Ten art exhibitions we're excited to see in London in 2015

Less alcohol, more art is our New Year's resolution...

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  • Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015

    Thu Jan 15 2015 - Thu Apr 16 2015. Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St, E1 7QX

    Picking up where Tate Modern’s tremendous 2014 Malevich exhibition left off, this international show looks at the legacy of the Russian artist’s suprematist black square paintings and how abstraction has been used to channel political ideas over the past 100 years. If that sounds like hard work, don’t be deterred. With paintings, sculptures, films and photographs by Piet Mondrian, Eva Hesse and Isa Genzken on display, the show looks set to be as beautiful as it is brainy.

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  • Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne

    Sat Jan 24 2015 - Fri Apr 10 2015. Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD

    The Royal Academy usually scores the first blockbuster of the year, so expectations are high for this exhibition on Flemish baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens – an artist who painted everything from family portraits to ceilings (like the one at Banqueting House in Whitehall) but is best-known for his sensuously fleshy female nudes. Not only one of the most famous artists of the early 1600s, Rubens was also a scholar, a self-made gent and noted diplomat who used his connections with royal patrons to broker deals on behalf of European powers. This show looks at Rubens' influence on other artists during his lifetime and over the proceeding centuries, so expect works by Van Dyck, Watteau, Turner, Manet, Cézanne, Renoir and Picasso as well as, of course, masterpieces by the main man himself.

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  • Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden

    Thu Feb 5 2015 - Sun May 10 2015. Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG

    Enter a Marlene Dumas exhibition and you never know what you might see. Among the subjects of the South Africa-born, Amsterdam-based painter’s work are Jesus, Princess Diana, Phil Spector, Amy Winehouse and Osama bin Laden. With a free-flowing style and wraith-like portraits, Dumas is the painter-doyenne of dark undercurrents, tragic lives and falls from grace – ‘I have always been interested in how you can depict suffering without being heavy-handed,' she told us when we spoke in 2011. Despite being among the world’s most prominent painters, the sixty-something artist is not well known in the UK. This retrospective looks set to change that. Big time.

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  • Human Rights Human Wrongs

    Fri Feb 6 2015 - Mon Apr 6 2015. Photographers' Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies St, W1F 7LW

    Through photography, world issues including political upheavals, racial discrimination and war are conveyed to an international audience. This exhibition of over 200 original press prints focuses on the important role photojournalism has played in providing a voice to critical moments in social history and raising their awareness on a global scale. Featuring a selection of work from the Black Star photo agency, whose roster of photographers have included Robert Capa, Bill Brandt and Henri Cartier-Bresson, the show relays pivotal events from 1945 to the 1990s through enigmatic and captivating prints. The old adage ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ couldn’t be more appropriate.

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  • Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends

    Thu Feb 12 2015 - Mon May 25 2015. National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, WC2H 0HE

    Few artists got around as much as John Singer Sargent. The son of an American surgeon, he was born in Florence in 1856 and spent his childhood touring Europe, settling in Paris, then moving to London (after the furore over his sensational ‘Madame X’ portrait at the 1884 Paris Salon), where he died in 1925. He remained an American citizen his whole life, but such was his international reputation that memorial exhibitions were held in Boston, New York and London. Portraits were his main thing: he’s really the last great exponent of what’s known as the ‘swagger portrait’ – an exaggerated form of the genre, designed to accentuate wealth or fame. But in these personal works, he creates a more intimate and daring form of portraiture – one that didn’t always go down well with his subjects.

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  • Inventing Impressionism

    Wed Mar 4 2015 - Sun May 31 2015. National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN

    It may seem surprising that there was a time when the works of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir just weren't fashionable. Just like any ground-breaking art movement that went against the grain, it took considerable time and endless promotion before a lasting impression would be made. This was the fate for the Impressionists. But thankfully a nineteenth century Parisian art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel knew talent when he saw it. Undeterred by initial critical opinion and public resistance for this group of artists producing colourful, blurred and spontaneous paintings, Durand-Ruel championed the likes of Édouard Manet, Alfred Sisley, and Edgar Degas to a receptive American audience. This touring show organised by the Philadelphia Museum of Art chronicles the key years between 1865 and 1905 when Durand-Ruel supported and inspired these burgeoning painters.

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  • Barbara Hepworth

    Wed Jun 24 2015 - Sun Oct 25 2015. Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG

    The last time there was a major retrospective of Barbara Hepworth’s work in London, the First Lady of British modernism attended herself. That was in 1968. Forty-odd years later, Tate Britain’s 2015 summer show looks to reassess the reputation of this sculptor of famously holey forms. Hepworth was internationally famous, a bona fide art star, 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. This show includes carvings and sculptures in wood, stone and bronze, along with drawings, collages, textiles and experimental photogram works.

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  • The World Goes Pop

    Thu Sep 17 2015 - Sun Jan 24 2016. Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG

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

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  • Ai Weiwei

    Sat Sep 19 2015 - Sun Dec 13 2015. Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD

    He may still not be allowed to travel out of China, but that doesn’t stop Beijing-based Ai Weiwei from exhibiting all over the world. Known for his openly critical opinion of the Chinese government, he remains one of the countries most important artistic exports and a voice for a generation disenchanted by oppressive political regimes. In 2011 the Royal Academy made him an Honorary Academician and will celebrate his visionary approach to art making with this, the first extensive British survey. Ai’s three-decade career will be mapped through his work that’s informed by personal experiences such as his 2011 detention and emphasises the importance of creative freedom.

    Read more about Ai Weiwei at Royal Academy of Arts

  • Goya: The Portraits

    Wed Oct 7 2015 - Sun Jan 10 2016. National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN

    The first ever show to focus on the portraits by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Spain’s leading artist in the late eighteenth century and one of the most psychologically revealing painters of all time, is set to be a highlight of autumn 2015. Highlights of the exhibition include two masterful and deeply moving self-portraits. Painted in 1793-95, ‘Self-Portrait in the Studio’ shows Goya backlit against a window, his features silhouetted against the brilliant white of the sun. He’s at the height of his career (by this point, he was court painter to King Charles III; later he would be appointed painter to Charles IV and Ferdinand VII) yet a mysterious illness had recently left him completely deaf. A quarter of a century later, in ‘Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta’ (1820) he paints himself after another illness, weakly gripping the bedsheet, his grasp on life apparently slipping away while his doctor administers medicine.

    Read more about Goya: The Portraits

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015

Thu Jan 15 2015 - Thu Apr 16 2015. Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St, E1 7QX

Picking up where Tate Modern’s tremendous 2014 Malevich exhibition left off, this international show looks at the legacy of the Russian artist’s suprematist black square paintings and how abstraction has been used to channel political ideas over the past 100 years. If that sounds like hard work, don’t be deterred. With paintings, sculptures, films and photographs by Piet Mondrian, Eva Hesse and Isa Genzken on display, the show looks set to be as beautiful as it is brainy.

Read more about Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015


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