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This week's best art

All the best current art exhibitions and shows to hunt down in London

Alex Hartley, 'A Gentle Collapsing II', courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro.
Alex Hartley, 'A Gentle Collapsing II', courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro.
By Time Out London Art
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Fancy checking out some art in London 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. Or, if you'd prefer photography to portraiture, check out our list of the top ten photography exhibitions on right now. 

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Shi Guowei 'Pine' (2016) © Mr. Xi Tao
Art

Among The Trees

Hayward Gallery, South Bank
3 out of 5 stars

It’s time to make like a tree and go see some art, because the Hayward Gallery’s new exhibition is all about our arboreal friends. Trees have always played powerful, symbolic roles in human society, and in contemporary art, they represent countless ideas.

Donna Huanca
'Egeria' (2019) © the artist. Image courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery, London
Art

Donna Huanca: Wet Slit

Simon Lee, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

Donna Huanca’s art drips, melts, trickles and slithers through the gallery. It coats and covers every inch of this brightly lit space. Plastic sheeting lines the walls like the space is being prepared for something very, very messy. An ice sculpture – big crystalline blocks filled with blue hair-like fibres – drips, drips, drips into a pool. 

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David Hockney 'Self Portrait March 14 2012' © David Hockney
Art

David Hockney: Drawing From Life

National Portrait Gallery, Charing Cross Road
3 out of 5 stars

There’s a sadness to this show by the great British artist David Hockney. It feels like a long look backwards, with each room telling a story of ageing and facing the slow, creeping suffocation of time. 

Sunil Gupta
Sunil Gupta 'Untitled 22' from the series 'Christopher Street' (1976) Image courtesy of the artist and Hales Gallery. © Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019
Art

Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography

Barbican Centre, Barbican
4 out of 5 stars

If you think a show about masculinity should be full of images of guns and cowboys and beer and beards, then you’re not going to be disappointed here. Unless you also want that show to be a celebration of those things, in which case you’re in for a rough ride. Because this exhibition doesn’t celebrate what it means to be a man, it undermines it, subverts it and totally reshapes it.

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Léon Spilliaert 'Woman at the Shoreline' (1910) Private collection. Photo: © Cedric Verhelst
Art

Léon Spilliaert

Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair
3 out of 5 stars

This show opens with a black blob. An inky, scrawly, looming lump of damp mountainside, like a geological metaphor for impending doom. And from there, it doesn’t get much lighter. Léon Spilliaert was born in Ostend, Belgium, in 1881. He spent most of his life between there and Brussels, and his gothicky, wobbly paintings are filled with the frigid features of the local landscape.

photo by ben westoby, Image courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Esther Schipper, Berlin Image CC 4.0 Hito Steyerl
Art, Contemporary art

Harun Farocki and Hito Steyerl: Life Captured Still

Thaddaeus Ropac, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

In the words of Blink 182, ‘Work sucks, I know.’ Harun Farocki and Hito Steyerl know too. These two German artists (Farocki died in 2014, but Steyerl’s still with us) are united by a drive to make art about labour, capitalist inequality and unjust financial and political systems. 

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© Isa Genzken / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Galerie Buchholz Cologne / Berlin / New York
Art

Isa Genzken: Window

Hauser & Wirth, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

Between ‘here’ and ‘there’, there’s a whole lot of in-between. And German punk minimalism supremo Isa Genzken’s installation at Hauser & Wirth revels in those transition spaces and moments. 

Antonio Verrio 'The Sea Triumph of Charles II' (c.1674). Image courtesy of The Royal Collection Trust
Art

British Baroque: Power and Illusion

Tate Britain, Millbank
4 out of 5 stars

Thousands of heavy-jawed faces stare back at you from the walls of this exhibition. And almost every one has the same set of worrying, vulgar, distended features. Royal inbreeding, it’s no joke. This is the big-chinned art of the British Baroque period: the art of power, dominance and shagging your cousins. 

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Bhawani Das 'A Great Indian Fruit Bat'. Image courtesy of Private Collection
Art

Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company

Wallace Collection, Marylebone
4 out of 5 stars

Colonialism didn’t just come for the minerals, spices and priceless artefacts, colonialism came for the art too. As the East India Company tightened its grip on the Indian subcontinent in the nineteenth century, it also grabbed at the arts of the places it was occupying. This gorgeous show brings together botanical, portrait and everyday scene paintings commissioned by wealthy European patrons. 

