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

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Pablo Bronstein: Historical Dances in an Antique Setting

Children love Argentine artist Pablo Bronstein. Or at least they love his 2016 Tate Britain Commission, a performance currently running all day in the Duveen Galleries (the grand hallway) at Tate Britain. When little ones wander in, more often than not they stop and stare, enraptured. What’s the appeal? Let’s break it down: three classically trained dancers make their way through the lofty space, performing movements that hover somewhere between baroque dance and voguing – a combination of classical formalism and modern minimalism. They wear comedy-size fake pearl necklaces. They glide, strut, mince and perform a series of hand flourishes. They confuse newcomers and get in the way of people trying to walk between galleries. Mostly, the performers move in silence, but at points, for around a minute, baroque music is piped in. Marking out the performance space are two visually manipulated super-scale drawings of the gallery’s exterior that sit flush with the interior walls, giving the impression that the building has been turned inside out. Known primarily for his witty architectural drawings, which exhibit a knife-edge balance between craftsmanship and cunning, here London-based Bronstein’s choreography is deliberately referencing sprezzatura, a sixteenth-century Italian term for studied nonchalance, used to describe anything from a courtier’s manner to Raphael’s painting style. Perhaps it is this out-of-time behaviour that youngsters find so compelling – the peculiarity of

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Georg Baselitz: Wir Fahren Aus

Along with Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz is one of the big three of German painting: big themes, big works, very big money. You can’t miss the bigness in this show. Baselitz has taken over the whole of White Cube, and that’s a lot of space. Giant paintings and bronzes cast from hacked-up wood command the rooms. The theme seems to be personal mortality, though the massive crude black sculptures with their jackboot heels (a Baselitz motif) and the dark, smeary painting ‘Ofenruß’ (‘Oven Soot’) hint at Germany’s past. In most of the canvases one or two pallid figures appear and reappear: sometimes upside-down, sometimes on their sides, sometimes headless or blushed with a rosy wash, floating on black grounds that are mottled like ancient skin or the night sky. They’re called things like ‘A Poor Future’ and ‘Dystopian Couple’: unusually for Baselitz, there aren’t many laughs here. In a way, the scale of these works makes them hard to get a handle on. They’re undeniably impressive but so what? In this, though, they reflect Baselitz’s perennial anxieties: how can you hope to make work about death or art or history, without just standing there at a loss? Things are becoming the past even as we experience them, and there are much worse places to realise that than this sombre show.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Sharon Hayes: In My Little Corner of the World, Anyone Would Love You

It might be tough to convince gallery goers that a five-screen video installation featuring non-actors reading aloud letters written to defunct feminist publications makes for a good time: but it really does. Firstly, American artist Sharon Hayes’s debut UK solo exhibition answers that burning question: what did people do before the internet? If you were a lesbian living in smalltown America or rural UK, you might have subscribed to a bulletin, delivered to your home by post and containing political action updates and readers’ letters compiled by collectives surviving on volunteer power. Featuring 13 members of the queer and feminist community in Philadelphia, where Hayes is based, the five concurrent films show domestic settings – kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms – through which various people walk, lounge, make a sandwich, listen to music, and deliver the contents of such letters (written between 1955 and 1977). The domestic settings reinforce a sense of ‘normalcy’: it is in regular homes that politics take place.  The missives express all manner of isolation, frustration, alienation and debate. Not only about society’s failings to protect the rights of individuals, but also the complex nature of self-described communities themselves, where whiteness and blackness and class structures don’t just disappear. One letter writer’s refrain reads: ‘We are black, we are gay, we are women.’ She goes on to say that this triple oppression has been reinforced, not lifted, by others in

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Alberto Giacometti, Yves Klein: In Search of the Absolute

The chance to see these two giants of modern art side by side should be enough to make any art lover wet themselves. But full disclosure: I absolutely hate Alberto Giacometti. Something about his elongated, rough, haunted, skinny humans just makes my brain go ‘Nah, this is a bit shit’. Klein, on the other hand, now he’s good. So if this show can somehow turn my Giacometti hatred around, then we’ll be on to a winner. The two artists lived just a mile apart in Montparnasse, creating art in a Paris that was still coming to terms with the end of WWII. In their own ways, each was a true radical: Giacometti a genius of figurative sculpture, Klein a man who invented colours (his famed International Klein Blue) and upset the art world with his monochromes and exhibitions of nothing. Works from Klein’s ‘Anthropometry’ series fill the first room and are the result of the Frenchman dousing nude female models in his signature blue and pressing, pulling and dragging them across a canvas. The really great works here are full of movement and long, otherworldly (and very Giacometti-like) forms. They feel like they’re leaping, swimming and writhing, and they’re stunning. They work perfectly in relation to Giacometti’s sculptures. His forms are equally squished and manipulated, their lumps and bumps twisted, flattened and exaggerated. The difference is that Giacometti used art to find new ways of looking at the body, while Klein used the body to find new approaches to art. There’s a kinshi

