, was committed to challenging what art could be. And, like Long and Fulton, he took his art way beyond the confines of the studio in his search for answers. Unlike the land-based art of Fulton and Long, however, Ackling left barely a trace in nature. Directing the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass, he would simply burn lines on to the surface of wood. I say ‘simply’: actually, what’s overwhelmingly evident in the lines and geometric patterns that cover the objects in this show is a sense of bum-numbing repetition. Blessed with apparently endless reserves of patience and concentration, and a necessary streak of obsessiveness, Ackling would be outside for days at a time, transforming bits of driftwood and flotsam into ceremonial, burnished, ancient and ritualistic-looking objects. They’re serious and humorous, humble and heavenly at the same time, full of life and, pardon the pun, light, as well as zen-like calm. Ackling died of motor neurone disease last year, and this exquisite show is full of the very last pieces he worked on. Most were given to him by friends. There’s a darning mushroom and a doorknob, a wooden spoon, small chopping boards, as well as stacks of small cubes. All are beautifully economical – unwanted material recycled with the aid of natural resou

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

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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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Revelations: Experiments in Photography

‘Chickens scared by a torpedo’ may not be Eadweard Muybridge’s most popular work, but it’s definitely the one with the best title. In the 1870s the British photo pioneer broke new ground with his famous study of horses at full gallop. Now his shots of cluckers losing their cool are in an exhibition of science-related photos spanning the last 170 years. There are trippy colour photomicrographs of mica (1908) from Arthur Clive Banfield, plus nineteenth and early twentieth-century telephotographic space shots, up-close images of the effects of magnetic fields, and the captivating ‘smoke studies’ by Étienne-Jules Marey that influenced aerodynamics. Baffling are Carl Strüwe’s microscopic images of water fleas, which bear an uncanny resemblance to the bison of the Altamira cave paintings. How extraordinary to look back a century or more and see manifest the human desire to understand phenomena both incomprehensibly big and inconceivably small. And this is only the first room of the exhibition. Room two is dedicated to works from twentieth-century artists responding to early science-focused photography. Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy’s photograms do away with single-point perspective, while motion studies by influential architecture photographer Berenice Abbott exemplify her belief that artists should help make science accessible to all. There are some exceptional works in room three, too. Trevor Paglen’s faraway shots of American military ‘black spots’ are clever, unsettling

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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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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Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden

Part of Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s Gallery is in many ways the perfect venue for a show about gardens in art – it’s hard to tell where the floral shower bags in the gift shop end and the exhibition proper starts. Luckily, Buck House’s residents have a few knockout pictures and knick-knacks kicking around to suit the theme. Spanning 400 years of horticulturally inspired art, furniture and homeware from the Royal Collection, the show has everything from fifteenth-century painted Persian manuscripts to impossibly charming diamond-encrusted gold-and-enamel Fabergé cornflowers. There’s a lot of what you’d expect: medieval scenes set in paradise gardens; courtiers chasing ladies through bushy Renaissance mazes; aerial-view paintings of sweeping estates; Sèvres ceramics; a jolly tureen shaped like a cauliflower (the brassica à la mode of 2015, no less. Ciao kale!). But there are some strange and wonderful finds here too, like the psychedelic botanical drawings of seventeenth-century naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, and Jan Brueghel the Elder’s fabulously weird ‘Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden’ (1615, pictured), populated by wild animals he’d certainly never encountered in life. An eighteenth-century vase on a golden mount, filled with a bouquet of soft porcelain removable flowers, with a sunflower at the centre that doubles as a clock face, really needs to be seen to be believed. Extensive notes offer a compelling narrative about gardens and earthly power, and a reminder t

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  • 4 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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Upcoming art exhibitions in London

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Christopher Williams

Photography is both a medium of magic and manipulation which the Los Angeles-based artist has been deconstructing for the past 35 years. From a cross-section of a Zeiss camera to a candid outtake on a Playboy shoot, Williams collaborates with technicians, models and set designers to create immaculate photographs with hidden flaws. This substantial survey overview of Williams’ career brings together over 50 photographs in specially conceived architectural installations inspired by the history of display. Unexpectedly for a survey the exhibition will start with the latest work including five works previously unseen in the UK and end with the earliest from 1981. Read Time Out New York's interview with the artist about the exhibition at MoMA here.

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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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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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Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon

The waiflike muse of Givenchy, not only captivated the fashion world but also the big screen. This summer the National Portrait Gallery celebrate the British actress, dancer and humanitarian worker with an exhibition of exquisite and rarely seen photographs. Hepburn radiated elegance and sophistication thanks no doubt to her European noble heritage, but also managed to set aside her international stardom and iconic status to work as a Unicef ambassador from 1988 until her death in 1993. Chronicling the multi-award winning screen legend’s rise to fame are family snaps of Hepburn as a young ballerina, portraits by photographic greats including Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton and Norman Parkinson and behind-the-scenes images from the set of Sabrina by Mark Shaw.

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See more art in London

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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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  • 3 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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  • 4 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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  • 4 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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  • 4 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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