Looking at great art needn't cost the same as buying great art. With a shed-load of free art exhibitions in London, wandering through sculptures, being blinded by neon or admiring some of the best photography in London needn't cost a penny. Here's our pick of the best free art exhibitions this week and beyond.
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Free art exhibitions in London
Théodore Gericault’s ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ (1918-19) is a masterpiece. It shows the brutal, gory truth of death and destruction in a turbulent world, on a raft. Swiss duo Peter Fischli & David Weiss’s (Fischli is still around, though Weiss died in 2012) raft sculpture plays on similarly apocalyptic themes, but squidged through a lens of sci-fi dystopia, Cold War paranoia and contemporary fear.
Gordon Cheung’s landscapes are vast. Massive craggy mountains dominate the skyline, mega cities consume the plains, great swathes of ocean bite into the coastline. There are representations of giant bridges, world-conquering shipping routes, recordbreaking railways and passages of superhighway.
Alex Israel isn’t an artist, he’s a brand. He’s the conclusion of all those artist-as-celebrity, art-as-business ideas we’ve been wading through since Warhol. He’s a selling point, a personality, an assemblage of symbols and signifiers to be sold and traded. The problem is, he’s not that great at it.
Parents never let you get close to the TV, but Dominic Hawgood insists on it. He wants you to get nose-to-pixel, eye-to-static and skin-to-screen. It’s an exercise in psychedelic meditation. Three screens flicker in the basement of the English artist’s installation, strobing between eye-searing bright white and abyssal black in rapid stutters.
Just act normal, alright? The world of art has always been filled with pretentious twerps who take themselves, and their own output, a bit too seriously. Which is what makes the idea behind this group show at Elephant West particularly attractive: eighteen contemporary artists who all like to look a little bit silly.
Vivian Suter’s canvases swarm across the lofty, swimming-pooly spaces of Camden Arts Centre. They hang from the ceiling in swathes, and overlap each other on the walls. In one corner, a dozen or more are suspended in a row, like plates drying in a rack: as a result, you can’t see most of them, but you know they’re there. Suter is a refugee. Not from conflict or oppression, but from the Western art world.
There’s one colour that matters in Valie Export’s art: red. It’s the red of menstruation, childbirth and the fluid of Christ sipped at Eucharist. But it’s not a rich, winey shade. It’s at the orange end of the scale, like a thin trail of blood through bathwater.
Life is a mess of toxic, corrosive, acidic substances and ideas in Patrick Staff’s work. The young English artist has filled the Serpentine with barrels collecting steady drips of acid from leaking overhead pipes. The ground is a perfectly reflective sickly green, dragging you into a mirror world of grim gunge. And things only get nastier.
London’s streets are haunted by vile ghosts. Everywhere you walk, there are statues of Britons who conquered the world and pillaged its nations looming over you. And in front of Buckingham Palace stands the Victoria Memorial, an ornate, lavish celebration of Queen Vic and her imperial achievements. Now a version of it haunts the Turbine Hall.
There are a lot of limbs in David Bomberg’s paintings. Bent, angled, twisted body parts jut out at awkward angles as sweaty figures clamber over each other on the wrestling mat, in the tight hold of a ship or on the sticky floor of a sauna. These are paintings with the raw, bloody, masculine attention to sweat and skin seen in Francis Bacon or Lucian Freud, although Bomberg was painting at an earlier date than either (everything here’s from the 1910s) and his images are more geometric and abstract.
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