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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R Crumb: Art and Beauty

Robert Crumb is the world’s most famous underground cartoonist. So much so that the 72-year-old doesn’t really count as ‘underground’ any more, having long ago left the countercultural ‘comix’ scene and moved into the realm of art galleries. Along the way, his subject matter has expanded too, from his original, acid-fried strips of the 1960s, through documentary forays into the lives of obscure blues musicians and Kafka, to his recent magisterial, comic-book version of the Book of Genesis. One aspect that hasn’t changed much over time, though, is his sexual fantasies. Crumb has always been the most lascivious of artists, happy to give full rein to his erotic imagination. And it’s very particular type of woman he goes for: muscular, beefy, posteriorly ample. Think, essentially, Serena Williams. At the start of his career, his fetishistic caricatures were often regarded as misogynistic. But in his ‘Art & Beauty’ series, produced from the mid-’90s onwards and shown in its near entirety here, his vision of women is much more respectful, even reverential. Williams herself features amongst the 54 works on display, as do other sports stars, their powerful, athletic poses taken from newspapers. Mobile phone snaps are another source – sexualised selfies posted online, or street shots of random, strong-looking girls – while other works depict life models. Small and monochrome, the drawings reflect Crumb’s mature, realist style, using intense crosshatching, and often incorporate appen

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers

This is an exhibition for anyone who has ever queued for a bus, stared longingly into a cake shop window, blown bubbles just for the fun of it, picknicked in the car in the rain, been in love, worn a hat, walked down a high street… If you don’t recognise yourself in that list, or in the photographs in this show, then I’m calling you out, you droid. Selecting 23 photographers from overseas who have come to these shores armed with rampant curiosity and a killer eye for a great shot, ace photographer Martin Parr has put together one of the most involving and moving exhibitions of the year. It’s chock full of photography legends – ‘eye of the century’ Henri Cartier-Bresson, the staggeringly compassionate Robert Frank – and charts the rise of the medium from the 1930s to now. But, from the off, it’s about the man and woman on the street, about us. It’s remarkable how few famous, or even named, people appear. Cartier-Bresson first came to this country to photograph the coronation of George VI (our current queen’s stuttering papa) in 1937 but, mindful of the communist leanings of the magazine he was working for at the time, turned his back on the pomp to photograph the throng. Throughout, the only clues as to these forgotten lives are in titles such as ‘Headwaiter’ (by Evelyn Hofer) or ‘Homeless’ (Gian Butturini). Filling in the blanks is part of this show’s joy.  Parr’s hands may be all over this selection, and you can immediately see what the master of revealing, offbeat moments

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Emotional Supply Chains

Of the many incredible things the internet has given us – cat memes, transcontinental instantaneous video communication, limitless porn – maybe the most revolutionary is the ability to redefine ourselves. Between Facebook, Twitter, online gaming and countless other websites, you can basically be whatever the hell you want to be. It doesn’t matter who you are in real life – online, you can be anything. It’s no surprise that a lot of contemporary art is obsessed with this idea, so this show of work from around the world acts as a neat self-portrait of a generation of (mostly) digital natives. It opens with a series of recreations of Kim Dotcom’s seized possessions in an installation by New Zealand’s Simon Denny. Internet entrepreneur Dotcom is sort of the poster boy of this exhibition: a chubby German kid with a troubled background, he used the internet to change his name, move around the globe, become a celebrity, make his fortune and create his own downfall. It’s the ultimate internet transformation. A full-length portrait of Dotcom by Scottish artist Michael Fullerton hangs on an adjacent wall: the internet nerd as monarch. Identity can be a struggle. Art world wunderkind Korakrit Arunanondchai’s video installation finds the artist trying to make sense of a world where tradition meets modern life. It’s basically a long, glitzy music video with tons of drones and denim, but it’s a fun watch. In the rear gallery, English artist Ed Fornieles’s hectic video/interactive sculp

