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.
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. Then, things get darker, more unpleasant. The low-hanging white clouds are pollution bands, the flatplan of living quarters is really an internment camp for ‘re-educating’ the Muslim Uyghur minority, and there’s an oily sludge pooling at the base of a building. Cheung, a British-Chinese artist, borrows from sci-fi and computerised imagery. The five paintings in this show started life as collaged squares of the Financial Times, layered up to create a pixelated effect. Even the one sculptural installation here, a series of hanging papier mâché frames recreating traditional Chinese window lattices, looks disconcertingly like the early 2000s Windows logo or multiple apps open on a desktop. There’s nothing futuristic about Cheung’s images, every single reference point is drawn from contemporary China or its history. The plans for a supersized city that’s bigger than the whole of Britain is real. So is the monumental One Belt One Road trade route forming links with the rest of Asia and Europe. And so are those camps. But Cheung’s works are closer to large-scale documentary projects than scathing criticism. They’re also surprisingly beautiful, with areas of pearly green and black like
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.
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.
Troy vey, this show is seriously big. I mean huge, grand, ambitious, sweeping, in-depth, enormous. But take a deep breath and set an afternoon aside because it’s more than worth your time.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine that you could change anyone’s mind about climate change. If you’re someone who genuinely believes – despite the overwhelming scientific consensus – that global warming is a sham, then an art exhibition isn’t going to sway you. But here we are at the RA, the choir showing up to be preached to in an exhibition of art and architecture about climate change.
Cruelty courses through Lucian Freud’s work. Think of the painter’s most famous images and you think of flesh rendered lumpily, grossly, aggressively; of sitters forced to lie in twisted shapes for hours to appease his need to stare and analyse; of fat rolls and zits, cellulite and pubes.
Bridget Riley will make your eyes hurt and your brain ache. With her perception-altering lines and colours, it’s like the octogenarian grand dame of op art is reaching into your skull, grabbing a fistful of your optic nerves and twisting, pulling and yanking them in a million different directions.
We may need to eat to live, but food is rarely just fuel: it’s ritual, it’s celebration, it’s sex; a signifier of good or bad taste, status or aspiration, individual or national identity. This juicy new exhibition is alive to all of that, and draws images from fine art, advertising, magazines, and – hurrah! – all those lurid retro recipes that suggest vegetables are best served via jelly moulds.
Soho has become a much-mythologised part of London’s psyche – especially as the Cross Rail developments seem set to wipe away any last vestige of its former grubby glories. So it’s no wonder that The Photographers’ Gallery – situated in Soho – should dedicate a show to its changing face and fortunes.
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.
Walking into ‘Misbehaving Bodies’, the Wellcome Collection’s free exhibition of artworks by Jo Spence (1934-1992) and Oreet Ashery (b. 1966), you first notice two giant, bright pink teddy bears with extra-long arms. The terror-inducing teds sit on the floor under draping canopies of the same intestinal colour.
‘Lady artist deleted from history’ is a pretty familiar story. And it’s the one that, broadly speaking, underpins this show at Tate Modern. Dora Maar (1907-1997) was a female artist footnoted by history thanks to her gender and her relationship with Pablo Picasso. But the most interesting thing to emerge from this fascinating retrospective – the first ever held in the UK – isn’t simply that Maar is an artist forgotten, it’s that she is such a ridiculously prolific and varied artist forgotten.
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.
For a man who casts such a huge, dark shadow over the history of British art, William Blake’s drawings, paintings and etchings are quietly unobtrusive little things. The poet, artist and printmaker (1757-1827) spent his life huddled over, creating mesmerising, tiny works to illustrate poems and histories.
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