Shortcut it straight to the good stuff by heading to one of the very best art exhibitions taking place in the capital right now. From modern and fancy, to classical and serene, we've got your next art outing sorted. Or, if you're skint until pay day, how about trying one of London's many free exhibitions instead?
The ten best art exhibitions in London
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.
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.
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.
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. But when it was first painted in 1895 and shown along with five other works, Sir Fred was a big deal.
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 – men, horses, trees – was reduced to charred lumps half-sunk in mud.
Ceramics might be enjoying a kind of hipsterish resurgence in art right now, but it's never been taken particularly seriously as a means of expression. Certainly not in the avant-garde scene of early-’60s Los Angeles.
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.
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.
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.
Next up: the best photography shows
Addicted to Instagram or permanently attached to your SLR? Even if your camera roll is totally empty, you'll find a way to appreciate London photography; we have the widest variety of styles in some of the best exhibitions at the most beautiful galleries. Find them in a flash with our guide to photography in London.