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Dutch Flowers

Flowers, as anyone who has been on the giving or receiving end of a bunch will agree, are never just flowers. They speak of love, lust, celebration, sympathy, guilt… And so the bouquets of tulips, irises and roses in this scintillating display of Dutch painting from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are not just paintings of flowers. They’re symbols of passion, wealth, fashion, empire. Vases overflow with life (blooms in bud) and are shadowed by death (a broken stem, a withered leaf). Remember that the next time you’re on a petrol station forecourt pondering a £2.99 bunch of carnations. There are just 22 paintings, many of them tiny, in this free, one-room show. And, in truth, not much happens in the first half dozen works: a caterpillar inches along a leaf; a petal drops. But this is bravura technique on a small scale. Painting on smooth surfaces such as copper, artists were able to make almost microscopically accurate representations of plant life. They included cute details such as caterpillars, ladybirds, bumblebees and lizards for their patrons to discover. Finding a silkworm dangling from a leaf is still a pleasure some four hundred years later. We have Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), nicknamed ‘Velvet’ Brueghel for his sensuous touch, to thank for establishing flower painting as a genre. His paymaster, a Milanese cardinal, liked to have pictures of spring blooms around the place for cardinal-type, mortality-pondering reasons, but also because he just wante

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Vogue 100: A Century of Style

Fashion may be fickle, but the fashion photographer’s lens is also a mirror. ‘Vogue 100: A Century of Style’ is as much a reflection of a hundred years of our history as it is a celebration of the original glossy. Born in 1916 during WWI, when shipping the US magazine became impossible, British Vogue has always been more than a fashion mag. And this exhibition is so much more than a collection of pretty models in pretty clothes – Boris Johnson has found his way on to the walls, for goodness’ sake! JG Ballard and Aldous Huxley have both written for Vogue. A pre-fatwa Salmon Rushdie has shared an issue with John Galliano, years before the latter’s fall from grace. Both Queen Elizabeth and her boozy mum have appeared. And, of course, most of the century’s best photographers have shot for its pages. Exhibition curator (and contributing editor to British Vogue) Robin Muir gave Tim Walker, the man responsible for many of today’s most fantastical Vogue shoots, his first job in the 1990s: archiving Cecil Beaton’s work for the magazine from the 1930s. In this thoughtfully arranged show, it’s the little details that make the difference – from the cocktail style menu of credits in the 1930s room to the wall of seemingly disparate portraits of actress Helena Bonham Carter, milliner Stephen Jones and model Ben Grimes-Viort – united by a colour scheme of feathery pink. A side room shows a series of slides from the ’40s to the ’90s; as though you’re in the cutting room, you watch images g

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Upcoming art exhibitions in London

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Found

Cornelia Parker has lined up a stellar cast of artists and designers to contribute to this show, which is based on the history of the Foundling Hospital. Responding to the theme of 'found' are Ron Arad, Phyllida Barlow, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Deacon, Tacita Dean, Jeremy Deller, Edmund de Waal, Brian Eno, Wolfgang Tillmans, Mona Hatoum and many others. 

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Winifred Knights (1899-1947)

Dulwich Picture Gallery's mission to bring to attention under-appreciated British modernists continues with this retrospective of Winifred Knights. In works such as her best-known painting 'The Deluge' (1920) in the Tate collection, Knights marries a love of early Renaissance frescoes with cubist-inspired exaggerations of form. They're solemn, classical. What's radical about Knights's art, however, are themes of women's rights and independence. Knights was recognised during her lifetime: at the insistence of John Singer Sargent, she became the first woman to win the Prix de Rome scholarship in Decorative Painting awarded by the British School at Rome. This show seeks to establish her as one of the most original artists of the first half of the twentieth century.

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Ragnar Kjartansson

If you missed one of the standout shows of 2015, the Vinyl Factory’s presentation of Ragnar Kjartansson sensational musical installation, ‘The Visitors’, fear not as you’ll be able to experience it at the Barbican’s summer exhibition dedicated to the young Icelandic artist who has brought fun back to art. For his recent show at Palais de Tokyo, he transformed the galleries into living entities where the lines between fact and fiction were blurred. He’s played guitar naked in a bath, been the crooner of a big band, become a captain of a boat, and dressed up as a knight. As Kjartansson says, ‘Sometimes you need to add a little theatre to life and vice versa.’ So this first UK survey of the multi-talented artist will not disappoint as it includes ten performers singing throughout the lower galleries for ‘Take me here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage’ and the ongoing film project, ‘Me and My Mother’ in which Kjartansson’s mother spits at him. 

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William Eggleston Portraits

William Eggleston, the man widely considered the godfather of colour photography, is a geniune art world legend and as cool as many of the people he's shot over the years. Joe Strummer and Dennis Hopper are among the names that feature in this retrospective of Eggleston's portraits of musicians and actors. But rarely seen images of this Memphis-born artist's home life are likely to be as big a draw.

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The 40 best photos of London ever taken

Our (almost) definitive list of the best photographs ever taken of the capital

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Free art in London

See all London's free art exhibitions this week

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Latest art interviews

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

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The 100 best paintings in London

Our expert guide to the best paintings in the capital

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What's on at

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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.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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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.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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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.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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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.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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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.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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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.

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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