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.
Based on traditional African stringed instruments, the banjo came to life in the hands of enslaved Africans in the Caribbean before finding its feet in the poor American South. Now, it’s a ubiquitous symbol of white redneckery. So when you encounter two banjo cases daubed with hand-painted slogans in Lubaina Himid’s first show of new work since winning the Turner Prize last year you’d better believe they’re carrying some serious symbolism.
Like the proverbial iceberg, Eloise Hawser’s new exhibition is more about what lurks beneath the water than above it. Dredging up data on H20 from historical records, medical imaging and the sewerage system, the idea is to show a connection between the passage of water in the Thames and the flow of fluid in our bodies.
An earthquake has rocked the city of Agadir. Its buildings have crumbled, its people are wandering the streets in shock. How do you rebuild after disaster and tragedy has struck? That’s the question at the heart of a 1967 novel by Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine – ‘Agadir’, based on the 1960 earthquake that hit the Moroccan city – which in turn is the inspiration for Yto Barrada’s new Curve commission.
Let’s call it appropriating. British artist Glenn Brown has made a whole career out of ‘appropriating’ other people’s images and distorting them into twisted new visions. His work has always made him the focus of enraged debate, and back in 2000 he got sued by sci-fi artist Anthony Roberts for breach of copyright. He’s on safer ground these days, though: the dead can’t get litigious.
It takes a while to tie all of Jules de Balincourt’s threads into a coherent visual sweater. The French-American artist’s bright, simple figurative paintings here are filled with boats and planes, thousands of tiny people and enormous, semi-transparent giants. The little people sit in caves, or dance around statues, while the giants seem to watch over it all like ghosts.
Doing a lot with very little was American minimalist Craig Kauffman’s M.O. Here, Sprüth Magers has assembled a small handful of the artist’s (1932-2010) sculptures (and some by his buddies Donald Judd and Robert Morris) to show just how maximally great his minimalism was.
Art’s a matter of taste, and Charles I (1600-1649) knew his Tiziano from his Shitziano. Before he had his head lopped off, the monarch and his wife Henrietta Maria had been avid art buyers and assembled a collection of renaissance paintings to rival any out there – we’re talking Titian, Holbein, Tintoretto, you know, the big guns.
French graffiti artist JR first came to prominence when one of his pieces of ‘pervasive art’ – large photo-prints he hangs or pastes around the streets – appeared in the background of footage from the 2005 Paris riots. He has since become a hot artist to legally commission, and for the 2016 Olympic Games he made enormous prints of athletes jumping over Rio’s buildings, swimming in its ocean, and diving off its mountains like Greek titans.
Gideon Rubin’s family fled the Nazis 80 years ago, just like Sigmund Freud, in whose Hampstead home the artist has secreted a series of new artworks. Most of this show is based on pre-war German magazine images, from which the taint of Nazism has been erased. Swastikas have been removed from the vests of exercising girls, parades have been doctored out of streets, colourful flags have replaced red ones we’d rather forget, but never can, or should.
Crash, bang and bloody wallop: American artist Nancy Rubins’s vertiginously and worryingly balanced art looks like an explosion in a garden centre. They’re ludicrous, really: huge assemblages of animal sculptures, somehow tethered together into ornate shapes. Silver alligators and stags are strapped to golden giraffes and tigers, forming a sort of zoo-tree mash-up.
Poverty can be enriching, at least when you’re talking about the Italian povera movement of the late ’60s and ’70s that Giorgio Griffa emerged from. Arte povera was an avant-garde movement that aimed to build a kind of poetry out of scrappy, everyday materials. For Griffa, this meant taking canvas off the frames, dismantling its parts, and developing a kind of stripped-back visual lyricism out of the very building blocks of painting.
Humanity's capacity for atrocity was laid bare during the Iraq war when images emerged of the humiliating treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. One showed Ali Shallal al-Qaisi stood on a box, a hood pulled over his head, arms spread wide, with wires attached to his fingers and genitals. A painting of that horrifying act opens Rachel Howard’s show at Newport Street Gallery.
Concrete sport pitches are dotted throughout this city like thousands of tarmac scabs that just won’t heal. They’re places for congregating, for fighting, for socialising, for competing: they’re where countless Londoners do their growing up. And Eddie Peake is one of them. He spent his youth near Finsbury Park, doing what kids do on concrete recreation grounds. In this show, he’s reimagined the gallery as a new pitch, a concrete playground for grown-ups.
The Hayward Gallery reopens after two years with a bang and two-and-a-half floors of photos by German snapper Andreas Gursky. I say ‘snapper’, but obviously he’s an art megastar, whose massive prints sell for millions. And I say a ‘bang’ but it’s more of a vast low-frequency ‘Oooooaaaaauuuuummmmmm’ sort of sound: the sound of things being crushed flat on to photographic paper.
So much of Western art and culture depicts Africa as a vast, dark, incomprehensible continent, somewhere over there, a literal ‘other’. It’s the heart of darkness, right? But in London-based, Kenyan-born painter Michael Armitage’s show here, East Africa isn’t the ‘other’, it’s just another: not something exotic or far away, but something very, very familiar.
‘Wunderkammer’ is a neat little German word. It means a ‘room of wonder’, filled with incredible, awe-inspiring objects and trinkets. Now imagine if that wonder was replaced with something much darker: the truth of humanity’s legacy. US artist Mark Dion has been replacing wonder with ecological misery for his whole career.
Find upcoming art shows in London
Sidle up to the pros in this creative set of studios, where regular workshops and exhibitions are held. And if you like what you see you can pick something to take home from the modest gift shop.
Venue says: “Kick-start your Christmas shopping and explore our new fairylit courtyard at the Winter Designer Maker Fair, November 24-26.”