© Tate photography (Matt Greenwood)
Art, Contemporary art

Kara Walker: Fons Americanus

Tate Modern, Bankside
4 out of 5 stars

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.

Henry Fuseli 'The Weird Sisters, Macbeth' (c.1783) RSC Theatre Collection
Art

British Surrealism

Dulwich Picture Gallery, Dulwich
3 out of 5 stars

Ah, surrealism. A quick search on Twitter today for ‘surreal’ brings up posts about coronavirus and Russian cosmetics and someone called Rya saying ‘In a few months, I’ll be a junior in college. So surreal wow.’ ‘Surreal’ is now part of everyone’s vocabulary. 

Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen '7th Nov. 2001' Video still © Steve McQueen. Image courtesy of the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery
Art

Steve McQueen

Tate Modern, Bankside
5 out of 5 stars

This is heavy art. The deeper you go into Steve McQueen’s exhibition, the more each work seems to weigh down on your shoulders. Which won’t surprise anyone who’s seen the English artist’s Oscar-winning films. Whether dealing with sexual addiction in ‘Shame’ or the brutal history of slavery in ‘12 Years a Slave’, he likes to drop a titanic, hulking weight on you and force you to confront it. 

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© Cerith Wyn Evans. Photo © White Cube (Ollie Hammick)
Art, Contemporary art

Cerith Wyn Evans: No Realm of Thought… No Field of Vision

White Cube Bermondsey, Bermondsey
3 out of 5 stars

Cerith Wyn Evans’s work looks impressive. His big, sprawling, humming white neons are real eye-pleasers. Their splintered, chaotic composition sits somewhere between hectic randomness and studied composition. You search them for patterns as they thrum and vibrate and fill the room. And they’re not just pretty shapes. 

© 2019 Kehinde Wiley. Image courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery. Photograph by Nicola Tree.
Art

Kehinde Wiley: The Yellow Wallpaper

William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow
4 out of 5 stars

Going from the White House to Walthamstow may seem like a bit of a step down, but it’s a move which makes a lot of sense to American artist Kehinde Wiley. He painted the official portrait of Barack Obama, and now he’s painted portraits of women and girls from the streets of Dalston and hung them in a big listed building in east London. In both of these endeavours, he’s had to the same intention: to celebrate, elevate and explore black identity. 

Dana Schutz, Imagine You and Me, 2018. © Dana Schutz. Courtesy the artist, Petzel Gallery, NY and Thomas Dane Gallery
Art, Contemporary art

Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millenium

Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel
3 out of 5 stars

Painting, schmainting. All anyone cares about these days in galleries are immersive installations, video works and conceptual interventions. So a show of just boring old painting is quite a bold move for the Whitechapel Gallery. And here we are, stood in a plain white room with some canvases nailed to the wall. No gimmicks, no schtick, just painting. Eerie. 

Cao Fei 'Nova' (2019) Video. Image courtesy of the artist and Vitamin Creative Space
Art

Cao Fei: Blueprints

Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park
3 out of 5 stars

Cao Fei is teleporting you from one constantly changing city to another. Step through the doors of this London show and suddenly you’re in her Beijing studio, walking through the foyer of the former cinema and theatre it’s housed in.

Aubrey Beardsley 'The Kiss of Judas' (1893) Image courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum
Art

Aubrey Beardsley

Tate Britain, Millbank
4 out of 5 stars

The Victorians: buttoned-up, sermonising, empire-loving sexophobes. And their art? Sentimental pictures of big-eyed children and bigger-eyed spaniels, right? Well, #NotAllVictorians. Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) did things differently. His slinky black-and-white drawings are filled with sex and death and… well, sex and death mainly. 

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Image courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum
Museums

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk

V&A, South Kensington
4 out of 5 stars

The V&A does an excellent line in fashion exhibitions that are bright, brash, frothy, OTT madness – a mirroring, perhaps, of the atmosphere surrounding most major fashion weeks. So it comes as a surprise, initially, to step inside ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ and absorb a calming scene of cool mint walls, plain white ceiling drapes and a fairly traditional layout of glass exhibition cases. 

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