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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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AA Bronson interview

We fall under the spell of the trailblazing artist and healer

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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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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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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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Looks

Phrases like ‘post-human’ and other cool-sounding terms get bandied about a lot in ‘Looks’, a group exhibition about how new technologies reshape our appearances and identities. But if you’re expecting any deep insights or cogent analysis, then this isn’t really the show for you. Instead, and possibly quite appropriately given its subject matter, it feels like a rather rushed and chaotic affair, more concerned with the superficial lustre of things – the slippery surfaces of contemporary culture. There are several good, if rather unnerving works. Juliette Bonneviot’s slick and shiny ‘Xenoestrogens’ are a nice twist on the tradition of monochrome painting, her chemical colours stemming from the hormone-altering substances commonly found in consumer goods and foods. On a similar behavioural theme, Andrea Crespo’s video is a suitably fractured exploration of psychiatric disorders, in which medical phrases and graphics scroll and disappear faster than you’re able to properly register them. A more whimsical note, meanwhile, is struck by Stewart Uoo, who reproduces a women’s magazine ‘true confessions’ page in the form of a large carpet. Unfortunately his adjacent cyborg-mutant mannequins, with their fashionably distressed clothes and apocalyptically flayed skins, feel slightly too trite. There’s a similar problem with the biggest piece in the show: a lengthy, twin-screen film installation by Wu Tsang. Set in a kind of cyberpunk demimonde, the story depicts a day in the life of a

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

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Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue

You couldn’t think of a more appropriate time for mounting a retrospective of Leon Golub (1922-2004). What with the recent reports of CIA torture, and the brutalities of America’s increasingly militarised police forces, the late US painter’s angry, politically-charged work suddenly feels incredibly urgent again – particularly his most iconic and malevolent paintings, the ‘Interrogation’ and ‘Mercenaries’ series from the ’80s. Although their original context was different (Golub was mainly addressing the USA’s involvement in Latin America), his pieces from this period radiate a kind of pure, untrammelled savagery, depicting a world where injustice and inhumanity go hand-in-hand with power and authority. Sound familiar? Indeed, part of what makes these enormous canvases so powerful is the way they directly implicate you, the viewer. With their intense red backgrounds, they bear down on you like a kind of threat, as a uniformed police chief menacingly points towards you, or a covert operative turns to glare at you while stuffing a body into a car boot. You feel intimidated and terrorised. Yet at the same time, by simply gazing at these atrocities, for living in a world where such things occur, you also feel complicit – particularly when confronted with Golub’s horrific depiction of torture. The rest of the exhibition focuses on earlier and later periods. Works from the ’50s and ’60s show Golub developing his dense, heavily worked style, the slathered and scraped surfaces appea

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector

There are moments in this exhibition when you forget you’re in an exhibition at all – when looking through the personal collections of 14 artists feels more like being in some fantastic bazaar. In Peter Blake’s part of the show alone you’ll find creepy Edwardian dolls and puppets, faked taxidermies of mythological animals and gorgeous old tin signs. Elsewhere, the cornucopia includes glass eyeballs owned by photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, Soviet space dog memorabilia from Martin Parr, and psychedelic, cod-surrealist paintings sourced by American artist Jim Shaw from thrift stores around the world. However, while the objects are often fascinating, the show does raise a few niggling questions, and although there’s plenty of background given about each collection, there’s little about collecting per se – about the human drive to hunt and gather, to organise and categorise. Does late German conceptualist Hanne Darboven’s Hamburg home, filled with all kinds of diverse bric-à-brac and partly recreated here, really qualify as a collection? Or is it just an incoherent hoard? Conversely, Howard Hodgkin’s antique Indian paintings or Arman’s African masks are wonderful, but simply because the individual pieces are extremely beautiful in their own right. Other displays, meanwhile, appear decidedly commonplace, like Mexican artist Dr Larka’s wall of LP covers. Shouldn’t artists be collecting less typical objects, things whose aesthetic appeal might normally be overlooked? Ultimately, the

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 4 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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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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Ravilious

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

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

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Max Mara Art Prize for Women: Corin Sworn

Following her six-month residency in Italy, Max Mara Art Prize winner Corin Sworn presents a new large-scale installation inspired by Commedia dell’Arte. Drawing on the rich theatrical history of the improvising troupe of masked actors, the Glasgow-based artist will create an engaging, immersive and dramatic environment filled with props, costumes, sound and video to investigate literary devices such as mistaken identity. 

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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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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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