Fancy checking out some art this week but don't know where to start? Have a flick through our selection of the best shows on at the moment and take your pick. With galleries spread all over the city and an art scene as changeable as London's, we've divided it into areas to help keep track. Everything featured below got a shiny four or five-star review from us, but check out all the latest art reviews for more.
It’s all his fault. All that highfalutin, unapproachable conceptual art everywhere that gets your mum in a tizz whenever it gets nominated for a Turner Prize. All John Baldessari’s fault. The Californian is a granddaddy of conceptualism, a pioneer of ideas as art, and he’s still churning out the smart stuff well into his eighth decade.
If there are no original ideas left in art, it’s probably because Robert Rauschenberg had them all. Over the course of his 60-year career (he died in 2008 aged 82), he reinvented, reused, recycled and revolutionised himself so many times that walking around this retrospective feels like stumbling through a textbook on twentieth-century art history.
When he’s not writing pop songs about wind-proof candles or knitting himself new wigs, Sir Elton John is a serious collector of modernist photography. No, honestly, he’s been buying the stuff for years, and his collection is world famous. This show features just a little slice out of his 8,000-strong hoard. Some images are grouped thematically, others hung in the same way they are in his office.
In 1917, Paul Nash wrote a letter to his wife from Ypres: ‘I am no longer an artist interested and curious, I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever.’ Nash had returned to the Western Front after convalescing in England and was appalled by what he found: a ruined, flooded landscape of endless death, where all nature was reduced to charred lumps half-sunk in mud.
Admit it, you’re addicted to your phone. You’re addicted to social media, to likes, to notifications, to retweets – it’s okay, we all are. And young Scottish artist Rachel Maclean’s green-screened video installation is here to smash us out of our click-reverie. In a glittering pink-carpeted room, Maclean has basically created a long, angry, nasty, bubblegum-pop attack on social media masquerading as a broadband advert A pretty, noseless, yellow-skinned character acts as a metaphorical embodiment of data (as in 4G data).
Spruced-up after a five-month renovation, Islington’s Estorick Collection reopens with a rather leftfield show. If you recall, we were all talking about the centenary of WWI, before a contemporary global catastrophe loomed over us, so engaging with this show starts with an oh-yeah… jolt of recognition.
Mental asylums. Mind-altering drugs. Dirt. The Wellcome Collection has carved out a rep for delivering exhibitions that are outlandish without ever being sensationalist. And while the premise of their latest show – the relationship between humans and animals – might not have the same WTF factor, it’s still just as quirky and enthralling. The first room kicks off with the Enlightenment-era craze for natural classification.
Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the shtick. Gavin Turk’s shtick especially. He’s the guy whose degree show was just a blue plaque with his name on it (he failed), the guy who thinks rubbish bags are art, the guy who reckons his signature is a masterpiece in itself, the guy who put himself on the cover of ‘Hello!’ magazine. But all those headlines obscure the truth that beyond the shtick, schlock and schmaltz, Turk is a quiet, clever, passionate and maybe even – whisper it – important artist.
Wagner. Hitler. Kiefer. If you want to join the club of six-letter, ends in ‘-er’, mythology-obsessed, visionary-crackpot creator-destroyers you’ve got to think big. Really big. I’m not saying Kiefer is like those two anti-Semitic, delusional, megalomaniac pricks, just that his response to their legacy has always been to adopt their weapons: size, volume, density, humourlessness, repetition.
The Guerrilla Girls are some of the art world’s most creative complainers, and for over 30 years now, they have been handing America’s galleries their arses on a platter. For their show at the Whitechapel Gallery, they’ve turned their attentions to Europe. This entire exhibition is based on a survey they sent out to 400 art institutions across 29 countries on the continent. In it, they demand stats for their representation of female artists, those who are gender non-conforming and artists of colour. Spoiler: it doesn’t go well.
Turns out, seeing faces staring back at you from inanimate objects isn’t a sign that you’re losing your mind, it’s just proof that your brain is working. It’s called pareidolia: the phenomenon of seeing familiar patterns where none exist, and it looks like British artist Peter Liversidge sees faces pretty much everywhere.
Jennifer Guidi’s art is proof that you should never discourage your kids from finger-painting, it could turn into a whole career. She makes these big works by covering coloured canvases with thick layers of cement-like sand, then digging her fingers in to create spiralling indentations, all emanating from a single spot. Guidi might use tools, but it’s the tactile nature of the work that comes across.
One of the sculptures here looks like a barbecued Predator. If that’s not enough to make you go see Pakistani-born, USA-based artist Huma Bhabha’s show then this whole art criticism thing is pointless. Her three cork sculptures here flirt with the modernism of Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi, the spirituality of totem poles and the aesthetic futurism of sci-fi. They stink too, the whole gallery smells of burnt cork.
A papier-mâché sculpture keeps guard as you enter Mai-Thu Perret’s show, a blood red machine gun at her side. Masks hang from thick black sheets above a disembodied woman’s head. ‘Zone’ takes inspiration from an avant-garde French novel about a society run by a tribe of warrior lesbian women and also forms part of a story by Perret about a remote commune of women in the desert.
No one liked Victorian art in the 1960s, when Sir Frederic Leighton’s masterpiece ‘Flaming June’ couldn’t reach its ultra-low estimate at auction. No one cared about it except for Puerto Rican industrialist Luis Ferré, who spotted it in a Mayfair gallery and snapped it up for just £2,000. He then whisked it away to the brilliantly named Museo de Arte de Ponce in his home country.