Art

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

Art

This week's unmissable new art

Here are the new art shows, fairs and events you'd be mad to miss

Read more
Art

Richard Wentworth interview

He's one of our greatest sculptors. So why is Richard Wentworth making a giant painting in Peckham?

Read more
Art

Must-see photography exhibitions

See the best shots on show in London this week

Read more
Art

Where to see the best outdoor art this summer

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

Read more

The 100 best paintings in London

How many have you seen?

Read more

The latest art reviews

Art

Victorian London in Photographs

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

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

David Hockney: Painting and Photography

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

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness

You may well think you’ve walked into a show that’s still being installed on entering this 35-year survey of Christopher Williams. But fear not, the unfinished feel of the galleries is intentional. Relatively unknown to a UK audience, the LA-based artist employs a display strategy that gives insight into the infrastructure of exhibition-making, while addressing image-making as a whole. The reuse of walls from the artist’s previous exhibitions means the overall effect is pristinely imperfect. This in turn mimics the immaculate photographs on display, which divulge the devices of the commercial photography that bombards us in daily life. Some of the photos are the artist’s own. Others are pre-existing images that Williams has re-photographed to disclose the technical requirements and trickery involved in creating an image. The subject of a photograph, whether it be a majestic cockerel or a giggling topless girl, is displayed alongside shots revealing the apparatus used to create such images, including a cross-section of a camera lens and darkroom developing kit. All the photographs are hung at a noticeably lower level than normal convention and lack any title labels. Indeed any accompanying text, by which you might plot the trajectory of the artist’s career and concerns, is absent. Instead, wall texts from the Whitechapel’s previous show, ‘Adventures of the Black Square’, remain behind coloured vinyl, a sort of exhibition branding that for this show is green, the same as Fuj

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

Theaster Gates: Freedom of Assembly

It’s easy to accuse art of being irrelevant. Do paintings and sculptures in some white-walled gallery really matter? They have a cultural impact, yadda, yadda, but so what? Does art do anything to change the lives of average, everyday people? Probably not. But that’s not an accusation you can level at American artist Theaster Gates. He’s used his work to help redevelop impoverished parts of his native Chicago, building art spaces and cultural centres. He’s not just an artist or an activist, he’s an architect of social change through art. His works here paint a pained picture of an America that’s locked in a state of racial turmoil. In the first room, assemblages of bricks, pallets and chunks of metal from forklifts line the walls. A dilapidated section of roofing hangs near the ceiling. Along one wall, display cabinets from a hardware store hang threadbare. Mournful music leaks out of a video piece on the floor. The impression is of a desperate need to rebuild, but a total lack of tools and materials. In the next room, Gates has used old gym flooring to create two big beige tableaux. They’re full of the past, all those feet that have pounded that wood. The final room is the most affecting. The walls are lined with tar-drenched canvases, and the floor is dotted with obelisk-like ceramic and tar sculptures. The smell leaves its chemical tang hanging in your nostrils. The paintings are stunning; big, gloopy, angry constructions of impenetrable black. Gates nods to modern art

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Read more
Read more Time Out art reviews

Must-see art exhibitions in London

Art

Last chance: 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

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

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

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album

Superstition, madness, monstrous cruelty… but enough of the news. Let’s see what was going on 200 years ago in Spain, when Francisco de Goya began work on the extraordinary ink drawings in his ‘Album D’. Oh, it was pretty much the same. That’s the incredible thing about Goya: even when he’s commenting on, say, the ulcerous 1807-14 Peninsular War, or the interminable shadow of the Spanish Inquisition, he does it in a way that’s supremely relatable to today; to Ukraine or Syria or… take your pick. Of course, by extension, that’s also the fairly shit thing about the world. Young artists, take note: make conflict, corruption and hypocrisy your targets, and you’ll never go out of style. What Goya gives us here are the deft sketches of an old man, an artist-warrior left deaf by disease, yet at the height of his creative powers. He doesn’t need much to convince us of his genius. Building up lines of ink on small sheets of paper, he describes faces and bodies contorted by grief, rage, madness and old age (he’s incredible at doing paper-thin skin over ancient bones). There’s no narrative context – figures rise up or fall through the blank space of the page – and very little background detail. ‘Madness’ is one of the few images to offer any architectural setting. It shows a figure appealing to us from behind the rails of a balcony, like a clown or a monarch. As with most of Goya’s albums, ‘D’ was given its ‘Witches and Old Women’ tag after his death, when the book was broken up and d

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends

Walking into this exhibition is like being a fly on the wall at a late nineteenth-century soirée of the in-crowd. John Singer Sargent, the Transatlantic portraitist who was born in Florence to American parents, trained in Paris under society painter Carolus-Duran before moving to London in 1887. Along the way he made the acquaintance of many influential and colourful characters from the worlds of art, literature, music and theatre. In the hope of shedding light on Sargent’s originality as an artist, this show reveals his avant-garde approach to portrait painting through a diverse collection of intimate works. Inspired by proto-impressionist Édouard Manet, then ridiculed by the establishment, and the writings of art critic Edmond Duranty, who called for ‘the special characteristics of the modern individual,’ a young Sargent set about capturing his subjects with a unique sensibility. His use of tonal expression and elegant composition flows throughout these paintings. He painted Parisian patrons, American writers and artist friends including Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin with amazing intensity. In oil sketches that Sargent whisked up in a moment, some sitters appear like whispers. Others look timeless, yet Sargent always retained a swift ease. The way he applies paint is delightfully contemplative. Whether a commissioned portrait or a personal appraisal, Sargent tackled his subjects with a vitality that is as charismatic today as it was over a hundred years ago. Freire Bar

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860

Another week, another photography show about death. It’s not officially about death, mind you; it’s officially about the years 1840 to 1860, when photographers made their images on paper sensitised with silver salts. The process was quickly superseded, but the pictures created this way have a beautiful artistic softness and subtlety of tone, quite apart from the fact that every single new photograph that succeeded represented a huge leap forward in the development of the medium. You see these early practitioners start to grasp the scope of what might be possible. Their subjects change, from ivy-covered walls and carefully posed family groups to more exotic landscapes and subjects: Egypt, India, the poor, war. By the time you get to Roger Fenton’s portrait ‘Captain Lord Balgonie, Grenadier Guards’ of 1855 you have an inkling of how photography is changing how we understand life, for ever. Balgonie is 23. He looks 50. His face is harrowed by his service in the Crimean War, his eyes bagged with fatigue, fear and what the future may hold. He survived the conflict, but was broken by it, dying at home two years after this picture was taken. That is yet to come: for now, he is alive. This sense of destiny bound within a picture created in a moment is what is new about photography, and you start to see it everywhere, not just in the images of war. It’s in William Henry Fox Talbot’s ‘The Great Elm at Lacock’: a huge tree against a mottled sky, battered by storms. It’s in John Beasly

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Read more
See more recommended art exhibitions in London

Upcoming art exhibitions in London

Art

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. 

Read more
Art

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.

Read more
Art

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. 

Read more
Art

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.

Users say
  • 1 out of 5 stars
Read more
See more upcoming art exhibitions

See more art in London

Art

Latest art interviews

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

Read more
Art

Art exhibitions calendar

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

Read more
Art

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

Read more
Art

Photography in London

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

Read more
Read the latest Time Out art features

What's on at

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.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

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
Read more
Art

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.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

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.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

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
Read more
Art

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
Read more