Top 10 art exhibitions in London

Our critics' pick of the must-see exhibitions this season

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Late Turner: Painting Set Free

  • Rated as: 5/5

There are some artists whose final works have a special frisson attached to them. Late Rembrandt. Late Beethoven. All mortality is there, we are supposed to understand: the grave opens up and yet they cleave to existence, reporting back from the edges of the infinite. Maybe old Ludwig Van is not a bad comparison with Turner. Both were products of the enlightenment, but their final tonal experiments were greeted with horror, as they circled around their themes, as if pacing the cells of their own imagination.

  1. Tate Britain Millbank, SW1P 4RG
  2. Wed Oct 1 - Sun Jan 25
More info
2
Percy Wyndham Lewis, A Battery Shelled, 1919

Percy Wyndham Lewis, A Battery Shelled, 1919 digitised by Ted Dearberg (IWM)

Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Free

The war was just too big, confided William Kennington after he had completed his masterpiece ‘The Kensingtons at Laventie’ in 1915, one of the first things you’ll see in the ‘Memory’ section of this captivating two-part show. The authorities had hoped that Kennington would make more paintings to rival his pin-sharp, quietly devastating depiction of his unit – knackered, wounded, each soldier caught in a moment of reflection after their march back to billets from the trenches. But he couldn’t do it. The war was just too big.

  1. Imperial War Museum Lambeth Rd, SE1 6HZ
  2. Until Sun Mar 8
More info
3
Head of a Peasant', 1928-29, by Kazimir Malevich

Head of a Peasant', 1928-29, by Kazimir Malevich © The State Russian Museum, St Petersburg

Malevich

  • Rated as: 5/5

If you know one thing about Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935), it’s that he is the creator of the suprematist ‘Black Square’, the first and last word in abstraction, painting’s absolute zero. Knowing this lends a fair amount of anticipation to the initial rooms of this compelling retrospective. When is it going to come, this avant-garde fetish object?

  1. Tate Modern Bankside, SE1 9TG
  2. Wed Oct 1 - Sun Oct 26
More info
4

John Constable, 'Brighton Beach', 1824 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Constable: The Making of a Master

  • Rated as: 4/5

There is a kind of decompression chamber at the start of this show. You stand before a screen that fills the wall while real-life scenes made famous by John Constable’s paintings – including Willy Lott’s Suffolk cottage from ‘The Hay Wain’ – gently roll by, apparently unchanged since he painted them a couple of centuries ago. It’ll soothe your soul, which could be a problem if you’ve come to see a radically reinterpreted Constable rather than the comfy heritage industry Constable we think we know.

  1. V&A Cromwell Rd, SW7 2RL
  2. Wed Oct 1 - Sun Jan 11
More info
5
Key. 11   /  Cat. 
<br/>
<br/>
<br/>Anselm Kiefer
<br/>Winter Landscape (Winterlandschaft), 1970
<br/>Watercolour, gouache, and graphite pencil on paper, 42.9 x 35.6 cm
<br/>Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, 1995 (

Key. 11 / Cat.


Anselm Kiefer
Winter Landscape (Winterlandschaft), 1970
Watercolour, gouache, and graphite pencil on paper, 42.9 x 35.6 cm
Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, 1995 (

Anselm Kiefer

  • Rated as: 4/5

It’s hard to not feel overwhelmed in this retrospective of Anselm Kiefer, a dizzying show of post-war art that leaves you spinning. The German artist delves deep into history – towards Wagner, the Romans and ancient forest legends, always searching for meaning, something to make sense of what has come before. But the real meat of the matter is World War II itself.

  1. Royal Academy of Arts Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD
  2. Wed Oct 1 - Sun Dec 14
More info
6

Primrose: Early Colour Photography in Russia

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Free

Beginning with a period when photographs were precious souvenirs, this survey explores the importance of a medium we now regard as commonplace. Through exquisite examples, an illuminating image of Russia is presented.

  1. Photographers' Gallery 16-18 Ramillies St, W1F 7LW
  2. Wed Oct 1 - Sun Oct 19
More info
7

Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age

  • Rated as: 5/5

‘The long exposure time required by the first cameras favoured the static attributes of buildings, making them a far more reliable subject than the human figure,’ reads the dry introductory text to this extensive and actually quite moving show of photography from the past 80 years. The statement is true, up to a point. Barring disaster, buildings don’t tend to move. But the effects of light, weather and most noticeably, human activity, make architecture anything but a static subject.

  1. Barbican Centre Silk St, EC2Y 8DS
  2. Wed Oct 1 - Sun Jan 11
More info
8

Joan Fontcuberta: Stranger Than Fiction

  • Rated as: 4/5

Spanish photographer Joan Fontcuberta was brought up under the censorious Franco regime, so it’s no wonder that the 59-year-old is sceptical about institutional authority. Questioning religion, biology, even the role of the museum itself, this modest retrospective at the Science Museum’s Media Space presents six brilliant bodies of the artist’s work, which span over three decades.

  1. Science Museum Exhibition Rd, SW7 2DD
  2. Until Sun Nov 9
More info
9
Francesca Woodman, 'Untitled, MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire', 1980

Francesca Woodman, 'Untitled, MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire', 1980 Courtesy George and Betty Woodman, and Victoria Miro, London © The Estate of Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman: Zigzag

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Free

Arms outstretched, wrapped in bark, mimicking the slender trunk of a silver birch tree. Lying on a scabby carpet, arm flung across the floor with a snake weaving its way over the acanthus pattern. Palms splayed against glass, attempting to keep balanced as the blurred body crams itself into a display cabinet. These are just a few of the situations in which the late American photographer Francesca Woodman captured herself. Yet the subject of Woodman’s beguiling images was never just herself.

  1. Victoria Miro Mayfair 14 St. George St , W1S 1FE
  2. Wed Oct 1 - Sat Oct 4
More info
10
The Children of Frederick, Prince of Wales, by Barthelemy du Pan, 1746. The future George III is second from the right, with bow.Royal Collection Trust / copyright Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
<br/>
<br/>Single use only in relation to the exhibit

The Children of Frederick, Prince of Wales, by Barthelemy du Pan, 1746. The future George III is second from the right, with bow.Royal Collection Trust / copyright Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Single use only in relation to the exhibit

The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714-1760

  • Rated as: 4/5

There are two Georgian eras. There’s the one that’s full of complicated political-religious factionalism, where a non-English-speaking German king, George I, is plonked on the throne just because he’s protestant, leading to bloody wars in Scotland, sabre-rattling from catholic France, and the beginnings of Britain’s insatiable empire building. And there’s the one which is all booze and prozzies and blokes in tricorn hats having their pockets picked as they stand around Italianate piazzas, while Hogarth does an etching of it.

  1. The Queen's Gallery Buckingham Gate, Buckingham Palace Rd, SW1A 1AA
  2. Wed Oct 1 - Sun Oct 12
More info

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8 comments
Daryoush
Daryoush

Agree with all the commentators the new listing system is really hard to understand.

mark de novellis
mark de novellis

One of the bext exhibitions of 2013 is the Madge Gill: Medium & Visionary exhibition at Orleans House Gallery. This free retrospective brings together over a hundred stunning works by the UK's leading outsider artist - many of which have never been shown to the public before. There is still time to see it - it ends on 26 January 2014.

David I
David I

Totally agree with the comments here. London no longer has a proper listings magazine, which is a major loss, and the website is terrible. Cluttered, utterly confusing to navigate, I am frequently defeated just trying to find out what's on in the major galleries or where a particular film is showing. It's totally unfit for purpose. Bring back the magazine with listings.

Lamaline
Lamaline

Couldn't agree more. No more top 10. The essential and that's it!

robspackman
robspackman

A little of me died when i first saw the gutted form of the Timeout I love on my return to London after two years in South Africa. At least I thought I could still find the listings online. I was wrong. What have you done with them? Sitting with a pencil planning what to do in this wonderful but at times bewildering city was once one of the highlights of my week. No more. Why?

Liz Eyres
Liz Eyres

I agree with Nik Wood totally. I was so upset when Time Out in its old form (IE you could buy it from newsagents) ceased to be as it was the art listings that I mainly bought it for. Not only is it almost impossible for me to get a copy of it now as I am never in central London when it is distributed, but it lacks the straightforward and comprehensive listings that were in the old incarnation of the magazine. Please can you reintroduce them.

Nik Wood
Nik Wood

Why don't you do a list of what's on any more? I don't want "Top 10". I don''t want "Critics' Choices". I don't want "Opening today". I just want a comprehensive list of what shows are running now so that I can make up my own mind which to go to.